Sunday, 30 July 2017

28th and 29th July

Nice and sunny on the 28th with a brisk SE breeze; waders were again the main interest with a new Little Stint on Gretchen the highlight along with 66 Knot (including a Norwegian colour ringed individual at Bewan), 60 Dunlin, 9 Black-tailed Godwits, a Green Sandpiper, 124 Turnstone and a single lingering Red-necked Phalarope, still on Gretchen.

                Other little bits included a single Garganey still, 4 Collared Doves still and a Swift which was seen going to roost in the wall near the Gretchen hide and promptly was caught and ringed – only the 8th to be ringed on the island.

Young Starlings are looking interesting at the moment, moulting into adult plumage and covered in pollen!

                Another lovely, sunny day on the 29th but with much lighter winds creating a very pleasant day out in the field; the nets at Holland first thing produced the first juvenile Willow Warbler of the autumn – the first signs of returning passerine migrants along with locally dispersing juvenile Reed Bunting and three Swallows (two of which were ringed as chicks nearby).  

                Waders through the day included 465 Golden Plover, 128 Lapwing, 128 Sanderling, 7 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Green Sandpiper, a Wood Sandpiper at Brides, 176 Turnstone and again, a single Red-necked Phalarope on Gretchen – which, upon giving incredibly close views today was seen to be carrying an orange geolocator on its right tibia!   Despite bobbing around within feet of observers it was impossible to get any details on the ring but I suppose it is not supposed to be looked at in the field.

                Also seen through day were at least 7 Herons (including 4 which flew south offshore), the Black-throated Diver again, 24 Teal and a single Swift.

This is the best view of the Red-necked Phalaropes geolocator but we still haven't traced where it originates, Shetland is the best guess

The first juvenile Willow Warbler of the autumn

This colour ringed Knot was ringed in Porsanger, at the top of Norway in 2007 and has been re-sighted there every year since, as well as a few winter/passage sightings in The Netherlands.   This is the first time this bird has been seen over this side of the North Sea - a great series of re-sightings building a detailed picture of movements

All pictures, Simon Davies

Saturday, 29 July 2017

26th and 27th July

A pleasant couple of days with plenty of sunshine and light(ish) winds (with the exception of a very wet afternoon on the 26th!) but there was little to shout about in terms of new arrivals; the 2 Red-necked Phalaropes on Gretchen and the Black-throated Diver in Nouster were still in place on the 26th while another dispersing juvenile Stonechat which popped up at the Obs was a bit of a surprise.  

Other birds of note included 4 Manx Shearwaters offshore in the morning, 6 Whimbrel up the west coast, at least 8 Arctic Skuas still terrorising the Black Guillemots bringing food into their colonies and a sprinkle of out-of-context, dispersing Sedge Warblers lurking in random patches of long grass giving us a hint of the autumn birding yet to come.

Arctic Skuas are still hassling the Tysties

A stunning summers day on the 27th was still ornithologically quiet with a Kestrel and a Common Redpoll the only new arrivals while other birds of note comprised the 2 Red-necked Phalaropes still (although one of them is becoming rather elusive, spending long periods of time elsewhere), 2 Herons, a Swift and counts of 275 Oystercatchers, 86 Dunlin and 9 Black-tailed Godwits.
Our one Skua chick is near fledging but is pretty skinny, so it hasn't been an easy time for them

The last of the few Arctic Terns are now flying

There are many Fulmar chicks though,   photos Simon Davies

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

24th and 25th July

Overcast through the 24th with spells of light drizzle coming and going but the slightly miserable conditions did drop a few waders in through the day, including the first Wood Sandpiper (a juvenile at Cauldhame) and Little Stint (an adult on Gretchen) of the autumn.   The rest of the day’s birds (as has been the case through the last month) consisted of wader counts, which today were 326 Oystercatchers, 343 Golden Plover, 11 Black-tailed Godwits (dropped in briefly to Gretchen in the afternoon), 7 Bar-tailed Godwits, 7 Whimbrel, 123 Turnstone and 2 Red-necked Phalaropes again.

