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

23rd-24th September

Another good day on the 23rd was followed by a bit of a clear out and wet and windy weather on the 24th. Some birds perhaps noted the change in weather before we did, 15 Red-throated Divers and a Great-nothern Diver took refuge in Nouster Bay on the 23rd, numbers of Tufted Duck peaked at 31 as did Shoveler at 19 birds, Red-breasted Merganser at 2 and a single Pintail was still present on Ancum.
The 23rd bought 4 Grey Plovers, 12 Knot and 2 Whimbrel wader wise, along with 7 Pink-footed Geese seen heading out South and a male Peregrine.
Over the two days the high Passerine counts were 2 Whinchat, 1 Robin, 1 Redstart present at Westness on both days, others singles included Song Thrush, Lesser and Common Whitethroat, 6 Blackcaps, 4 Willow Warblers, a Pied Flycatcher, 2 Siskin and the Icterine Warbler moved into Holland before being trapped on the 23rd.
Yellow-browed Warblers highest count was 4 still making them one of the commoner vagrants on the island, the 24th also bought us 2 Siskin and 2 Common Rosefinches.
The other news of note was 2 White-sided Dolphins in Nouster also on the 23rd.

Pink-footed Geese - George Gay
Lapland Bunting - George Gay

Tufted Duck - George Gay

Friday, 23 September 2016

21st-22nd September

It's been a great couple of days up here with migrants arriving.
The Hen Harrier has been a constant feature on the East side of the island, other birds of prey have been what you'd expect really with a female Sparrowhawk hanging around Holland, a female Kestrel, and 2 Merlins. The big raptor surprise was an Osprey on the 22nd, seen coming in off the sea over the lighthouse and settling breifly on a telegraph pole before heading out South, the bird was our second for the year.
Waders remained a talking point with large numbers of Snipe being recorded both days but peaking on the 22nd with 484 making the final log count, these were accompanied by 2 Jack Snipe.
Other noteworthy waders included 3 Grey Plovers, 2 Greenshank, a single Wood Sandpiper on Gretchen and 2 Curlew Sandpipers on Trolla and Westness.
Passerine wise things have improved with a total of 20 Yellow-browed Warblers, 2 Redstarts, 4 Lesser Whitethroats, 14 Willow Warblers, 4 Common Rosefinches, 2 Whinchat, 10 Blackcaps, 4 Garden Warblers, 3 Dunnock, 3 Chaffinch and singles of Spotted Flycatcher, Song Thrush, Common Whitethroat and a Robin.
An Icterine Warbler was found in the Kirbest crop field at about mid-day and a female Red-breasted Merganser was seen off the links.

Garden Warbler



Grey Plovers

Yellow-browed Warbler - all photos George Gay

19th-20th September

A couple of days of more promising conditions provided some interesting birds for us to get our teeth into.
A period high count of Pink-footed Geese was recorded on 19th with a total of 59 birds seen heading out South, on the contrary 11 Pintail were seen heading out North from Trolla Vatn.
Duck numbers peaked on the 20th, with 210 Teal, 203 Wigeon, 37 Mallard, 6 Tufted Duck, 2 Shoveler and a Red-breasted Merganser, a total that is sure to grow as winter approaches.
A Ringtail Hen Harrier was present on both days between Brides and Hooking. Mist netting provided us with good totals and a couple of surprises, a female Merlin was trapped on the 20th and a Common Rosefinch, one of two birds, was caught on the 19th.
Elsewhere passerine numbers were good with day high totals of 4 Lesser Whitethroats, 4 Siskin, 2 Pied Flycatchers, 5 Garden Warblers, 4 Chaffinch, 2 Tree Pipit, 5 Willow Warblers, 3 Goldcrest, 2 Blackcap and singles of Whinchat, Robin, Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher and a late Sedge Warbler at Ancum.
Another high count of Lapland Buntings came in at 82 birds.
The big news around the country is the Yellow-browed Warblers have arrived back in the country and seem to be invading as they did last year with our total breaking into double figures for the first time this year with 13 birds being noted on the 20th.
Redstart - George Gay

