Friday, 24 February 2017

22nd -24th February

The influx of white-wingers faded away as the wind dropped and the weather became very pleasant as Storm Doris largely missed us, passing far to the south; just 2 Glaucous Gulls remained on the 22nd.   The bird highlights remained the same with the Northern Harrier seen again, this time in the north of the island on the 23rd, the drake Smew still going back and forth between Bewan and Hooking and the Green-winged Teal still on Gretchen.

                Decent wildfowl counts in this period included 420 Greylag Geese in amongst which was still a single White-fronted Goose, 205 Wigeon, 79 Teal, 27 Long-tailed Ducks and 8 Goldeneye while the glorious, sunny, calm conditions on the 24th produced some much improved wader counts with 289 Purple Sandpipers, 245 Turnstone and 33 Bar-tailed Godwits standing out.

                Two Hen Harriers on the 23rd included a ringtail at Brides and a fine adult male which cruised round the Obs several times after appearing to have come in from the south while passerines remained at a premium with the odd Snow Bunting seen at various sites and a couple more wintering Robins sticking their heads up during the fine weather on the 24th.

Purple Sandpipers - photo Simon Davies

19th -21st February

The steadily increasing wind and worsening weather over this period produced the main talking point which consisted of another influx of white-winged Gulls to the island starting with a single Glaucous Gull on the 19th, rising to 3 the following day and then a good total of 6 birds on the 21st along with a second-year Iceland Gull.   Other highlights included the Northern Harrier making several appearances around Brides Loch, the drake Smew commuting between Bewan and Hooking and the drake Green-winged Teal happily residing on Gretchen Loch.

                Peak wildfowl counts included 2 Whooper Swans, 440 Greylag Geese, 175 Wigeon, 146 Teal, 15 Pintail, 25 Shoveler and 36 Tufted Ducks along with 15 Great-northern Divers, 16 Red-throated Divers and 6 Herons.

                Waders showed a general upturn in numbers (although increased coverage may have had something to do with it) as counts included 186 Lapwing, 92 Dunlin, 54 Sanderling and 95 Purple Sandpipers.   Other birds over these few days included single Peregrine and Merlin whizzing around and the few Passerines lingering on the island included counts of 8 Redwing, 7 Linnets and single wintering Robin and Chaffinch.

Glaucous Gull - photo Simon Davies

The Fulmars at least were having fun in the strong winds - photo Simon Davies

Thursday, 23 February 2017

16th-18th February

16th February

A modest total for the day with Red-throated Diver and 9 Great Northern Diver, Whooper Swan and 452 Greylag to start things off.  More wildfowl included one of the lingering adult White-fronted Geese, 3 Shelduck, 7 Long-tailed Duck and 4 Red-breasted Merganser.  Noteworthy waders amounted to 74 Lapwing, 2 Knot (the first of the year), 21 Bar-tailed Godwit.  31 Skylark was significantly higher than previous weeks suggesting a small early spring influx.  The calm sunny weather allowed the observatory team to encounter a few other passerines including a single Song Thrush and a flock of 67 Twite.  The warmth also encouraged swarms of flies to emerge at Westness where hundreds of Starlings gorged themselves, amongst them were at least two colour ringed individuals originating from Fair Isle.

17th February

Diver numbers were higher than usual with 10 Red-throated Diver, 15 Great Northern Diver and an adult winter Black-throated Diver in Nouster was a pleasant surprise as it's a scarce bird for the island.  Further noteworthy species included 120 Eider, 19 Long-tailed Duck, and 245 Tysties (numbers are really increasing with returning adult winter and summer birds in even proportions).  A colour ringed Shag from Fair Isle was a nice encounter.  Waders of note included 51 Oystercatcher, 2 Knot and 2 Jack Snipe.  Skylark numbers had increased to 49, a Song Thrush was at the observatory and a Rock Pipit was singing in Goo Geo, yet more signs of spring.

18th February

First and foremost a big welcome to Simon Davies, our new assistant warden, we look forward to a great time birding together!  We've already begun on fixing the traps with his guidance and have made more progress on indoor work, continued with report writing and fixing mist nets.  It's a busy and very productive time at the observatory at the moment.

