Tuesday, 31 July 2018

28th - 30th July

A mix of weather through these couple of days with the wind constantly in the SE but ranging from strong to almost flat calm and some long but welcome spells of rain; a little influx of insects on the 28th was noteworthy and included a Hummingbird Hawkmoth at Burray along with 10+ Painted Ladies, 20+ Red Admirals and 50+ Silver Y’s.   Birdwise, the first Common Sandpiper of the autumn was near the airstrip with 30 Knot and a Whimbrel the other wader highlights, a build-up of Arctic Terns included a huge flock of 2,500+ on Torness and a female-type Black Redstart was a surprise around the Obs.

                Bright and sunny on the 29th with a very strong SE wind produced a few highlights including 6 Swifts in off the sea on the west side, the first juvenile Willow Warbler of the autumn at Bewan and the first juvenile Ruff of the autumn on Ancum along with 2 Herons, a Black-tailed Godwit, a Whimbrel and the Black Redstart again.

                There were some notable influxes on the 30th in response to the SE breeze slackening off to almost nothing in the morning; waders were very obvious as totals included 150 Oystercatchers, a big arrival of 1,350+ Golden Plover, 81 Knot (including a Norwegian colour flagged bird), 35 Sanderling, 28 Purple Sandpipers, an influx to 360 Dunlin, 24 Bar-tailed Godwits, 2 Whimbrel, 69 Curlew, 114 Redshank and 139 Turnstone.   A big arrival of 5,050+ Arctic Terns was also noted with huge flocks roosting in a few spots round the island and included many of our local juveniles mingled in with the hordes.

                Other little bits included 3 Swifts, 9 Sedge Warblers with dispersing juveniles in odd places, 3 Willow Warblers, the first Pied Flycatcher of the autumn (like Fair Isle, only the fourth July record!), another Hummingbird Hawkmoth at Holland and the first Peacock of the year at Vincoin.


Heron annoying the Terns

Hummingbird Hawkmoth                       Simon Davies

Saturday, 28 July 2018

25th - 27th July

Bright and sunny on the 25th and 26th with a brisk easterly wind to take the edge off; in between sheep punding there wasn’t too much to mention on the bird front with a Heron and a Collared Dove the best from the 25th and a smart summer plumaged Great-northern Diver in Nouster and a single Whimbrel the pick of the 26th.

                There was a bit more to mention on the 27th as the easterly wind continued to increase with the highlight being two cracking Roseate Terns found roosting with Arctics on rocks at Bridesness Point.   Wader numbers included 45 Ringed Plover, 345 Golden Plover, 183 Lapwing, 16 Knot, 75 Sanderling, 238 Dunlin, 5 Whimbrel, a Ruff and 2 Green Sandpipers which flew south down the west coast.

                Other little bits included the Great-northern Diver still in Nouster, 2 Herons, a little influx of 26 Teal, 5 Lesser Black-backed Gulls including the first immigrant juveniles of the year and a Common Redpoll.

Roseate Terns                                  Simon Davies

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

22nd - 24th July

A settled few days with plenty of sunshine and warm conditions; the escaped Saker Falcon was still present on the 22nd and showed well on telegraph poles in the centre of the island before being tracked – its GPS giving its position every four hours leaving to the north and arriving on Fair Isle shortly afterwards (along with a second escaped individual which was also tracked over the island but not seen!).   Migrants included a Siskin round the Obs, a Common Redpoll at Sandar, a Heron on Hooking and a Kestrel which flew south over the Obs on the 24th.

                Some big flocks of waders are starting to build up now as counts included 130 Dunlin (with the first few juveniles starting to appear), 120 Oystercatchers, 655 Golden Plover, 95 Lapwings and 131 Redshank while at least 12 Arctic Skuas are putting on a fine performance as they chase the Tysties bringing fish into their colonies.

                We’ve started Storm Petrel ringing now and enjoyed some good sessions catching 150 birds so far with two Leach’s Petrels also being trapped while we are still putting some good effort into the breeding birds, now having ringed 120 Black Guillemots (similar to last year), 200+ Arctic Terns (many times better than last year) and 22 Ringed Plover chicks (the highest ever total!).

Saker                                               Simon Davies

Ringed Plover chicks                             Simon Davies

The moth trap is still pulling in some good things like this Burnished Brass with Common Carpet, Lempke's Gold Spot, Northern Spinach and Heart and Dart being firsts for the island.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

19th-21st July

Sanderling numbers have gradually begun to build up, with 18 on the 19th rising to 24 on the 21st. Other waders on the 19th included a Green Sandpiper at Brides and 15 Bar-tailed Godwits. Arctic Terns have stayed steady at around 820 birds.
The 20th saw the Green Sandpiper return to Bewan and another Ruff on Garso, 4 Black-tailed Godwits were seen feeding in recently silaged fields and a lone Purple Sandpiper made its way back to the island. Otherwise the 20th was quiet with 5 Manx Shearwaters and 2 Sooty Shearwaters from the sea-watch hide.
The 21st bought in some more variable weather and some interesting birds, firstly a Juvenile Cuckoo was found flycatching on the fences around the Old Kirk, there’s a slight amount of intrigue as to where the Cuckoo has come from being a very young bird. A very tired, grotty and unseasonal Redwing was seen at Claypows and duck numbers have begun to increase with 7 Shoveler on Brides, 3 Teal and a lone Gadwall.
The biggest surprise of the day turned out to be an escape Saker Falcon! The bird was initially seen at Westness before heading North and finally settling outside the obs on nearby telegraph poles. Although the bird is an escape it’s an absolute cracker so we’re not complaining!
More moth news! The previously reported Gold Spot has been re-identified as a Lempke’s Gold Spot, a far scarcer moth, so we’re definitely not complaining. The second 1st for North Ronaldsay in a matter of days came in the shape of a Common Carpet. We assume these moths although scarce are regularly occurring on here but a lack of consistent trapping over the years has meant they’ve gone vastly under-recorded.

