Wednesday, 16 November 2016

15th - 16th November, White-wingers!

Winter is well underway with temperatures dropping and a cold wind sweeping over the island.  A strong breeze has made birding tough but the sheltered bays on the east side of the island have offered a great opportunity to find concentrated flocks of waders and gulls.  Highlights for the 15th include 4 Red-throated Divers, Great Northern Diver, 2 Red-breasted Merganser and 2 Black Guillemots.  Waterfowl numbers remain high with 163 Wigeon, 33 Teal, Green-winged Teal, 13 Shoveler, 4 Tufted Duck, 101 Eider and 23 Long-tailed Ducks in the southern portion of the island.  Birds of prey are also about with the Northern Harrier, Hen Harrier and Merlin all still lingering.  Nouster Bay alone had much to offer with the strandline attracting a huge number of birds including 100's Starlings, the majority of the 678 Sanderling currently inhabiting the east coast, 122 Common Gulls, 14 Herring Gulls, 43 Great Black-backed Gulls and best of all a smart juvenile Iceland Gull!  Remaining passerines include 7 Blackbirds, 11 Fieldfares, 8 Redwings and 10 Snow Buntings frequenting the coast at Bride's Loch.  It was also a surprise to see the Glossy Ibis drop in at Bride's Loch to have a wash.

The 16th November brought with it our second white-winger in two days, this time a stunning juvenile Glaucous Gull which flew west past Trinley, later resurfacing in Nouster.  203 Wigeon, 29 Teal, 13 Mallard and a Whooper Swan represent the waterfowl highlights whilst noteworthy high counts come from the Nouster and Bride's area include 55 Lapwing, 90 Purple Sandpipers, 23 Curlew and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers.  Finally, 13 Blackbirds, 12 Fieldfares, 8 Redwings, 6 Snow Buntings and 2 Robins cover the selection of passerines.

Monday, 14 November 2016

13th - 14th November

An exciting day driving around in the Land Rover conducting the whole island Greylag count.  We counted a grand total of 805 Greylags in a two hour period!  En route we also encountered 10 Pink-footed Geese, 2 Whooper Swans and a selection of ducks including 30 Teal, 24 Mallard and 6 Tufted Ducks.  A look around some of the sheltered bays produced 3 Red-breasted Merganser, 9 Red-throated Divers and 2 Long-tailed Ducks.  Wader numbers were on the up thanks to a wider coverage and included 117 Golden Plover, Grey Plover, 43 Lapwing, 20 Purple Sandpipers, 66 Snipe, 3 Bar-tailed Godwits, 24 Curlew, 45 Redshank a late Black-tailed Godwit and an impressive flock of 156 Sanderling in Nouster.   The Northern Harrier, Hen Harrier and 2 Peregrines were also seen.  Other totals higher than the last couple days included 32 Rock Dove, 29 Moorhen, 8 Twite and 16 Snow Buntings.  To add to the diverse mix were 13 Blackbirds, 22 Fieldfare, 10 Redwing, Chiffchaff and 2 Skylark.  The Glossy Ibis seems to be content lingering on the island and can still be found on the heaps of decaying seaweed below Hooking.

Today's totals also reflected a good effort invested in the field.  Best of all were the discovery of 2 redhead Smew on Bewan, perhaps last winters returning birds which represent the fourth and fifth island records!  Also new in was an adult Pale-bellied Brent Goose which flew west past the pier and a Short-eared Owl quartering the Lurand crop field.  Other species of note were Red-throated Diver, 2 Great Northern Divers and a nice selection of waterfowl about the island including 32 Teal, 100 Wigeon, 13 Mallard, 2 Pintail, 3 Long-tailed Duck, Goldeneye, 5 Tufted Duck, 7 Shoveler and the drake Green-winged Teal on Gretchen.  There were also 9 Twite at the North End of the lighthouse.

11th - 12th November

More effort was invested in the field on the 12th, however, a calm period in the otherwise windy weather allowed nets to be opened at Holland gardens with the attempt of trapping a couple migrants leaving their roost.  Unfortunately the nets remained empty despite seeing 2 Woodcock, 7 Fieldfare, 2 Redwing and 5 Blackbirds around the gardens.  A Waxwing also flew over the obs later that day.

We went a little further afield on the 12th.  Birds seen included 5 Red-throated Divers, Great Northern Diver, 4 Red-breasted Mergansers.  With impeding bad weather gulls often come ashore to shelter from strong wind and rain.  Given that 15 Common Gulls, 30 Herring Gulls and 60 Great Black-backed Gulls had arrived on the Links it was clear that tough weather conditions were setting in heralding the arrival of winter.  A little more winter spirit came in the form of 5 Snow Buntings.  Waterfowl numbers remain consistent with 71 Wigeon, 12 Teal, 2 Pintail, 4 Shoveler, 12 Long-tailed Duck and the lingering Green-winged Teal.  Waders on offer included 85 Sanderling, 2 Grey Plover, 3 Purple Sandpipers, 25 Dunlin, 12 Bar-tailed Godwit.  A few lingering winter migrants around Holland and the obs added 10 Blackbirds, 17 Fieldfare, 18 Redwing and a Long-eared Owl to the totals.  In all, a satisfying end to the day.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

9th -10th November

The 9th was mostly spent focusing on data entry and other obs tasks so it wasn't until the 10th that some more birding got done.  However, it was a great day with a single hours seawatch producing a juvenile Pomarine Skua, 14 Long-tailed Ducks, 9 Red-throated Divers, 8 Great Northern Divers and a steady passage of 519 Fulmars in a single hours count.  Commoner seabirds seen in the mornings passage included 214 Gannets and 130 Kittiwakes as well as a trickle of 33 auks and 2 Black Guillemots.  Elsewhere around the island, 3 Whooper Swans, 8 Shoveler and 10 Tufted Ducks lingered whilst raptors were well represented by the male Northern Harrier, a ringtail Hen Harrier, Merlin and a pair of Peregrines.  A brief excursion into Holland gardens was particularly exciting as a Long-eared Owl was found roosting in the top of the fuchsia bushes.  Two Woodcock also burst out of cover and a distinctive "trill" soon alerted the presence of a Waxwing sitting in the middle net ride.  Other noteworthy passerines such as the 12 Blackbirds, 17 Fieldfare, 23 Redwings and 4 Robins hinted that a small arrival of birds had occurred in the last 24 hours following a slight lull in the wind.  Other migrants on offer were 2 Blackcaps, 2 Chiffchaffs, 2 Chaffinches, 12 Twite and 3 Snow Buntings.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

