Sunday, 11 April 2021

10th - 11th April

 The wintry weather has continued over the past couple of days leaving temporary blankets of white laying on the island, hardly ideal for the islands breeding birds! However this afternoon finally descended into a more acceptable afternoon of warmer weather. The highlights although somewhat sparse did include yet another year tick in the shape of 3 White-fronted Geese with Greylags and a Pink-footed Goose at Cauldhaim on 10th. Other day highlights were in fairly short supply but a Wheatear around Sjavier was the pick of the bunch. The 11th saw us wake up to a good (or bad) covering snow across the island, the day boasted more migrants than the previous with 5 Wheatear on the Links, 2 Grey Plover, 2 Rook, 186 Sanderling, 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and of course the 3 White-fronted Geese. The highlight of the day was however non-avain and sadly deceased and it came in the form of 2.1m male Flapper Skate that washed ashore in Nouster Bay, a species that has been in decline in more recent times but now looks to be making a bit of a resurgence, judging by the frequency we're stumbling across egg-cases anyway. Elsewhere away from birding it looks set to be a busy week with punding commencing, plenty of trap work and fencing to finish off and the arrival of two new volunteers for the Spring, both Sorrel Lyall and Lauren Evans join us from Edinburgh Uni and will no doubt be helpful in the coming weeks. 

                                   White-fronted Goose
                                   Another Wheatear photo 
                                   Drumming Common Snipe
                                   Flapper Skate (photo doesn't do it's size justice!!)

Saturday, 10 April 2021

8th - 9th April

 Highlights from the 8th included a Pink-footed Goose, a Sandwich Tern, an increase of 5 Wheatear and 4 Redwing.

Highlights from the 9th included a BrĂ¼nnich's Guillemot which flew north-west past the seawatching hide at Dennishead early afternoon, one of the White-billed Diver still, 2 Little Auk, 1 Sooty Shearwater (North Ronaldsay's earliest ever), 1 Manx Shearwater, 3 Blue Fulmar (all dark type birds), 1107 Puffin, 3321 Razorbill/Guillemot, 1627 Fulmar, the Sandwich Tern still and a Song Thrush. 

BrĂ¼nnich's Guillemot with Common Guillemots (rear bird in all the pics). Note jizz (overall compact bird - neckless, rounded belly, short rear end, peaked forehead), projecting feet, blackness of upperparts (the Common Guillemots it was with were obviously brownish in the field, this bird was 'Razorbill-black') and bill shape (thick base leading to a point, there's even a hint of a pale tomium in several of the images). 

two of the three Blue Fulmar which passed the seawatching hide during a 9 hour seawatch. These birds are 'svalbard dark'. 

Thursday, 8 April 2021

5th-7th April

 A deluge of snow showers, strong winds and cold weather isn't exactly what we had in mind when we were discussing what birds we might get in the first week of April. With the weather nearly un-birdable on the 5th and 6th the highlights were scant but nonetheless there are highlights. 2 Wheatears on the Links were stand out highlights supported by a cast of a lone Grey Plover, the leftover 4 Whooper Swans that hung around Gretchen and of course the long staying Green-winged Teal. The 7th was a much better day in general with a few bits being seen. Morning census provided some migrants to get our teeth into a smart Snow Bunting and Wheatear were near Brides, Litoralis Rock Pipits were at Brides and Westness, a total of 16 Redwing and 4 Fieldfare gave an unseasonal Autumnal feel to proceedings while an increase in Tufted Duck numbers saw the island total climb to 44 for the day. An afternoon of sea-watching was somewhat productive with 3 White-billed Divers seen sat on the sea off the North End, accompanied by 2 Great Northern Divers and a Red-throated Diver. The Diver fest continued in Nouster with 3 Great Northern Diver, 5 Red-throated Diver and a Black-throated Diver that gave us a 4 Diver day! The sea-watch produced good numbers of other birds too, with 148 Puffin, 109 Kittiwake, 52 Gannet, 39 Razorbill and 529 Fulmar. The other bird of interest was an Auk that will have to remain unidentified, a squat rugby-ball shaped bird with a brilliant white underwing certainly caught our attention, however brief views and terrible photos mean we can't take things any further than it being an interesting looking Auk. 