                Other little bits of note through the day included 2 Red-throated Divers and the Black-throated Diver again in Nouster, 2 Manx Shearwaters and a single Storm Petrel offshore during a little seawatch, the 2 juvenile Garganey again on Gretchen and the 4 Collared Doves around still.

Arctic Tern

                A similar day on the 25th but with lighter winds and fewer drizzly spells and yet again, all the birds to mention were the fluctuating wader counts across the island (there is a daily turnover of birds but it does vary a little bit down to coverage); good observer coverage today produced 323 Oystercatchers, 599 Golden Plover, 180 Lapwing, 81 Knot, 146 Sanderling (numbers are building every day), 5 Purple Sandpipers, 154 Dunlin, 9 Black-tailed Godwits, 24 Bar-tailed Godwits, 4 Whimbrel (high over to the south), 105 Curlew, 174 Redshank, a Greenshank, a Common Sandpiper (the first of the autumn at Westness), 171 Turnstone and the 2 Red-necked Phalarope.

                Single Red and Black-throated Diver in the bay, a single Heron on Ancum and a Swift over Hooking completed the day’s sightings while overnight ringing included 60 Storm Petrels, a couple of Arctic Terns and some juvenile Sedge Warblers while attempting a Pied Wagtail roost (the Wagtails failed to show!).
Wood Sandpiper

Black-tailed Godwit,   photos Simon Davies

Monday, 24 July 2017

22nd and 23rd July

Another similar day on the 22nd with plenty of bright sunshine but a brisk easterly wind to take the edge off; once again, waders dominated the migrant totals with some good coverage in between scouring the coast for Black Guillemot chicks producing some high counts including 372 Oystercatchers, 95 Sanderling and 326 Dunlin while the rest consisted of 39 Ringed Plover, 51 Knot, 2 Greenshank, 90 Redshank, 81 Turnstone, 5 Whimbrel and the 2 Red-necked Phalaropes still.

Fledgling Arctic Tern having a bit of a stretch

                Other bits and pieces comprised the Black-throated Diver again in Nouster, a Heron, 4 Collared Doves commuting between Howar and Holland and at least 4 Swifts moving south over the island.

                There was still plenty of sunshine on the 23rd but the wind had switched a little into the north and remained a bit chilly; single Greenshank and Green Sandpiper were noteworthy in amongst good totals of 439 Golden Plover and 154 Lapwings while the Black-throated Diver was still present, 3 Herons toured the island, the 2 Red-necked Phalaropes still spun round on Gretchen and a dispersing juvenile Sedge Warbler was caught in Holland.

Rocks (and a Purple Sandpiper)

1st summer Arctic Tern,   photos Simon Davies

Saturday, 22 July 2017

20th and 21st July

An awful day on the 20th with thick fog, low cloud, drizzle and spells of heavier rain pretty much throughout which, needless to say, limited observations and activity out in the field!  A single Red-necked Phalarope remained on Gretchen where 18 Teal represented a little arrival while a Swift was low over Garso and wader counts included 208 Oystercatchers in the central fields and 122 Dunlin at Westness.

Arctic Tern

                Bright and sunny on the 21st although the wind stayed prohibitively brisk; a large chunk of the day was spent visiting the dwindling Arctic Tern colonies to mop up a few late chicks but it seems that only around 10 chicks will manage to fledge this year.   Elsewhere, waders again provided most of the interest with 2 Greenshank seen to come in over one of the Tern colonies the pick along with 2 Red-necked Phalaropes again still, an increase to 29 Purple Sandpipers, 240+ Dunlin, 250+ Oystercatchers, 41 Sanderling, 3 Whimbrel, 42 Ringed Plover, 125+ Redshank, 40 Curlew (plus 17 seen heading out south) and 50 Turnstone while 3 Herons floated around.
Our one Arctic Skua chick is still going!

