Wednesday, 16 June 2021

13th-15th June

 With a mixed bag of a weather and the Spring pushing on into a bit of low ebb it's not been all that surprising that the number of migrant birds is also dying down. Despite this a few interesting bits and bobs have been making landfall on the island.

The 13th was a relatively quiet day, all three Crossbills were still in the same places, with two birds around the School and another around Holland. The long staying Marsh Warbler has also been seen in Ancum Willows but it seems a little bit shy and has only recently been seen disappearing into cover. A late Willow Warbler was around Cursitter and a Curlew Sandpiper has also been hanging around the Links and Brides areas. The 14th was very much a carbon copy although a large arrival of 400+ Kittiwake at the North end was notable. 

The 15th was a little more exciting without setting the world alight! At least one of the Crossbills was still present around Holland while a Greenshank was seen briefly on Gretchen in the morning. Our second latest Spring record of Long-eared Owl seemed like it was going to be the bird of the day in Holland until a female Nightjar was flushed from the New Zealand Flax at the Eastern end of the garden a few minutes later, the slightly odd morning was topped off with the discovery of an adult Gannet in a field just South of Holland House. 


Sunday, 13 June 2021

11th - 12th June

 Highlights from the11th included 2 Black-tailed Godwit, a Greenshank, 2 Curlew Sandpiper, 780 Black-headed Gull, 12 Sandwich Tern, a Turtle Dove, 5 Collared Dove, 3 Redwing, 3 Common Crossbill and 3 Common Redpoll.

Highlights from the12th included 9 Canada Goose, 5 Black-tailed Godwit, a Greenshank, the Turtle Dove still, a Collared Dove, a Robin, a Marsh Warbler and 3 Common Crossbill.

Common Crossbills

Thursday, 10 June 2021

8th-10th June

 With the Spring winding down slowly and more unsettled weather around the birding has definitely been much quieter on the migrant front. Warm days and slack winds have produced fine birding weather but filling them good migrant birds hasn't been so easy! 

Small groups of Redpoll have been dotted around the island over the past three days with birds seen at Holland, the Old Kirk, Bewan and Senness, wether any of these will decide to breed is yet to be seen but I'm sure all will be revealed in the next month or so. The 2 Grey-headed Wagtails are also still in situ near Westness often seen feeding around the iris beds. A trio of Collared Doves are also hanging around the Southern end of the island and have often been seen around the Observatory in the mornings. Other migrants have included a Greenshank on Ancum, a Little Stint at Gretchen on the 9th, a Curlew Sandpiper on the 10th, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat and 2 Chiffchaff. The standout bird has been a rather illusive Marsh Warbler last seen on the 8th in Ancum Willows, while heard to be singing in short snippets seeing it has been another matter altogether! 

                                   Arctic Tern with a Sandeel

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

6th - 7th June

 Highlights from the 6th included a Wigeon, a Red-breasted Merganser, 16 Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Woodpigeon, 2 Collared Dove, a Marsh Warbler, an Icterine Warbler, 3 Garden Warbler and 3 Willlow Warbler.

Highlights from the 7th included a Little Stint, 14 Black-tailed Godwit, a Hobby, 4 Woodpigeon, 2 House Martin, a Grey-headed Wagtail, a Marsh Warbler, a Garden Warbler, a Willow Warbler and 8 Common Redpoll.

Grey-headed Wagtail and Hobby

Sunday, 6 June 2021

4th-5th June

 Any hint of rain seems to be a long way away at the moment, recent weather has involved sunny and mostly cloudless days with very little in the way of wind. Despite this a steady trickle of late Spring migrants have kept things interesting without pulling up any trees.

The 4th started with an Icterine Warbler around the obs traps and didn't really get flowing beyond that, a second Icterine Warbler was discovered at Brides as was a Little Stint. The Corncrake was singing again near the Mill and other migrants included a Short-eared Owl, a Common Redpoll, 2 Whinchat, a Garden Warbler, 4 Willow Warblers and a rather unseasonal Black Redstart at Longar.

The 5th was much the same as the day previous, another 2 Icterine Warblers, this time both in Holland were again the stand out migrants of the day.  A pair of Grey-headed Wagtails were at Westness. An unstreaked Acro was seen briefly in the garden at Upper Linnay but did a characteristic disappearing act and wasn't seen again. A male Marsh Harrier was seen over Ancum before heading South and was promptly followed out by a Short-eared Owl. Other birds of note included the Black Redstart, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, 3 Chiffchaff, 2 Garden Warbler and a Garganey that appeared briefly in a ditch near the school. 

