Friday, 24 March 2023

15th-23rd March

 It's been a few days of getting back into the swing of things and working on our bird report, I think its safe to say we've had every variety of weather you can think of over the last nine days but more excitingly, a few birds, nothing major yet but Spring is clearly dragging itself closer!

The most notable increases in species have come in the shape of Rock Pipits, Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails with numbers going from single figure odds and ends to double figure counts all-round. Rock Pipits especially with over 25 birds in the bay near Westness on 21st. A single Risso's Dolphin was seen off Dennishead on 16th while the 17th saw us a break a record count, not something I thought would happen in March, but 25 Woodpigeons were enough, 22 in a flock around Holland, two at Lurand and one near Cursitter, breaking that previous record set in 2016. The 19th bought a Black Redstart around the Pier and the following day, the first of really good settled weather, saw the first Stonechat of 2023 along with a lone 'Albifrons' White-fronted Goose just North of Antabreck along with eight Black-tailed Godwits on Ancum and a Woodcock in the Ancum Willows.

The 23rd was another good day of weather and added no fewer than three species to the obs year list, a Goldfinch was present briefly in Holland as was a Long-eared Owl discovered in the late afternoon as nets went up and because the nets went up, we had a visit from some Linnets, they seem to go hand in hand here! The 23rd was rounded off by a superb showing of the Aurora Borealis, while not the strongest display seeing the whole night sky washed in that ghostly cloud was special.

Inbetween all this we had a few days of blustery wet and windy weather, I managed to get the car stuck in the mud up by Tor Ness.... again, we got a few nets up in Holland after two aborted attempts but otherwise, as mentioned before, its been all hands to the pump trying to get the bulk of the bird report out the way before the real migration starts! With Tom and Maddy arriving on Sunday the obs will seem a bit livelier and with improved coverage we'll hopefully start finding some more migrants.  

                                   Aurora Borealis over Lurand with Venus and Crescent moon
                                   Black Redstart
                                    'albifrons' White-fronted Goose

Tuesday, 14 March 2023

It's been a while! - 10th-14th March

 It seems like quite a long time ago I last sat here and did a NRBO blog post, it might be a long one as you might want to know what we've all been up to and what's going on in 2023 at NRBO. So we'll cover that and then get onto the birds....and the snow.

There's been an extended leave of absence for myself, I've been away to Spain and India, done a bit of tour guiding and even watched my brother get married since I left the island in November, but I'm very pleased to be back and up to my armpits in bird report work! Alison finally managed to get a very well deserved holiday to Italy with her sister and brother-in-law and attended the BOC meeting at Thetford in Norfolk. 

As for 2023 Tom Gale will joining us in the latter parts of March to take up the AW role, while Maddy Hine will be back as a volunteer again in between uni work. Felicia will also be joining us again in the second half of 2023, they can re-introduce themselves along with anyone else we might have picked up throughout the year in a newsletter a bit further down the line. 

So I suppose it's time to get onto the birds. It's not often I arrive back to see the island covered in snow but thats exactly what happened on the evening of 9th. The 10th meant it was time to go and see what was wintering on the island. The answer, on the whole, is not a great deal but birdings been tough going, it was snowy when arrived but that was a few days old, it looked as though it was about to thaw and then we got another dump overnight on 13th, poor birds!

There's a very obvious increase in Snipe numbers with wet bits either frozen over or covered in snow there isn't much respite for them and they seem to find themselves feeding in the open, good numbers of other waders have included Purple Sandpipers, Dunlin, Sanderling and Golden Plover. Woodcock have been flushed from Holland and the obs croft in the past days and there's been a couple of Jack Snipe around too. There is course Greylag flocks everywhere but they're a little more exciting than usual, a good number of Pink-footed Geese have been hiding amongst them along with a flock of White-fronted Geese ranging in number from 15 to 18 birds. 

A number of Robins have spent the winter with two in Holland and singles around the obs, Trebb, Howar, along with the second Pied Wagtail of 2023 (the first was seen in January!), Southness and Westness. A pair of wintering Chaffinch are loitering around waiting for feeders to be filled in Holland and the Twite flock around the obs has been vocal if a little elusive. A 2CY Glaucous Gull at Bewan was a welcome surprise on 13th especially as large Gulls have been at premium. Otherwise it's very much business as usual now and we sit and wait for the Spring! 

