Saturday, 28 December 2013

24th-28th December

With the usual Christmas social events coming to the fore, most of the period has been spent inside. Some time was spent out on 24th and 28th though, with occasional forays in-between, mainly to walk off festive excesses! A good thrash around half of the coastline on 28th was the most productive day with the first-winter Short-billed Dowitcher seen again at West Beach-it probably never leaves! The drake Green-winged Teal was also at Bridesness (also seen 24th) and a Little Auk in Nouster Bay. The Black-tailed Godwit flock had increased to 24 birds on Christmas Eve with 19 still present on 28th, while the Common Buzzard was seen on 3dates. The Greenland White-fronted Goose, Shelduck and at least 130 Twite and 10 Snow Buntings have also been seen regularly during the five day spell.

Short-billed Dowitcher

Monday, 23 December 2013

21st-23rd December

Fairly quiet in recent days with the only sightings of note all coming from the 23rd. The Buzzard was still in the Ancum area while the drake Green-winged Teal remains faithful to Gretchen. Other re-appearing long stayers include the Greenland White-fronted Goose and Canada Goose among the Greylags at the north end with 21 Snow Buntings the only notable passerines.

Friday, 20 December 2013

19th-20th December

Were still ticking along nicely with daily new arrivals providing reward for continuing to get out and about despite the often rubbish weather! On 19th masses of birds gathered to feed at Bridesness again on the very high tide, many species were present but notable were at least 200 Purple Sandpipers and a juvenile Glaucous Gull. A single Black-tailed Godwit and the Shelduck were on the Loch there and the Green-winged Teal was back at Gretchen. Bird of the day on a local level though was a Common Buzzard around the west coast-a species which is far from annual with less than 25 Island records, although this is our second of the year. A trek up to the north end in better weather on 20th found the Buzzard still to be present but a Goldfinch at Neven was a welcome addition. It was joined briefly by a 'frosty' looking Redpoll with a large white rump, presumably the Coue's Arctic Redpoll from 14th but again disappeared before it could be scrutinised-so for now has to remain unconfirmed. There are now 7 Whooper and 4 Mute Swans present with 16 Pintails also seen. Flocks of Snow Buntings are still at large with different groups of 33 in the Bridesness area on 19th and 24 in the North on 20th.

Goldfinch-in the dark! 

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

17th-18th December

Not much to report from a wet and windy couple of days when issues with sheep/fallen dyke and festive events have taken priority. A juvenile Iceland Gull flew south past Gretchen with other Gulls and one of the usual Hen Harriers were seen on 17th and that's it... A bit more effort tomorrow hopefully!

Monday, 16 December 2013

15th-16th December

The Short-billed Dowitcher wasn't looked for on either date with effort focused on the Bridesness area where large numbers of Gulls, Wildfowl and Waders had gathered and were feeding in the swell. On 15th the female/immature Blue-winged Teal was back on the Loch there but it was the number of birds offshore which made for an impressive sight. At least 360 Eiders were there along with 150 Wigeons, 11 Goldeneyes plus 250 Common and 110 Herring Gulls-in fact it was something of a surprise that there were no 'white-winged' Gulls present. This was rectified the next day when a juvenile Glaucous Gull joined the mele' with the drake Green-winged Teal having replaced the previous days American duck on the Loch and a flock of 44 Snow Buntings on the beach. The Sparrowhawk was seen again on both days with a Woodcock and the Mealy Redpoll at Kirbest still on 15th.

Some of yesterdays Eider frenzy!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

14th December

Considering it's mid-December North Ronaldsay still seems alive with birds and with a blast of cooler south-easterly air today there was a mini-arrival of newcomers. Beginning with the old-the SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER was at West Beach again, although the 'jumpy' nature of the accompanying Redshanks has made it hard work to photograph. There was more frustration when what was almost certainly a Coue's Arctic Redpoll was seen briefly at Holland House around midday before vanishing in the increasing gales. Searches for it as the weather deteriorated drew a blank, but hopefully it'll latch onto the Twite flock at Kirbest where a Common Redpoll has already sought refuge today. Also new in were a Sparrowhawk at Holland, a Shelduck on Ancum Loch and the first Fieldfare for a while. The Green-winged Teal remains faithful to Gretchen Loch, with 6 Pintails also there and the Canada Goose was nearby.

