Tuesday, 12 December 2017

12th December

A glorious day with hardly a breath of wind and plenty of sunshine; most of the birds of note were Passerines which popped out in the calm weather around B and E and included 6 Robins, 34 Redwings, 10 Skylarks, 2 Reed Buntings, 9 Meadow Pipits, 16 Rock Pipits and 4 Snow Buntings.   Other birds of note comprised 6 Great-northern Divers and 16 Long-tailed Ducks off Stennabreck, 2 Whooper Swans and 2 Pintail on Ancum and 4 Herons.

Reed Bunting

Rock Pipit


Monday, 11 December 2017

10th and 11th December

The wind mercifully died down from mid-morning on the 10th becoming very pleasant in the afternoon; birds round the coast from Gretchen to The Links included 10 Great-northern Divers, 6 Red-throated Divers, 3 Herons, an adult Whooper Swan by Brides, 35 Long-tailed Ducks, a female Common Scoter which flew past Nouster, 5 Red-breasted Mergansers, the wintering Grey Plover, 65 Ringed Plovers, 64 Sanderling, 84 Dunlin, 255 Purple Sandpipers and a Black-headed Gull.   Passerines which came out of the woodwork in the calm weather included 69 Snow Buntings, single Song Thrush and Fieldfare, 11 Redwings, 3 Skylarks, 6 Robins, 4 Meadow Pipits, 12 Rock Pipits and the Chaffinch still around Nouster.

                A lovely day on the 11th with light northerly winds and plenty of sunshine (still cold though!); a productive two hour seawatch first thing comprised a Black-throated Diver with 9 Great-northern Divers and 3 Red-throated Divers, 922 Fulmars (with 11 Blue ones including a very dark, almost black looking individual!), 45 Kittiwakes, 6 Puffins, a single Little Auk and 3,431 Auk sp.   Other birds in the north included 14 Snow Buntings, 4 Goldeneye and 5 Pintail.

                The Common Redpoll reappeared at The Lurn (presumably it will try and overwinter now) along with 4 more Snow Buntings, 2 Great-northern Divers and 8 Tysties.

Great Black-backed Gull


Saturday, 9 December 2017

7th - 9th December

An incredible few days as Storm Caroline wreaked her foamy vengeance upon the island with storm force winds battering the Northern Isles; not much birding was done on the 7th as the winds reached their peak but some hardcore dazzling produced some good results after dark with a good selection of Gulls and waders caught.   We ventured out briefly on the 8th into the still gale force winds and wintery squalls with 2 Glaucous Gulls (an adult and a juvenile) off Brides in amongst good numbers of other Gulls, Ducks and Waders feeding along the marginally sheltered side of the island.

                Still extremely windy on the 9th with huge waves and long, heavy snow and hail showers; a few hours spent at the top end produced the highlights of 3 Glaucous Gulls (two juveniles and a different adult) and a juvenile Iceland Gull (which may have had some kumlieni in there somewhere).   Other birds included 32 Snow Buntings, an increased 7 Goldeneye, 10 Pintail, 22 Bar-tailed Godwits and 21 Curlew.

Glaucous Gulls,   Simon Davies

Iceland Gull,   Simon Davies

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

4th - 6th December

Still hard going out in the field with the strong W/NW winds bringing long periods of heavy, driving rain; a Sooty Shearwater passed the hide on the 4th during an hours seawatch along with 2 Great-northern Divers, 341 Fulmars, 38 Kittiwakes and 317 Auk sp. while 10 Gadwall, 7 Pintail and 2 Goldeneye were on Bewan.   There was pretty much nothing to mention on the 5th although the shrinking moon and increasing wind and rain produced a productive nights dazzling as the spoils included a Water Rail in Loch Park and the first Teal to be ringed this year at Bewan along with some Turnstone, Ringed Plover and Snipe.

                More effort was put in on the 6th despite the pouring rain, as birds around the coast between the pier and Bridesness included a Great-northern Diver, 2 Herons, 145 Wigeon, 195 Teal, 12 Shoveler, 7 Long-tailed Ducks, 122 Lapwing, 80 Sanderling, 165 Purple Sandpipers, 80 Snipe, 81 Redshank, 95 Turnstone, 3 Black-headed Gulls (the first ones for several weeks!), 180 Common Gulls, 12 Rock Pipits and 9 Snow Buntings.   Elsewhere there were 3 Robins, 22 Redwings (a bit of an increase) and a Chaffinch, seemingly settling in for the winter around the Obs.


