Saturday, 29 April 2017


Not going say too much now, too busy with organising things and having a beer but here's a few pictures of today's Red-winged Blackbird...tomorrow is looking mental to say the least!
Once found, it quickly settled into a routine of feeding out of view in an Iris bed and once flushed, flying like a dart, straight to land on these gas canisters (perhaps she likes the colour?!), showing very well for 5 minutes then flying straight back to the same spot in the Irises...organised flush anyone?

all pictures taken by the finder, Simon Davies

27th and 28th April

The strong, cold northerly wind was still a feature through the morning of the 27th but this gradually eased down through the day to become very pleasant by the evening; new birds were again at a premium with 133 Redshank the only species that showed some turnover including a couple of noisy flocks seen heading high to the north at dusk.   The pair of Garganey were still present while the other highlights were 5 Lapland Buntings and 7 Snow Buntings which included some awesome looking males.

                Other migrant totals of note comprised a Merlin, 2 Whimbrel, a Swallow, 83 Wheatears, 15 Redwings and single Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Brambling.   An hour’s seawatch was also noteworthy with some good totals seen passing the hide with 714 Kittiwakes, 120 Guillemots, 106 Puffins and 359 Auk sp. counted.

Who shall I eat next?  photo Simon Davies

                A completely different day on the 28th saw the merest breath of a northerly wind gradually swing round to the east by the afternoon coupled with plenty of unbroken sunshine meant that it was a joy to be out in field for once!   There were a few new birds to mention with the first Ruff of the year on Ancum, a Black Redstart at the lighthouse, Siskin and Willow Warbler at Holland and at least 4 Barnacle Geese floating around.

                A bit of visible migration in the fine conditions included a Merlin heading high to the north along with a trickle of Herring Gulls drifting over extremely high up; waders also showed some increases with counts of 167 Oystercatchers, 57 Sanderling, 176 Purple Sandpipers, 7 Black-tailed Godwits and 456 Turnstone.   Other migrant totals consisted of 9 Great-northern Divers, another Merlin, 3 Swallows, a White Wagtail, 42 Wheatears (a bit of a clearout of birds in the fine weather), single Song Thrush, Blackcap and Rook, 2 Chiffchaffs, 3 Lapland Buntings and 6 Snow Buntings.
Stunner of a Snow Bunting,  photo Simon Davies

Garganey,  photo Simon Davies

Turnstone are looking pretty smart now,  photo Simon Davies 

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

25th and 26th April

The 25th was another tough day to be out in the field with a blazing force 7 cold northerly wind bringing with it nasty little snow and hail showers; we battled away though but the rewards were slim as the highlights could be summarised as 24 Black-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel, 21 Pink-footed Geese and single Woodpigeon, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Brambling all looking pretty uncomfortable trying to find some shelter.

I think this is art!  photo Simon Davies

                The following day, although hardly spring-like, had slightly lighter winds, more sunshine and fewer showers meaning that for at least a few minutes at a time it was enjoyable to be out and about!   Waders showed some notable increases across the island as counts included 77 Ringed Plover, 498 Golden Plover, 2 Knot (the first ones since 9th March!), 177 Purple Sandpipers, 17 Dunlin, 24 Black-tailed Godwit, 280 Turnstone and 3 Whimbrel.

                The Green-winged Teal on Gretchen, the Black-throated Diver in Nouster and the pair of Garganey on Hooking were all still present while other little bits included 8 Great-northern Divers, 39 Pink-footed Geese seen heading north and a Manx Shearwater passed the seawatch hide along with a trickle of Auks.

                There was a big increase to 115 Wheatears across the island but they were the only landbirds that showed any real signs of movement as other things of note consisted of a Sparrowhawk, a Swallow, 10 Redwings and 7 Snow Buntings.

Wheatears,  photos Simon Davies

Snow Bunting,  photo Simon Davies

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

23rd and 24th April

The wind did die off on the 23rd but the long spells of light rain (including pretty much all afternoon!) spoiled the effect slightly; a two hour seawatch from first light when the weather was at its best for the day produced 2 Manx Shearwaters, 5 Arctic Skuas, 10 Bonxies, 615 Fulmars including a smart dark Blue Fulmar, 330 Kittiwakes and a Long-tailed Duck.