The best effort of the Short-billed Dowitcher from the last two days.

Friday, 13 December 2013

13th December

On another pleasant day (before Armageddon hits tomorrow!), Friday the 13th certainly wasn't unlucky on North Ronaldsay, in-fact it delivered a major surprise! After not being seen for over 3 weeks the SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER unexpectedly re-appeared with a flock of Redshanks in the West Beach area. So, where has it been!? With reduced coverage at this time of year it tends to be the west side which gets neglected-so it seems most likely it has probably never left, although its equally plausible that its been visiting one of the many other under-watched Orkney Islands. It will be searched for again in that area more thoroughly over the next few days. The second surprise of the day was a Long-eared Owl disturbed from the sheep dyke at Westness while more familiar was the lingering drake Green-winged Teal at Gretchen. The Twite flock enjoying the Kirbest crop field has increased slightly again to at least 172 birds, with a single Linnet also hanging on while the Common Scoter was seen again off the Links and the 5 Whooper Swans remain.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

11th-12th December

With news of a much hoped for Ivory Gull having arrived on Mainland Orkney, plenty of the coastline was checked but the rarest occurrence of the period has to be two days in a row without any wind or rain! The drake Green-winged Teal was at Bridesness again on 12th, when the Greylag flocks in that area held the Dark-bellied Brent Goose and 4 Pink-footed Geese. A walk around the north end of the Island the day before found the female Common Scoter and 10 Red-throated Divers offshore. A couple of Hen Harriers have been seen throughout and at least 52 Snow Buntings continue to linger.

A few Redwings continue to linger on the Island

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

9th-10th December

The Blue-winged Teal hasn't been seen in the last couple of days, although only a small part of the Island has been checked but the Green-winged Teal has returned to Gretchen Loch where it was present on both dates. Presumably the same Dark-bellied Brent Goose was near Scottigar on 9th with 31 Snow Buntings also at the north end and on 10th the Black-tailed Godwit flock at Bridesness had grown to 20 birds-exceeding last years wintering total.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

7th-8th December

A typical wet and windy, winter weekend on North Ronaldsay although there remains plenty of birding interest. A trip up the west side for the first time in a while on 7th was largely unproductive-the lingering juvenile Whooper Swan and a Jack Snipe the highlights but on 8th both the female/immature Blue-winged Teal and drake Green-winged Teal were still at Bridesness. It was a much calmer day with plenty on the sea around the sheltered eastern coast with 16 Red-throated Divers, 4 Great northern Divers the female Common Scoter and an impressive 65 Long-tailed Ducks counted. 4 Snow Buntings were seen while on the Links were 57 Dunlin and 53 Ringed Plovers with 135 Sanderlings in Nouster Bay.

Friday, 6 December 2013

6th December

More blustery, and often heavy, snow showers and blizzard like conditions again today but it was another enjoyable and productive day in the field given the time of year. The female/immature Blue-winged Teal was joined by the drake Green-winged Teal at Bridesness-there can't have been too many occasions when these two have been watched in each others company on this side of the Atlantic?! Also along the tide-line there, a juvenile Iceland Gull fed among the commoner Gull species while 7 Black-tailed Godwits on the Loch hinted that we may be in for a repeat of last years wintering flock. The Greenland White-fronted Goose was seen again, with the Canada Goose and 2 Pink-footed Geese also among the Greylags. The crop field at Kirbest still held 150 Twite, 28 Skylarks and the Siberian Chiffchaff was there again. A Common Scoter was in Nouster Bay, a Jack Snipe was forced into the open and the Peregrine was seen a couple of times.

