Sunday, 28 January 2018

18th-28th January

After a fantastic start to the year things have slowed down a little towards the latter parts of the month.
The highlights have been spaced out over the last ten or so days, the 18th didn’t produce much in the way of birds, the 19th although still quiet, produced 2 Glaucous Gulls at Bewan and on the Links, 3 Snow Buntings at Bridesness and although not massively exciting a 3rd Little Grebe joined the pair on the loch at Brides.
A spell of poor weather didn’t allow for much birding and nothing of note was really seen until the 22nd the drake Smew was back on Bewan and was seen consecutively for the next three days andwas joined by 3 Red-breasted Mergansers on the 22nd, a pair of Robins and 21 Snow Buntings were also present on the same date.
The Green-winged Teal was seen again on the 25th and has been seen every day since.
The 27th and 28th got a little more interesting, one of the three ever present Glaucous Gulls was joined on the grass outside the sea-watch hide by an odd-looking Herring-type Gull that Simon photographed back in December, it perhaps needs further scrutiny and that means re-finding it! I've not included any pictures as Simon's from December are far better!

The 28th was bright and sunny, stark contrast to night of blasting westerlies that preceded it, 74 Snow Buntings feeding around the cattle feeder in East Loch Park, one of the wintering Hen Harriers was hunting out over the loch at Brides and finally a long-awaited Iceland Gull was found motoring up the tide line behind Trolla.    
The ever shy drake Smew

Glaucous Gull having a paddle

The long awaited Iceland Gull

...and again! 

I know it's a cliche, but here's a flurry of Snow Buntings

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

11th-17th January

The last week has had the full spectrum of weather with wind, rain, sun, sleet, hail and snow!
It’s also provided some fairly good birds, the 11th was very quiet and the only real noteworthy birds were the first Skylark of 2018 flushed from the ploughed field South of the camping field and a Merlin that cruised into the bay a Westness.
A bird I thought we weren’t going to get on the year finally made appearance, the drake Smew that had graced the island in the final days of 2017 was seen briefly on Bewan and hasn’t been since!
Other birds of interest for the 12th a Hen Harrier at Sandar and a lone Pink-footed Goose.
The 13th and 14th were quiet also. The 1st Winter Glaucous Gull was still on the Links, a good count of 18 Goldeneye were spread out between Bewan, the Links and Brides. An early Mistle Thrush was feeding at the bottom of the fields near the shooting gallery on the 14th, the final bird of the day was a very smart drake Pochard on Bewan.
A pair of Glaucous Gulls were present on the 15th in near un-birdable winds, Black-headed Gull added itself to the year list and the Pochard remained on Bewan.  
The 16th was much calmer but a hell of a lot colder! A Woodcock in off the sea at Westness was another addition to the year list closely followed by a Red-throated Diver and 2 Great Northern Divers off the Links.

Snow on the 17th gave the island an even colder feel! Appropriately a large flock of 58 Snow Buntings were feeding round the cattle feeders in East Loch Park. The Hen Harrier was still present around the Westness area and the Pochard was still present on Bewan, finally an impressive 32 Fieldfares were dotted around the island. 
A Common Gull Mosh Pit in the Snow

