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!

Thursday, 11 February 2021

4th-11th February

 A rather cold and rather quiet spell continued the theme of recent weeks with very little for us to get too excited about. There have been a few bits however. A noticeable increase in Skylark being the main attraction. Numbers climbed as high as 170 on the 10th. Wildfowl numbers have stayed pretty steady with the max counts nothing outside of the ordinary, apart from Tufted Duck that reached 34 birds on Brides on the 9th and they were re-joined by what we assume is the same drake Pochard from earlier in the year on the 10th. A total of 4 Mute Swans have been on the island probably not enjoying the frozen lochs. The 8th saw the cold weather turn snowy and overnight the island was turned into a bit of photographers paradise and the staff have been making the most of it as you'd perhaps expect! So here's a selection of photo's from them while they've been enjoying the island. 

                                   Common Gull
                                   Golden Plover
                                   Pink-footed Goose
                                   Nouster Bay in the snow 

Thursday, 4 February 2021

28th January - 3rd February

 It's been a cold week on the island and an uncharacteristically calm spell in the weather has meant there has been very little turnover in birds. However with an interesting Easterly air flow and more cold weather we're hopeful things will start to show up! 

There has been very little to report so I'll keep it brief so to not repeat the same birds over and over again! The 29th was easily one of the busier days as the colder weather began to set in. Bewan was the main hub of activity where a juvenile Peregrine was keeping the wildfowl alert by sitting on the bank. A high count of 29 Pintail was the highest of the year, 12 Gadwall and 9 Tufted Ducks were all well on their toes. Elsewhere a 1st Winter Glaucous Gull was loafing with Great Black-backs and Herring Gulls on the SEal Skerry.

Things went pretty stagnant then until 1st February where an overnight sprinkling of snow made things a little more exciting, over 80 Skylarks were recorded around the island no doubt crowing around cattle feeders waiting spillages to feed on, the three Chaffinch were still in Funny Park as was the overwintering Redpoll. Other bits around the obs and Holland included a Hen Harrier, a Merlin, 23 Fieldfare, 7 Redwing and a couple of Robins. 

The 3rd was the first sign of a thaw happening, it also saw the return of the drake Green-winged Teal on Gretchen. It's not been seen for a little while so good to have it back. Another 1st Winter Glaucous Gull was hanging around the on the Seal Skerry and 4 Little Grebes on Brides were a notable count if nothing else. Otherwise things have been pretty quiet and we await the return migrants and warmer weather with keen anticipation. 

                                   A snowy bird obs scene
                                   Peregrine (phone scope sorry about quality!)

Thursday, 28 January 2021

24th-27th January

It's been a rather quiet couple days but with the weather going completely slack it's not really a surprise. A couple of Pink-footed Geese and a Woodcock around Holland were all the noteworthy species we could muster up on the 24th. The following day would see a group of Mute Swans land on Gretchen taking the day total up to 13 birds, an unusually high count for here. The other birds of note were 2 Grey Plover on Nouster to add to our year list. The 26th was very quiet but the 27th provided no fewer than 11 Robins scattered around the island. Wether these birds are fresh in or have just been hiding out of the rougher weather we'll never know! The Ruff was back on Ancum in the morning with a flock of Lapwing and bird of the week so far was a White-billed Diver feeding off the Lighthouse. The 27th was also rather quiet but it does appear we have two Buzzards on the island with individuals seen at Nether Linnay and Southness on the 27th. 

                                   Some of the wintering Twite around the obs


Sunday, 24 January 2021

20th-23rd January

 A few rather rough days of weather have meant theres been little change in the ornithological landscape. The only birds the 20th had to offer were 2 1st winter Glaucous Gulls on the Seal Skerry. The following day was a complete washout coupled with howling winds meant viewing anything was nearly out of the question, the best offering was 4 Goldeneye and 12 Tufted Ducks on Bewan. The following day was much more positive experience, the Seal Skerry was bustling with Gulls, the pick of which were 4 Glaucous Gulls and 2 Iceland Gulls (all 1st W). A Buzzard (or the Buzzard) appeared over the Obs in the afternoon causing pandemonium amongst the wintering wildfowl and waders. A couple of Woodcock were at Holland and Sangar respectively. The final offering of the day was 17 Black-tailed Godwits on Brides, these represent only the 2nd ever January record for this species. A much nicer day would follow on the 23rd despite intermittent snow/hail showers, a lone 1st Winter Glaucous Gull was on the Seal Skerry again, a hybrid Shoveler x Mallard was on Bewan in the morning with 14 genuine Shoveler. The afternoon saw the hail and snow depart and a quick walk around the obs croft produced a Woodcock, 31 Twite, 3 Chaffinch, a Common Redpoll and a very brief flight view of the Woodlark that seemed to vanish off towards Kirbest. 