                There were other birds to see in the wet conditions with the highlights being a juvenile Iceland Gull on Trolla and some notable Corvid passage with the first Jackdaw of the year along with 21 Carrion Crows while the count of 14 Hooded Crows probably included some migrants.   Other little bits of note comprised the drake Garganey, 4 Whimbrel, a Swallow, a steadily increasing 53 Wheatears and 10 Redwings.

Iceland Gull,  photo Simon Davies

                Any vague thoughts of spring were swiftly banished the following morning with a freezing cold northerly wind bringing with it long periods of heavy snow forcing most folks to abandon their census routes until the afternoon which, in fairness was very pleasant with plenty of sunshine; the Black-throated Diver reappeared in Nouster with 5 Great-northern Divers while there was some wader passage noted including a smart flock of 39 stunning summer plumaged Black-tailed Godwits along with a Grey Plover, 516 Golden Plover, 83 Sanderling, 142 Redshank and 299 Turnstone across the island.

                An increased 59 Wheatears and 495 Meadow Pipits also showed that some birds were making it through despite the wintery conditions, while other landbirds included 6 Snow Buntings, 2 Lapland Buntings, a Chiffchaff, 9 Redwings and 3 Woodpigeons.   Single Merlin and Sparrowhawk dashed around while the 2 Whooper Swans and 24 Pink-footed Geese with 472 Greylags were counted; meanwhile the 6 Sandwich Terns half-heartedly carried fish around and displayed.
Black-throated Diver,  photo Simon Davies

The first Lapwing chicks were noted, hence much aggression!  photo Simon Davies

While the Eider boys just fought amongst themselves,  photo Simon Davies

Saturday, 22 April 2017

21st and 22nd April

A couple of days dominated by strong, cold westerlies so highlights were hard to come by; there was plenty of sunshine with only a few nasty, little showers to worry about on the 21st and while the first Arctic Tern of the year in Nouster was the standout bird of the day there was little else to shout about.

                The drake Garganey was by himself on Ancum, the 2 Whooper Swans remained, 3 lovely breeding plumaged Black-tailed Godwits floated around and 359 Golden Plover were counted while landbirds were represented by 36 Wheatears, a Swallow, 7 Redwings, a Chiffchaff and 6 Snow Buntings.

Black Guillemot,  photo Simon Davies

                It was still bright and breezy the following day with highlights even harder to come by; fluctuating wader numbers proved to be the most interesting feature with 95 Sanderling on The Links a notable increase along with 2 Black-tailed Godwits and 2 Whimbrel while 4 Great-northern Divers were offshore, 45 Wheatears were an increase and a single Snow Bunting remained.
Bar-tailed Godwit,  photo Simon Davies

High winds, high waves, high Eiders,  photo Simon Davies

Friday, 21 April 2017

19th and 20th April

The 19th was a lovely day, warmish and calmish with a couple of additions to the year list to mention as there were 2 Whimbrel – singles on the west coast and at Brides and a single Pale-bellied Brent Goose also on the coast at Brides; the day’s other highlights included another Siberian Chiffchaff trapped at the Obs (a British control bird), the Green-winged Teal still on Gretchen and the pair of Garganey still on Ancum.

                Wader passage was prominent with 222 Redshank the most obvious with several, very noisy migrant flocks passing through along with 3 Black-tailed Godwits and 314 Turnstone; the usual two pairs of Bonxies were back on territory along the west coast as well as a returning Arctic Skua – a distinctive dark phase bird with an obvious notch in its wing that has been returning for at least several years now.

Siberian Chiffchaff,  photo Simon Davies

                Landbirds included a Sparrowhawk, an eared-Owl sp. seen briefly at dusk, a Swallow, 236 Meadow Pipits, a White Wagtail, a Robin, 20 Wheatears, 25 Redwings, 2 Chiffchaffs, 2 Willow Warblers, 2 Rook, 2 Bramblings and a good roost count of 260 Linnets at Holland.

                The following day was the exact opposite with a strong westerly wind bringing with it sheets of low cloud and drizzle which drifted in and out throughout; migrants predictably took a hit in the damp conditions as landbirds included a Merlin, 7 Sand Martins, 40 Wheatears, a Fieldfare and 5 Snow Buntings.