                                   Icterine Warbler

Friday, 4 June 2021

2nd - 3rd June

 Highlights from the 2nd included 3 Black-tailed Godwit, a Sparrowhawk, 3 Collared Dove, a Cuckoo, 2 House Martin, a Garden Warbler and 2 Spotted Flycatcher. 

Highlights from the 3rd included a Wigeon, 2 Woodpigeon, a Swift, 3 House Martin, 2 Marsh Warbler, a singing male Blyth’s Reed Warbler, a unidentified unstreaked acrocephalus warbler, a Whitethroat, a Garden Warbler, a Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Willow Warbler, 3 Spotted Flycatcher and a Red-backed Shrike.

Blyth's Reed Warbler

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

31st May - 1st June

 The 31st saw the island shrouded in veil of thick haar that felt as though it was anything but good for birding, this however was proven wrong throughout the day on more than one occasion. The low cloud eventually cleared around tea time and gave way to what was a stunning evening.

The day started with the arrival of two Spoonbill on Bewan, although only seen briefly, much like the previous two encounters, these represented the 4th island record, sadly as mentioned before they didn't hang around and vanished high to the South. Next of the list was the re-appearance of the Great Grey Shrike, a bit of a surprise considering its absence over the previous few days but its clearly managing to stay well out of sight for long periods of time. At about lunchtime a message on the whatsapp group had the staff frantically trying to get back to the obs, it read. "Red-rumped Swallow, obs crop field" if anyone knows hirundines speed is usually essential, but in this case it wasn't and the bird spent the day and the following one around the obs and Gretchen. It's only the 3rd island record and the first in nearly 31 years with the previous bird being in Oct 1990. Other than these big highlights the Icterine Warbler remained in Holland, there was a late Carrion Crow and small numbers of commoner migrants.

The 1st was somewhat quieter but all the same a lovely day of warm weather, which is something we've missed over the Spring so far. The Red-rumped Swallow remained around the obs, showing superbly in the morning. The afternoon bought about far less than the previous day, despite the appearance of a White-fronted Goose on Ancum, a hugely unseasonal find! Elsewhere a Peregrine upset everything around the obs, there was a Sparrowhawk caught in Holland and singles of Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher.

                                   Red-rumped Swallow
                                   White-fronted Goose

Monday, 31 May 2021

29th - 30th May

 Highlights from the 29th included a Pink-footed Goose, 2 Goldeneye, Sparrowhawk, a Little Gull, a Woodpigeon, a Collared Dove, a Short-eared Owl, the Nightjar still, the Golden Oriole still, 2 Robin, a Redwing, an Icterine Warbler, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Whitethroat, 2 Blackcap, 3 Garden Warbler, 4 Willow Warbler, a Chiffchaff, a Goldcrest, 2 Spotted Flycatcher and 2+ Orca.

Highlights from the 30th included the 2 Goldeneye still, a Grey Plover, the Nightjar still, a Redstart, 4 Garden Warbler, a Whitethroat and 2 Willow Warbler.


Friday, 28 May 2021

27th-28th May

 A couple of days of calmer weather meant the island birding had a drifty but rare feel to it. The morning of the 27th featured a Wood Sandpiper, 2 Common Sandpiper, 4 Willow Warblers and a Garden Warbler. The afternoon saw another Wood Sandpiper on Gretchen, the Curlew Sandpiper from the previous day turned up on Ancum and other migrants included singles of Common and Lesser Whitethroat, 4 Garden Warbler, a Pied Flycatcher, a Spotted Flycatcher and 2 Tree Pipits. The biggest of surprise of the day was the re-appearance of the Icterine Warbler at Holland, thankfully the bird had put on 0.9g since it was first caught.

The 28th was a similar day weather wise but the birds were seemingly much better in contrast. A drake Goosander was seen flying West over Nouster first thing in the morning, a trio of Risso's Dolphin moved close past the sea-watch hide before a Blyth's Reed Warbler was discovered feeding along a dyke near the telephone masts at the North end, having missed out on the influx in 2020 it's much welcomed addition to the year list. The next bird to get the whatsapp group going was the first Golden Oriole since 2014, the bird was flushed out of the Sycamores before heading South. The final highlight was another re-appearance, this time the Nighjar from a few days ago was flushed from the side of Lurand before re-locating over to the obs. Otherwise it was much a repeat of the previous days birding. 