"Whatever this white stuff is, I don't like it" - Hooded Crow Jan '18


The ever camera shy drake Smew

Whooper Swan in heavy snow, probably wishing it wasn't 

Thursday, 11 January 2018

8th-10th January

With winter ticking along nicely and birds slowly adding themselves to the year list it’s been a topsy-turvy few days in content and weather wise.
The 8th was much the same as the previous two days, a second Glaucous Gull of the year, this time a 1st Winter or 2nd Calendar Year (whichever you prefer) was loafing around Bewan with other Gulls.
A flock of Snow Buntings were seen feeding in the fields that surround South Ness and a short sea-watch provided the first Great Northern Diver of 2018 and a probable White-billed Diver that showed all the characteristics of White-billed but in fading light it cannot be a certainty.
Poor weather on the 9th and having a few jobs to do lead to very little in the way of birding being done. The highlight being a large count of Great Black-backed Gull and Herring Gulls posting totals of 188 and 112 respectively, the biggest surprise was a lack of white-wingers.
Weather improved considerably on the 10th, a pair of Pink-footed Geese kicked things off, one in East Loch Park and one behind the Kirbest Myre. Gull numbers were still high following rough weather and Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls were joined on the Links by yet another Glaucous Gull.
A clear increase in Redwing numbers was evident, numbers rising to an impressive 41 and Fieldfares seemed to stay steady at around 13 birds. Another Great Northern Diver was joined by 17 Long-tailed Ducks off the Links, 3 Robins were dotted around the island and the Chaffinch that has spent the winter around the obs croft was lingering at T4.

The biggest surprise of the year (all 10 days of it) was the appearance of 7 Common Cranes at Nether Linnay! They’re not a usual visitor to the island and caused a small-scale twitch! The birds were eventually flushed by curious cattle and flew South towards Sanday. Not a bad start to 2018!

Common Cranes 

Common Cranes shortly after being investigated by the Cows

1w Glaucous Gull at Bewan

Sunday, 7 January 2018

6th-7th January

The 6th saw the return of two obs staff members and an increase in coverage of the island.
Fieldfare numbers remained high with 15 birds in various locations, the bulk of them being in the fields the surround South Ness. Numbers of Redwings also stayed very similar as they were prior to the new year.
Wildfowl numbers have been fairly typical for this time of year, the pair of Mute Swans have been joined by up to 3 Whooper Swans.
Unsurprisingly wintering Greylag numbers are well into the hundreds, the 6th saw 421 counted and the 7th saw 367 dotted around in small flocks.
The Duck side of things proved to be slightly more exciting, 15 Pintail, 11 Tufted Ducks, 31 Mallard, 132 Wigeon, 7 Goldeneye, 71 Teal and 6 Gadwall were joined by the overwintering Green-winged Teal that is still spending its time on Gretchen.
Wader numbers have been low, 27 Bar-tailed Godwits being the highlight, Purple Sandpipers posted a respectful 198, the bulk of which have been feeding on washed up piles of tangles at Westness.
A few wintering Robins have set up around the island, 3 of which are around Holland House.
It seems as though the large numbers of Snow Buntings have all but moved on with only one bird being seen over the two-day period.
The ringtail Hen Harrier is still terrorising the islands ducks and waders as it cruises around.
Finally, Gull numbers have been unexpectedly low all barring Common Gulls, with numbers over 100 on both dates, but low numbers of large Gulls have meant there have been very little in the way of white-wingers to sift through, just a lone adult Glaucous Gull at Bewan on the 6th.
With windier conditions on the way we’re hoping for a few more year ticks!

A Fieldfare being unusually obliging

Adult Glaucous Gull with other Gulls

      Ringtail Hen Harrier at sunrise 

All photos George Gay  

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

18th December - 2nd January

Among the usual wintering species, highlights in the last couple of weeks have been a single Whooper Swan on 18th Decemeber, a females Sparrowhawk on 20th, a lone Pink-footed Goose on 22nd and a pair of Mute Swans from the 22nd onwards. The wintering Black Redstart has been seen regularly near the pier and a male Chaffinch has been around the croft. With reasonable weather on Xmas day, there was a Merlin, Hen Harrier and peak of 112 Snow Buntings. A drake Smew was seen on Bewan Loch on the 27th and 28th; a Peregrine at Bridesness on 29th was seen taking a Snipe, with a Hen Harrier also hunting there at the same time. There were 17 Long-tailed Ducks off the pier on 30th.
Some New Year's day birding failed to turn up the either the Smew or the Black Redstart, but the Mute Swans remained ever present and some thrush numbers included 10 Redwing and 6 Fieldfare.
All that's left to say is, we hope you a have a very good 2018 and we're looking forward to seeing you soon!
                  A muddy Whooper Swan enjoying island life!                         

One of seven Snow Buntings at Brides