Friday, 20 May 2022

18th-19th May

 After a manic few days of trying to find rarities things nearly settled down, however prevailing Easterly based winds meant there was no room to let our guard down as would be proved over both days!

The 18th saw a day of superbly sunny weather following so rather poorer birding conditions in the days previous. The day started with a Cuckoo around the observatory once again, before it headed off towards Holland where it spent most of the day. Ancum held the first Ruff of 2022 and the first confirmed Wood Sandpiper, both feeding along the back edge of the loch for the majority of the day. The Cuckoo was joined in the Holland area by a Pied Flycatcher near the Old Kirk while the first Swift of the year was seen over Antabreck and yet another White-tailed Eagle drifted over Gretchen bringing the annual total to at least 10 bird/days. The highlight of the day was an Icterine Warbler trapped in the gardens at Holland in the evening but had a supporting cast of Spotted Flycatcher, Chaffinch, Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and the long-staying Hawfinch, in the meantime the third Mediterranean Gull of the year drifted over the gardens and a stonking male Black Redstart interrupted dinner rounding off a great days birding.

The 19th was a day of glorious sunshine and yet again the birding was good if a little more frustrating than the previous days outing. The Icterine Warbler, Black Redstart and the Cuckoo all remained around the obs in the morning, while further up the island a Little Tern was feeding offshore near Quoybanks. Frustration also mounted further North as an Acro Sp. (most likely a Blyth's Reed Warbler) bombed around the planty-crues and punds, never giving itself up in true skulky Acrocephalus warbler style! A Grey-headed Wagtail made its way onto the year list as it was photographed by visiting birders on the Links and another Wood Sandpiper was at Nessmuir. The highlight of the day and perhaps the week was a Black Kite that drifted over the obs in the late afternoon before shooting out South towards Eday and Sanday. 

                             Wood Sandpiper

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

13th-17th May

 A bit of an overdue post this one so apologies for the long delay in blog posts! It's been a superb migrant filled few with some some real goodies thrown in and total mixed bag of weather as well!

The 13th saw a smart adult Little Gull on Bewan, the Kumlien's Gull remained as did the six Dotterel, but all in all was a quiet day for new arrivals. The 14th was somewhat similar but a Cuckoo showed on and off around the obs in the morning and the first Goosander of the year was seen flying over Loch Park. A Little Tern powered its way up the links. A Kestrel on 15th was joined on the days list by a Common Tern at Trolla, another Cuckoo, this time at Parkhouse, a Siskin in Holland and perhaps most remarkably another Red-rumped Swallow! That makes it at least three individuals this year, meaning we've had more birds in 2022 than in total! 

The 16th started off with a Barnacle Goose on Garso and went from strength to strength, a Common Sandpiper was on the rocks behind Trolla, the Common Tern was also present near Trolla. The bird of the day was a very frustrating and brief encounter with a Wryneck at Iris Taing and seemingly the gates to the East had opened with a good arrival of migrants including a Redstart, two Spotted Flycatcher, three  Common and three Lesser Whitethroats and a Whinchat. The following day was more frustrating as a thick haar set in making birding very tricky, numbers were much the same as the previous the day but two big additions came in the form of a female Bluethroat and a Short-toed Lark feeding together around the lighthouse! The other highlight for the 17th was a pair of Goosander heading up the East side. 

Friday, 13 May 2022

9th-12th May

 Another mixed bag of weather, but this time there's definitely a wet and windy theme going on! 

The 9th was probably the worst of the four days with heavy showers and strong winds making birding and just being outside in general an overall unpleasant experience, however our second Marsh Harrier of the year was a reward for those brave enough to step outside.

The 10th gave way to a much more bird-able day and with it the arrival of some migrants. Five Collared Doves at Holland and Woodpigeon around Ancum were joined by Sedge Warblers at Hooking and Holland while the bird of the day was a 3CY Kumlien's Gull at Sjaever and the six remaining Dotterel. 

More migrants on the 11th saw our first Hawfinch of the year at Holland, a rather smart male that spent the day going between the gardens and the roadside verge. The other bird of note was a Long-eared Owl that eventually found its way into mistnet at Holland and two Goldfinch shot through the garden in the evening. The Kumlien's Gull was on Gretchen and the Dotterels were still around Sandar.