7th - 8th November

Continued effort in the field has proved worthwhile although a reduced obs staff has meant that the island is covered less thoroughly but still opens up the opportunity for finding some brilliant birding highlights.  We said goodbye to George and Erin, two incredible friends who have dedicated a huge amount of their time and effort into the upkeep of the obs, offered great support by taking charge of the ringing as well as their time spent out in the field doing census.  Thanks for an amazing time!

A short seawatch on the 7th brought with it yet more of the previous weeks variety, including 43 Sooty Shearwaters, 5 Manx Shearwaters, 5 Red-throated Divers, 7 Great Northern Divers, 16 Long-tailed Ducks, 4 Little Auks, 16 Puffins, 3 Black Guillemots, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, and a Great Skua.  A timed count of Kittiwakes and Fulmars for fifteen minutes produced 115 and 242 birds respectively.  The later species included 8 "blue" morphs in the full two and a half hour watch.  Noteworthy waterfowl distributed around the island included 5 Whooper Swans, 42 Wigeon, 8 Gadwall, 9 Teal, 3 Pintail, 15 Shoveler and 3 Goldeneye.  Three species of birds of prey were encountered in a brief excursion, Northern Harrier, Hen Harrier and Merlin.  7 Purple Sandpipers and 20 Sanderling were around Nouster, the later is always worth checking for colour ringed birds, mostly originating from Sanday.  However the proportion of ringed to unringed birds have diminished a great deal recently suggesting that there is still a steady turnover of new waders arriving and leaving the island.  Some hardy passerines are still lingering, a flock of 6 Snow Buntings being the highlight amongst a commoner selection of 5 Robins, 2 Chaffinches, 15 Blackbirds and 5 Redwing.

It's amazing what a day of difference does to the birding scene.  A one and a half hour seawatch produced only 3 Sooty Shearwaters, 5 Red-throated Divers and 3 Great Northern Divers.  In contrast, auk numbers had increased dramatically with 1411 passing in a single hour, aided by the light southerly breeze encouraging a surge of birds out of the North Sea.  2 Black Guillemots, Red-breasted Merganser and 2 Long-tailed Ducks were also seen.  Waterfowl numbers were not quite as evident as the day before but Teal and Mallard counts rose to 32 and 19 respectively whilst 3 Whooper Swans lingered.  Other birds of note included the male Northern Harrier, Merlin, Woodcock, 7 Bar-tailed Godwits.  23 Blackbirds, 6 Redwing and a Chiffchaff were all that could be found on the passerines front.

Friday, 11 November 2016

5th - 6th November

Varying amounts of effort in the field has been hampered by strong winds and prioritizing more ringing data entry into IPMR.  Nevertheless, some time spent outdoors on the 5th produced a good selection of raptors including 2 immature Peregrines (male and female) touring Tor Ness and engaging in some spectacular wheeling displays.  A Merlin was also seen as was the lingering star, the stunning adult male Northern Harrier, reliably appearing around the vicinity of the observatory around breakfast time.  Other species of note from the 5th include Whooper Swan, Snow Bunting and Woodcock.

Once again seawatching took priority on the 6th, with a great reward in the form of a close fly-past adult winter White-billed Diver heading north past the hide shortly after 9am!  This elated our spirits greatly and proves just how productive November can be despite the majority of autumn migrants having departed.  Further birds of note included 3 Red-throated Divers, 1 Great Northern Diver, 1208 Fulmars in one hour, 27 Sooty Shearwaters and 3 Long-tailed Ducks.  Yet more seabird passage included 86 Gannets in one hour, 50 Kittiwakes, 15 Guillemots, 2 Black Guillemots, 3 Little Auks and 36 auk sp. all proving just how resilient, diverse and productive marine life can be despite the bleak and inhospitable appearance of the seascape.  A young Gannet was also discovered sat on the field adjacent to the seawatch hide.  It appeared to be in good health and offered a valuable opportunity to watch it close up as well as ring it.

3rd - 4th November

Seabird passage is stealing the limelight with staggering numbers of birds still on the move.  A total of four hours were invested at the seawatch hide watching thousands of birds pouring out of the North Sea and into the Irish Sea on the 3rd November.  Fulmars featured strongly with 3390 passing in a single hour (34 "blue" morphs in the full four hour watch)!  114 Sooty Shearwaters flew north along with 4 Manx Shearwaters shadowed by a steady trickle of 6 Great Skuas and 11 Pomarine Skuas (predominantly immature birds in stark contrast to fully spooned adults and sub-adults that passed through on the 29th -30th October).  A nice variety of commoner seabirds were also on the move, including 4 Red-throated Divers, 3 Great Northern Divers, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, 213 Gannets, 13 Long-tailed Ducks, 251 Kittiwakes and a selection of wildfowl including a female type Goldeneye amongst a small turnover of Mallard, Teal and Wigeon.  We are fortunate enough to have five species of auk on a regular basis at this time of year.  13 Little Auks, 6 Puffins, 3 Black Guillemots, 32 Guillemots, Razorbill and 212 auk sp. were todays reward.  Another incredible moment was watching a breaching whale far to the NW of the northern tip of the island.  Although it was seen breaching on nine occasions it was simply too far away to identify.  Besides seawatching a some perambulations around the island produced the lingering Hen Harrier and 2 Whooper Swans.