Many of the waders have fledged already but there are still a few Ringed Plovers to be found

Even when you are full grown, fledged and flying, you're not safe, as this big Shelduckling found out at Westness,   photos Simon Davies

Thursday, 20 July 2017

18th and 19th July

The wind had dropped right off by early morning on the 18th leaving a lovely, sunny, warm day allowing us to get out and about trying various ringing projects; we targeted some Sand Martins at our newly started colony which proved to be very successful as we caught 15 birds, including a good number of fledglings (it is especially good considering that before this year only a single Sand Martin had ever been ringed on the island!).   The rest of the morning was dominated by Black Guillemots, both mist-netting some adults and searching for the chicks – its proving to be another good breeding year for this species.

Many of the Black Guillemot chicks are near fledging

                We did get out and do some birding as well with the White-winged Black Tern being seen briefly again at Bewan with 5,000+ Arctic Terns while a Spotted Redshank at Brides was new for the year and the highlight of today’s wader counts which included 51 Knot, a Purple Sandpiper, 140 Dunlin, 2 Black-tailed Godwits and a Whimbrel.   Other birds of note consisted of a Manx Shearwater off The Lurn, 2 Herons, 4 Collared Doves and 60+ Pied Wagtails again in the roost at Ancum.

                The calm 18th proved to be just a brief respite from the wind as by the morning of the 19th a very strong and increasing easterly wind was blasting across the island making time in the field very hard work; as is the theme for most of the blog posts, waders formed most of the interesting sightings with single Greenshank (the first of the autumn) and Grey Plover new in, along with counts of 754 Golden Plover, 238 Oystercatchers (reduced numbers than of late), 56 Knot, 55 Sanderling (slight increase than of late), 251 Dunlin, 10 Bar-tailed Godwit, 5 Whimbrel and 81 Redshank while just 2 Red-necked Phalaropes were still on Gretchen.

                The limited other sightings through the day included a single Common Tern with a reduced 2,650 Arctic Terns (although numbers do fluctuate at the top end depending on how many are feeding offshore), a Heron, 8 Teal and 7 Shoveler.

Golden Plover numbers are building up slowly

Three broods of Great Black-backed Gulls are now flying around,   photos Simon Davies

Monday, 17 July 2017

16th and 17th July

A windy morning gradually increased to become a very windy afternoon on the 16th with some very nasty, heavy squalls whipping across the island; the White-winged Black Tern was quickly re-found on the rocks at Bewan again in the morning allowing more folks to connect with this stunning Tern, it soon disappeared though and only made a couple of other brief appearances but with a conservative count of 5,290 Arctic Terns made today there were plenty of flocks for it to hide in!   The 5 Red-necked Phalaropes were still on Gretchen along with the two juvenile Garganey from Hooking.

White-winged Black Tern at Bewan and Gretchen

                The open cut fields were again full of birds as totals included 484 Oystercatchers, 732 Golden Plover, 19 Bar-tailed Godwits and 67 Curlew with 113 Dunlin, 51 Redshank and a Whimbrel around the coast.   A short seawatch in the morning was also productive with single Sooty Shearwater and Manx Shearwater, 395 Fulmars, 158 Puffins and 1,700 large Auk sp. heading past the hide while 8 Black-tailed Godwits came in off the sea from the north.

                More Déjà vu on the 17th with another trip up to Bewan in windy and wet conditions early morning to get more folks onto the White-winged Black Tern which lingered for longer on the rocks with the large Arctic Tern flocks.   The last people caught up with the Tern in the afternoon when it popped up on Gretchen, rested for twenty minutes before floating around Loch Park for a while and disappearing once again towards Nouster – so far it hasn’t stopped in one place for more than half an hour!