Yellow-browed Warbler - George Gay

Whinchat - George Gay

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

17th-18th September

A couple of days of calmer weather bought about some drift passage migrants, but not an awful lot too shout about. Our first Autumnal Jack Snipe was seen at Brides on the 17th along with a female Yellow Wagtail, the Marsh Warbler was present again in the Lurand crop accompanied by one of four Willow Warblers seen that day.
Another couple bumper counts one of 362 Snipe and the other 110 Lapland Buntings gave us hope of better things to come, but it wasn't quite to be, despite that it's given us clear indication that Lapland Buntings have had a very good breeding year and are now erupting out of Scandanavia and making their way South.
Passerine migrants proved harder to catch up with than we'd of liked, but the highlights include 1 Tree Pipit, 4 Rock Pipit, 2 Whinchat, 1 Song Thrush, 3 Lesser and 1 Common Whitethroat, 5 Garden Warbler, 3 Blackcaps, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 26 Twite and 2 Chaffinch.
Non-passerine wise the offerings were as expected really, singles of Pintail, Ruff, Kestrel, Peregrine and Curlew Sandpiper were backed up by 4 Whimbrel and 2 Merlin.
The 18th offered a little more scarcity wise, our first Crossbills of 2016 were seen heading out South from Kirbest, the usual passerine suspects were present, 3 Whinchat, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Blackcap, 2 Garden Warbler, 6 Willow Warblers, the same Pied Flycatcher as the previous day, a long staying Robin was trapped again in Holland Gardens, as was another long stayer in the form of a Chiffchaff.
The other highlights included a Corncrake at Longar, a Common Rosefinch in Holland that evaded mist nets and our second and third Yellow-browed Warblers of the autumn rounded things off nicely.
All together not a bad couple days but there's a general feeling we have something to come yet!

Lapland Buntings - George Gay

Common Snipe - George Gay

Sanderlings - George Gay

Monday, 19 September 2016

15th-16th September

Foggy weather left us hoping for more on the 15th, with conditions barely birdable and visibility down to meer feet, the results were a distict lack of numbers. The highlights were 11 Twite, 2 Lapland Buntings, a Pied Flycatcher at Sangar and a Curlew Sandpiper.
The 16th however saw the fog lift and the rain come in, dropping in a few migrants and even firsts for the Autumn.
Our first autumn Pink-footed Geese were seen flying South, the day total a respectable 25 birds, a noteworthy high count of Teal came in at 177 birds. Wader highlights came in the shape of 26 Purple Sandpipers, 1 Ruff, 1 Grey Plover and a Greenshank.
2 Common Terns and an Arctic Tern came as nice surprise, migrant wise things on land picked up considerably. 3 Whinchat, 3 Song Thrush, our first of the autumn, 3 Garden Warblers, 8 Blackcap, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, on of which was a possible Blythii. 6 Willow Warblers, 1 Spotted and 2 Pied Flycatchers, 6 Lapland Buntings, 2 Siskin, a Chaffinch, a Grey Wagtail and last but at all least a Marsh Warbler was found in the Lurand crop field before being trapped and ringed.