The 4th November was a little less busy but there was still a decent selection of seabirds including 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Great Northern Divers, 16 Long-tailed Ducks and 376 Fulmars in 15 mins (including 2 "blue" morphs).  Shearwater numbers have subsided somewhat with only 8 Sooty Shearwaters and a single Manx Shearwater passing in the full two hour count.  Nevertheless to have any shearwaters in November is noteworthy in itself so to speak of a passage with triple figures featuring until the 3rd is unprecedented!  Furthermore, seawatching also yielded 1 Pomarine Skua, 6 Great Skuas, 1 Red-breasted Merganser, 7 Little Auks and 2 Black Guillemots.  Some other scattered sightings amounted during the day include 174 Wigeon, 40 Mallard, 42 Teal and Green-winged Teal on Gretchen as well as Merlin and 14 Purple Sandpipers.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

1st - 2nd November

The birding scene has quietened down a little with a greater focus now invested on inputting much of our ringing data that has amounted during the year.  A cursory overview of the data suggests we have experienced yet another rewarding and productive year with some incredible highlights.  However, there are still plenty of exciting birds to be found without having to reflect on the stars of this year.  A quick visit to Gretchen was all that could be achieved, thanks to the aforementioned data entry consuming most of our time.  The lingering drake Green-winged Teal offered a welcome break.

The 2nd November involved a little more effort in the field again.  Seawatching yielded 113 Sooty Shearwaters, 1 Manx Shearwater, 6 Little Auks, 6 Black Guillemots, 127 auk sp., 5 Red-throated Divers, 2 Great Northern Divers, 262 Fulmars, 131 Kittiwakes, 104 Gannets, 6 Long-tailed Ducks and a Red-breasted Merganser.  The stunning adult male Northern Harrier continues to grace the island with a ringtail Hen Harrier.  Other noteworthy non-passerines include Grey Plover and 2 Whooper Swans.  On the other hand, passerines can still be found in small numbers, including 4 Robins, 2 Blackcaps, 5 Chiffchaffs, 32 Twite, 21 Snow Buntings, 17 Blackbirds, 41 Redwing and a single Fieldfare.

31st October - More migrants!

The end of the autumn season is drawing to a close.  However, the island has still a lot to offer with seawatching continuing to produce good birds and lingering passage passerines.  The former yielded 9 Red-throated Divers, 10 Great Northern Divers, 1 Pomarine Skua, 1 Great Skua, 32 Sooty Shearwaters, 633 Fulmars (including 1 "blue" morph), 1 Storm Petrel, 5 Red-breasted Merganser and 588 Gannets.  Yet more excitement came with a modest passage of auks, including 5 Little Auks, 10 Puffins, 9 Black Guillemots, 53 Guillemots, 15 Razorbill and 92 auk sp. (those too distant to identify with certainty).  The Glossy Ibis lingered for a second day on the seaweed strewn beach at Hooking, feeding amongst swarms of Starlings and waders.  Evidence of the late autumn passage of Whoopers continues with 17 remaining until the end of the month along with 6 Pink-footed Geese.  Wildfowl numbers have declined somewhat from their monthly maximum counts but are still well represented with 359 Wigeon, 55 Teal, 5 Gadwall, 59 Mallard, 4 Pintail, 13 Shoveler, 2 Tufted Duck, 1 1st win/female type Scaup, 21 Long-tailed Ducks, 1 Goldeneye and a smart 1st win. drake Green-winged Teal on Gretchen

Other non-passerine highlights include the ringtail Hen Harrier, a single Merlin, 2 Woodpigeon and the Hoopoe.  A good diversity and number of waders are also still to be found with totals including 541 Golden Plover, 1 Grey Plover, 58 Oystercatchers, 53 Ringed Plover, 122 Lapwing, 47 Sanderling, 63 Purple Sandpipers, 25 Dunlin, 79 Snipe, 3 Woodcock, 22 Bar-tailed Godwits, 49 Curlew, 134 Redshank and 189 Turnstone, most of which are gaging themselves on invertebrates found amongst the huge banks of decaying seaweed deposited on the east coast.

Last but not least the passerines.  Late autumn passage tends to be dominated by the thrushes with a mixture of lingering birds and the occasional new arrival.  Their totals include 45 Blackbirds, 20 Fieldfare, 143 Redwing.  The majority of other passerines are now centered around our main ringing site at Holland gardens and around the observatory, the main exception being 18 Meadow Pipits, 1 Rock Pipits and a flock of 32 Twite at the northern end of the island.  The rest being 5 Robins, 5 Blackcaps, 7 Chiffchaffs, 1 Goldcrest, 2 Chaffinch, 2 Brambling and 3 Lesser Redpoll.  The only non-avian highlight of the day was a single Silver Y, a reminder that migrant birds aren't the only animals to be arriving here.

Fulmar flying through Rainbow - George Gay

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

29th-30th October - Costa del North Ronaldsay?