                             White-fronted Geese (and Greylags)
                             Glaucous Gull 
                             Common Gull

Tuesday, 6 December 2022

21st - 26th November

Highlights between the 21st to 26th of November included 22 Whooper Swan, 10 Russian White-fronted Goose, 5 Common Scoter, 2 Iceland Gull, a Glaucous Gull, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, the same juvenile American Golden Plover from earlier in the month, 5 Long-eared Owl, 4 Black Redstart, 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Goldfinch and a Little Bunting

Juvenile American Golden Plover (bottom right) Waterhouse. With Redshank, European Golden Plover and Turnstone.

Little Bunting Lenswick

Woodcock and Long-eared Owl

Sunday, 20 November 2022

10th - 20th November

Highlights between the 10th to 20th of November included 42 Whooper Swan, 12 Russian White-fronted Goose, 2 Tundra Bean Goose, 4 Pink-footed Goose, a Scaup, a Common Scoter, a White-billed Diver, 2 Sooty Shearwater, a 'calidus-type' Peregrine, 60+ Woodcock, a Caspian Gull, 3 Glaucous Gull, a Little Gull, a Long-eared Owl, a Short-eared Owl, 2 Waxwing, a Swallow, 2 Black Redstart, 2 Siberian Chiffchaff, the Yellow-browed Warbler still, a Rook, one of the many/a Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, the Common Rosefinch still and 2 Goldfinch. 

Caspian Gull by the lighthouse on the 18th. The first record for North Ronaldsay and Orkney. A textbook first-winter individual showing the full suite of desired features (Dante Shepherd). 

Waxwing (Dante Shepherd)

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

4th - 9th November

Highlights between the 4th to 9th of November included a White-billed Diver, 24 Sooty Shearwater, 17 Little Auk, a Waxwing, a Black-throated Thrush, a Whinchat, 4 Siberian Chiffchaff, a Yellow-browed Warbler, a Common Redstart, one of the many/a Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, a Common Rosefinch and a Greenfinch. 

Robin, Redwing, Fieldfare and Blackbird have been present in good numbers. 

Black-throated Thrush at Trinley on the 9th. The second record for North Ronaldsay stayed for just ten minutes before flying high east towards the lighthouse not to be relocated (Dante Shepherd).

In order: Common Redstart (Harry Witts), Rosefinch (Lauren Evans) and White-billed Diver (Harry Witts).

Thursday, 3 November 2022

31st October - 3rd November

 The best way to describe the last few days would be blustery! The wet weather has also set in making the last few days difficult birding if nothing else! 

The last day of October was almost a total wash-out, the only avian highlight being a Ring Ouzel at Lurand. The start of November was a little better, the high counts of thrushes and Robins continued with highlights coming the shape of a Yellow-browed Warbler on Tor Ness and our second American Golden Plover of the Autumn, a juvenile that spent the subsequent two days around Loch Park. A Mistle Thrush was also nearby and the Eastern Black Redstart remained in the Bewan Punds. The 2nd saw a 1cy Iceland Gull near Trolla, the Ring Ouzel hanging around the parked cars outside the obs with a Black Redstart, three Greenfinch in Holland and a third Little Bunting of the Autumn was at Nether Linnay. The undoubtable highlight was the first Pallas's Warbler of the year near Haskie, found in the latter parts of the afternoon it was nearly untwitchable for the rest of the obs staff. Another windy day on the 3rd produced very little, the only highlight being a 1cy Glaucous Gull. 

Snow Bunting

Eastern Black Redstart

Sunday, 30 October 2022

26th-30th October

An interesting few days of birds that I'll sum up briefly.

The 26th was a very quiet day overall with 4 Greenfinch still around the obs and the probable Central Asian Lesser Whitethroat still around Bewan House. The following day was a little better with a duo of white-winged Gulls, a 3cy Iceland Gull was seen coming off while sea-watching and a 1cy Glaucous Gull was on Sandsheen in the afternoon. A Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll was seen briefly at Cauldhaim, both the CALWH and Eastern Black Redstart were present up North again and a late high count of 103 Black-tailed Godwit were between the Lighthouse and Vincoin. 

The 28th started with a Summer plumaged White-billed Diver passing the Beacon. A/the Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll was around the observatory in the morning as was another unseasonal Stonechat. A Little Auk passed Tor Ness and the latter half of the day produced Glaucous Gulls on the Seal Skerry and at West Beach. The next day was the pick of the bunch in terms of rarities as a Hume's Leaf Warbler was discovered in the willows at Ancum and is only the third island record. The 30th was filled with good numbers of migrating Thrushes as they poured south through the island. Other migrants arriving included more Blackcaps, Robins, Chaffinches and Bramblings. The only thing missing was another rarity!