The 12th was easily the pick of the days, the Dotterel were unsurprisingly, still around but just down the track from them on the pools at Westness was something we weren't predicting in the shape of the islands 6th (I think) Mandarin, a very smart drake spent the day feeding around the area and was last seen sat on the sea in Garso Wick. The other notable bird of the day was an adult Mediterranean Gull that was first seen heading North over Milldam before its re-location at Nether Linnay and subsequently on the freshly ploughed field near Holland. 

                             Drake Mandarin
                             Mediterranean Gull
                             Long-eared Owl

Monday, 9 May 2022

6th-8th May

An interesting few days that have produced some good birds and a few surprises on the way. The weather has gone from horrible squalls and wind to glorious sunshine and even warmed up enough to see some members of staff out birding in shorts and t-shirts! 

For all intense purposes the 6th looked as though it wasn’t up to much, however the first Sedge Warbler of the year singing in the Willows at Ancum gave a feeling that stuff may have arrived despite less-than-ideal conditions. The Sedge Warbler was followed by a male Ring Ouzel in the Shooting Gallery near Lenswick but was quickly forgotten about after the discovery of six Dotterel feeding the short grass around Sandar in the late afternoon, having been largely absent in Spring in recent years it’s a very welcome year list addition at this early stage. 

The following day was one of warm weather and pleasant birding conditions, there wasn’t a great deal going on in the morning apart from a Lesser Whitethroat trapped in Holland, but the afternoon certainly produced. In a bit of a twist a phone call about another Red-rumped Swallow at Westness quickly turned into two Red-rumped Swallows! As photos revealed two individuals one most likely the bird seen a few days previously just dried out and looking a little bit less knackered and a smart bird that must have been new in. This doesn’t constitute a huge surprise as hirundine movement had been constant throughout the afternoon with over 120 birds moving through the island. The day wasn’t finished there A Grey Wagtail was seen flying over Ancum towards Verracott and the Dotterels made a late evening re-appearance. 

The 8th was a much less appealing day than the previous and was dominated by a stiff South-westerly breeze. The Dotterels remained in place and were even buzzed in the evening by our second Osprey of the year as it tracked North up the island. Two Sedge Warblers were heard singing in Holland and at Hooking but otherwise the day remained quiet, overnight moth trapping was poor species wise, yet again the only moths caught were 94 Hebrew Characters! 


Thursday, 5 May 2022

30th April - 5th May

 The end of April came and went in fairly unspectacular fashion with the highlights for a rather wet day. The highlights for the day were two Short-eared Owls at Longar, one of which was present for a couple of days after, and a Tree Pipit seen briefly at Sandar. 

A few more migrants would follow for the opening day of May. Twelve Barnacle Geese were at Sandback. A couple of Arctic Terns were present, however this figure would balloon over the coming days and by the 5th numbers were over 300 birds in the various coastal haunts around the island. Two Blackcaps, three Willow Warblers and four Chiffchaff. Other notable migrants included three Song Thrush, a Collared Dove and a Sparrowhawk. 

The 2nd would see two Collared Dove and a similar story in terms of passerine migrants although a few less than on the previous day. The 3rd was a better day starting with the fourth island record of Glossy Ibis coming in off the sea, despite a wild, uh, Ibis chase? around the island it was re-seen briefly near Kirbest but not again. The other bird to find its way onto the year list was a Garden Warbler seen fleetingly in Holland. 

The 4th looked as though it was set to be largely unremarkable however a surprise Red-rumped Swallow shot passed on the Links and looked to have vanished until it was relocated between Sandback and Neven where it showed superbly and represents the 4th island record after last years bird. While looking for the Red-rumped Swallow three White-tailed Eagles drift over and a Yellow Wagtail ssp. flushed from near Sandsheen, not a bad days work all said and done! 

The 5th saw low cloud and plenty of rain to throughly dampen the spirits from the previous day, with the Swallow having seemingly moved on the show was stolen by a crazy total of four White-tailed Eagles at Brides before they split up headed North. Other birds included 10 Whimbrel and the aforementioned 300+ Arctic Terns. 