                Gretchen also provided most of the day’s other interest with the 5 Red-necked Phalaropes, 2 Garganey and a Swift hawking with 12 Sand Martins; elsewhere, birds included the Black-throated Diver in the bay, 3 Black-tailed Godwits, 190+ Dunlin and 45 Knot.

Redshank,   photos Simon Davies

Sunday, 16 July 2017

14th and 15th July

Another nice day on the 14th apart from the freshening westerly breeze but due to late night Storm Petrel ringing and mist-netting adult Black Guillemots during the day coverage was slightly reduced; the nets at Holland first thing produced a surprise juvenile Robin (there hasn’t been a Robin seen on the island for over a month and I’m not even going to speculate where it’s come from!).  

                Other birds of note included the Black-throated Diver still in the bay, at least 2 Red-necked Phalaropes still on Gretchen and one of the over-summering Chiffchaffs still.

The surprise Robin!

                Heavy, persistent rain that arrived in the morning of the 15th and lasted for most of the day formed another excuse for reduced coverage of the island but we were glad for a little break from the fine weather giving us a rest from the breeding bird work and letting us undertake some indoor work for a change!  

                The first Green Sandpiper of the autumn (and only the second of the year) was flying round Ancum Loch where there were also 2 Red-necked Phalaropes – the first time this year that they have been seen away from Gretchen (where there were still three present) and given the turnover of birds its anyone’s guess whether they represent new passage individuals or are part of the recent flock of five.   There were large numbers of birds roosting and feeding in the cut grass fields around the centre of the island which included 235 Oystercatchers, 600 Golden Plover, 120 Lapwings, 16 Bar-tailed Godwits and 65 Curlew.

                A bit of a surprise late in the evening was the reappearance of the adult summer White-winged Black Tern in amongst 3,000+ Arctic Terns on the rocks near the dwindling colony at Iris Taing – it was a real sense of Déjà vu, with the bird just showing briefly to one (the same!) observer who was out late at night before disappearing before anyone else could catch up with it!   Also seen as we were out chasing Terns was a decent roost of 60+ Pied Wagtails at Ancum.
Storm Petrel

Tysties getting excited!

and a hatching Fulmar,   photos Simon Davies

Friday, 14 July 2017

12th and 13th July

Gorgeous, warm, calm and sunny again on the 12th with a light westerly breeze and most of our focus went on to the breeding Black Guillemots and Arctic Terns, both of which have some large chicks now (although the Tern chicks are few and far between) so there was little time to look around through the day.   The main event was the now 5 Red-necked Phalaropes bobbing around on Gretchen (one shy of the island record count!) while other waders comprised 3 Knot, 16 Sanderling, the Black-tailed Godwit again, 15 Bar-tailed Godwits, 2 Whimbrel and 110 Turnstone.  

                Overnight ringing then produced 20 Storm Petrels caught on the coast near the Obs along with a new Leach’s Petrel also trapped.

Another Red-necked Phalarope picture

                The fine weather continued on the 13th although the light breeze had swung round into the east; an unseasonal Grey Wagtail in Nouster continued on from the excellent spring we had for this, not quite annual migrant while a single Swift, 13 Sand Martins and 3 Collared Doves were also on the land.   The 5 Red-necked Phalaropes lingered on Gretchen, as did the Black-throated Diver in Nouster with other counts in the cut fields and on the beaches comprising 2 Herons, 197 Oystercatchers, 508 Golden Plovers, 45 Sanderling, 76 Dunlin, 81 Redshank and 250+ Common Gulls while at least 650 Puffins rafting offshore was also noteworthy.

                There was some interesting breeding news as two fresh juvenile Garganey appeared, flying round Hooking – the female has been seen sporadically through the summer and her sneaky ways have obviously paid off!   Five juvenile Shoveler on Gretchen probably came from the island with younger broods of 5 and 2 seen on Brides also encouraging and the first Arctic Tern chick was now flying round The Links – unfortunately, it looks it will be one of the few this year.