Hume's Leaf Warbler 

Eastern Black Redstart

Wednesday, 26 October 2022

23rd - 25th October

 The last few days have been simply superb with a wide range of migrants and some superb rarities to cap off whats been an excellent period of Easterlies. 

The 23rd isn't called the magical 23rd for no reason, our 23rd started with large flocks of Thrushes pouring over the obs and it was a Thrush that sent us into early delirium as our second White's Thrush of the Autumn was discovered on the scaffolding of the Beacon! Only the islands fourth record so to have two in an Autumn is simply nuts! The next not so heart racing bird was a Scaup on Brides, new for the year but not quite a White's Thrush! Next up was a 'probable' Central Asian Lesser Whitethroat found in the garden at Bewan, quite a smart little subspecies that even called after a while revealing it's 'Blue Tit esq machine gun rattle'. While we were attempting to catch the CALWH (I'm not typing it out again) a phone call to say there was Eastern Black Redstart around the punds at the Beacon got us furling the net and running across the sodden grass to lock eyes on this rare Eastern subspecies. Quite the day, despite two of the mega's being subspecies it still made for informative and exciting birding, the fact all three megas showed up within 200m of each other is slightly alarming! 

The 24th had a lot to live up too, it didn't quite manage the heights of the previous day but it was still good. Another Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll was at Lochend, our fifth (I think) of the Autumn and another Firecrest was around Cott. The second Glaucous Gull of the Autumn flew South past West Beach, another Great Spotted Woodpecker appeared at the bottom of the School Brae. Both the Eastern Black Redstart and CALWH remained in situ and a Yellowhammer at Nether Linnay was new for the year. In the evening a Short-eared Owl was trapped at Ancum and is only the 4th to ringed on the island. 

The final day of the post saw the staff perhaps relax a bit with the last week being full on birding in all weathers and with the poor weather breaking it was nice to stroll around and enjoy what was lurking. The Firecrest had moved to Brigg, the was a Grey Wagtail on Tor Ness, four Greenfinch around the obs, four Long-eared Owls were trapped in Holland and a Waxwing at Holland was new for the year. 

White's Thrush

Eastern Black Redstart

'probable' Central Asian Lesser Whitethroat

Great-spotted Woodpecker


Saturday, 22 October 2022

21st-22nd October

 A good couple of days of Easterlies and some difficult birding conditions on 21st as the day was basically a wash-out, or would have been if it wasn't late October! We were rewarded on 22nd with some nicer weather and good birds.

An unseasonal Stonechat was at Bewan to kick the 21st off and never really got going much beyond this, a Long-eared Owl came in off the sea up North, good numbers of Woodcock were around the island and common passage migrants made up the rest of the days totals. The highlight of the day came late on in the shape of a Blyth's Reed Warbler found at Iris Taing. 

The 22nd was altogether better, the day was started with news of a Red-throated Pipit near Kirbest, a very obliging bird that fed in front of the gathered obs staff and even gave an unprompted fly-over giving loud diagnostic calls, a good start! It wasn't long until the next goody arose, a 'strange Sylvia warbler' on the West Side turned out to be a very tricky looking Subalpine Warbler, the bird was trapped and dropped feathers collected for DNA analysis. Other species were talked about and almost all ruled out but we'll wait for DNA to confirm anything outright. Otherwise it was very much business as usual, plenty of thrushes in mixed flocks, three Black Redstarts around the North end and plenty of Woodcock, Robin, Blackcap scattered around and the Yellow-browed Warbler remained on both dates.

Subalpine Warbler sp.

Red-throated Pipit


Thursday, 20 October 2022

17th - 20th October

 A mixed bag in terms of weather over the last few days but it the Easterlies have been lingering on the horizon and today saw them take effect in full force but ultimately fail to produce the Autumn mega we're holding out for, not worry for now though as they're set in over next few days and things look promising. 

As mentioned in the previous post things did look to have moved into an easterly based air flow on 17th and the day wasn't without birds. A Kestrel passed over the obs in the morning while a male Sparrowhawk hung around the traps. A Stonechat at East Loch Park and a Whinchat at Hooking were joined on the day list by the Grey Phalarope still occupying Gretchen with four Long-tailed Duck and a Lesser Redpoll was caught at Holland. The bird of the day went to a Little Bunting seen briefly at Haskie. 