On the bird front, 16 Red-throated Diver and 10 Great Northern Diver.  Wildfowl: 2 Pink-footed Geese, White-fronted Goose, Green-winged Teal, 7 Long-tailed Duck, 14 Goldeneye, drake Smew, and 2 Red-breasted Merganser.  The male Northern Harrier continues to delight and the first returning Lesser Black-backed Gull of the year was another promising sign of spring to come.  Further noteworthy species included 370 Golden Plover, 5 Knot, 148 Great Black-backed Gull, 9 Twite, 6 Snow Buntings.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

13th-15th February

13th February

Hooking loch revealed an interesting insight today, an owl pellet was found by the edge of the loch. Examination of the pellet suggests it came from an Eared Owl species but unfortunately no owl could not be found on the island. The drake Smew and 5 Eurasian White-fronted Geese could also be found around Hooking along with 3 Whooper Swans. Other figures from today include 50 Tysties, 131 Lapwing, 63 Dunlin, 8 Sanderling, and a Chaffinch.

14th February

A sunny yet chilly Valentine's Day highlights include the drake Smew and a ring-tailed Hen Harrier at Hooking loch. Large flocks of waders were seen on the Links with 50 Ringed Plovers, 29 Sanderling, and 28 Bar-tailed Godwits all feeding along the shore line.

15th February

The flock of 6 Snow Buntings are still hanging around the north end of the island. A juvenile Iceland Gull and Glaucous Gull could also be found on the north side of the island. Diver numbers have remained similar over the past few days with today's count being 7 Red-throated Divers and 9 Great Northern Divers. Counts from today include 5 Shelduck, 123 Eider, 6 Long-tailed Ducks, a ring-tailed Hen Harrier, a Peregrine Falcon, and 99 Tysties.

                                                  Great Northern Divers (Larissa Simlik)

10th-12th February

10th February

A wider coverage on the island allowed us to achieve a greater wildfowl count and some attention was directed to the sea.  8 Red-throated Diver, 5 Great Northern Diver, 2 Red-breasted Merganser and 21 Tysties.  Wildfowl included 253 Wigeon, 64 Teal, Green-winged Teal, 12 Pintail, 21 Shoveler, 13 Tufted Duck, 25 Long-tailed Duck, Goldeneye and the lingering drake Smew.  We were very fortunate to host a second Hen Harrier a stunning male joining the remaining ringtail on the island.  Further highlights included Peregrine, 2 Linnet, 11 Twite and 6 Grey Heron.  Finally, notably high counts: 42 Coot, 93 Lapwing, 21 Bar-tailed Godwit, 43 Curlew, 35 Rock Dove, and 11 Redwing.

11th February

Little time was spent in the field but a remarkably good tally still makes for an enjoyable winter birding scene.  Notable birds included 2 Great Northern Diver, 37 Tysties, 3 Goldeneye, Smew, Peregrine, 22 Snipe, 5 Skylark, the lingering male Northern Harrier and the White-billed Diver was resighted for the third time from Dennis Head (presumably the same individual as that at the same location on the 2nd and 9th Feb).

12th February

Birding from Twingness, the south western corner of the island has heralded some of the first signs of spring with displaying Eider and 107 Tysties (our first triple figure count of the year) and some were even heard singing.  Other birds of note included 9 Red-throated Diver, a great total of 29 Great Northern Diver and a Little Auk flying south past  the point.  Other notable species included 2 Whooper Swan, Eurasian White-fronted Goose, 102 Teal, Green-winged Teal, 42 Mallard, 12 Long-tailed Duck, Hen Harrier, Northern Harrier, a Merlin in off the sea from the south west, 75 Purple Sandpiper, 9 Snipe, our first Pied Wagtail of the year, 6 Fieldfare, 10 Redwing, 4 Raven and a Chaffinch.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

6th-9th February

6th Feb

Bits and pieces include Great Northern Diver, Green-winged Teal lingering on Gretchen, Peregrine and a modest count of 21 Dunlin.  3 Sanderling were a notable count given the surprise absence of this species so far this year with the exception of a single bird in January.

8th Feb

The 7th was incredibly windy and with plenty of indoor chores taking priority we decided to leave birding until the 8th.  Even by then the wind had only subsided slightly enabling a Glaucous Gull, Great Northern Diver and 11 Twite to be found.