Water Rail

Sunday, 3 December 2017

2nd and 3rd December

Brisk westerly winds through the 2nd with the expected wintery showers whipping through didn’t encourage much time out in the field but totals round the north end of the island included 4 Red-throated Divers, 6 Great-northern Divers, 13 Gadwall and 13 Pintail.   Still a strong W/NW wind sweeping across the island on the 3rd but it generally remained drier and brighter so more time was spent out and about; the potential highlight was a large Gull which flew through Nouster which showed many characteristics of a second winter American Herring Gull – we’ll have to see how far that gets in the system as I’m not sure it has the full suite of features to prove it either way…

                Other totals around the Obs and Bridesness census areas of the island included a Pink-footed Goose, 12 Shoveler, 14 Long-tailed Ducks, the same adult female Hen Harrier, 371 Golden Plover, 215 Purple Sandpipers, 209 Common Gulls, 6 Meadow Pipits, 8 Rock Pipits, 2 Robins, 8 Redwings, the one lingering Common Redpoll still along the coast at The Lurn, 49 Snow Buntings and a Reed Bunting.

Herring Gul Sp.   Simon Davies

Common Redpoll,   Simon Davies

Friday, 1 December 2017

30th November and 1st December

Still very cold, strong northerlies on the 30th with a Little Auk off Brides the only bird really worth mentioning.   A big change in the weather on the 1st with the winds swinging back into the west and dying down to almost nothing for a while but the change brought waves of mist, murk and drizzle which drifted in and out through the day; a seawatch first thing before the weather closed in produced a Sooty Shearwater (it’s amazing how late in the year they still pass the island!), 526 Fulmars (with one Blue one), 6 Great-northern Divers, 65 Gannets, 18 Kittiwakes and single Little Auk and Puffin with 674 Auk sp.   There were then 13 Pintail, 17 Gadwall and a Merlin around Bewan.

                Other birds included a Water Rail around the Obs, still one Common Redpoll on the coast at The Lurn and 2 Pink-footed Geese by Holland before a look round Southness / Brides produced a Fieldfare, 7 Redwings, 4 Meadow Pipits, 2 Skylarks and 2 more Pintail while offshore there were 6 Red-breasted Mergansers and 9 Long-tailed Ducks.

Raven showing off

Snow Bunting,   Simon Davies

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

28th and 29th November

Very cold, very strong northerly winds blasted across the island on the 28th and a little look round the top end in the afternoon was all we managed; an almost certain White-billed Diver was seen on the sea off the seawatch hide but views were so brief in the heaving seas that it couldn’t be properly claimed while two ‘Blue’ Fulmars flew past during a little seawatch.   Also around Bewan were 24 Gadwall, 7 Pintail, 2 Goldeneye and 7 Snow Buntings while two Water Rails were seen running across the road between the Obs and Holland.

                The wind was still bang in the north on the 29th and very slightly lighter, with an hours seawatch first thing producing an adult White-billed Diver which flew north, close inshore as well as 2 Glaucous Gulls (an adult and a juvenile) along the shore, other birds around the north included a Merlin in off the sea, 4 Herons, 2 Whooper Swans and 39 Snow Buntings.

                A strange little calm spell at lunchtime allowed a selection of lingering Passerines to poke their heads out during a walk round the south of the island including the Nouster Black Redstart, 3 Robins, 7 Redwings, a Chaffinch and 2 Common Redpolls.

Raven being all evocative!

Monday, 27 November 2017

26th and 27th November

Another rough, windy day on the 26th with frequent showers and with limited coverage a Hen Harrier which flew past the bar window was the only real bird of note!   The wind eased slightly on the 27th and swung round to the NNE but persistent rain lingered through until mid-morning becoming showers later on; the highlights were on the sea first thing and included 1,071 Fulmars (with 16 ‘Blue’ individuals) with single Sooty Shearwater and Great Skua while an adult Glaucous Gull roosted on Seal Skerry.