                             Red-rumped Swallow
                             White-tailed Eagle
                             White-tailed Eagles

Saturday, 30 April 2022

25th-29th April

 Another mixed bag in terms of weather with the latter of the six days finally producing some easterlies but it perhaps too early for them to have taken full effect if indeed they do. 

The 25th produced little in the way of new arrivals, a Whimbrel was around the obs while a straggling Robin was a lay over from the previous weeks birding as was a Ring Ouzel around Cruesbreck and 17 Brambling in the obs crop. The House Martin from the 24th also remained around the Twingness pund and the first Canada Goose of 2022 was on Gretchen with the four Barnacle Geese. 

The following day was a similar story with a few hangers-on around the island although a Sparrowhawk in Holland in the evening was a new arrival as was a Woodpigeon seen around the gardens and a lone Chiffchaff was the only migrant passerine of note. A Common Sandpiper feeding around Bewan was the bird of the day however and the first for this year. The day after (27th) was also quiet but with staff away for the day this isn't really a surprise! Day highlights included a Collared Dove and probably the same Sparrowhawk both at Holland.

A small influx of migrants on 28th saw the years first Grasshopper Warbler in 'rare bird corner' at Holland, despite our best efforts it never made into a mist net! A Long-eared Owl was also seen briefly in the gardens along with the previously mentioned Collared Dove, while five Rook and three Carrion Crow spent the day in various locations. Yet another White-tailed Eagle made its way through the island in the late afternoon pursued by a various contingent of Gulls and Corvids. Other passerine migrants included 15 Swallows, 2 Robins, 4 Blackcaps, 2 Chiffchaff and singles of Goldcrest and Willow Warbler.

The 29th was a stunning day of unbroken sunshine and a light Northerly breeze, A fourth White-tailed Eagle of the year made its way from Fair Isle in the early afternoon and eventually made landfall in North Ronaldsay before continuing South, again mobbed by most of the islands Gulls. The first Arctic Tern of the year was seen scooting around Bewan in the morning. Evening ringing produced little but did bolster the passerine totals for the day with 2 Blackcaps, 5 Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest remained on the island. 

The outlook for the weekend and the week ahead look interesting and should hopefully give us something to shout about after what has been a fairly quiet week in the grand scheme of things. 

Year list: 128

                                            Blackcap                                                              F.Y.B
                                   Wren                                                                                      G.G

Monday, 25 April 2022

21st - 24th April

A much quieter few days with very settled weather has meant there has been little movement on the migration front and most of the previous weeks migrants have ebbed away still en-route to breeding grounds further afield from ourselves. 
 The four Barnacle Geese have been hanging around the island often showing up in small groups of the resident Greylag Geese. Four Robins and a Black Redstart around Ancum were probably the sum of the highlights for 21st but were joined by two Blackcaps, three Chiffchaff and seven Goldcrest. As mentioned before numbers have been dwindling away as we await our next Easterly blow. The only year list addition on 21st was a House Martin near the Lurn. The 22nd saw the re-appearance of the Whitethroat near Ancum and a Willow Warbler was roaming around the North end. The 23rd was ultimately even quieter with no real movement of anything although the Black Redstart still remained as it did the day after. The final day of the post saw a little more in the way of avian and non-avian action; a Ring Ouzel was at Cruesbreck and a Siskin was feeding around Gerbo in the morning while the afternoon saw the first Arctic Skuas of the year on Torness. The undoubted highlight of the day was four Orca seen from the lounge before they headed off towards Sanday.


Wednesday, 20 April 2022

14th-20th April

The good weather and good birds continued for the best part of the week with things finally settling down on 20th. Common migrants such as Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Robin built up throughout the week but dwindled towards the tail end when the winds died off and the fog rolled in.