A few 'record shots' of the Blue-winged Teal

Iceland Gull 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

4th-5th December

A truly horrendous couple of days weather wise with up to 70mph freezing north-westerly winds and seemingly constant blizzards battered the Island! The 4th was spent indoors catching up on paperwork and the 5th was heading the same way until news from elsewhere in the UK, tempted one lunatic outside in search of Arctic visitors. It turned out to be a surprisingly prolific day given the time of year with a Dark-bellied Brent Goose sheltering in Linklet Bay and a second-winter Glaucous Gull at Bridesness seemingly a good return for a torrid day out in the field with the weather. The former was the first of the year and are scarce on the Island but rarer still was a female/immature Blue-winged Teal discovered shortly  thereafter in coastal fields near Viggay. The second of the year and seventh record for North Ronaldsay it showed reasonable well (though proved impossible to photograph!) when we were able to stand up between blizzards wandering about in its chosen field before flying on to Bridesness Loch late on. There were plenty of other birds sheltering on the leeward coastline particularly Gulls with 3 Black-headed, 230 Common and 75 Herring Gulls in that area plus an impressive 200 Eiders. There were 2 Grey Plovers on the links, 13 Snow Buntings were seen while the Water Rail showed up again at the Observatory.

Brent Goose-clearly today was not great for photography!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

2nd to 3rd December

The drake Green-winged Teal was at Gretchen Loch on both days-it looks set to winter on the Island and hopefully one day it'll be close enough or what little light we get this time of year will be good enough for a photo! Otherwise there's not a great deal happening with mainly lingering, wintering birds present but the blast of cooler air from the north were due to get may shake things up a bit? The Twite flock at Kirbest continues to grow at a steady pace, now numbering 156 with a single Linnet tagged on while 40 Snow Buntings remain at the north end. Another 2 (different from those on 1st) Hen Harriers were seen, with at least 2 Merlins and an immature Peregrine also present.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

1st December

A cracking winters day with plenty of sunshine and a light breeze. The drake Green-winged Teal was back on Gretchen Loch again and a Siberian Chiffchaff which showed well and called plenty of times at Holland gardens was presumably one of the roosting birds from last week. A couple of Hen Harriers included the first male for a while and 21 Redwings and 31 Snow Buntings were also seen.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

29th-30th November

An un-birdable 29th resulted in a day of paperwork until dark when a hunt around various Lochs for Waders and Wildfowl to catch and ring found 3 Jack Snipe among other species. Another 2 were flushed near Longar during daylight the next day where the Greenland White-fronted Goose and Canada Goose were nearby. There were also still 80 odd Twite at Kirbest with 22 Skylarks also there, 3 Robins spread around the middle of the Island and 53 Snow Buntings.

Also today, a Long-finned Pilot Whale was found washed up at Westness. A shame to see this magnificent animal in such a way but we'll be keeping an eye on the carcass with Arctic Gulls in mind.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

26th-28th November

Not a huge amount to report, especially given the extremely poor weather of the first two days when other than 7 Whoopers Swans there was little more than the usual collection of wintering Wildfowl and Waders. The 28th was a better day and 115 Twite in the crop field at Kirbest was the most noteworthy sighting. A 'presumed' Siberian' Chiffchaff was a also there while lingering thrushes around the centre of the Island included 15 Redwings and 2 Fieldfares. 12 Snow Buntings were seen, along with a different Peregrine and the lingering Canada Goose.

'presumed' Siberian Chiffchaff

Monday, 25 November 2013

24th-25th November

A pleasant couple of days with calmer winds and plenty of cloud before the stormy weather returns again tomorrow. There has been no sign of the Dowitcher on either date although the drake Green-winged Teal was still on Gretchen Loch on the former. After going missing for a week the Greenland White-fronted Goose was at Sandar the 25th, there was a Little Auk in the bay at Nouster while the 32 Moorhens counted must be a record? Other odds and ends include a couple each of Woodcock, Hen Harrier and Merlin, 5 Robins, 4 lingering Fieldfares among 30 or so each of Redwings and Blackbirds and 7 Snow Buntings.

Snow Bunting

Saturday, 23 November 2013

23rd November

A pleasant day with light winds, just the occasional shower and even a bit of sunshine for a time. The SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER was with the Golden Plovers at Trolla Vatn in the morning and was successfully twitched by three birders from Orkney mainland-bringing the total to 8 who have now seen this ultra rare Wader during its week long stay so far!!!! The drake Green-winged Teal also spent the day at its favourite haunt-Gretchen Loch and an Iceland Gull flew past the Lighthouse at midday. There were also a few raptors about with at least 2 each of Hen Harrier and Merlin plus the first Peregrine for a long time, while 18 Skylarks together are worth mentioning.