                                   Blyth's Reed Warbler
                                   Golden Oriole

Thursday, 27 May 2021

25th - 26th May

 Highlights from the 25th included a Pink-footed Goose, a Curlew Sandpiper, 3 Swift, a House Martin, 2 Tree Pipit, a Whinchat, 4 Pied Flycatcher, 4 Spotted Flycatcher, 8 Willow Warbler, a Whitethroat, 4 Blackcap, 3 Garden Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, the Icterine Warbler still, 2 Red-backed Shrike, a Great Grey Shrike (latest spring record by 13 days), 2 Jackdaw and 2 Carrion Crow.

Highlights from the 26th included a Curlew Sandpiper, a Nightjar, the Great Grey Shrike still, 2 Willow Warbler, a Garden Warbler, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Goldcrest.

Great Grey and Red-backed Shrikes

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

23rd - 24th May

 With a set of prolonged Easterlies and very little about something had to give somewhere and thankfully a spell of prolonged rain on the 24th finally bought about some much sought after migrants.

With highlights fairly thin on the ground the 23rd seemed as it was going to be a disappointment until a Wryneck showed up late in the day at the Surgery. A small dusting of common migrants also provided a bit of hope for the following day. A Common Whitethroat, Goldcrest and Willow Warbler were all in the garden at Bewan while a Spotted Flycatcher remained around Cursitter, so optimism was in the air with forecast indicating we'd get some much needed rain.

The morning of the 24th and most of the afternoon was a bit of a wash out with staff returning from census rather soggy and a bit down beat. However once the rain stopped at 5pm everyone emerged and the rewards were almost immediate, an Icterine Warbler was discovered just outside the front door of the obs and having missed out on one last year there was a bit more excitement than you usually get from an 'Icky'. This lead to three hours of good birding before the light closed in. A male Red-backed Shrike was found at Dennishill on the washing line, drying itself off no doubt! The next bird of note was a Wood Warbler at Trinley and the rest of the evening was made up of commoner migrants. A Cuckoo was singing by T1 while Garden Warbler, Common and Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whinchat, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers all posted low totals and gave a sense that the next day could be even better. 

                                   Icterine Warbler

Saturday, 22 May 2021

20th - 22nd May

 Highlights from the 20th included a Pink-footed Goose, 3 Common Scoter, a Black-throated Diver, a Corncrake, 2 Ruff, a Curlew Sandpiper, 1531 Puffin, 1278 Razorbill/Guillemot, a Little Auk, a Collared Dove, 3 Tree Pipit, a Robin, 3 Song Thrush, 3 Blackcap, a Chiffchaff, a Willow Warbler, a Goldcrest, 3 Common Redpoll, a Carrion Crow and 3 Orca

Highlights from the 21st included 2 Garganey, a Woodpigeon, a Turtle Dove, a Blue-headed Wagtail, a Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Blackcap, a Willow Warbler, a Brambling and 2 Common Redpoll.

Highlights from the 22nd included a Curlew Sandpiper, a Common Sandpiper, a Woodpigeon, 2 Tree Pipit, 2 Blackcap, a Chiffchaff, a Willow Warbler, a Goldcrest, a Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Pied Flycatcher, a Brambling and a Common Redpoll.

Turnstone and Curlew Sandpiper

Thursday, 20 May 2021

17th-19th May

 A warm and calm day on the 17th coupled with a light Southerly wind meant conditions didn't initially feel ideal for migrants, the warm and clear days often mean that migrants pass us over and in a way I suppose they did. The first indication of movement came in the shape of a Sparrowhawk that slowly made its way South. In the meantime a third Hawfinch of the year was discovered feeding amongst the chickens at Southness before making a short trip over to Newbiggin. Next on the bird of prey front was a bit of a repeat and somewhat of a mystery. A small Harrier was seen over Phisligar as it headed South before being mobbed as it broke into the airspace over Hooking; it almost wasn't apparent how small this Harrier was until it was met by several angry Black-headed Gulls, only a touch bigger than them it had alarm bells ringing pretty quickly. A pale overall ground colour, lack of any grey hood and its general jizz pushed this into serious contention of being North Ronaldsay's 2nd record of Pallid Harrier, however views at this point were limited and sadly that's how the viewing would stay. Frantic phone calls, staff being in the wrong place to intercept the bird and the direction in which the bird left the island left us a bit frustrated that for the second time in under a week, probably the same bird had given us the slip, third time lucky maybe? The next bird of note was a female Marsh Harrier that drifted its way South down the west side only to be followed shortly after by the islands 5th record of Black Kite, the bird showed superbly over Cott and West Beach before making its way high towards Sanday. All in all despite the frustrations of the Harrier it had been a good day and with dinner fast approaching a call from Helen at the Wool Mill to say she'd seen some Orca it was about to get better! We were treated to a fabulous showing from two Bull Orcas as they leisurely swam around the top end of the island. Not a bad day at all! 