It's been a very good couple of days on the Costa del North Ronaldsay, you might wonder why we're calling that?! You'll have to read on to find out!
I'll start with ducks and other wildfowl 108 Whooper Swans on the 29th grew to 141 on the 30th, there were 8 Bean Geese on the 30th, an astonishing 405 Wigeon on the 29th were supported by 12 Gadwall, 87 Teal, 60 Mallard, 5 Pintail, 38 Shoveler, 31 Tufted Duck, the same female Scaup, 21 Long-tailed Duck, 11 Red-breasted Mergansers, 1 Goldeneye and the long staying Green-winged Teal.
A couple of days of good sea-watching provided some large numbers and a massive surprise for Gary and Sam! Over the two days 28 Pomeraine Skua, 4 Manx Shearwater, 869 Kittiwake, 228 Sooty Shearweaters, 6248 Fulmars including a couple of blues and that big surprise was a second Fea's Petrel of the year off Dennishead, the bird showed very well for both the guys and prompted a very excited response from Sam!
Good numbers of Red-throated and Great-Northern Divers were present with 12 and 16 respectivly.
The Northern Harrier is still present, just the way we like it! As is the Hoopoe (one of our Southern specials!)
Our Waders are still begining to build up with 5 Golden Plover, 54 Purple Sandpipers, 87 Dunlin, 261 Snipe and 3 Woodcock.
Other birds of intrest include a very pale Yellow Wagtail seen breifly at Brides, 5 Waxwing were at Holand on the morning of the 30th, 12 Robin, 4 Blackcap, 1 Goldfinch, 7 Chiffchaff, 1 Mistle Thrush, 56 Twite and 30 Snow Bunting.
The big surprise came in the shape of another Southern speciality! Our 3rd record of Glossy Ibis was found at Hooking Loch before relocating to the beach. Another suprise was a for now un-identified Bat species, if anyone can give us some pointers that'd be great! So that's why we're calling it Costa del North Ronaladsay.

Glossy Ibis - George Gay

Glossy Ibis - George Gay

Hen Harrier - George Gay

Bat sp. - George Gay

Monday, 31 October 2016

25th-28th October

A period of horrendous wind and rain saw coverage limited and the coastal areas of the island battered. The 25th wasn't as bad but the prevailing 40mph westerlies and driving rain from the 26th onwards left us all wishing for better weather!
The wildfowl wasn't all too bothered by the wet weather, with 154 Wigeon, 8 Gadwall, 40 Mallard, 3 Pintail, 1 Goldeneye, 9 Tufted Duck, 2 Long-tailed Duck and 1 Red-breasted Merganser were all recorded across the period, the Green-winged Teal was still present on Gretchen and a 1st Winter Female Scaup was present on the 25th onwards on Ancum Loch.
A influx of Whooper Swans started on the 28th with 76 being recorded, most of them on Ancum, another surprise came in the shape of a Slavonian Grebe on the 28th at Westness.
The Northern Harrier is still around and was seen on most days, as was a ringtail Hen Harrier.
The Skylark numbers have started to settle down with 106 on the 25th, 93 on the 26th, 21 on the 27th. Wader numbers are starting to build further 71 Sanderling, 2 Grey Plover, 5 Woodcock and a Jack Snipe were all present as was the long staying Hoopoe, now feeding by Howar. The prescence of Waxwings is always something to be looked forward too and a single bird on the 25th was much appriciated (there were also 2 that got left out of the previous post!).
Passerine numbers have started to dwindle as have the Thrush numbers, another late Garden Warbler was at the obs, 15 Blackcap, 18 Chiffchaff, 10 Chaffinch, 24 Twite, 5 Redpoll and 17 Snow Bunting were the passerine highlights, Thrush numbers were as I said, considerably lower, 46 Blackbirds, 36 Fieldfare, 15 Song Thrushes, 185 Redwing and 2 Mistle Thrush were the high counts.
Green-winged Teal 

Whooper Swan - both photos George Gay

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

23rd-24th October

It's been a very good couple of days on here, we've had a couple of big rares, and quite a few scarcities as well!
The Whooper Swan is still hanging aroung as are the now 8 Tundra Bean Geese, on has since succumbed to what we assume is a bird of prey of kind, however the number went to 9 on the 24th when another single bird was spotted at Kirbest. Six Pink-footed Geese were also present on the 24th, other interesting wildfowl consisted of 3 Goldeneye, 11 Long-tailed Ducks, 2 Pintail and a surprise drake Green-winged Teal on Gretchen on the 23rd.
The Fulmars have started to return and the highest total so far was posted on the 24th with 216 birds being counted in coastal areas. Also on the coast 13 Red-throated Diver and 5 Great-Northern Divers were counted on the 23rd.
Single Woodcock were present on both days, as was the long staying Hoopoe on the 23rd the bird was at Howar and finally the bird was trapped in Holland on the 24th.
A bit of surprise was a yet to be identified Phyllosc at Kirbest, the bird was initially identified by all watchers as a Radde's Warbler, the bird showed all features in the field that pointed to it's identification, however, on review of photographs there has been dispute into identity of the bird, our feeling is to go with the in-field views of the bird, as we all know what effects photo artifact can have on birds in unfavourable light, for this reason we'll keep all photo's under wraps and allow the governing bodies to decide the birds fate.
Other passerine numbers were a single Dunnock, 40 Robin, 19 Blackcap, 17 Chiffchaff, 9 Goldcrest, 8 Chaffinch, 4 Brambling, 1 Greenfinch, 2 Yellowhammer, 1 Snow Bunting and a very late Reed Warbler on the 24th.
Onto another surprise, one that none of us were expecting, I'll move into first person so I can tell the story! After watching the Phyllosc at Kirbest and returning to the obs I was in (of all places) the toilet, I could see what appeared to be a Harrier out the window, on first glance I though it was a male Hen Harrier, knowing that Alistair had wanted to see one, I alerted him to the bird and we went out and looked at what I thought was going to be a Hen wrong I was!!
I lifted my bins and almost dropped them in amazment, it was a Northern Harrier, I picked up the camera and fired off some photos. It was clear to see in the pictures it was a Male Northern Harrier, showing its dark hood, black tipped seconaries and the flecking on the flanks. The assumption is it's last years bird returning.
A very confiding Yellow Wagtail was seen around Brides on the 24th and the day wasn't done with that, it was Kirbest again that provided the bird, a Spotted Crake was flushed before dissappearing back into the iris bed.
Both Long-eared and Short-eared Owls have been present on the 23rd and 24th respectivly, the Long-eared is the first this autumn.
Yellow Wagtail - George Gay