                Seven Pink-footed Geese near the Obs and a Grey Plover on The Links were the only other birds of note through this quiet day while 395 Black-headed Gulls were counted around the Lochs all settling down to breed – counts will soon become much more difficult as they are swallowed by the growing Irises.
Returning Arctic Skua,  photo Larissa Simulik

First Whimbrel of the year,  photo Larissa Simulik

Twite,  photo Simon Davies

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

17th and 18th April

Heavy snow showers on the 17th driven across the island by a freezing cold, brisk northerly wind persisted until late morning when it brightened up into a lovely, sunny afternoon (albeit keeping the cold N wind); most people delayed their census until the afternoon when there were a good range of highlights seen in the much improved weather – a non-breeding plumaged White-billed Diver which flew past the seawatch hide at 11:45 was probably the headline bird but it had a supporting cast of a good looking Siberian Chiffchaff on the beach at Scottigar (an unusual spring record) and the first Kestrel and Willow Warbler of the year.

                There were still 869 Greylags still on the island along with 2 Whooper Swans and 8 Pink-footed Geese while the Green-winged Teal was again on Gretchen; 510 Golden Plover were counted showing that they are still building up prior to heading north and 95 Purple Sandpipers were also still present on the island.

                Other little bits consisted of a Merlin, single Woodpigeon, Robin and Song Thrush, 32 Wheatears, 3 Chiffchaffs and 2 Bramblings.

Siberian Chiffchaff,  photo Simon Davies

                An absolutely stunning, flat calm morning on the 18th was perfect conditions for a whole island Black Guillemot count which produced an all-time high figure of 841 breeding plumaged birds – at least this seabird seems to be going from strength to strength as their inshore feeding habits are not subject to the same environmental pressures that other Auk species are faced with at the moment.

                The excellent conditions and coverage also produced a range of other species including the first Manx Shearwater and 2 Arctic Skuas of the year and an excellent count of 42 Great-northern Divers along with the Black-throated Diver reappearing in Nouster (again!), 4 Red-throated Divers, 8 Long-tailed Ducks and 18 Red-breasted Mergansers while a huge feeding frenzy of 440+ Kittiwakes off Torness failed to produce the hoped-for Cetaceans.

Golden Plovers continued to rise with 579 counted in East Loch Park while a range of other landbirds were highlighted by a flyover Crossbill and the Siberian Chiffchaff still near Rue; migrants through the day also included 4 Woodpigeons, a Collared Dove, a Sparrowhawk, 2 Swallows, 21 Wheatears, 12 Redwings, single Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap, 2 Goldcrests, 6 Bramblings, the 3 Lapland Buntings still and 3 lingering Snow Buntings.
Several Tysties with last year's geolocators have been seen coming ashore - just have to catch them to get the data back now!  photo Simon Davies

The Ravens are super aggressive now, this one did not appreciate the Heron flying nowhere near their nest!  photo Simon Davies

Collared Dove,  photo Larissa Simulik

Monday, 17 April 2017

15th and 16th April

A dreadful morning on the 15th with a blasting, cold NW wind bringing wintery showers every few minutes, it did brighten up in the afternoon but we were full into sheep punding mode by then so coverage was slightly reduced – the Northern Harrier was still floating around though and the 3 Lapland Buntings were showing well, with the males beginning to look especially special!

                Other little bits included a White Wagtail, 2 Robins, 16 Wheatears, a Chiffchaff, 11 Redwings, a Rook and a Brambling.

Lapland Bunting,  photo Simon Davies

                A much nicer day on the 16th saw plenty of unbroken sunshine throughout the day but it was slightly marred by the very cold, northerly wind cutting through the gloriousness; the Northern Harrier and the 3 Lapland Buntings were again amongst the highlights along with a/the pair of Garganey on Ancum.

                There were still plenty of lingering winter wildfowl including 2 Whooper Swans, 17 Pink-footed Geese, 4 Long-tailed Ducks and 20 Red-breasted Mergansers while waders were also still present in numbers with 346 Golden Plover, 117 Purple Sandpipers, 11 Bar-tailed Godwits, 247 Turnstone and a Black-tailed Godwit waiting, like us for the spring to progress a bit further.