                Wildfowl totals comprised 134 Teal, 381 Wigeon, 21 Gadwall, 55 Mallard, 6 Pintail, 12 Shoveler, 34 Tufted Duck, 23 Long-tailed Duck, 3 Goldeneye and 5 Red-breasted Mergansers with 3 Red-throated Divers and 2 Great-northern Divers on the sea.   Waders included 127 Sanderling and 90 Dunlin on The Links along with 70 Redshank and 27 Bar-tailed Godwits with the few lingering Passerines including 6 Meadow Pipits, 8 Rock Pipits, a Fieldfare, 24 Redwing and 3 Snow Buntings.

Red-throated Diver,   Simon Davies

Red-breasted Merganser,   Simon Davies

Saturday, 25 November 2017

24th and 25th November

The dreaded blazing westerlies came back with a vengeance on the 24th bringing endless wintery showers during which no one really ventured outside with just a new young male Peregrine over Gretchen which again showed some characteristics of one of the Arctic races – just how common are they?   Are they all from up there?

                Strong westerly winds again on the 25th but it was OK I guess between the wintery showers, it was just that the showers came very frequently!   The highlight was re-finding the dark juvenile Kumlien’s Gull which showed better on the grass around the Lighthouse; other birds included a juvenile Iceland Gull which flew past Brides and a distinctive adult female Hen Harrier with a very hooded appearance also at Brides where there were also 4 Meadow Pipits, 6 Fieldfares, 16 Redwings, a Chaffinch and 2 Snow Buntings.

                Also of note was a Woodcock at Hooking and wildfowl totals of 525 Wigeon, 23 Gadwall, 23 Tufted Duck, 10 Long-tailed Ducks and 4 Goldeneye.

Kumlien's Gull,   Simon Davies

Hen Harrier,   Simon Davies

Thursday, 23 November 2017

22nd and 23rd November

A little blast of NE winds and rain on the 22nd proved that the autumn is not quite over yet with a trickle of typical late migrants to keep us on our toes including 7 Woodcock, a Long-eared Owl flushed from the coast at The Lurn, 7 Robins (although these are probably lingering birds), a new Black Redstart at Torness, 4 Fieldfares, 16 Redwings, a Chiffchaff and 3 Common Redpolls.

                The main feature of the day however, was a huge arrival of Gulls in the stormy conditions with at least 1,290 Hrring Gulls and 450 Great Black-backed Gulls providing the bulk while qualityincluded 6 Glaucous Gulls (slightly different age categories than Fair Isle produced with fouradults and two juveniles) and the tricky highlight of a very dark juvenile Kumlien’s Gull on The Links (although the possibility of it being a Thayer’s Gull has not been ruled out yet but opinion is swinging towards Kumlien’s).   A notable increase to 36 Long-tailed Ducks was also to mention as was the adult female Hen Harrier floating around.

                Pretty much all yesterday’s Gulls had disappeared as quickly as they arrived on the 23rd with much lighter winds which had swung round into the NW bringing some heavy wintery showers in the afternoon; it was a nice day to be out in the field though in the calmer conditions when landbirds included the Nouster Black Redstart still, 9 Skylark, 6 Robins, 15 Fieldfares, 2 Song Thrush, 31 Redwing, a Common Redpoll and 51 Snow Buntings.

                On calmer seas some improved totals were noted with 6 Red-throated Divers, 7 Great-northern Divers, a female Common Scoter with 29 Long-tailed Ducks off Hooking (always scarce on here!), 3 Goldeneye, 10 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Little Auk in Nouster.   Other wildfowl included 362 Wigeon, 23 Gadwall and 10 Pintail with a Grey Plover and 94 Dunlin the wader highlights.   9 Herons stalked the edges while the Hen Harrier nd a young male Peregrine patrolled the skies.