                                   Golden Plover
                                   Black-headed Gull

Monday, 5 April 2021

3rd - 4th April

 Highlights from the 3rd included the 4 Whooper Swan still, a Pink-footed Goose still, a Goldeneye, the Black-throated Diver still, a possible adult female American x Eurasian Wigeon hybrid, the first 2 Sandwich Tern of the year, 4 Woodpigeon, the Wheatear still, 9 Redwing and 5 Snow Bunting.

possible adult female American x Eurasian Wigeon. Aged and sexed by white trailing edge to secondaries and extensive white on upperwing. Dusky underwing and lack of broad black tips to greater coverts rule out pure American but whitish pale-centered greater, median and lesser coverts forming a 'male-like' oval pattern on upperwing indicator of American, though perhaps within extreme variation of Eurasian. Strong black mask and the rather cold grey area at front of head, which contrasts with the darker spotted breast, supportive of American too though some Eurasian can show similar. Any comments welcome. 

Highlights from the 4th included the 4 Whooper Swan still, the 4 Woodpigeon still, 8 Redwing and 3 Wheatear. 

Saturday, 3 April 2021

1st - 2nd April

 A couple of bright but blustery days on the island saw us add yet more species to the island year list, which is always exciting. With the wind set in a Northerly trajectory the days have been a little colder than they could be but spells of sunshine have given a Spring like feel to the days. The upcoming weather however looks a little less promising but winds originating from Arctic Circle could always bring an unseasonal goody! The 1st was a rather quiet affair with little to report migrant aside from 42 Bar-tailed Godwits between Ancum and Westness, 9 Redwings in various locations, two of which were singing near North Gravity and 3 Song Thrushes rounded off a fairly average day on the land. The big news came from the island Black Guillemot census that produced a whopping 955 birds and a new island record count, thankfully one we seem to have broken a lot in recent years! The 2nd was a little more eventful and saw us add two birds to the year list. The first of which came in the shape of Whooper Swan, a total of four birds touched down on Gretchen mid-morning and spent the day feeding around the loch. The next addition was the first Wheatear of 2021, always a hugely welcome addition to the year list whenever the first one makes landfall. Other highlights included the re-appearance or appearance of a Male Lapland Bunting around the obs crop, it was however seen leaving to South in the evening as was a Sparrowhawk. 


Wednesday, 31 March 2021

29th - 31st March

 Highlights from the 29th included a Pink-footed Goose still, the Sparrowhawk still, a drake Goosander which flew past the Old Beacon - a rare bird on here, a drake hybrid aythya (which was most likely a Pochard x Tufted Duck), a Great Skua, a Jack Snipe, 2 Grey Plover, the Ruff still, 2 Rook, a Robin, a Song Thrush, 17 Redwing, 2 Fieldfare, a littoralis Rock Pipit, the Goldcrest still and the 7 Woodpigeon still. 

littoralis Rock Pipit

Highlights from the 30th included the Black-throated Diver still, a juvenile Glaucous Gull, the Sparrowhawk still, the first Brambling of the year, a Song Thrush, 2 Chiffchaff, the Goldcrest still and the 7 Woodpigeon still.

juvenile Glaucous Gull. Interestingly careful examination of photographs showed that this same bird was seen on Fair Isle two hours before it was seen at the north end of North Ronaldsay on the afternoon of the 30th.

Highlights from the 31st included a Great Skua, a Jack Snipe, a Chiffchaff still and the 7 Woodpigeon still.