Long-eared Owl - Larissa Simulik

Northern Harrier - George Gay

Northern Harrier - George Gay

Reed Warbler - George Gay


20th-22nd October

The 20th saw the birding service resume at it's normal pace, but a very busy couple of days meant slightly less coverage than we'd of liked.
A single Whooper Swan has been hanging around Ancum and 5 Pink-footed Geese were also present on the 20th.
Duck numbers have remained steady with 159 Wigeon, 6 Gadwall, 106 Teal, 28 Mallard, 5 Pintail, 23 Shoveler, 5 Tufted Duck, 3 Long-tailed Ducks and 5 Red-breasted Merganser being the high counts, the big surprise came in the shape of 7 Greater Scaup heading out South past Gretchen early on the 22nd.
A single Grey Wagtail was seen on the 20th along with 2 Dunnock, 40 Robin, 1 Whinchat, 7 Blackcap, 16 Chiffchaff, 2 Siberian type Chiffchaffs, 5 Goldcrest, 4 Brambling, another Yellowhammer, a late Willow Warbler on the 21st and a single Chaffinch on the 20th.
A total of 6 Red-throated Divers were present on the 21st and the 22nd bought in 3 Woodcock, 2 Guillemot and Mistle Thrush.
The bird of the period was a Dusky Warbler found at Westness in the late afternoon on the 22nd, the bird was initially seen flying away and ticking, it was then oggled by all the obs staff a guests before being left to it's own devices.
Dusky Warbler - George Gay

Whooper Swan - George Gay

Saturday, 22 October 2016

17th-19th October

It's busy here at the moment so apologies for the lateness of these blog posts, it's Harvest home time up here so it's all hands to the deck!
The winds have stayed East and weather clear. The Female Common Scoter was present again this time on the sea behind Gretchen, the Skylark numbers are still high with total numbers reaching 294.
Robin numbers fell too 62 as did Blackcap to 17, Chiffchaff 30, Goldcrest 50, Brambling 52 and Chaffinch 3. The Thrush numbers also decreased with high totals being Blackbird 100, Fieldfare 165, Song Thrush 85 and 263 Redwing rounded off the totals in that department.
The Hoopoe was still present on the 17th as was the Little Bunting around the obs, another Red-breasted Flycatcher was a nice surprise on the 17th and the bird continued to show well on the 18th. A group of 9 Tundra or Rossicus Bean Geese were found in the field next to Kirbest farm. The 19th was a bit of a write off on here, the team decided a successful twitch for the Western Orphean Warbler on mainland Orkney was on the cards. On return the nets were opened, a male Sparrowhawk was trapped and the Hoopoe decided to roost in Holland in the evening, but by a stroke of poor fortune (on our part) it managed to evade the mist nets!
Red-breasted Flycatcher - George Gay

Rossicus (Tundra) Bean Geese - George Gay


Friday, 21 October 2016

15th-16th October

The weather has stayed the same and the wind has stayed into the East and it's bought a few birds in.
Strong winds grounded large numbers of Gulls on the Links and near Bewan, 360 Great-black backed Gulls and 137 Herring Gulls were the highest counts for both species. Geese numbers have fluctuated with up to 43 Barnacle Geese and 21 Pink-footed Geese present along with large numbers of Greylags.
Duck numbers have again stayed around the same figures the maximum totals were 177 Teal, 284 Wigeon, 65 Mallard, 9 Gadwall, 18 Shoveler, 3 Pintail, 2 Long-tailed Ducks, 6 Tufted Duck, other ducks were slightly more surprising, our first Goldeneye of the Autumn was present on Hooking and a single female Common Scoter was on Bewan on the 16th.
The pair of ringtail Hen Harriers were still present on the 15th as was a single Kestrel.
Purple Sandpipers have begun to return back to the island with 16 recorded on the 15th and 14 recorded on the 16th other wader highlights were 4 Jack Snipe and a Curlew Sandpiper at Bewan.
The high counts of Woodcock peaked at 21 birds, 2 Short-eared Owls were present both days and there were 8 Woodpigeon on the 16th.
Skylarks have been moving South in large numbers with the max count at 341 birds on the 16th, based on the flocks coming in off the sea the number of birds moving through the island would of been far higher.
Other passerine high counts were, 105 Robins, 2 Black Redstarts, 1 Redstart, 1 Whinchat, 1 Garden Warbler, 49 Blackcap, 1 Yellow-browed Warbler, 67 Chiffchaff, 85 Goldcrest, 5 Chaffinch, 92 Brambling, 15 Redpoll sp. 25 Mealy Redpoll, 1 Common Rosefinch, singles of Greenfinch and Goldfinch, 1 Crossbill in the surgery garden.
A Little Bunting was present around the obs on the both days, while the Barred Warbler was at Ires Taing again on the 15th, the Hoopoe stuck around Trolla and a lovely adult Yellowhammer was present in the Vincoin tattie patch and the Red-flanked Bluetail was re-trapped in Holland on the 16th.
Common Scoter - George Gay