                                   Black-tailed Godwits
                                   Grey Heron

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

16th-19th January

A few days where again white-winged Gulls have made up the bulk of the good birds we've had over the past few days. The 16th produced good numbers of the aforementioned white winged Gulls, with 4 Glaucous Gulls (1 ad and 3 1w) and 2 1w Iceland Gulls in a large flock of feeding Gulls on the Links. A WeBs count on the 17th produced plenty of wildfowl but also presented the task of trying to rule out overlapping Glaucous Gulls with them moving around the island a fair bit, with a bit of working out we had at least 8 birds (2 ad and 6 1w) on island along with the previous days Iceland Gulls that were hanging around on Garso. A pair of Mute Swans were also on Brides, while 5 Snow Buntings were hanging around in East Loch Park. The 18th was mostly taken up with a failed rescue attempt of a Grey Seal that had become entangled in fishing line, sadly the Seal managed to get away, we're keeping an eye out for it though and hopefully we'll manage to free it before too long! The 19th was back to normal, the Ruff appeared on Ancum in the morning while the only other birds of note were a Merlin at Parkhouse, 2 Hen Harrier, 2 Glaucous Gulls (ad and 1w) and a 1w Iceland Gull on the Seal Skerry. 

                                   Iceland Gull with Common Gulls
                                   Common Gull and Herring Gull 

Saturday, 16 January 2021

12th-15th January

With the wind picking up and the weather turning not so nice it's meant birding away from vehicles has been at a premium but there have still been bits and bobs to pick up on. The overwintering Ruff remained with the Redshank and Golden Plover flock near the Post Office on the 12th. The 13th was a very quiet day with hardly anything to report apart from the usual Hen Harriers and a Merlin. The next day however would see the wind pick up and even get a sniff of Easterly to it, all this really meant was that the Gulls gathered on the Links and the appearance of an Adult and 1st Winter Iceland Gull and a 1st Glaucous Gull made for something to photograph if nothing else! Another rough day on the 15th saw 2 1st Winter Glaucous Gulls sat around Bewan as did the first Jack Snipe of 2021, the group of 60 or so Ringed Plover and 43 Dunlin remained on Cauldhaim flash with the Pink-footed Goose nearby. A couple of Woodcock were flushed from Holland in the afternoon. 

                                   Iceland Gull

Monday, 11 January 2021

10th-11th January

 A very cold couple of days hasn't seen much change in the birds but it's hardly a surprise considering it's January. Good counts of Pintail and Gadwall were present on Bewan posting 26 and 15 respectively, The Green-winged Teal remained on Gretchen with 21 Eurasian Teal, a collated 31 Tufted Duck were on Bewan, Garso, Hooking and Brides and the drake Pochard was back on Brides with 2 Little Grebe. Greylags have of course been the goose of choice (or not) with over 300 on the island, the only goose that wasn't a Greylag was a Pink-footed Goose below the school. Away from Wildfowl the Gull flock on Bewan contained a rather scruffy 1st Winter Glaucous Gull that seemed to be commuting between Bewan and the Seal Skerry. The Twite flock in the Funny Park was still holding 3 Chaffinch but had been joined by a rather smart male Redpoll. A couple of Hen Harriers were seen bombing around the island but otherwise it was very much business as usual!  