Kumlien's (or Thayer's) Gull,   Simon Davies

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

20th and 21st November

A marvellously calm day on the 20th with a light but cold NE breeze allowing us to get some decent counts in; wildfowl included 482 Wigeon, 21 Gadwall, 137 Teal, 10 Pintail, 80 Mallard, 4 Long-tailed Ducks, a Goldeneye and 7 Red-breasted Mergansers while waders of note comprised 117 Dunlin, 29 Bar-tailed Godwits, 36 Curlew, 66 Redshank and 112 Ringed Plover with 8 Herons.   Offshore were 3 Red-throated Divers, 8 Great-northern Divers and a Sooty Shearwater past the Beacon.

                On the land, birds were pretty much as you were with a ringtail Hen Harrier, a female Peregrine, a Woodcock, 21 Rock Pipits, 35 Redwing, 2 Chiffchaff, a Chaffinch and 70 Snow Buntings.

                Calm still first thing on the 21st allowing us to get out for just a few hours before the wind came back bringing heavy, persistent rain which lasted from mid-morning right through until dark; a two hour seawatch from first light produced good totals of 2,135 Fulmars (including 6 Blue ones) and 1,911 Auk sp. along with 10 Sooty Shearwaters, a Great Skua, 635 Kittiwakes, 2 Little Auks and 5 Great-northern Divers.   Elsewhere, there was little to mention with 14 Pintail on Bewan, the Black Redstart again by Nouster Pier where there was also a Common Redpoll feeding with a flock of 14 Snow Buntings.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

18th and 19th November

No let-up in the gale force westerly winds on the 18th although there may have been a few less showers (although I might be being a bit optimistic in that statement!); not much coverage today but there were still at least 94 Dunlin on The Links where there was also 310 Wigeon, 4 Long-tailed Ducks and a Great-northern Diver with a Goldeneye on Hooking.             

                Finally, the blazing winds slowly began to ease through the 19th but stayed pretty much in the west but with long periods of sunshine it was a much better day all round, the main event was the annual Orkney Winter Goose Count, during which we ended up with a total of 1,451 Greylag Geese across the whole island but unfortunately no other Geese species!

                We had longer out in the field today which produced some good totals with the highlight being an influx of 120 Snow Buntings with several flocks seen heading south along with a Jack Snipe, 6 Robins, a Song Thrush, 25 Redwings (including one which was chased and caught by a Hooded Crow), a Chiffchaff still and 7 Twite.   Other little bits included 36 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Grey Plover, 390 Golden Plover, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, 13 Pintail, 2 Whooper Swans and 6 Herons while a quiet seawatch just produced 440 Fulmars, 5 Great-northern Divers and 60 Auk sp.  

Greylag Geese

Snow Buntings

Whooper Swans

Pictures Simon Davies

Friday, 17 November 2017

16th and 17th November

A really rough couple of days with a blazing gale force westerly wind bringing nasty squalls with annoying frequency making any venturing outside very unpleasant; a Woodcock by the Obs was basically the only news from the 16th with a few hours spent in the Brides area on the 17th producing 21 Snow Buntings, 3 Meadow Pipits, 4 Rock Pipits, 15 Redwings, 4 Skylarks and 2 Reed Buntings with 15 Tufted Duck and 7 Gadwall on the loch.   60+ Common Gulls were feeding in the surf at high tide with a single Black-headed Gull the only other bird of note in the melee; the Black Redstart was still at the Nouster Pier.

1st year, 2nd year and adult Common Gull,   Simon Davies

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

14th and 15th November

A decent day on the 14th with lightish winds and only a few showers; an hour’s seawatch first thing comprised 2 Sooty Shearwaters, 252 Kittiwakes and a Little Auk with 7 Great-northern Divers on the sea.   Limited coverage then produced the Black Redstart still by the pier, a Merlin, 13 Meadow Pipits, 2 Robins, single Chaffinch and Brambling, 19 Twite and 7 Snow Buntings on the land with 3 Pink-footed Geese, 2 Pintail and 491 Golden Plover also present.

                After early morning rain had moved through it was great day in the field with very light winds and periods of bright sunshine; a range of lingering landbirds appeared out of the woodwork in the calm conditions including 26 Meadow Pipits, 8 Robins, a Song Thrush, 52 Redwings, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Chaffinch and 61 Snow Buntings (including a flock of 24 which came in off the sea at the north end).