                At least 8 Lesser Black-backed Gulls constituted a notable influx and a little male Sparrowhawk was also new in while landbird migrants largely remained the same with a Robin, 17 Wheatears, 15 Redwings, a Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrests, a Rook and a Brambling creating a sense of Deja vu.
Brambling,  photo Simon Davies

Displaying Red-breasted Mergansers,  photo Simon Davies

Saturday, 15 April 2017

13th and 14th April

A calmer couple of days albeit with the still brisk wind remaining steadfastly cold and firmly in the NW; there was however some signs of wildfowl on the move with many species showing increased counts around the lochs on the 13th including the first 3 Garganey (a drake and 2 females) of the year on Hooking along with island figures of 2 Whooper Swans, 22 Pink-footed Geese (with a flock of 19 near Howar), 783 Greylag Geese, 9 Gadwall, 18 Shoveler and 30 Tufted Duck while the single Goldeneye remained and 6 Red-throated Divers and 15 Great-northern Divers were counted on calmer seas.

                A few wader species were also up including 274 Oystercatchers, 343 Golden Plover, 154 Purple Sandpipers and 409 Turnstone while a Water Rail was squealing away in Brides.    Landbirds of note largely consisted of lingering birds but some turnover was evident with counts of 6 Woodpigeons, 7 Rock Pipits, 57 Pied Wagtails, 3 Robins, 33 Wheatears, 52 Redwing, 3 Lapland Buntings and single Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Snow Bunting.

Merlin,  photo Simon Davies

                The 14th was a pretty nice day with plenty of sunshine but also plenty of showers to keep us on our toes; the first Swallow of the year was the most notable new arrival while the rest of the day’s highlights consisted of lingering quality with the Northern Harrier drifting around, the Green-winged Teal still on Gretchen and a pair of Garganey still on Hooking.

                Other birds of note in no particular order consisted of 3 Merlins, the huge, young female Peregrine again, 5 Woodpigeons, a bit of a corvid influx with 3 Rooks and 6 Carrion Crows, 43 Redwing, a smart male Brambling, an increased roost count of 170 Linnets, 5 Snow Buntings and the 3 Lapland Buntings still.
Bar-tailed Godwit,  photo Simon Davies

'perhaps you should check the wind direction before vomiting on someone'?!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

11th and 12th April

The 11th was a dreadful day with persistent rain pretty much all day, swept across the island by a biting, very cold NW wind!   Census work carried on regardless though and in the difficult conditions a few highlights were unearthed with an adult Iceland Gull at Garso, the Northern Harrier still (hanging around Brides with a ringtail Hen Harrier – perhaps that’s why he’s lingering deep into this [alleged] spring!), a Lapland Bunting and the first signs of any Goose passage with 17 Pink-footed Geese seen coming in from the south.

                Other counts worth mentioning included 2 Goldeneye still, 145 Purple Sandpipers and 206 Turnstone round the coast, a Woodpigeon, just 6 Wheatears, 31 Redwings and single Chiffchaff and Snow Bunting.

Tysties,  photo Simon Davies

                There were some good spells on sunshine the following day but the howling, cold NW wind still battered the island and with sheep punding taking place at many areas along the east coast the birding rewards were even sparser through the day!   Birds of note included the Green-winged Teal remaining on Gretchen, the Northern Harrier floating past the Landrover at point blank range as we were waiting to start chasing sheep, 14 Wheatears, a Blackcap, a Rook and 6 Snow Buntings.

Green-winged Teal,  photo Simon Davies
Hooded Crow,  photo Simon Davies

Greylag Geese,  photo Simon Davies

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

9th and 10th April

A reasonable morning on the 9th before a band of rain moved in just after lunch saw a trickle of new birds across the island including the first Blackcap of the year at Bewan and the first Collared Dove of the year at Holland; a varied spread of other landbird migrants comprised 2 Woodpigeons, a Sand Martin, 315 Meadow Pipits, 9 Rock Pipits, 50 Pied Wagtails, 27 Wheatears, 32 Redwing, 2 Chiffchaffs, a mobile flock of 6 Carrion Crows and single Snow Bunting and Lapland Bunting.

Blackcap, photo Larissa Simulik

                The usual mix of other bits and pieces included a ringtail Hen Harrier, 3 Merlins up the west coast (one of which caught a Redwing), the drake Green-winged Teal still, a decent count of 24 Red-breasted Mergansers and at least 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls which have been a bit slow in getting going this spring while a pod of 2-3 Risso’s Dolphins were close inshore off Torness.