Common Tern - George Gay

Marsh Warbler - George Gay

Thursday, 15 September 2016

13th-14th September

The 13th started quietly with very little being seen until the afternoon, 5 Red-throated Divers kicked-off proceedings and from there on in things began to improve.
A Curlew Sandpiper was the only noteworthy wader, but passerine wise things were getting better 11 Chaffinch got things moving, followed by 4 Lapland Buntings, 2 Whinchats, 1 Blackcap, 2 Spotted Flycatchers and 2 Pied Flycatchers, but it didn't end there by any stretch.
A Grey Wagtail was found in the Cauldhaim irragation ditch, this seems to be a popular spot for them this year.
This was followed by a Corncrake bursting out the roof of the shed by the Old Manse, the second for the year after the long staying spring bird and a very welcome addition to the day list.
Finally Britains first Yellow-browed Warbler of the year was discovered at the Old Beacon, a bit of surprise, but hopefully a sign of things to come, if last years invasion was repeated I don't feel there would be too many complaints. To round the day off we were treated to a fantastic sunset, not a bad way to end the day!
Despite our best efforts the 14th didn't produce very much at all, 14 Willow Warblers, a repeat of the previous days doubles of Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, another single Blackcap, 2 Lesser Whitethroats and 5 Rock Pipits showed a small increase in birds.
741 Golden Plovers made for a decent count, these were joined by a Grey Plover, a surprising 4th of the year. A Little Stint was present on Gretchen and big count of 313 Snipe was more than noteworthy, 3 Lesser Redpoll and 30 Lapland Buntings rounded off the birding for the day and left us hoping for more tomorrow! Last but not least a Minke Whale was seen close off shore on the West coast before dissappearing out to sea.
Yellow-browed Warbler - George Gay

Sunset over Lurand - George Gay

Lesser Whitethroat - George Gay

Rock Pipit - George Gay

11th-12th September

The good birding continued despite more unfavourable conditions, 33 Sooty Shearwaters made for decent sea-watching and duck numbers still continued to rise, with 146 Wigeon, 85 Teal, 13 Mallard, 5 Shoveler, 2 Pintail and single counts of Tufted Duck, Shelduck and Gadwall being the peak counts over the two day period.
Land migrants, although in smaller numbers than previous days, had rich variety with single Whinchats and Spotted Flycatchers on both days, 7 Willow Warblers, 2 Pied Flycatchers, 26 Lapland Buntings, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 7 Chaffinch and most surprisingly a Ring Ouzel making up the highlights reel.
9 Grey Heron on the 11th were accompanied by 3 Ruff and 2 Merlin, the 12th bought about a Common Sandpiper and a Collared Dove in the search for a mystery Lark that promptly dissappeared after it's discovery in the irises at Hooking.
Collared Dove - George Gay

Grey Heron - George Gay

Shelduck - Larissa Simulik

Female Chaffinch - Larissa Simulik

Sunday, 11 September 2016

9th-10th September

Despite unfavorable winds we've managed to turn up some good birds, the 9th saw a further build up in duck species and numbers, our first Pintails of the autumn made an appearance along with 92 Wigeon, 88 Teal, 37 Mallard, 11 Shoveler and 2 Tufted Duck.
a Kestrel was seen hanging around up the top end of the island and a Juvenile Grey Plover was on Gretchen.
Passerine wise it was fairly quiet a theme that would continue into the next day, the 9th bought us singles of Rock Pipit, Common and Lesser Whitethroat, 5 Willow Warblers and 2 Goldcrests in Holland.
The big highlights on the 9th were a very credible 57 Lapland Buntings and our first Red-backed Shrike of the autumn, seen briefly at Scottsha' before flying off towards Hooking Loch.
The 10th was ever so slightly quieter despite the unbroken sunshine, 2 Peregrines, an adult Female and a juv male at Lenswick, were seen hunting the coasts, another Grey Plover this time an adult was seen in flight near Nether Linnay.
As previously stated passerine wise things were quieter and lone counts of Rock Pipit, Pied Flycatcher, Common Whitethroat and 2 Willow Warblers were propped up by 34 Lapland Buntings, but still a decrease from the previous days total.
Wader numbers weren't much to shout about with 1 Little Stint, 1 Common Sandpiper, 3 Ruff and a very obliging and very much welcomed first Grey Phalarope of the year at Westness found in the early evening. Yet another Pale-bellied Brent Goose was found in the field opposite the airfield with Greylags.
Grey Phalarope - George Gay
Grey Plover - George Gay