                Perhaps the day’s highlight was an excellent count of 76 Moorhens including a big flock of 38 near Hooking, we tried our hardest to beat the island record of 79 but it was not to be!   Other birds included 6 Herons, 2 Whooper Swans, 116 Teal, the Green-winged Teal relocated to Brides, 12 Pintail, 18 Gadwall, single Sparrowhawk, Merlin and Peregrine, 122 Sanderling, 170 Snipe and an increase to 98 Dunlin on The Links.

An extra Raven wasn't appreciated by the Beacon pair,   Simon Davies

Snow Bunting,   Simon Davies

Black Redstart,   Simon Davies

Monday, 13 November 2017

12th and 13th November

A real blast of cold northerlies on the 12th had us hoping for some proper Arctic based birding but it proved to be pretty quiet (and very cold!) out in the field; a morning seawatch produced a single Sooty Shearwater, 629 Fulmars, 249 Guillemots and 9 Black Guillemots while 2 Red-throated and a Great-northern Diver were also offshore.

                Wildfowl included three Whooper Swans, the Green-winged Teal still on Gretchen and 9 Pintail while good winter wader counts comprised 2 Grey Plovers, 138 Sanderling, 62 Dunlin and 139 Redshank.   On the land, birds of note included a Woodcock, 6 Robins and 11 Snow Buntings.

                A very different day on the 13th with the wind dying off to practically nothing during the morning and despite there not being too many new birds, it’s always a pleasure to be out in the field in calm weather at this time of year (it doesn’t happen that often!).   The sea in the morning was more productive than yesterday though with 7 Sooty Shearwaters, a Great Skua, 7 Little Auks, 1,875 Fulmars in an hour including 14 Blue individuals, 58 Kittiwakes, and 615 large Auks sp. with 4 Red-throated and 4 Great-northern Divers on the sea.

                Two Whooper Swans, 3 Pink-footed Geese, 10 Pintail and a Goldeneye were the wildfowl highlights while three Water Rails were running around the Obs.   On the land single Peregrine and Merlin zoomed around while other birds included 4 Fieldfares, 34 Redwings, a Chiffchaff still in Holland, a Chaffinch lingering round the Obs and 8 Snow Buntings.

Rock Pipit,   Simon Davies

Bar-tailed Godwits,   Simon Davies

Saturday, 11 November 2017

10th and 11th November

Strong westerly winds again on the 10th bringing with it a few hails showers but there were some nice bright spells in between; the day’s highlight was a confiding Grey Phalarope just off the pier at Bewan – our first of the year!   Other good birds included a juvenile Iceland Gull on The Links, a Black Redstart at Nouster Pier and a high count of 530 Wigeon across the island.

                Also of note through the day were 3 Red-throated Divers, a Great-northern Diver, 2 Herons, a single Whooper Swan on Brides, the ringtail Hen Harrier, 149 Purple Sandpipers, 29 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Robins, 41 Redwings, single Fieldfare and Song Thrush, 2 Chiffchaffs still and 24 Snow Buntings.

                Stronger winds on the 11th with more north in the direction and a few more rain showers, not much time was spent out in the field but birds around the south of the island included the Black Redstart again, a Whooper Swan on the beach in Nouster, 3 Pintail on Gretchen, a single Knot with 260 Golden Plover in Loch Park, 2 Robins, 18 Redwings, 7 Twite and 4 Snow Buntings.

Grey Phalarope,   Simon Davies

Friday, 10 November 2017

8th and 9th November

Bright and sunny first thing on the 8th but that soon degenerated into a blazing gale force southwesterly with rain by lunchtime; there were a few bits around in the spell of decent weather including a juvenile Iceland Gull which flew past The Links, a late Wheatear on Lenswick beach and the drake Green-winged Teal still on Gretchen.

                Other birds of note comprised 5 Herons, 359 Wigeon, 119 Teal, single Hen Harrier, Merlin and Peregrine, 2 Jack Snipe, a Woodcock, 37 Meadow Pipits, 17 Rock Pipits, 2 Robins, 2 Song Thrush, 8 Redwings, 13 Twite and 33 Snow Buntings.