                With the returning and victorious Green Champions of the Flyway team the coverage of the island leapt up from good to comprehensive the following day, so a decent spread of migrants were dug out despite the strong and very cold NW wind making things tricky out in the field; an early morning seawatch produced more Auks bombing past the north end including 125 Puffins and 1,293 Guillemot/Razorbills.

                The Northern Harrier is generating a range of speculation concerning its continued presence on the island – will he leave at all this year, well not just yet as he was drifting around all over the place today along with the ringtail Hen Harrier, 3 Merlins and single Sparrowhawk and Peregrine (a huge female who caught a Lapwing at Phisligar).   A single Barnacle Goose was new for the year when it flew in from the south while the Whooper Swan and Pink-footed Goose were still with 733 Greylag Geese.

                Landbird migrant totals through the day included 6 Woodpigeons, 277 Meadow Pipits, a White Wagtail with 46 Pied Wagtails, an increased 64 Redwings, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Goldcrests and 4 Snow Buntings while the Green-winged Teal remained, 9 Red-throated Divers and 3 Great-northern Divers were offshore and a single Grey Plover was seen.
This Peregrine really didn't want to relinquish her Lapwing breakfast but did in the end!  photo Simon Davies

While this Merlin was certainly more determined to hold onto his Redwing prize when accidentally flushed.  photo Simon Davies

Sunday, 9 April 2017

7th and 8th April

The winds gradually eased off which combined with some long periods of sunshine made it a much more pleasant couple of days to be out and about; the Kingfisher remained around Hooking and the Green-winged Teal was still on Gretchen through the 7th when there were also notable counts of 13 Shelduck, 13 Long-tailed Ducks and 13 Red-breasted Mergansers with a lingering Goldeneye, 3 Black-tailed Godwits and 381 Golden Plover while the recently arrived pair of Great Skuas seemed settled on the west coast terrorising all in their path.

                Landbirds were still slow to arrive as befits the tail end of a spell of nasty, strong westerlies as counts included 3 Woodpigeons, 10 Wheatears, 11 Redwings, single Carrion Crow and Brambling and 5 Snow Buntings.

Short-eared Owl, photo Larissa Simulik

                Still bright with lightish winds on the 8th and as a result there was a trickle of migrants making landfall including a little influx of 35 Wheatears, 288 Meadow Pipits and 66 Pied Wagtails along with a Short-eared Owl, 3 Fieldfares, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Rook and single Brambling and Snow Bunting.   The first Glaucous Gull since 27th March was also noteworthy - a second winter off The Lurn.

                The Northern Harrier made yet another appearance but there was no sign of the Kingfisher while there were still some decent wildfowl counts with the single Whooper Swan and Pink-footed Goose with 697 Greylags, 215 Wigeon, 12 Pintail, the Goldeneye, 16 Red-breasted Mergansers and 4 Great-northern Divers.   Waders were also well represented with counts of 280 Oystercatchers, 138 Purple Sandpipers and 354 Turnstone.

Black-headed Gull, photo Simon Davies

Great Black-backed Gull, photo Simon Davies

The usual response when a Bonxie flies through! photo Simon Davies

Thursday, 6 April 2017

5th and 6th April

A rough couple of days with the blazing westerly wind making census pretty hard work but we all put the time in and there were birds to be seen; the Northern Harrier was still floating around and the Green-winged Teal yet again reappeared on Gretchen on the 5th while wildfowl and wader counts included 7 Gadwall, 15 Red-breasted Mergansers, single Whooper Swan and Goldeneye, 424 Golden Plover, a single Grey Plover (only the third record so far this year) and 221 Turnstone.

                Passerines continued to trickle in despite the weather as counts comprised 190 Meadow Pipits, 9 Rock Pipits, 10 Wheatears, 15 Redwings, a Rook and 4 Snow Buntings.

Raven, photo Simon Davies

                The year’s rarest bird – our unexpected Kingfisher was re-found in a different ditch bordering Hooking on the 6th while the Green-winged Teal was still present (we’re beginning to wonder how long he spends elsewhere and how long he spends hiding in the ditches at the back of Gretchen, admittedly a site which gets checked several times a day!).

                Other little bits during this quieter day included 2 Great Skuas – the first time they have come ashore onto Torness, single Peregrine, Sparrowhawk and Merlin, 13 Wheatears and a Chiffchaff.

Sandwich Tern, photo Simon Davies
Grey Plover, photo Larissa Simulik