Lapland Bunting - George Gay

Tufted Ducks - George Gay

Friday, 9 September 2016

8th September

With the previous day spent sea-watching it was time for some birding in the field, duck numbers are still building up and this was quite apparent in the form of 1 Shelduck, 5 Shoveler, 9 Mallard, 118 Wigeon and 148 Teal.
An impressive 589 Meadow Pipits were accompanied by a single Tree Pipit at the lighthouse, 125 Wheatear, singles of Chiffchaff and Garden Warbler, 3 Willow Warblers, 7 Chaffinch, 3 Goldcrests and 35 Lapland Buntings including 3 males were the passerine highlights of the day.
Wader wise things stayed steady, 2 Little Stint and singles of Curlew Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper. 2 Harbour Porpoise in Nouster rounded off the day nicely.
Wheatear - George Gay

Willow Warbler - George Gay

7th September

With the wind going slack for the first time in a few days, the moment was right for a sea-watch and what a sea-watch it was!
Over the day, 359 Fulmars, one of which was a Blue phase, 656 Gannets, 3 Red-throated Divers, 21 Black-tailed Godwits, 20 Great Skuas, the second highest collective day total of Pale-bellied Brent Geese with 8 flying East, 9 Storm Petrels, 420 Auk sp. 6 Puffin, 142 Razorbill, 114 Kittiwake, 128 Manx Shearwaters, our fourth Great Shearwater of the autumn and an astonishing 869 Sooty Shearwaters breaking the previous day total of 853 was a spectacle to behold. At one point in the morning 71 birds passed within a minute.
Elsewhere on the island 2 Kestrels made appearances at the top end and round the obs, a single Chaffinch was at Hooking, good numbers of Meadow Pipits were present again with 341 birds present around the island and 3 Lapland Buntings.
An evening nets session bought our first 2 Goldcrests of the autumn and a pair of Barred Warblers.  
Lapland Bunting - George Gay

Sooty Shearwater - George Gay

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

5th-6th September

The two day period saw a few new migrants in but a general a clear out had taken place.
14 Grey Heron in off the sea lead the way at Westness closely followed by a Peregrine also at Westness. Pied Flycatcher numbers fell to 2 and Willow Warblers cascaded to 3, a single Chaffinch was trapped at Holland. Other Passerine highlights were a Barred Warbler at Senness, a Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Lapland Buntings and a Garden Warbler.
The 6th bought a little more to the table the sea produced a Red-throated Diver, 15 Sooty Shearwaters and 8 Manx Shearwaters. Wildfowl numbers showed a promising increase, 2 Shoveler, 5 Mallard, 36 Wigeon, 42 Teal and an early Pale-bellied Brent Goose (b.b.Hrota) was a surprise after being flushed out of the garden of Bewan house.
A Kestrel was seen hanging around the house at Bewan and was accompanied by Merlin at Quoybanks.
The birds of the day were a pair of Buff-breasted Sandpipers in the standing stone field found with Golden Plovers in the early evening.

9 of the 14 Grey Herons

Curlew Sandpiper with Ringed Plover

Pale-bellied Brent Goose - All photos George Gay

4th September

A bit of an un-scheduled fall was more than welcomed with very little on the sea the land birds took center stage, the big movers were Meadow Pipit and Wheatear with the day totals reaching 648 and 349 respectively. Willow Warbler numbers reached a respectable 37, there were singles of Garden Warbler, a Wood Warbler was trapped in Holland and a Sedge Warbler was hanging around the obs.
Pied Flycatchers also showed an increase with 8 in various island locations and even more surprisingly a Red-breasted Flycatcher found its way into the conservatory and was eventually caught and ringed.
Other singles included a Redstart at the Old Kirk, a House Martin, a lone Rock Pipit and another Wryneck this time in the Kirbest crop field.
Waders did well again, a Greenshank flew over the obs and the Wood Sandpiper was back on Gretchen accompanied by a Little Stint, a Curlew Sandpiper was also present.
Last but by no means least 5 Lapland Buntings at different locations and 5 Chaffinch in the road by the coastguard hut.
Pied Flycatcher 

