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.