Great Skua

Sunday, 28 March 2021

27th-28th March

 A blustery and damp couple of days haven't put a stop to new arrivals on the island. With daily additions to the year list things are looking good for when we get some more favourable weather towards the middle of next week. Despite a good search there has been no re-appearance of the probable American Herring Gull, however the 27th did see no fewer than three addition to the obs year list. The first Great Skua of the year was seen drifting over Nouster towards Howar mid-morning. A rather smart looking winter plumaged Black-throated Diver was present in the bay in the afternoon and the first Puffins of 2021 were seen from the Lighthouse in the late afternoon. Other migrants included 3 Knot at Bewan and 1 still at Ancum, 5 Snow Buntings were also at Bewan as was a Robin. The small group of Rooks is still touring the island and were seen on both days. The party of 7 Woodpigeon have also been hanging around, 3 were seen at Ancum also, but they may be part of the Holland flock and a lone Black-tailed Godwit was on Gretchen with the ever present Green-winged Teal. The Ruff that has spent the winter on the island is also still frequenting Ancum. The 28th bought about a much clearer start to the day but an ever present gale gave the day a chilly feel. The first Chiffchaff of the year was heard calling around Holland while the Black-throated Diver remained in the bay at Nouster. A Sparrowhawk was seen leaving the gardens at Holland in the morning and a Goldcrest was still present in the gardens. Pied Wagtail numbers have been on the up for over a week now and numbers are well into double figures, but otherwise it was a seemingly quieter day overall, no doubt due to the wind.

                                   Pied Wagtail

Friday, 26 March 2021

25th - 26th March

 Highlights from the 25th included 6 Pink-footed Goose, 3 Rook still, the male Lapland Bunting still, a Goldcrest still and the first Dunnock of the year. 

male Lapland Bunting

Highlights from the 26th included a 3cy American Herring Gull which was on Gretchen Loch briefly in the evening, potentially a first for North Ronaldsay. Other highlights included the Knot still, 2 Chaffinch, a new Goldcrest, 2 Song Thrush, 7 Woodpigeon and the first Grey Wagtail of the year. 

3cy American Herring Gull. Note glaucous-like bill, pale scapulars, smooth dark underwings and lower body, rather plain tertials and greater coverts, wholly dark tail and heavily marked uppertail and undertail coverts. 

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

23rd - 24th March

 Highlights from the 23rd included a Grey Plover, the Ruff still, 3 Rook, 3 Robin and the first Goldcrest of the year. 


Highlights from the 24th included the drake Green-winged Teal still, one of the Rook still, a different Goldcrest, 3 Snow Bunting and a male Lapland Bunting (first for the year). 

drake Green-winged Teal with two Eurasian Teal

Monday, 22 March 2021

21st - 22nd March

 Highlights from the 21st included a Pink-footed Goose, the Green-winged Teal still, a juvenile Glaucous Gull, a Black-tailed Godwit and 4 Snow Bunting. 

Leucistic Ringed Plover

Highlights from the 22nd included a Ruff, 4 Jackdaw (which were new for the year), 128 Skylark, a Chaffinch and a male Stonechat. 

migrant Skylark have been passing through the island the last few days with several seen coming in-off the sea at the north end on the 22nd

Saturday, 20 March 2021

19th - 20th March

 Highlights from the 19th included 2 Pink-footed Goose, 2 Shelduck, 4 Goldeneye, a Merlin, a Hen Harrier, a Peregrine, a Knot, 7 Black-tailed Godwit, 13 Redwing, 6 Fieldfare, 2 Robin and 3 Pied Wagtail. 

juvenile female Merlin

New birds on the 20th included the first Rook of the year, a juvenile Iceland Gull, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, a Snow Bunting and Pied Wagtail numbers rose to 8. 

Lapwings have been displaying and Skylarks are singing which is always great to see. 

Snow Bunting

Rook with the Old Beacon in the background

Friday, 19 March 2021

8th - 18th March

I'll keep this blog post quite brief as I'm away at the moment.
The good early Spring movement of Stonechat has continued with birds being present almost every day. A WeBs count was conducted on 15th March but there wasn't anything particularly noteworthy involved apart from the overwintering Green-winged Teal that has been on Gretchen since the turn of the year. The only other new arrivals recently have been the return of Pied Wagtails, three were present on 14th March with two at Sangar and one at Brides. Otherwise it's business as usual and we await the arrival of more Spring migrants that can surely only be just around the corner! 