Friday, 22 November 2013

21st-22nd November

Much better weather the last couple of days and although there was no sign of the SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER during a brief search on the 21st, it was back at Lenswick again and showing well on the 22nd. On the latter date the drake Green-winged Teal was also on Gretchen Loch again while 11 Pintails were the only new wildfowl, with 16 Shovelers and 24 Tufted Ducks lingering birds. Twite numbers have at last started to show signs of increasing with 95 on the former date along with 60 Snow Buntings and a Chaffinch also. A surprising 3 Chiffchaffs were recorded with the lingering bird at Kirbest and 2 new individuals which weren't seen until they came into roost at Holland House gardens-both certainly sounded like Siberian Chiffchaffs but it was too dark to judge their plumage and they weren't seen the next morning. The oddest sighting during the period though goes to a very confused Golden Plover at the south end in full summer plumage!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

20th November

A truly horrendous day with a cold northerly wind and regular showers but some time was still spent out in the field. The SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER was with the mixed wader flocks at Lenswick in the morning with 5 Whooper Swans also there. There were a few other sightings of note with a Little Auk, female Common Scoter and 14 Long-tailed Ducks in Linklet Bay and an immature Scaup on Hooking Loch. A total of 317 Wigeon were counted, most on the Links where the Grey Plover remains with 26 Dunlins and 72 Ringed Plovers. Passerine sightings were limited to a Chiffchaff and 2 Snow Buntings. 
 Whooper Swans

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

19th November

The SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER was re-located again this morning and has now even been heard calling several times-most satisfying!! It was around Bewan Loch again for the first hour of the day before visiting a number of sites around the north end up with the roaming wader flocks until at least midday. On a cold day, with frequent sleet and hail showers there wasn't much else to report with 22 Snow Buntings and a couple of Merlin's all that's worth mentioning.

A quick reminder that the Observatory is still open to guests, so if your thinking of coming to try and see the Short-billed Dowitcher then contact us on 01857 633200 or by the e.mail address on the homepage for accommodation information. The bird will be looked for daily and the birding information services updated accordingly.

Monday, 18 November 2013

18th November

Despite extensive searching there was no sign of the Short-billed Dowitcher today, but it could easily still be lurking somewhere on the Island. This has clearly been the case with the Green-winged Teal, which after a couple of days of absence re-appeared on Gretchen in the afternoon. Other birds found during the day included a Grey Phalarope with the Redshanks at Scottigar, the lingering Greenland White fronted Goose and a White Wagtail and at least 16 Snow Buntings.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

17th November

Wow, what a day-North Ron scores big-time! A Dowitcher sp was found among feeding Redshanks and Turnstones in the Bewan/Rue area mid-morning and once the sheep started to behave themselves it showed well until lunchtime allowing plenty of photo's to be taken. Originally it was considered to be a Long-billed but limited experience of the two species and nagging doubts prompted several hours of research in the afternoon and after much circulation and correspondence on-line, the current consensus is that the bird is a first-winter SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER-just the fourth British record! All other news is largely irrelevant although a cursory glance at the sea logged 2 Little Auks while the late White Wagtail remains at the surgery.



Friday, 15 November 2013

14th-15th November

A blustery couple of days with the gale force westerly winds making walking difficult, let alone birding! Christmas shopping, packing and a leucistic Redwing pretty much sum up the 14th, but we'd like to take this opportunity to thank Simon (who heads south today) and all the seasonal staff and volunteers for all their hard work and company during the season. The 15th must have been the 'greyest' day of the year so far, with so much cloud it didn't seem to get light! A Grey Phalarope in the bay at Nouster seemed like a fair return for a hike around the more sheltered south-eastern coast. But this proven merely to be the entre with a drake Green-winged Teal found sleeping among the wildfowl at Bridesness a few hours later-the eighth North Ronaldsay record and the fourth in 3 years. A couple of Merlin's were also seen, along with 5 Red-throated Divers, 2 Woodcocks, a Jack Snipe and 25 Snow Buntings.