                                   Glaucous Gull
                                   Pink-footed Goose

Saturday, 9 January 2021

8th-9th January

 Its almost as if by magic that our complaints of a lack of white wingers have been answered in the last couple days! Two 1CY Glaucous Gulls were present on the 8th while the 9th bought a 1CY Iceland Gull and 2 Glaucous Gulls in the shape of a rather smart adult and another (or one of the previous days) 1CY birds. Elsewhere it appears the Buzzard is still going strong and was seen fending off one of three Hen Harriers that have been seen around the island. The drake Pochard was present on Brides on the 9th and a lone Pink-footed Goose was below the school with Greylags. Unsurprisingly the Green-winged Teal has remained on Gretchen. The big news from the last two days is the re-discovery of the Woodlark in the Funny Park, a very good bird this far North and very good bird for 2021's yearlist which is off to a flyer! Otherwise things as you'd expect for this time of year, 3 Chaffinches remain in the Funny Park with Twite flock, up to 26 Pintail were on Bewan on the 9th and a Merlin was seen bombing around Gretchen early on the 8th. 

Now is also a good time to mention becoming a friend! If you wish to do so please email: the cost of becoming is £20 this includes a copy of the annual report, 10% off accommodation at the bird observatory and a biannual newsletter, more importantly though it allows us continue our work at the observatory with the membership going straight into things like repairing traps, sowing bird crops and paying for essential equipment like rings and nets. For additional £8.00 you can also receive the Orkney Bird Report. In addition to this we have started selling pin badges, the first of these features the iconic Arctic Tern that also features on the obs logo, we have limited stock of these but if you wish to purchase one please email: 

                                    The NRBO Arctic Tern Pin Badge          


Thursday, 7 January 2021

3rd - 7th January

 It's been a cold week here on North Ronaldsay but beautiful non-the-less with little wind.

We're still lacking in white-winged Gulls but the cold weather has boosted wildfowl numbers, the most notable of which being the first record of Pochard in over a year on 6th. Other wildfowl consiting 22 Tufted Ducks, 28 Pintail, 5 Goldeneye and 188 Wigeon, whilst up to 6 Red-breasted Mergansers, both Red-throated and Great northern Divers were on the sea with a few Long-tailed Ducks. Elsewhere 25 Snow Buntings at Sandar were busy avoiding at least three Hen Harriers.

                                            A typical Bewan scene
                                            Golden Plovers and Snow Buntings

Saturday, 2 January 2021

2nd January

Not that we didn't expect it but the Green-winged Teal was still on Gretchen Loch with 8 Pintail and a Robin was just up the coast at the Bothy, 4 Pink-footed Geese were at Lurand and the Ravens are quickly becoming more vocal. Temperature aside, the changeable weather continued with this rainbow over the west coast lighting up the Lapwings.

Friday, 1 January 2021

Happy New Year!

 North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory would like to wish everybody a Happy New Year!

A few hours out and about today produced a few bits not usually seen in January, notably last years Buzzard hanging on, three Chaffinches were still in Funny Park with 28 Twite. A Song Thrush was at Sennes and a good collective count of Pintail totalled 26 and 4 Goldeneye were on the sea off Bewan. A Merlin and a Hen Harrier were by the School, and a Pink-footed Goose was amongst the Greylag Geese.

The weather's been pretty impressive too over the past couple of days with some heavy frosts and wintery showers.

Snow Buntings

Snow cloud

Friday, 25 December 2020

North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory would like to thank all of those who have visited and contributed to the Bird Observatory in this strangest of years and wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 
Thank You all and we hope to see you next year.

This Little Auk was a surprise Christmas present for one lucky islander, found on the doorstep early morning. It was lively and put back out on the sea.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

We finally got in on some Goose action with 3 Russian White-fronted Geese and a single Bean Goose sp. between Holland and Kirbist on 16th. Up to 4 Woodcock have been logged, there are still a few Fieldfare and Redwing scattered about, up to 11 Pintail have been on Gretchen Loch and 2 Jackdaws coming in off the sea at the pier on 23rd is only the second December record of this species. 

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

5th 15th December

The past couple of weeks have been wet and windy to say the least but there are still plenty of Geese to search through, though no White-fronted Geese so far. Three Iceland Gulls were amongst the masses of Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls on 8th, there are still a decent number of Redwings and Fieldfare for December and it appears a good number of Robins are going to spend Christmas on the Island. Up to 80 Twite remain in the Observatory bird crops and singles of Siskin and Common Redpoll were seen on 15th.