Hoopoe - George Gay

Purple Sandpiper - George Gay

Yellowhammer - George Gay

Saturday, 15 October 2016

13th-14th October

It's been another couple of busy days bird wise and the winds finally gave us a couple of birds to shout about again, one them was a bit of surprise, but we'll get on to that a bit later in the blog post!
Pink-footed Geese were present again for the first time in a couple days with 26 on the 13th and 29 on the 14th. Other wildfowl was much the same as it has been in recent weeks, 178 Wigeon, 4 Gadwall, 116 Teal, 56 Mallard, 23 Shoveler, 5 Tufted Duck and 1 Long-tailed Duck.
A sea-watch provided little with 3 Sooty Shearwaters being the highlight.
The usual birds of prey were present a pair of Hen Harrier and singles of Peregrine and Merlin.
Woodcock numbers grew over the two days with 11 recorded on the 13th and 17 on the 14th.
Our first Glaucous Gull of the autumn was on links in the morning on the 14th, I'm sure it won't be the last this autumn, Woodpigeon were present on both days and one of the two Richard's Pipits was present on the 13th in the Kirbest thistle field.
A huge increase in Skylark numbers saw flocks of 30's and 40's in off the sea at Westness and Nether Linnay with the day total finishing on 118.
Other passerine numbers were 1 Dunnock, 2 Redstarts, 38 Robins, 25 Blackcap, 1 Yellow-browed Warbler, 30 Chiffchaff, 69 Golcrest, 15 Chaffinch, 20 Brambling, 3 Goldfinch, 6 Common Redpoll, 7 Redpoll sp. and a big surprise was a Norweigan controlled Hawfinch, we're not sure how many have been recorded in the UK but it can't be many!
The Thrushes have been pouring in and the numbers have been good, 120 Fieldfare, 89 Song Thrushes, 362 Redwing, 88 Blackbird and a single Mistle Thrush.
An Arctic type Redpoll was present at Veracott, the bird didn't hang about long and couldn't be located in strong winds. A second Red-flanked Bluetail of the year was trapped in the morning and released in Holland was a nice surprise and an even bigger surprise on the 14th was a Hoopoe originally found at Ires Taing and then re-located at Trolla Vatn were it showed well for all spectators.
Chiffchaff - George Gay
Common Redpoll - George Gay

Hoopoe - George Gay

Hoopoe (think the weather got the better of these pictures!) - George Gay

Red-flanked Bluetail - George Gay

11th-12th October

The Easterlies continued and set to do so for a while, so we're making the most of it and hoping for megas.
Wildfowl numbers have stagnated a little the highest totals over the two days were 153 Wigeon and 35 Mallard on the 12th, majority of the numbers came from the 11th with 5 Gadwall, 181 Teal, 2 Pintail, 5 Tufted Duck, 38 Shoveler and 2 Long-tailed Ducks.
Two Ringtail Hen Harriers have been present on island for a little while now and continued to tour the island. Singles of Woodcock were recorded both days, 320 Snipe were accompanied by 7 Jack Snipe and a sea-watch provided what will be one of last Puffins this year.
Passerine numbers are still good and the highest totals for the two days are as follows 6 Robin, 2 Dunnock, 286 Meadow Pipit, 1 male Redstart at Snetten, the single staying Whinchat was still present, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Mistle Thrush, 10 Blackcap, 20 Chiffchaff, 52 Goldcrests were still kept company by the Firecrest, 17 Chaffinch, 3 Brambling, 1 Goldfinch, 12 Redpoll sp. and  3 Mealy Redpoll.
The Little Bunting numbers are holding steady at 3 birds still in East Loch Park and they were accompanied by a pair of Richard's Pipits feeding between East Loch Park and the Kirbest Thistle field.
Richard's Pipit - George Gay

Long-tailed Duck - George Gay

Woodcock - George Gay

Thursday, 13 October 2016

9th-10th October

Another decent couple of days of weather and birding, 8 Red-throated Divers has been our highest count for a few weeks, while Pink-footed Goose numbers continue to fall with 58 being present on the 10th.
A pair of Hen Harriers were present on both days, a female Sparrowhawk was trapped in Holland on the 9th and 3 Merlin were also present on the 10th.
Woodcock have started to return, with 3 being our highest count this Autumn, the Grey Phalarope was still present on the 9th but hasn't been seen since.
4 Purple Sandpipers and a single Curlew Sandpiper on the 9th were the other wader highlights.
Thrush numbers are still on the rise, 9 Fieldfare and 44 Redwing were maximum counts on the 10th and Song Thrushes peaked the previous day with 15 recorded.
Other passerines included 3 Yellow-browed Warblers on the 9th and 2 on the 10th, 14 Blackcaps, 21 Chiffchaff, 79 Goldcrests, 8 Chiffchaffs, 5 Brambling, 22 Wheatear, 7 Goldfinch, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, singles of Black and Common Redstart and 64 Twite.
The good numbers of Little Buntings continued with no less than 5 birds being recorded around the island.
Brambling - George Gay

Yellow-Browed Warbler - George Gay

Little Bunting - George Gay

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

7th-8th October

It's been really good couple of days on here with migrants coming in and plenty of birders to find them.
Thrush numbers have began to rise and showed their highest totals on the 8th, 98 Redwing, 41 Song Thrush, 10 Fieldfare and 2 Mistle Thrushes on the 7th. Meadow Pipit numbers rose to 401 on the 8th and Rock Pipit numbers peaked at 15 on the 7th.
Wildfowl is always a big part of proceedings this time of year and numbers have been growing, 2 Whooper Swans were present around the island on the 8th, while Teal and Wigeon numbers rose to 213 and 148 respectivly, meanwhile there were 4 Gadwall, 31 Mallard, 19 Shoveler and 4 Tufted Ducks to round things off.
A surprise redhead Goosander on the 7th, flew up Linklet Bay but despite further searching wasn't re-located, another bird that avoided re-location was a 1st Winter Dotterel seen briefly near the Old Kirk before flying with Golden Plover never to be seen again! Grey Plovers were present both days as was the lingering Grey Phalarope on Gretchen, other waders of interest were 5 Jack Snipe, 1 Ruff, 2 Knot, 5 Woodcock and a Greenshank.
Short-eared Owls are always a nice bird to have around and 2 were present on both days in various locations. Goldcrest started to influx onto the island the 8th saw 92 recorded but this was dwarfed by the previous day that saw 148 recorded, there were probably more than that on the island but we have to be conservative in our counting!
Passerine numbers in general were good over the two day period the highest counts were 15 Chiffchaff, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 22 Blackcap, 12 Yellow-browed Warblers, the Firecrest was still in Holland and our third Red-breasted Flycatcher of the year was trapped in Holland.
We've had so many different Buntings and Finches it's only fitting they're get there own section in this blog post, the saw the highest totals posted for Chaffinch and Brambling coming in at 12 and 14 while the 8th saw a Hawfinch trapped at Holland, a single Rosefinch, 48 Snow Buntings, the Ortolan Bunting back at Kirbest and 5 Little Bunting were present on both days.
We predicted the big rare in the previous post and 7th bought us exactly what we'd been craving, Sam managed to stumble across a stunning Red-flanked Bluetail on the Lenswick footpath, the bird showed superbly for all spectators and provided that bit of magic we'd all been waiting for!
Red-flanked Bluetail - George Gay
Red-flanked Bluetail - George Gay