Somewhere in this rubbish photo there's a Green-winged Teal!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

12th - 13th November

A very windy day on the 12th with plenty of vicious showers whipping through made things difficult out in the field but we put the effort in and got some good coverage across the island; the female-type eastern-type Redstart was seen again near Burray in the morning but when we returned with spring-traps to attempt to catch the bird it was nowhere to be found!   The late White Wagtail was also still present along with 130 Blackbirds, 150 Snow Buntings, 18 Woodcock, 2 Jack Snipe, 11 Whooper Swans and a Yellowhammer.   A [slightly] calmer day on the 13th produced little in the way of new birds but the Yellowhammer was caught at Holland where there were still 60 Blackbirds, 40 Fieldfares and 45 Redwing.   Wildfowl totals included 7 Whooper Swans, 5 Gadwall, 12 Shoveler, the long staying Scaup and 5 Goldeneye.


Monday, 11 November 2013

10th - 11th November

A lovely calm day on the 10th produced little in the way of new birds with a Little Auk in Nouster Bay, a single Chiffchaff still with small numbers of lingering Thrushes and Robins and 9 Whooper Swans and the Canada Goose the pick of the wildfowl.   The weather rapidly deteriorated through the night, culminating in a really rough patch in the wee small hours but had largely blown through by the morning to leave a good day with only a few showers to hide from; the rough weather produced a good November arrival of birds with an intriguing female-type Redstart at Ancum showing an obvious whitish wing patch the highlight - surely of eastern origin.   Other birds included three Yellowhammers, at least 54 Woodcock, a White Wagtail, 330+ Blackbirds, 55+ Fieldfares, 2 Woodpigeons and 4 Blackcaps.   Three Mealy and a Lesser Redpoll remain along with a Chiffchaff and a Black Redstart while at least two Merlins enjoyed themselves, being seen to catch several migrants including Snow Bunting and Blackbird.

Interesting Redstart

Some of the Woodcock were particularly approachable with one keen to improve our ringing totals by catching itself in a lobster creel!

Saturday, 9 November 2013

8th - 9th November

A windy day on the 8th produced few highlights although the Little Bunting in Kirbest crop soldiers on where there was also three Mealy Redpolls, three Chaffinches, a Chiffchaff and 5 Reed Buntings in amongst the 100 or so Twite and Linnets; two Woodcock were also seen while two Little Auks and 14 Red-breasted Mergansers offshore were notable and 11 Whooper Swans were seen.   The wind dropped off on the 9th to leave a nice day until showers moved in late afternoon; a look at the sea in the morning produced three Sooty Shearwaters and a Bonxie while wildfowl totals in the calm conditions included 9 Whooper Swans (all different birds to the previous day), the lingering White-fronted Goose, 24 Tufted Duck, the long staying Scaup, 12 Long-tailed Ducks and 4 Goldeneye.   There was a scattering of migrants on the land as well with a late Wheatear on the shore at Scottigar, a Black Redstart at Senness and two Goldfinches most note worthy; other birds included 13 Robins, 3 Chiffchaffs, single Mealy and Lesser Redpolls and 85 Snow Buntings while two Hen Harriers and a Merlin still floated and zoomed around.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

6th - 7th November

A fairly nice couple of days if you could avoid the showers (some of which admittedly were pretty fierce!); the Little Bunting was still in Kirbest crop on 6th when a look at the sea at lunchtime produced just two Sooty Shearwaters, two Little Auks and a Puffin while 20 Long-tailed Ducks and 10 Red-breasted Mergansers were counted off the east coast.   There was still a mixed flock of 200 Thrushes hanging around Holland House on 7th with several Robins and single Blackcap, Goldcrest, Chaffinch and Brambling still present.  A new Lesser Redpoll was trapped in the evening along with a lingering Mealy Redpoll and other bits of note included 7 Whooper Swans and a good count of 190 Purple Sandpipers.
Little Bunting
This Hooded Crow was caught at the Obs on the 7th