Common Redstart

Sand Martin

Wood Sandpiper - All photos George Gay

Sunday, 4 September 2016

31st August - 3rd September

The last few days have been quite busy, not so much bird wise but still enough to keep us guys happy, I have to make an admission first though, the 2nd and 3rd were a bit of a write off due too a staff night out on Kirkwall, I know what you're saying, "But it's the start of September!!" but it was all the name of team bonding and with some of the guys leaving it was a fitting way for us to all celebrate the fantastic season we've had so far, we just hope it continues in the same way once the guys leave us.
Right now on to the birds, we'll start on the sea, a very productive couple of sea-watch days provided 173 Sooty Shearwaters, 79 Manx Shearwater, another Great Shearwater, a Pomerine Skua and most surprisingly, a bit of North Ron mega a single Balearic Shearwater as a combined total over two days.
Hirundine numbers have also been on the up and 76 Swallows were accompanied by 10 Sand Martin, 12 Swift and a single House Martin.
Waders numbers are staying steady with 5 Little Stint, 7 Ruff and a single Common Sandpiper being the most notable of the period.
Elsewhere passerine numbers continued to fluctuate with only 2 Willow Warblers and a single Chiffchaff but in saying that we had our first Lapland Bunting of 2016 and well over 100 Wheatear. Non-passerines of note came in the shape of a Carrion Crow, 1 Great-Northern Diver and 2 Red-throated Divers. Also very interestingly a colour ringed Bar-tailed Godwit, that has previously visited the island in 2011 and 2013 was photographed. The bird was initially ringed in Finnmark, Norway on the 15/4/2010.
Bar-tailed Godwits (Left hand bird with colour ring) - George Gay

Colour ring on Bar-tailed Godwit - George Gay

Lapland Bunting - George Gay

Thursday, 1 September 2016

29th-30th August

After all the excitement of our visitor from the East things have begun to clear out and migrants dissipate. The 29th was another nice day kicked off by an Icterine Warbler found in the crop field that's been sowed by Lurand, it looks a fantastic site and now with two mist nets in it I'm sure we'll be mentioning it more often. The Icterine was joined in the crop by several Willow Warblers, the day count falling to 14 and falling again to 6 the next day, while the Icterine remained. A Pied Flycatcher was trapped at the obs in the late afternoon and a Common Rosefinch was present between Hooking and Scottsha'.
Two Rock Pipits were on the rocks at Tor-ness, presumably returning birds from earlier in the spring.
Non-passerine wise and another phone call from Pete, these are not something we're getting tired of in these parts at the moment, a Common Buzzard was making its way down the island, a bird that has become commoner in the Northern Isle over recent years, and is now probably recorded annually on the island, but was once much rarer.
The other birds of prey present was a Kestrel at Senness that hung around until the 30th and a female Merlin was hunting over the obs on 30th as well. Waders put in a reasonable account for themselves again the most noteworthy being 3 Little Stint and a the long staying Wood Sandpiper that remained until the 30th before seemingly disappearing as all these things do, the 30th gave us singles of Curlew Sandpiper, Greenshank and 2 Common Sandpipers.
A quick dazzling session before bed on the 29th provided 3 Snipe, a re-trap Dunlin, a Ringed Plover, a single Curlew and best of all Little Stint, a very nice haul for a quick trip.
Duck numbers are still rising with 4 Gadwall, 41 Teal, 32 Mallard and 5 Shoveler being the highest counts from the two day spell.
Swift numbers have also started to increase with 5 being recorded on the 30th.
The big news came from the sea-watch hide with good numbers of Sooty Shearwaters it was only a matter of time before another large shearwater was seen and it came in the shape of a Great Shearwater, it's made even sweeter by the story behind the observer, the man behind the scope was long time Great Shearwater hunter and a repeat guest of our Al McNee, he's put in huge amounts of effort to finally get his prize, so well done to him.
Little Stint - George Gay

Ringed Plovers - George Gay

Snipe - George Gay