The highlight from the 14th was a Spotted Crake whose ID was finally nailed on from a brief sighting in Holland House gardens the previous day when 1 was flushed from Ancum Willows towards Ancum Loch. A male Sparrowhawk seen thermalling over the obs was another year list addition, with a female also being ringed in the evening at Ancum Willows. The ringing session also proved worthwhile as another year list addition of Little Gull was seen coming to roost on Ancum Loch. The day proved good for raptors when an Osprey flew out south late afternoon. 2 Long-eared Owls ringed in Holland House in the morning and a Redpoll at Viggay during the day also kept the year list ticking over.

The 15th was a quieter day but saw our first arrival of hirundines to the island. 5 Sand Martin at Brides and 2 at Garso, along with a Swallow at the sea watch hide made spring feel like it was properly underway. A male Ring Ouzel at Southness and a Woodpigeon caught and ringed at Holland House kept things interesting.

One of the previously ringed Long-eared Owls continued to hang around and was seen again roosting in Holland House Gardens on the 16th. A Kestrel sat on T1 taunting staff into thinking it might be caught and ringed, but flew off without ending up in the trap.

The 17th was a big day for arriving migrants with 301 Wheatear seen around the island. 7 Barnacle Geese flew south over the obs, another addition to the year list, and presumably the same Little Gull from Ancum Loch was seen in Nouster Bay before being chased of by Black-headed Gulls. The highlight from the day however came in the form of 2 Marsh Harriers, a female seen off the pier in the morning and a male over Ancum Loch in the evening seemed to hang around for a few days before disappearing off south on the 20th. 3 Stonechat at various points around the island, a Ring Ouzel at Howar and a Greenfinch at Sangar also added interest to the day.

The 18th saw very little action due to punding going on around the island, but a Short-eared Owl in the evening over Ancum Loch was a good sighting for the day.

The 19th was a warm, clear day but with a fair amount of sea fog, meant the day proved good for lingering raptors. A Common Buzzard flushed from Ancum Willows in the morning and the lingering Marsh Harrier had its glory removed when two White-tailed Eagles came in off the sea at opposite ends of the island, thermalling round the island upsetting the resident birds before flying out south off of Brideness point. Another Redpoll was also seen in the Cricket Field near the obs. An evening sea watch saw the first Manx Shearwater of the year cruise past Dennishead, along with a Mediterranean Gull, 5 Great Skua, 206 Kittiwake, 59 Guillemot, 26 Razorbill, 31 Puffin, 103 Auk sp and 72 Gannets.

The first breeding wader survey was carried out on the morning of the 20th, when a Tree Pipit was also found in the garden at Lochend. Sea-watching saw 7 drake Common Scoter fly north and a further 4 Manx Shearwater. 

Away from birds, the night of the 19th also proved good for moths with 135 Hebrew Characters and third island record of The Herald.



Wednesday, 13 April 2022

13th April

 A good day of birding and easterlies with intermittent rain showers meant we had our first fall conditions of the year and despite there not being anything spectacular on the day list the birding was still good fun if not a little tiring! 

An overnight dump of Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests saw the day totals at 53 and 47 respectively around the island. A late afternoon arrival of Brambling saw figures go from single figure counts up to a total of 56 birds, mainly in last years crops around the obs. A duo of Ring Ouzels and a Mistle Thrush were new additions to the year list. Two male Stonechats spent the afternoon at Lochend and Westness while three Blackcaps, and the previous days Whitethroat were present. The big day totals fell to Robin posting a remarkable 67 birds and Song Thrush with 59 in various spots, the majority of the former along the West side and up North. Finally a Kestrel spent the afternoon bombing around the NW corner of the island. 

The weather looks set in a similar vein over the next couple of days so hopefully we're done yet and there's more migrants to come! 

                                    Common Whitethroat
                                   Ring Ouzel

8th-12th April

 More cold and windy westerlies finally gave way to some more favourable conditions on 12th when the wind swung its way into the east and with a few scattered showers finally produced our first fall of migrants for 2022.

The 8th to 10th were predictably quiet and we had little to show for big efforts in the field singles of Woodcock and Chiffchaff were the only real migrants on 8th while a similar story on 10th saw two Woodcock flushed out of Ancum Willows in the morning and very little else at all. A small smattering of Wheatear were present throughout and an extra Chiffchaff was added to the first and a Carrion Crow made the list at Brides. 