                Almost a write off on the 9th with even stronger westerly winds bringing vicious hail showers seemingly every few minutes, there were longer gaps between the squalls in the afternoon allowing us to at least half-heartedly get out into the field which produced 658 Greylag Geese, 14 Long-tailed Ducks, 5 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Red-throated Divers, a Great-northern Diver, the Hen Harrier, a Woodcock, 5 Robins, a Fieldfare, 38 Redwings, 16 Twite, 10 Snow Buntings and 6 Reed Buntings.

Wheatear,   Simon Davies

Purple Sandpiper,   Simon Davies

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

6th and 7th November

Still windy on the 6th with showers sweeping through; time spent in the field was limited with most of the highlights coming from a morning seawatch which comprised the first Velvet Scoter of the year, 416 Fulmars, 9 Sooty Shearwaters, a Little Auk, a Puffin and 345 large Auk sp. while the sea also produced 3 Red-throated Divers, 3 Great-northern Divers and 5 Risso’s Dolphins.   The limited sightings on the land included 2 Robins, 12 Fieldfares and 36 Redwings.

                A surprising day on the 7th, as after some light rain had moved through first thing it was a great day in the field, with much lighter winds than the forecast had promised; the main feature of the day was a good arrival of 104+ Woodcock (not all the island was covered) while other birds on the land in the calm weather included a Jack Snipe, 2 Hen Harriers, 2 Peregrines (including a new ‘Arctic’ type male), 34 Skylarks, 39 Meadow Pipits, 30 Rock Pipits, 10 Robins, 55 Blackbirds, 24 Fieldfares, 4 Song Thrushes, 68 Redwings, 3 Blackcaps, 4 Chiffchaffs, 3 Chaffinches, 2 Bramblings, a ‘Northwestern’ type Common Redpoll and 36 Snow Buntings.

                We took advantage of the surprise good weather and did an impromptu, semi-organised wader count round the coast at high tide where most noteworthy was an excellent total of 804 Purple Sandpipers along with 589 Turnstone, 170 Redshank, 106 Curlew, 12 Bar-tailed Godwits and a single Knot.   Also feeding in the surf round the shore were good numbers of Gulls with 496 Common Gulls, 19 Black-headed Gulls and 174 Herring Gulls.

                Wildfowl totals included 365 Wigeon, 21 Gadwall, the Green-winged Teal, 315 Teal, 48 Mallard, 3 Pintail, 12 Shoveler, 235 Eider, 10 Long-tailed Ducks and 8 Red-breasted Mergansers while 7 Heron stalked around the edges.

Arctic Peregrine,   Bryony Baker

Common Redpoll,   Simon Davies

Woodcock,   Simon Davies

Blackcap on the Beacon,   Simon Davies

Monday, 6 November 2017

4th and 5th November

A breezy day but plenty of bright sunshine throughout with only a few showers on the 4th producing a decent day out in the field; landbirds were represented by a female Hen Harrier, a Sparrowhawk, 16 Skylarks, 5 Robins, a Ring Ouzel, 43 Blackbirds, a Fieldfare, 4 Song Thrushes, 93 Redwing, a Blackcap, a Chiffchaff, a Goldcrest, 3 Brambling, 19 Twite and 13 Snow Buntings.

                The Green-winged Teal was still on Gretchen with other wildfowl including 7 Whooper Swans, 11 Pintail and 7 Long-tailed Ducks while some detailed wader counts comprised 329 Golden Plover, 213 Lapwings, 192 Turnstone, 182 Redshank, a Woodcock and 207 Purple Sandpipers.   4 Red-throated Divers and 6 Great-northern Divers were offshore and 6 Herons were around the lochs.

                A horrible day on the 5th with a blazing NW wind bringing with it countless vicious, wintery squalls with hail, sleet and rain all strongly represented; highlights were thin on the ground with the Green-winged Teal still on Gretchen, a notable increase of 21 Pintail, 9 Long-tailed Ducks, 3 Red-throated and 4 Great-northern Divers, a single Sooty Shearwater the pick of the seawatching and the ringtail Hen Harrier floating round the Obs again.   There were at least 3 Risso’s Dolphins lingering in Nouster Bay through the morning.

Hen Harrier,   Simon Davies

Fulmars having a chat,   Simon Davies