Red-flanked Bluetail - George Gay

Short-eared Owl - George Gay

Saturday, 8 October 2016

5th-6th October

The last couple of days have been a bit frustrating to say the least, with plenty of birds on the East coast the general feeling was that we'd missed out on the pickings of the good birds before things picked up on the 6th with a little flurry of scarcer migrants, we're still missing that biggy but we feel it's just around the corner!
Passerine highlights were 26 Blackcap on the 6th, along with 9 Yellow-browed Warblers, 13 Chiffchaff, 1 Willow Warbler, 68 Goldcrest, 9 Chaffinch, 24 Brambling, singles of Common Rosefich and Goldfinch, 61 Snow Buntings and the Firecrest reamined in Holland over the two days. The 5th was quiter passerine wise only providing 9 Robin and a Lesser Whitethroat as it's higher totals.
Wildfowl continued its flow South, 148 Barnacle Geese saw a slight stemming to the flow of the previous days, as did the 96 Pink-footed Geese, the 6th saw that flow decrease further, with even less moving, however 4 Whooper Swans on the 5th were a bit of a surprise.
Otherwise Wildfowl numbers would climb to 252 Wigeon and 341 Teal, even the Long-tailed Duck on Brides gained a friend! A blogworthy count of 288 Great Black-backed Gulls showed signs of our first weather driven birds this autumn, they didn't contain a customary white winger but it's perhaps a little early yet!
Other noteables included more Thrushes, 44 Blackbirds, 47 Song Thrush, 13 Fieldfare, 75 Redwing and single Mistle Thrush gave the island a distictly autumanal feel.
Waders pushed the numbers up, singles of Ruff and Curlew Sandpiper were present on both dates, as was the Grey Phalarope on Gretchen, a second Phal was seen off of Brides on the 5th. Snipe and Jack Snipe numbers are also on the climb, with 405 and 9 being counted respectivly.
Right, into the good stuff! A whopping 6 Little Buntings in various locations, bought that little something we'd been missing as did our 2nd Ortolan Bunting of the autumn at Kirbest, it was less brief than the first with multiple observers seeing it, but they're not very obliging!
Little Bunting - Larissa Simulik

Redwing - George Gay

Friday, 7 October 2016

3rd-4th October

A couple more days of almost constant wind and clear weather made for slim pickings on the birding side of things.
Sea-watches over the two days provided maximum highlight counts of 46 Sooty Shearwaters, 6 Manx Shearwaters and 13 Little Auk.
Our first real movement of Barnacle Geese came on the 4th with 153 being seen in various flocks throughout the day, the start of the Barnies has seen a stem in the flow of Pink-footed Geese, with 105 being our highest count for the period.
The female Long-tailed Duck was present again and remained for the two days, the 4th saw a build up in Wigeon and Teal numbers, with 270 and 282 being counted respectivly. The other obvious build up has been Thrush numbers, it's not quite as dramatic as in previous years but the trickles have turned into small gatherings peaking on the 4th, 7 Fieldfare, 37 Song Thrush and 47 Redwing being the highlights.
A trio of Merlins have been present both days as have a pair of Peregrines other birds of prey included 2 Short-eared Owls also on the 4th.
Wader movement has been a bit slow for our liking, but things could always be worse! 2 Curlew Sandpipers, 13 Jack Snipe, 6 Grey Plover and the ever present Grey Phalarope was still on Gretchen both days.
One of couple of surprises was a Little Egret seen briefly on the 4th flying North, with the bird being the 2nd island record it left a few of us gutted to not catch up with it, but that's how it goes! Another surprise and bird of the period was a lovely male Firecrest in Holland, only our 8th island record and offering a glimmer of hope for something a little better after a frustrating couple of days.
Other passerines news was usual fodder, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 6 Blackcap, 9 Chiffchaff, 1 Common Whitethroat, 2 Whinchat, a single Redstart and Tree Pipit, 20 Rock Pipit, 4 Brambling, 2 Robins, a Common Redpoll trapped on the 3rd and 11 Yellow-browed Warblers.
Last but not least a Bluethroat was found in the Quoy of Longar at lunchtime on the 3rd, it's our 6th this year and first of the autumn.
Bluethroat - George Gay

Firecrest - George Gay

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

1st-2nd October

The winds have gone Easterly but the birds are yet to arrive! Despite this the 1st was a very busy day in the guest house and in the field. 17 Red-throated and 3 Great Nothern Diver hid from the prevailing winds in various locations and duck numbers built again, with 151 Wigeon, 7 Gadwall, 319 Teal, 72 Mallard, 28 Shoveler, 35 Tufted Ducks, 1 Pintail and our first Long-tailed Duck of the autumn was present on Brides. The Slavonian Grebe was still present this time viewable off the pier.
Snipe numbers peaked at an impressive 475 followed up by 5 Jack Snipe. Other wader numbers included 6 Grey Plovers on the 2nd, 4 Curlew Sandpipers present on both days, 15 Purple Sandpipers, 24 Bar-tailed Godwits and the lingering Grey Phalarope was still present. Passerine numbers over the two days peaked as follows, 1 House Martin at Holland, 5 Blackcap, 4 Whinchat on the 1st, singles of Robin, Dunnock and Tree Pipit, 33 Redwing, 5 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Garden Warbler, 13 Chiffchaff, 3 Willow Warbler, 7 Goldcrest on the 2nd, 3 Brambling, our first Greenfinches of the year with 3 being seen in various locations, 4 Goldfinches, 28 Twite, 57 Lapland Buntings, 19 Snow Buntings, 15 Rock Pipits and a whopping 51 Yellow-browed Warblers.
A Sea-watch on the 2nd provided 44 Sooty Shearwaters, 5 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Little Auks and 15 Puffin. Last but by no means least for the second year running we were treated to a Humpback Whale that moved up the Firth and up the West Side before dissappearing, it seems they may becoming a more regular site in our waters, it was accompained by 8 Risso's off Linklet bay.
Teal - Bryony Baker