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

5th November

A lovely, still day with sunny spells which, although being pretty cold meant it was a pleasure to be out in the field; the sea provided most of the interest with a seawatch from the north end in the morning producing 17 Sooty Shearwaters, a single Manx Shearwater, three Blue Fulmars in amongst 1,400 white ones, a Bonxie, 240 Kittiwakes and 11 Little Auks.   With calm seas for once birds counted on the sea included 9 Great-northern and 7 Red-throated Divers, 30 Long-tailed Ducks, 6 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Scaup.   The land was quieter for new arrivals with a flock of 21 Waxwings in off the sea by the lighthouse the highlight; other birds of note included the Little Bunting still in Kirbest crop, 90 Fieldfares, 320 Redwings, 4 Mealy Redpolls, a single Blackcap remaining, two Lapland Buntings and 140 Snow Buntings.   Also of note were 4 Whooper Swans, the single White-fronted and Canada Geese and a total of 7 Herons.
Long-tailed Duck

Monday, 4 November 2013

3rd - 4th November

The 3rd was a truly horrendous day with a blazing, gale force northerly wind and constant driving rain throughout with a Black Redstart and a Woodcock seen during the short time we were out in the field.   Although still breezy it was a much better day on the 4th with a single European White-fronted Goose seen with the Greylags while the long staying Canada Goose was also seen again.   Other migrant totals included 5 Woodcock, 9 Robins, 62 Blackbirds, 63 Fieldfares, 282 Redwings, 4 Chiffchaffs, 2 Blackcaps, 2 Goldcrests. a Rook, 2 Chaffinches, 5 Bramblings and two Mealy Redpolls.

'eastern' Chiffchaff

Saturday, 2 November 2013

1st - 2nd November

The 1st of the month saw the island swept by strong southerly winds which led to a quiet days birding with a Black Redstart, 4 Woodcock, 7 Whooper Swans and a count of 130 Sanderling of note.   The winds dropped right off on the 2nd to leave a very pleasant day with a good variety of late autumn migrants with the Little Bunting still in the Kirbest crop the pick; other birds on the land included a Black Redstart, a Wheatear, 2 Blackcaps, three Chiffchaffs, a flyover Redpoll sp. a slight influx of 300 Redwings and 11 Robins.   A further 15 Whooper Swans flew south through the day, a Common Scoter was new on the sea, a count of 86 Purple Sandpipers was much higher than of late and the long staying Wood Sandpiper and Black-tailed Godwit were still around while three Hen Harriers, three Merlins and two Peregrines added excitement.


Thursday, 31 October 2013

31st October

The report in the previous blog entry that the season was at an end was certainly proved wrong with a cracking Red-flanked Bluetail found at the Obs in the morning; it showed brilliantly well and eventually hopped into one of the Heligoland traps to become our 100th species to be ringed this year. The second record for the island and the fifth for Orkney - all of which have been in the last five years. Other migrant totals for the last day of the month included 8 Woodcock, 6 Blackcaps, 2 Goldcrests, 2 Chaffinches, 12 Robins, 71 Blackbirds, 46 Fieldfare, 2 Song Thrush, 116 Redwings, 68 Snow Buntings and single Pied Wagtail, Black Redstart, Wheatear, Chiffchaff and Brambling.   There was a slight build up of wildfowl as well including 26 Shoveler, 11 Long-tailed Ducks and 9 Red-breasted Mergansers while a Hen Harrier and two Merlins were seen.

Red-flanked Bluetail-our 210th species of the year

Today's Red-flanked Bluetail was the 3rd BBRC rarity to have been found/trapped at the Observatory this autumn. As well as boosting the years ringing total by well over a 1000 birds-it's days like today which really reward the staff for their effort and hard work in building the traps over the last couple of years and in developing the habitat with, crops and planting trees at the site.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

29th - 30th October

Another pleasant couple of days although there is a real 'end of season' feel to the birding at the moment; the 29th was fairly quiet with a 2nd winter Glaucous Gull the pick with a Wheatear, the two Goldfinches and the Yellowhammer still lingering.   A nice morning on the 30th produced a couple of late scarcities with a Common Rosefinch a bit of a surprise at Holland and a Little Bunting in Kirbest crop a bit more expected; other passerines included a single Lesser Redpoll with 5 Mealy Redpolls, two Black Redstarts still and dwindling numbers of Thrushes, Robins, Blackcaps, Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs and Finches while two Hen Harriers and two Merlins cruised around.   There were also some impressive spectacles to be seen with at least 1,200 Gannets fishing and loafing off the east coast of the island and an excellent count of 591 Snipe included large numbers at Brides Loch.