The 11th was initially billed as what could be a good day in the field but turned out to be anything but with very little going on. Another lone Chiffchaff at Ancum and two Jackdaw, despite being year list additions, didn't get the excitement levels up. The only other bird of note was a flighty Brambling at the obs.

The 12th had to be the main event then, and it was for some part. Not a spectacular fall like we'd see in May in these conditions but enough to keep staff happy as they battled the wind and showers. A good fall of Chiffchaffs lead to double figures around the island and this was mirrored in the Wheatear counts too. Up to three Willow Warblers were present at Vincoin, Lenswick and Gretchen while other goodies included a smart Iceland Gull at Quoybanks, two Brambling and a Dunnock at Cott, several Robins around the island and a Woodpigeon. The stand-out birds of the day were a very skittish Lapland Bunting at Tor Ness followed by a rather more Common Whitethroat at Westness. 

The week ahead looks pretty good too and hopefully there's something to be had while we chase the dangling carrot of Easterlies combined with a bit of the wet stuff! 

                                   Iceland Gull


Saturday, 9 April 2022

April 01st - April 07th

A calm start to the month with sunny skies and calm seas, saw a good few days birding on the Island. The 01st saw our first Great Skua (Bonxie) of the year with one being seen at Torness but also our first Sandwich Terns of the year with 2 feeding in the bay at Nouster. However the highlight was a Slavonian Grebe that headed quickly past the seawatching hide. 

April 02nd saw the team carry out the first of our two annual Black Guillemot counts and with 1145 it looks to be another record year for the species already beating previous years by over 100 birds we look forward to our second count on the 14th. 

After two days of nice weather the inevitable happened and it was back to the usual strong winds and a real mix of snow and hail. A different Black Throated Diver was sheltering in Nouster Bay with a good number of Great Northerns, 3 Rooks headed south over the obs on the 3rd, the lingering Short Eared Owl at Peckhole and 2 Dunnocks remained at both Holland House and Westness.

The continued bad weather saw a influx of thrushes trying to make landfall in this tough conditions with 73 Redwing, 45 Blackbirds, 16 Song Thrushes and 5 Fieldfare, Raptor numbers climbed with 4 Merlin and a Hen Harrier present but also attracted our first Kestrel of the year trying to make use of these conditions on the 06th. April 07th also saw our first 2 Woodcock for a while with 1 flushed in the Obs Garden and another by the airfield. 

With forecasts changing we look forward to the week ahead. 

Wheatear and Rock Pipit

Thursday, 31 March 2022

24th-31st March

 A mixed bag again in terms of weather, but for the most part it's remained settled and birds are beginning to arrive as Spring draws in. The 24th started strongly with the first Greenfinch of the year seen around the back end of T3, not a significant sighting for most UK observatories but it's one that has nearly been missed in previous years. Two Wheatear on the Links were the other highlight offered by the days birding.

The following day would see first Dunnock, another good year-list addition, at Bewan house feeding on the outside of the dyke. Other avian highlights included another Wheatear at South Gravity, a Black Redstart at the pier and the first Puffins of the year passed at sea. The birds weren't the highlight of the day however as a repeat visit, albeit a short one, of the 27's Orca pod as they passed the North end of the island. 

A quieter day on 26th gave little to shout about but the following day was much better with three year ticks in total. The first was a Siskin as it flew South down the island and out over the observatory and was followed by a Goldfinch at the War Memorial which again flew South down the island and briefly settled in Holland. The third year tick was a distant White-billed Diver from the North end, hopefully a closer encounter will follow in the coming weeks. The day was rounded off by a Carrion Crow at Trolla and a Rook at Claypows in the afternoon. 

The 28th saw the re-appearance of Short-eared Owls at Peckhole, wether they're the same birds or different we'll never know but at least two were present until the close of the month. The only year-list addition was a Collared Dove that made a very fleeting visit into the gardens Holland.

The final date and bird of interest for this post was a Summer plumaged Black-throated Diver off Haskie in the afternoon on 30th. 