                More overnight ringing then produced another 25 Storm Petrels and more interestingly another 3 Leach’s Petrels – already a fantastic year for these hefty, cackling Petrels and we’re hardly into the season yet!
Juvenile Garganey

Fledgling Arctic Tern

Some big Black Guillemot chicks are in the rocks now,  photos Simon Davies

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

10th and 11th July

A cracking couple of days weather wise – calm, sunny and warm allowed us to put some good time in with ringing and birding; waders again dominated the log on the 10th as counts included 354 Golden Plover, 98 Knot, 36 Sanderling (a marked increase), a single Purple Sandpiper, 140 Dunlin, 32 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Whimbrel, 48 Curlew, 80 Turnstone and the 2 Red-necked Phalaropes still while 170 Common Gulls in the recently cut silage fields was also a slight increase.             
Despite the big numbers of Arctic Terns on the 9th seemingly moving off south in the evening (unfortunately taking the White-winged Black Tern with them!) there were still huge numbers lingering on the rocks off Bewan with 3,950 birds counted but nothing different could be found lurking in the flocks.   Landbirds were represented by 2 Chiffchaffs caught in Holland (an elusive over-summering bird and a new arrival), 3 Collared Doves and 23 Sand Martins.

Arctic Terns

                The cut silage fields were again the place to be in the fine weather on the 11th with a Black-tailed Godwit in amongst increased counts of 360 Oystercatchers, 72 Curlew and 400 Golden Plover; other birds of note included a Common Tern in amongst a reduced (but still impressive) 2550 Arctic Terns, the lingering Black-throated Diver and 2 Red-necked Phalaropes and a new adult Mute Swan turned up to annoy the pair on Ancum which have now got three small cygnets.

We're busy ringing Black Guillemots at the moment, they are at a wide range of breeding stages with pairs still on eggs and chicks about to fledge.   The mist-netting of adults have produced some interesting results including a couple of birds have were ringed as chicks in 1995 and 1996.

Black-tailed Godwit,   photos Simon Davies

Monday, 10 July 2017

8th and 9th July

A few showers in the morning of the 8th gave way to a pretty nice day until persistent rain arrived mid-afternoon; there were again 3 Red-necked Phalaropes on Gretchen which, based on plumages were all different to the birds that have been present this last week showing an amazing turnover of birds in this fantastic Phalarope year.   The first 2 returning Purple Sandpipers of the ‘autumn’ were along the west coast along with 38 Knot, 71 Dunlin, 37 Redshank and a further increase to 525 Golden Plover.

                The Black-throated Diver was once again in the bay and a single Storm Petrel was offshore while on the land a new migrant Sedge Warbler was caught at Holland where there were also 6 Collared Doves and 12 Sand Martins whizzing around.

Sedge Warbler

                Overcast and breezy in the morning of the 9th gave way to a breezy and sunny afternoon and there were notable influxes of a range of species; as mentioned in the last post there was another huge arrival of 4,340+ Arctic Terns (including 3,000 at Bewan and 900 at Trinley) – an early date for such high numbers, perhaps indicating a poor breeding season elsewhere.   This big influx of Arctic Terns produced the day’s undoubted highlight with a stunning adult summer WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERN found late in the evening at Ancum with a big flock of Arctics – unfortunately it only hung around for a few minutes and therefore only showed to one fortunate observer (a well earnt reward for still being out in the field at 10pm!).   A count of 267 Dunlin (204 on the beach at Westness) also represented a big arrival as did 701 Golden Plover (with 478 near Holland).

                Some more quality was added with a Quail flushed from Trebb, a female Garganey on Ancum (an over-summering bird but there has been no evidence of any successful breeding), still 3 Red-necked Phalaropes on Gretchen and the Black-throated Diver remained.   Waders continued to show a good turnover of birds as counts comprised 83 Knot, 4 Purple Sandpipers, single Black-tailed Godwit and Whimbrel and 74 Turnstone.