Monday, 28 October 2013

27th - 28th October

While things got a bit blowy down south we enjoyed a couple of days of pleasant weather with lightish westerly winds and only a few showers worthy of seeking shelter from; there were a few landbirds on 27th including a late Redstart near Burray, a Siberian Chiffchaff still, another Long-eared Owl trapped at Holland, two Black Redstarts and 4 Wheatears remaining.   There were also a few wildfowl on the move including three Whooper Swans, 7 Barnacle Geese and 48 Pink-footed Geese in amongst 500 Greylags.
   Sunny spells on the 28th produced a few new bits and pieces including two Goldfinches, three Crossbills and an increased count of 305 Snow Buntings; the Siberian Chiffchaff at Holland remained but refused to be trapped, 80 Twite was an improved count and 12 Whooper Swans also flew through which included six juveniles.

There is still a small turnover of Bramblings through the island

Saturday, 26 October 2013

25th - 26th October

We've had mixed bag of weather over the last couple of days with blazing winds and driving rain and nice, calm, sunny spells in between; good conditions in the morning of the 25th produced four Greenland White-fronted Geese in with the Greylags with single Canada and Barnacle Geese also noted, the Wood Sandpiper and Black-tailed Godwit remain and a single Little Auk was seen.   There were a few new passerines seen in calmer conditions on the 26th with two Goldfinches and a Crossbill of particular note along with a new Garden Warbler plus lingering Stonechat, Yellowhammer and White Wagtail while small numbers of other migrants included an increased 27 Robins and a sprinkling of Thrushes, Blackcaps, Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs and Finches.   Seven Great-northern Divers was also an increased count.


Thursday, 24 October 2013

24th October

Blazing westerly winds made being out in the field difficult today so migrant counts were slightly down with a Stonechat, two Black Redstarts and a Yellowhammer the highlights in amongst further reduced Thrush numbers, 41 Blackcaps and 24 Bramblings.   A good look at the sea in the afternoon produced two each of Sooty Shearwater, Bonxie and Little Auk as well as a steady movement of 450 Gannets and several Divers including three Great-northerns.   The Canada Goose remains along with the two Scaup and 8 Red-breasted Mergansers.


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

23rd October

Still a similar range of late autumn migrants across the island today just in slightly diminishing numbers; counts had dropped to 100 Blackbirds, 330 Fieldfares, 580 Redwings, 40 Blackcaps (including a Belgian control) and 50 Bramblings.   Two Siberian Chiffchaffs were found and scrutinised in depth along with small numbers of both abietinus and nominate birds while two Black Redstarts added a bit of variety.   Other little bits included two Little Auks and three Common Scoters on the sea, three Whooper Swans which passed over and the very long staying Wood Sandpiper still.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

22nd October

Another fine autumn day with it almost becoming flat calm by mid-afternoon, there were still hundreds of migrants across the island but smaller counts than yesterday were noted; the best birds today included our overdue first Great Grey Shrike of the year in Laird's Park and the Richard's Pipits still near Garso.   Thrushes again dominated the evening's bird log with counts of 360 Blackbirds, 650 Fieldfares and 850 Redwings recorded along with 72 Blackcaps, 9 Chiffchaffs, 104 Bramblings, 31 Robins and 15 Goldcrests.   Other bits and pieces included three Ring Ouzels, a Whinchat, a Long-eared Owl trapped at Holland, two Yellowhammers also trapped, a handful of Redpolls with Lessers and Mealies forming small mixed flocks and a single Little Auk past on the sea.   There were now two Scaup on Bewan and the single Canada Goose and 13 Barnacle Geese remain. 