9th Feb

Our best opportunity to head out in the field and achieve some birding for the first time in several days arrived following a long period of strong southerly winds.  As they weakened a seawatch was in order and produced 4 Red-throated Diver, 8 Great Northern Diver, 8 Long-tailed Duck, 9 Red-breasted Merganser, 122 Kittiwake, 9 Tysties.  The standout highlight was the reappearance of the 1st winter White-billed Diver (assumed to be the individual from 2nd Feb) which lingered for two hours in front of the seawatch hide offering remarkably close views at times and great enjoyment to us lucky volunteers.  Perambulations around the island produced the first Song Thrush of the year, drake Smew, ringtail Hen Harrier, Jack Snipe, 10 Fieldfare, 5 Redwing, Chaffinch.  Waterfowl of note included lingering 6 Eurasian White-fronted Geese, 2 Mute Swan, 69 Wigeon, 2 Gadwall, 6 Pintail and 5 Goldeneye.

3rd-5th February

3rd Feb

Some modest wildfowl counts included 4 Whooper Swan, 2 Pink-footed Geese, 162 Wigeon, 20 Tufted Duck, 5 Goldeneye, Smew and 7 Red-breasted Merganser.  184 Purple Sandpiper represented another peak in their numbers and were coupled with high counts of 28 Bar-tailed Godwit and 127 Turnstone.  The strong winds also brought in many gulls including 121 Herring Gulls, 319 Common Gulls and 3 juvenile Iceland Gulls.

4th Feb

Highlights included 6 Red-throated Diver, 2 Great Northern Diver, juvenile Iceland Gull, juvenile Glaucous Gull, 8 Tysties and 158 auk sp. on seawatch.

5th Feb

More of the same but the lingering winter specialties continue to inspire.  2 Red-throated Diver, 3 Great Northern Diver, 10 Long-tailed Duck, Peregrine, juvenile Iceland Gull, 10 Tysties, 7 Sylarks and 2 Pink-footed Geese.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

1st-2nd February

Winter birding really is good fun up here in Orkney.  We've been very fortunate to encounter white-winged gulls on an almost daily basis.

1st February

The first day of the month brought with it an adult Iceland Gull which glided past Bride's Point before drifting up the coast.  It's outer primaries seemed to show dusky grey outer webs to the trailing half of the wing suggestive of ssp. kumlieni although this was never confirmed with more satisfactory views.  It associated with dozens of Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls, 146 Common Gulls and 7 Back-headed Gulls touring around the island.  Other notable species on the 1st included the lingering adult male Northern Harrier, Merlin, Peregrine, 5 Tysties, 5 Red-throated Diver and 3 Great Northern Diver.  The majority of our effort invested in the field has been focused on the southern portion of the island but still yielded modest totals of wildfowl including 189 Wigeon, 62 Teal, drake Green-winged Teal, 10 Pintail, 7 Long-tailed Duck, 3 Goldeneye and 2 Red-breasted Merganser.  Wader totals amounted to 93 Oystercatcher, 157 Lapwing, 28 Purple Sandpiper, 76 Dunlin, 12 Snipe, 34 Curlew, 38 Redshank and 51 Turnstone.  A yearling Common Seal at Bride's Point was an encouraging sight to round the day off.

2nd February

The day seemed to be set for a similar agenda as a juvenile Glaucous Gull glided past the obs as soon as we set foot out of the door.  A further 2 Iceland Gulls made an appearance cruising along the east coast and included the lingering 2nd winter and a new adult.  These associated with 274 Common Gull and 83 Great Black-backed Gull.  A morning seawatch from Dennis Head was very exciting as a 1st winter White-billed Diver drifted slowly north at 10:40-10:50am.  An additional 4 Great Northern Diver, 3 Red-throated Diver, 3 Little Auk and our first Bonxie of the year also passed by.  Further noteworthy species included 2 Mute Swan, 2 Whooper Swan, Shelduck, 8 Pintail, 135 Eider, 18 Long-tailed Duck and drake Smew.  A mixture of additional highlights included 2 Merlin, 23 Bar-tailed Godwit, 6 Snow Buntings and the first Goldfinch of the year.

juvenile Glaucous Gull (George Gay)

adult Iceland Gull (George Gay)

30-31st January

The theme for the past week has been... wind.  Lots of it but it has been responsible for a rather productive period in terms of gulls.  Little time was spent in the field due to the weather and indoor work taking priority but brief excursions on the 30th produced 9 Long-tailed Ducks, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 26 Bar-tailed Godwits and the lingering 6 Eurasian White-fronted Geese.

The 31st brought with it little change in the bird scene with the lingering juvenile Glaucous Gull, 6 White-fronted Geese and 2 Mute Swans being the only noteworthy species.