The 18th also had migrants, a Barred Warbler was trapped in Holland in the morning while two Greenfinch around the obs were a welcome surprise. A Yellow-browed Warbler appeared around T5 in the afternoon, a Black Redstart was at Upper Linnay and a late Willow Warbler was at Veracott. Our 7th island record of Red-necked Grebe was the outstanding bird of the day as it passed Dennishead in the late afternoon.

A quieter day followed on 19th with the Barred Warbler re-locating to the Surgery and a scattering of common migrants around the island such as Blackcaps and Chiffchaff lead us nicely into overnight Easterlies with rain in the morning!

The 20th wasn't perhaps as good as we'd been daydreaming about but it was certainly a start if nothing else! Good counts of Robin, Goldcrest and Blackcap propped up some scarcer migrants, Woodcocks were seen at Holland, Longar and near Kirbest while two Short-eared Owls were in Gue Park and a Long-eared Owl was present around Bewan. A Little Bunting, possibly the Haskie bird from a few days ago was at the school but disappeared into a cow field around Cauldhaim. The North end produced an unlikely highlight in the form of the islands 8th record of Firecrest, seen initially near Iris Taing it re-located to Rue (or there was possibly two birds, it's difficult to judge!) to end what was a good day in the field.

The next few days look exciting so we'll just have to see what the Easterly birding gods produce! 

Blackcap - GG

Robin - GG

Yellow-browed Warbler - GG

Monday, 17 October 2022

12th-16th October

 It's been a while since the last post so sorry about that! With the winds in the today (17th) I won't dawdle over this post! It's been a fairly quiet week with lingering birds making up most the news, some new arrivals on 16th have given us a bit to look forward too though! 

The 12th saw the a Glaucous Gull fly past the bar during breakfast, the Little Stint is still on Bewan and has been for some time now, both the Phalaropes also remain in place at Gretchen and have been present on all days. Woodcocks were flushed from Loch Park and Gue Park between 12th and 14th and likely refer to the same bird. The 13th bought two Rook in off the sea and they were picked up as they headed South too. A Grey Wagtail was at Neven and the Turtle Dove appeared around the obs again. The following day saw a Pied Flycatcher near the lighthouse but most surprisingly the or another Great Snipe appeared between North and South Gravity and showed well for one lucky observer. The 15th was quiet and only the Phalaropes made the bird news. The 16th saw Hornemann's Arctic Redpolls at Howar and Scottigar in the morning and a late Bluethroat showing well on and off around Brides. 

                             Great Snipe - GG

Wednesday, 12 October 2022

7th-11th October

 It's been a very mixed bag over the past few days of not only weather but birds too, the weather has mostly consisted of raging Westerly based winds and squalled driving showers, but there have been nicer moments in the forecast.

The 7th was a bit of a Phalarope-fest, singles of Grey and Red-necked spent the day on Gretchen, while a further nine Grey Phalaropes passed the sea-watch hide. The Turtle Dove or Doves were still present between Westness and Garso while another was seen later in the day around Holland. Three Hornemann's spent the day together near Waterhouse. Good wildfowl movements saw frequent passage of Whooper Swans, Pink-footed Geese and Barnacle Geese throughout the day while other lingering migrants included Willow Warbler, Robin, four Brambling, two Goldcrest and a Yellow-browed Warbler. The undoubtable highlight, despite the frustration at it vanishing, was a Buff-bellied Pipit heard around Waterhouse before it vanished off in the direction of Ancum with Meadow Pipits. This is our first record of this Trans-Atlantic Pipit since 2020.

The 8th saw very much a copy of the previous day with the addition of two or three Collared Doves around the island, three Jackdaw and the first Twite of the Autumn.

The Phalaropes on Gretchen both re-appeared on 9th, a Leach's Petrel and a Goosander was the highlight from a three hour sea-watch and a long-expired Common Dolphin at Iris Taing made for another very quiet and very windy day!

It seemed the 10th would also fizzle away into a quiet one with the Grey Phalarope being replaced on Gretchen by a very unseasonal Arctic Tern to keep the Red-necked Phalarope company. News in the mid-afternoon of a 'large Snipe' at the Shooting Gallery pricked up ears. Once the bird flew it was very apparent this was our second Great Snipe of the year and a far more obliging one at that! 