Long-eared Owl

Monday, 21 October 2013

21st October

A brilliant, classic autumn day with thousands of birds across the island; the bulk of the numbers were typically Thrushes with counts of 400 Blackbirds, 1,025 Fieldfares, 1,468 Redwings and 32 Song Thrushes most noteworthy.   The highlights in amongst the multitudes included a Little Bunting briefly at Gravity, a Barred Warbler and a Crossbill trapped at Holland in the morning, the Richard's Pipit still at the north end and the first Iceland Gull of the autumn with another influx of Great Black-backed and big, dark agentatus Herring Gulls.   The rest of the numbers consisted of 37 Robins, 108 Blackcaps, 16 Chiffchaffs (most pale abietinus birds), 4 Black Redstarts, two Ring Ouzels and a Long-eared Owl while the totals of 172 Bramblings and 232 Snow Buntings were forming big orange and white mixed flocks flitting across the fields.   Other bits and pieces included an influx of wildfowl with 7 Whooper Swans, 13 Barnacle Geese, a Goldeneye and 9 Long-tailed Ducks noted and the long staying Wood Sandpiper and Black-tailed Godwit.

Barred Warbler

Sunday, 20 October 2013

20th October

After yesterday's rain and wind there was a fine array of migrants around the island today with the pick being our third Olive-backed Pipit of the autumn which showed well near the Obs in the late afternoon.   The main feature was an excellent arrival of at least 106 Blackcaps with a Garden Warbler, a Whinchat, two Willow Warblers and a Lesser Whitethroat mixed in, Thrushes were also well represented with 180 Blackbirds, 320 Fieldfares and 300 Redwings counted.   Other typical late autumn migrants included 2 Sparrowhawks, 13 Woodcock, a Short-eared Owl, 27 Robins, two Ring Ouzels, 14 Chiffchaffs, 50 Bramblings, two Black Redstarts, a Mistle Thrush and the year's first Yellowhammer.   A build up of Gulls was also noted with 720 Herring and 350 Great Black-backed Gulls counted - mainly in the north of the island.


Saturday, 19 October 2013

19th October

A truly horrendous day with a blazing easterly gale and continuous driving rain making any attempts to get out in the field a bit of a mission...we did though, if only for a couple of hours in the morning up the west coast; as predicted there was an arrival of birds in these conditions with a Little Bunting at Inglis Geo the highlight with a Long-eared Owl, a Ring Ouzel, the first Sparrowhawk of the autumn, a Black Redstart and yesterday's Richard's Pipit still at Scottigar also of note.   Numbers were made up of 145 Blackbirds, 100 Fieldfares, 60 Redwings and 30 Blackcaps but there is definitely more out there sheltering from the rain - high hopes for tomorrow as the conditions improve!

A soggy looking Little Bunting

Friday, 18 October 2013

18th October

A fine, clear day (although rather chilly!) with the highlight being two Richard's Pipits with one in the north at Scottigar and another near the airstrip; other birds included a few bits on the sea with two Sooty Shearwaters, 4 Manx Shearwaters and a single Little Auk seen from the hide, a long overdue year tick in the shape of a Scaup on Bewan, a few raptors floating around with 4 Merlins, a Hen Harrier and a Peregrine seen and the lingering Wood Sandpiper and Black-tailed Godwit still.   There was a scattering of typical late autumn migrants across the island with the first two Greenfinches of the autumn at Kirbest along with a Mistle Thrush and two Lesser Whitethroats in amongst small numbers of Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Thrushes, Goldcrests, Finches etc.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

16th - 17th October

The Blyth's Reed Warbler was still present around the Observatory on the 16th with a drake Velvet Scoter (a scarce bird on the island!) past the seawatch hide the day's other highlight; also of note was one remaining Yellow-browed Warbler and lingering Wood Sandpiper, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Black-tailed Godwit and Canada Goose which all made it through to the 17th as well.   The highlight of the 17th was a Coue's Arctic Redpoll which was trapped at Holland House in the morning - unfortunately the ringing team present at the time messed up and it wasn't realised as such until photos were looked at in the evening (we won't mention any names!).   Also of note was a brief Chiffchaff ssp. near Burray which looked good for a Siberian, the Bluethroat still lurking in the Ancum Irises, a/the male Northern Bullfinch seen near Holland, a late Swallow also caught at Holland, 10 Jack Snipe and two Woodcock as well as small numbers of common migrants including Thrushes, Blackcaps and Goldcrests.

Coue's Arctic Redpoll

Water Rail - Steve Sankey