Grey Plover - George Gay

Saturday, 1 October 2016

29th-30th September

Another couple of days of poor weather saw an ever so slight change in fortunes with a little more turning up but nothing too much to shout about.
Whooper Swan numbers grew to 43 birds, one of which was a colour ringed bird, originally ringed in Iceland earlier this year.
Pink-footed Geese numbers fell to 1278, however within the reduced Pinkie numbers was our first Barnacle Goose of the Autumn.
A sea-watch produced a single Arctic Skua, 18 Sooty Shearwaters, 1 Arctic Tern, 1 Comic Tern, 2 of 4 Red-breasted Mergansers and another first for the autumn came in the shape of 6 Little Auks.
Passerine wise things have been a bit slow and this didn't change, a Tree Pipit was present at Senness, there were also 1 Willow Warbler, 2 Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaffs, 1 Goldcrest, 13 Lapland Buntings, 1 Song Thrush, 8 Snow Buntings, 2 Chaffinch, 38 Skylark on visible migration and 1 Yellow-browed Warbler.
It was a similar story for the waders with one Grey Plover, 12 Purple Sandpipers, 5 Ruff, 2 Jack Snipe and a Little Stint. The big surprise of the day were 2 Grey Phalaropes, one on sea-watch and one on Gretchen were our 2nd and 3rd of the year.
Other birds to note were 6 Red-throated and 1 Great-Northern Diver and a Collared Dove at Holland.
The 30th was a much quieter day all in all, Teal numbers rose 295 and a pair of Pintail were on the island, the Juvenile Hen Harrier was still at Brides and Grey Plover numbers went from 1 to 7. One of the two Grey Phalaropes was still present on Gretchen.
Another sea-watch produced another 6 Little Auks, 4 Sooty Shearwaters and 1 Manx Shearwater.
Our first Redwing of the Autumn was seen flying around the obs in the morning, other passerines of interest were 1 Yellow-browed Warbler, 2 Chiffchaffs, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Whinchat, 5 Swallow, 1 House Martin and 48 Skylark.
Waders again didn't show much in the way of movement, with 367 Snipe, 11 Bar-tailed Godwits, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 1065 Golden Plover and a pair of Curlew Sandpipers.
Grey Phalarope - Larissa Simulik

Juv Hen Harrier- George Gay

Lapland Bunting - George Gay

27th-28th September

The wind really picked up over the period and the 27th was almost unbirdable, all bar the movement of Pink-footed Geese with over 2000 being recorded on both days, singles of Jack Snipe, Ruff, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whinchat, Song Thrush, Garden Warbler and Lapland Bunting rounded the 27th off with very little to shout about.
The 28th was a very different story a moulting adult Slavonian Grebe was seen briefly off the links in the afternoon, another first for the autumn was a Goldfinch at Senness. The golf course also played host to 7 Snow Buntings and a single Kestrel. Good numbers of Merlin were recorded with 4 individuals being present, wader numbers remained pretty much as they were, 3 Grey Plover, 2 Ruff, 4 Jack Snipe, 16 Bar-tailed Godwits and 476 Snipe being the highlights. 23 Woodpigeon were seen flying North-West over Holland, which is a record count breaking the previous record of 22 set in 1998. Other highlights include 4 Whinchat, 1 Garden Warbler, 6 Blackcap, 4 Chiffchaff, 1 Willow Warbler, 3 Goldcrests, 28 Lapland Buntings and 2 Yellow-browed Warblers. The big highlight of the day was an Ortolan Bunting that stopped briefly at the Kirbest crop.

Pink-footed Geese - George Gay
Ortolan Bunting - Larissa Simulik

Pink footed Goose Flock - George Gay

Red-throated Diver - Larissa Simulik

Snow Bunting - George Gay

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

25th-26th September

The 25th saw conditions calm down and with calmer weather the birds came out of the shelter and out too feed, boosting our numbers a bit.
The Dunnock was present at Senness again and Yellow-browed Warblers increased ever so slightly to 5 birds as did Lapland Bunting to 38. Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers both had 2 accounts for the day as did Common and Lesser Whitethroat, Whinchat and Chaffinch. A single Kestrel was seen over Gravity in the afternoon, a pair of Pintail were on Ancum and singles of Song Thrush, Goldcrest, House Martin and Pied Flycatcher rounded the birding day off nicely. We weren't done there though, a spectaclar showing of the Aurora Boreialis left guests and staff in awe, it would repeat the same feat the next night, these shows are regular up here but usually only as a faint glow, but with full dancing ribbons we were treated to the full phenomenon!
The 26th had a lot to live up too after the Aurora and the South-Westerly winds weren't leanding themselves to much being found. The Hen Harrier was still present at Brides as was a female Sparrowhawk at Hooking.
Our first Autumnal Snow Bunting appeared at the Broch and our second Bramling was at Dennishill in the morning, otherwise the birding was much the same with 5 Yellow-browed Warblers being recorded for the second day in sucession, singles of Curlew Sandpiper, Robin, Dunnock, Song Thrush and Common Whitethroat. Other birds to note were 3 Garden Warbler, 2 Chiffchaffs, 3 Willow Warblers, 2 Goldcrest, 5 Blackcap, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Pied Flycatchers and 2 Whinchats.
With some strong Westerly forecast for Tuesday into Wednesday off the end of Hurricane Karl, we live in hope and lie in wait for that big American passerine!

Aurora Borealis - Both photos George Gay