The 11th saw a near all day sea-watch produce Juvenile Little and Glaucous Gulls, four Orca, 210 Sooty Shearwater, 26 Manx Shearwater, 16 Pomarine Skua, a Long-tailed Skua, 26 Great Northern Diver and two Grey Phalaropes. The previous days Great Snipe was still present although now far more mobile. 

                                    Great Snipe - both Ashley Saunders/Oriole Birding

Friday, 7 October 2022

3rd-6th October

It’s been a few days since our last post so apologies for that, I’d like to say you’d missed a lot but it’s mostly been dramatic weather and overstaying birds that have kept us entertained. 
The 3rd started with news of an Olive-backed Pipit near Stromness Point, it’s assumed that it’s the Stennabreck bird having moved South slightly. Two Yellow-browed Warblers were still in Holland while the first flock of Pink-footed Geese, thirteen in total, over the last few days moved South past the Beacon. The stubble patches at Westness provided two Lapland Buntings and three Brambling. The Buff-breasted Sandpiper also remained in a favoured spot just West of North Manse. The 4th saw a huge influx of Redwing onto the island, after the rain cleared mid-morning we were treated to just over 2500 birds in the space of four or five hours. The long-staying Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll also remained around the Shooting Gallery while a Yellow-browed Warbler, Siberian Chiffchaff and two Robins remained in Holland. The big birds of the day were Sixteen Whooper Swans on Hooking, surprisingly even at this stage in 2022, a year tick!
 Wednesday the 5th started with news from Sanday of two Jackdaw heading our way, not a major rare like some of the other corvids, but scarce all the same. They were eventually picked up near the Lighthouse as they continued North. The Turtle Dove re-surfaced once again, this time at Westness! Two Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll were seen initially at Lochend in the North before relocating down the island and eventually settling at Howar, there was a Ring Ouzel on the West coast and four Whooper Swans headed South out towards Sanday and a third Hornemann’s appeared, assumedly the same as in previous days, near the Post Office. 
The 6th saw horrendous showers, gales and even a crash of thunder that woke most of the staff up! It also saw us say goodbye to Aidan, his visit cut shorter than we’d like due to family reasons. We wish him all the best in his future endeavours and look forward to seeing him again in the future! Bird wise things were predictably tortuous in the blustery conditions but some brave souls did venture outside! Sixteen Barnacle Geese were on Gretchen first thing while a further were around the Links. c160 Pink-footed Geese moved through in small flocks as the afternoon progressed as did seven Whooper Swans, on the land the Stonechat was near the school and the Ring Ouzel was near the foghorn.

Two Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll
Purple Sandpiper

Sunday, 2 October 2022

2nd October

 Another rough, wet and windy day that provided more migrants and even some more rares! 

The first port of call was our second Lanceolated Warbler in as many days as a bird was found creeping along the wall of the dyke between T1 and T5! Two Hornemann's Arctic Redpolls were present with birds below the School Brae and a second not far from Westness. The Olive-backed Pipit of a few days ago appeared again by Stennabreck while other migrants included Blythii Lesser Whitethroat at Bewan again, two late Willow Warblers at Bewan and Rue, a further two Lesser Whitethroats were at the Shooting Gallery, a lone Yellow-browed Warbler was still in Holland, the Turtle Dove re-appeared in Holland in the evening and the first Grey Phalarope of the year was found on the sea off the Lighthouse and another Buff-breasted Sandpiper was found near Ancum in the Morning.

Tomorrow looks interesting with the winds going slack overnight and some American passerines in Ireland and Norway we remain hopeful! 

                             Lanceolated Warbler - GG
                             Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll - GG

Saturday, 1 October 2022

1st October

After the winds of the previous day everyone was keen to get out and about and see if the gale had dropped anything to get our teeth into. 

In truth I don't think it really did, however a good scattering of Redwing and Song Thrush were accompanied by a few Ring Ouzels, two Yellow-browed Warblers were in Holland, a single Stonechat and Whinchat were near the school and a North-western type Redpoll was at South Gravity. The stand-out bird of the day however was a Lanceolated Warbler found near Kirbest and later trapped and ringed. It makes it as our 9th record of this elusive Locustella.

We're turning our attentions to West for the next couple of days in search of that holy grail yank! 

                            Lanceolated Warbler in hand - GG
                             Lanceolated Warbler in the field (!!) - GAW
                             North-western type Redpoll - GG