                                   Short-eared Owl

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

11th - 23rd March

Spring is certainly on its way albeit in fits and starts. For the last few days of weather have been far more settled as opposed to the near constant gales that raged during the previous week. Not entirely conducive to birding or just being outside in general.
The first Black Redstart of the year was at Vincoin on 14th and was followed by a second bird two days later. A Stonechat at Nouster and a Woodcock at Senness rounded off the 14th with things taking a bit of an upturn. The 16th was a good birdy day aside from the Black Redstart, the first Chiffchaff of the year was at Westness along with the first Goldcrest of the year. The day also provided at Short-eared Owl at Peckhole. 
The 18th would see the appearance of two Otters an adult female accompanied by a kit at Brides that delighted the obs staff as they flushed ducks off the middle island and the first Song Thrushes of the year at the Old Kirk. The next day saw us gain our first Wheatear of the year as Westness continued to produce the good on an Avian front. 
We weren't finished there with a run of white-winged Gulls starting on 20th with a lone Glaucous Gull at Scottigar, this was followed by two other birds and the original bird all around the North end while an Iceland Gull fed off Brides in the afternoon. Finally the 21st saw another Stonechat at Peckhole and the 23rd was populated by a little influx of Goldcrests into the island with birds at Holland and the Surgery.

                                   Black Redstart 
                                    Otter and a concerned Mallard


Thursday, 10 March 2022

26th February - 10th March

 Another wind packed few days up here with very little to shout about on the avian front! Those signs of Springs seem to be a long way behind us now and high winds have bought back a wintry feel in light of the ever increasing day light hours and less rainfall. 

The first Stonechat of 2022 arrived on 28th February at North Gravity and was accompanied by a Woodpigeon on the other side of Laird's Park at Parkhouse later in the day. More Stonechats would follow on 3rd March, two birds together just East of Holland were preceded by a bird at Purtabreck in the morning. 

The following day saw the first Woodcock of the year flush out of the gardens at Holland and the 4th bought about not only a lovely day of weather and the first Short-eared Owls, three birds spent the evening being bullied by a local Hen Harrier while 11 Black-tailed Godwits hung about on a pool near the Links. The 5th saw a 2cy Iceland Gull at Brides that did a bunk quite swiftly. Another Glaucous Gull was the next notable bird four days later at Sjaever. 

                                   Glaucous Gull

Saturday, 26 February 2022

7th-25th February

 The last 13 days have mostly been dominated by wind, several days of 50+mph winds have made birding a bit of chore, however while the rest of the country was being battered by storm Eunice we had one of the best days of the winter and a pseudo-Spring day. 

As mentioned the birding hasn't been mindblowing but there have been highlights. Another Glaucous Gull was present on 10th at Bewan but we're still without an Iceland Gull despite them being on neighbouring islands. The 11th saw the first arrival of Linnets with 23 around the Lurand pallet garden and the flock has steadily grown to about 35 birds, another 12 around Cursitter on 14th means they're firmly back on the island already! A Grey Plover was on the coast between Scottigar and Bewan on 12th but predictably flushed and hasn't been seen since. The first Woodpigeon of the year burst out of the Sycamores at Holland on 16th. Finally a small flock Snow Buntings was at Bewan on 18th while two birds flew over the Farmhouse at Holland.

The flock of Fieldfare around Cauldhaim is still present and seems to have pulled in birds from elsewhere on the island and was up to 37 on 20th. At least 5 Robins have survived the winter too with singles at Westness, Ancum, Putrabreck, The Bothy and the Obs track. Wildfowl numbers also remain similar but a slight increase in Tufted Duck saw a count of 18 on 18th from Brides and Bewan combined. Away from avian highlights Otter tracks were spotted on the beach at Linklet on 17th but nobody’s seen the culprit yet! 

The first Iceland Gulls of the year finally fell on the 23rd and 24th with a sub-adult at Sjaever and a 1st Winter near Howar respectively. The 24th also gave us our first Rook at Garso and an early Lesser Black-backed Gull feeding on carrion near the school. A flock of 46 Twite were at Snettan on 25th but otherwise the signs of Spring seem to appearing on the occasions the wind speed drops below 40mph! 

                                                                          Iceland Gull
                                                         Lesser Black-backed Gull