                Other little bits included single Red-throated and Great-northern Divers, a Heron which came in from the north, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, 4 Sandwich Terns and 39 Sand Martins including a fledged juvenile.

Two of the new Red-necked Phalaropes, both distinctive birds
Many Wheatear fledglings are out and about,   photos Simon Davies

Saturday, 8 July 2017

6th and 7th July

A pleasant couple of days, largely warm with the wind switching from the SE to the W; the biggest surprise on the 6th was the appearance of 2 fresh juvenile Stonechats at Holland, we’re as sure as you possibly can be that they were not from here and with the nearest breeding birds on Eday, it seems that that is the most likely source.   Another slightly unseasonal mid-summer Sparrowhawk was also seen at Holland along with 5 Collared Doves completed the other landbird highlights.

                Two Red-necked Phalaropes remained on Gretchen with the Black-throated Diver still in Nouster with a Great-northern Diver while other wader counts included 278 Golden Plover, 17 Sanderling, 3 Bar-tailed Godwits and 45 Curlew with a few small flocks seen heading south.


                Slightly wider coverage across the island on the 7th coupled with some obvious influxes produced some much-improved wader counts including 588 Golden Plover, 217 Oystercatchers, 59 Ringed Plover, 154 Lapwing, 6 Knot, 19 Sanderling, 47 Dunlin, 143 Redshank (including a big flock of 95 at Hooking and some obvious flocks heading south) and 51 Turnstone while a single male Red-necked Phalarope lingered on Gretchen.

                Other highlights through the day included a Quail flushed from Sandar and the Black-throated Diver still while other little bits comprised a Heron, 15 Teal, a Pintail, 2 Wigeon, 7 Gadwall and 38 Sand Martins.   With many of the Arctic Tern colonies struggling on the island, birds are starting to gather on their traditional rocks near Bewan and with an island count of 1,216 today (including hundreds of 1st summer birds) it’s definitely a place to check daily through July and August for that rare one…
Red-necked Phalarope

Swallow fledgling

Many of the Ringed Plovers have nested in the Arctic Tern colonies; this tiny chick was at Trinley

Thursday, 6 July 2017

4th and 5th July

A stunning day on the 4th, flat calm, warm and sunny, perhaps summer is finally here; 2 Red-necked Phalaropes remained on Gretchen while other wader counts included 368 Golden Plover and 38 Bar-tailed Godwits.   Offshore, the Black-throated Diver was again in Nouster along with 3 Red-throated and a Great-northern Diver, a single Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Manx Shearwaters, a Storm Petrel and a Sandwich Tern were seen.   5 Risso's Dolphins were also seen heading south off Torness which including a distinctive, almost white individual.

                On the land an excellent count of 46 Sand Martins were swooping around Ancum and was more than double the previous high count for the island (returning migrants plus the little breeding population), a Chiffchaff was in Holland and a Heron was stalking the lochs.

                With a glorious, flat calm morning we concentrated on mist-netting some Black Guillemots and monitoring the Arctic Tern colonies on the 5th so coverage was slightly reduced but there were now 4 Red-necked Phalaropes on Gretchen including two which were seen to come in off the sea along with 190 Golden Plover, 22 Knot, 37 Dunlin, 17 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel and 32 Redshank while a Sandwich Tern was still in Nouster and a Manx Shearwater and 3 Red-throated Divers were offshore.

                The Arctic Terns around the island are having a poor year as visits to all the colonies, which should be at early / mid chick stage have revealed that there are only three sites where birds are still going (Gretchen, Trinley and North Links) although previously failed individuals are swelling numbers with second attempts at these sites and there were some decent sized chicks running around, especially at North Links.
Tysties are doing well

But have to deal with constant Arctic Skua attacks

who have their own chicks to feed!   photos Simon Davies