                                   Pied Wagtail                                                                        SMR

Sunday, 7 March 2021

27th February - 7th March

 A bit longer than intended between posts but with obs work slowly mounting up and the arrival of staff just around the corner things have been a little bit more hectic than the winter lull we all get ourselves into! Stonechats have been the main order business with plenty seemingly moving through in the last ten days or so. They've been present on pretty much every day with birds at the Airfield, Ancum, Veracott, Peckhole, Rue and the Obs, which is a good sign considering the cold winter we've had. The first Sparrowhawk of the year, a female, was flushed from Holland Gardens on 28th and a male was seen being mobbed over Breck on 6th March. The 1st March bought in some nicer weather and with it the first cetaceans of the year in the shape of 2 Risso's Dolphin off the North end. The overwintering Green-winged Teal made it's first appearance in nearly a month on 3rd and was seen the subsequent day also displaying at a female Teal. The 5th saw us add two birds to the year list, a Woodpigeon was flushed from the field behind Nouster house in the morning and the afternoon bought us our first Lesser Black-backed Gull of the year, an adult on the Links with a mixed group of waders. A Peregrine appeared over Gretchen on the morning of the 6th, the bird looked to be quite pale but with no other interesting features it'll have to go down as a worn juv. The final bird of the post is a 1st Winter Iceland Gull that appeared on Bewan, also on the 6th before vanishing off towards the sea-watch hide. The 7th was a quiet affair and mostly dominated by trap repairs, a quick birding session round the island produced a solitary Stonechat on the obs track. 

                                   Lesser Black-backed Gull

Sunday, 28 February 2021

21st-26th February

 With the last few days threatening to go by with very little happening it would take until the 24th for the first real signs of Spring to show. The first migrant of the Spring came in the shape of a rather smart male Stonechat by the Observatory Polytunnel. The bird eventually made its way into T2 and was a welcome addition to the obs ringing totals for the year. The following day would turn out to be quite a quiet one, although busier than the previous, highlights included 3 Stonechat, two at the Mill and one at Ancum, a Hen Harrier around the obs and a Merlin near Breckan.  The 26th saw a day of unbroken sunshine and some good birds too. The wintering White-billed Diver was off the foghorn with 5 Great Northern Divers, the Ruff that's been intermittently frequenting Ancum made another appearance and a very showy 1st Winter Little Gull was flycatching over Trolla in the early afternoon. The good weather continued into the 27th but despite the previous days avian action it all went a little quiet again. A good number of Skylark and Twite remained in the observatory crop but it was otherwise wholly unspectacular. Despite the lower levels of migrants it really feel as though Spring is just around the corner! 

                                   Little Gull
                                   Little Gull
                                   Little Gull

Saturday, 20 February 2021

12th-20th February

 A rather quiet period of birds dominated by high winds, rain, sleet and hail. It's been very much the same over the past few weeks with little movement in or out as far as we can see. The main highlights were a 1st Winter Glaucous Gull on Bewan on the 14th and the re-appearance of the Woodlark in the Funny Park on the 16th. A WeBs count was conducted on the 18th, highlights of which were 1 Pink-footed Goose, 41 Razorbill, 8 Red-throated Diver and an increase in Black-headed Gulls with up to 10 recorded on the island throughout the day. The 19th would offer yet more high winds and spells of driving showers. It was otherwise a fairly quiet day until a 1st Winter Little Gull appeared in the Gull flock at Brides, a first for the year that sadly didn't hang around for long. The next day was in stark contrast, almost flat calm with unbroken sunshine in the morning and early afternoon before the wind picked up again. A good movement of Kittiwake were passing the North end of the island with 82 going through in just shy of 45 minutes in. the morning. The highlight of the day was also on the sea in the shape of a White-billed Diver, probably the same individual that was recorded in January, but a nice bird all the same!