The following two days would be somewhat less exciting and with final dregs of the previous weeks fall all but dried up it was very much a case of scraping the barrel for any extra highlights, but given the 17th feast of birds and cetaceans we not complaining....much! The highlights from the 18th and 19th were as follows. 3 Tree Pipits, one at the North end, one at Cauldhaim and one still around Lurand, 2 Wood Sandpipers and 2 Ruff on Ancum, 2 Common Redpoll at Veracott, 2 Siskin and a summer plumaged Black-throated Diver in Nouster.

Black Kite

Monday, 17 May 2021

15th-16th May

 Highlights from the 15th included a Black-throated Diver, 2 Canada Goose, 2 Snow Goose (escapes), 2 Garganey, a Sparrowhawk, a small harrier sp. (which was probably a 2cy male Pallid Harrier), a Ruff, 10 Whimbrel, a Common Sandpiper, a Woodpigeon, a Cuckoo, 3 House Martin, 5 Tree Pipit, 4 Robin, 4 Redstart, 3 Whinchat, 2 Ring Ouzel, 13 Fieldfare, 5 Song Thrush, 4 Redwing, 5 Sedge Warbler, 3 Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Whitethroat, a Garden Warbler, 18 Blackcap, 10 Chiffchaff, 26 Willow Warbler, 2 Goldcrest, 2 Spotted Flycatcher, 4 Pied Flycatcher, a Brambling 4 Siskin, a Common Redpoll, a Lesser Redpoll and 67 Carrion Crow. 

Highlights from the 16th included a Sparrowhawk, an Osprey, 20 Knot, a Ruff, 13 Whimbrel, 2 Common Sandpiper, 62 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 2 Woodpigeon, a Cuckoo, 3 House Martin, 7 Tree Pipit, 9 Robin, a Ring Ouzel, 15 Fieldfare, a Redwing, a Mistle Thrush, 11 Sedge Warbler, a Whitethroat, 13 Blackcap, 4 Chiffchaff, 11 Willow Warbler, 2 Goldcrest, a Spotted Flycatcher, 4 Siskin, a Common Redpoll, a Lesser Redpoll and 30 Carrion Crow.

Spotted Flycatcher and Canada Geese

Saturday, 15 May 2021

13th-14th May

 With the system of Easterlies clearing through and being followed on by North-westerly winds it was only natural that a clear out of the migrant birds would follow and this has been the case. Despite the clearing of the decks a few of the migrants have remained and we've even added some new species to the year list.

The 13th saw the peak counts for most of the migrants, a lone Common Sandpiper was by the pier at Bewan while the Ruff remained around Ancum on both days. A Short-eared Owl was quartering fields near Sangar and the impressive House Martin total remained at 17 birds around the island. A total of 6 Tree Pipits, 18 Robin, 2 Whinchat, 1 Ring Ouzel, 15 Fieldfare, 6 Song Thrush and 2 Redwing were also the highest totals on the 13th. Remaining migrant Warblers included 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 6 Common Whitethroat, 24 Blackcap, 12 Chiffchaff, 51 Willow Warbler and 3 Goldcrest. A total of 5 Spotted Flycatcher and 6 Pied Flycatcher were accompanied a lone Lesser Redpoll and 4 Siskin in the total columns over the two dates. The 14th presented fewer birds numbers wise but did offer two new species in the shape of 2 Cuckoo's at Parkhouse and the Lurn and a Temminck's Stint that was seen briefly near Bewan before doing a bit of a bunk despite being heard later in the afternoon. 

                                   Tree Pipit
                            A generous Great Black-backed Gull keeping the Rabbit numbers in check