Fledgling Arctic Tern                                              George Gay

Common Carpet                         Lewis Hooper

Saker Falcon                                                   George Gay 
Saker Falcon                                                             George Gay

Thursday, 19 July 2018

16th-18th July

More bright and sunny weather has meant we’ve been able to get on with more Arctic Tern and Black Guillemot chick ringing. Away from the chicks the Little Stint remained on Bewan until the 17th giving decent views.
Waders have still been the dominant factor in the birding on the island. Numbers are beginning to rise all over the island with the Golden Plovers peaking at 560 on the 17th, Dunlin reached 126 on the same date, Knot numbers have been steady with 12 birds hanging around the North end. 7 Whimbrel on the 17th made for a good count as well.
A trio of Grey Herons at Hooking also on the 17th showed signs of being returning birds. The big highlights over the past three days were a long overdue Green Sandpiper found at Bewan in the morning on the 18th and the evening produced a very smart Roseate Tern on Tor Ness with the non-breeding Arctic Tern flock.
Away from birds the moth trap has had a few exciting additions aside from large numbers of commoner moths such as Dark Arches which posted a very respectable showing of over 100 individuals on the 17th. A Lempke's Gold Spot trapped on the 16th was a first for the island and a small influx of Small-dotted Buff’s have produced 3rd to 7th island records.

Green Sandpiper                                                      George Gay

Lempke's Gold Spot                                                George Gay

Knot                                                                         George Gay

Monday, 16 July 2018

13th-15th July

Calm and brighter condition on the 13th meant the day had to start in the sea-watch hide, without any real speed behind the wind numbers were pretty low as birds edged their way past the island at their own pace, 3 Sooty Shearwaters, 3 Manx Shearwaters and 2 Storm Petrels made up the highlights.
With silage still under way feeding wader flocks have been taking advantage of the recently exposed ground and we’ve seen a steady rise in numbers. The 14th took the prize for high counts, 440 Golden Plover, 250 Oystercatchers, 102 Lapwing and although not waders the Common Gulls have joined in on the act posting a respectable 73 also on the 14th.
With the 14th being one of the warmest days of the year it gave us a prime opportunity to check round the remaining Tern colonies, thankfully dry weather this year has meant overall success in terms of breeding numbers and fledged juveniles with numbers well into double figures now. The colony on Tor Ness has been supported by an ever-growing cast of non-breeders which totals up to 650 birds, quite an incredible sight once in the colony!
The highlight of the past three days has been a very smart adult Little Stint at Bewan, found on the 14th the bird was also present the following day feeding with a flock of around 70 Dunlin.
Whimbrel                                                                 George Gay

Little Stint                                                                 George Gay

Ringed Plover Chick                                                George Gay

Ringed Plover Parent                                              George Gay

Friday, 13 July 2018

9th-12th July

Bright conditions on the 9th provided good sea-watching conditions in the morning, 6 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Sooty Shearwaters, 7 Storm Petrels, 2831 Puffin and 5 Common Scoter made for an interesting couple of hours.
The Kittiwakes have continued to hang around despite gradually lowering in numbers with the total now down to 275 birds. A pair of Fieldfares are still hanging around the Gue Park area and at least 3 Chiffchaffs have spent their summer in the gardens at Holland House. The highlight for the 9th was undoubtedly a Summer plumaged Black-throated Diver that flew past the Beacon.
The 10th and 11th saw a band of thick wet fog roll in making for challenging birding conditions, but also some promising signs, our first 5 fledged Swallows of the year have boosted totals nicely. A pair of Whimbrels on the island were a welcome addition and Reed Buntings have also started to emerge with 14 on the 11th.
The 12th saw the fog lift and with the silage cut an inevitable increase in waders, Oystercatcher numbers climbed to over 200, a lone Ruff on Garso was a nice highlight, as was another Whimbrel and a very smart summer plumaged Bar-tailed Godwit in a flock of 27 birds.
The Common Tern re-appeared on Bewan with the Arctic Terns and Sandwich Tern was in with the depleting Kittiwake flock between the Sea-watch hide and Foghorn. Sea-watching again provided some entertainment, 6 Sooty Shearwaters, 4 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Storm Petrels and another flock of Common Scoter, this time consisting of 7 birds. A quick Sand Martin netting attempt managed 4 birds, excitingly two re-traps proved to be returning breeding adults for 2017! Finally our first Storm Petrel ringing session of the year gave us an early catch on 19 new birds and 1 re-trap.
Arctic Terns posing                                                   George Gay
Sedge Warbler                                                          George Gay

Bar-tailed Godwit                                                    George Gay

Monday, 9 July 2018

6th - 8th July

Largely bright and sunny throughout this spell with the wind generally in the west and generally decreasing over the last three days; a quiet day on the 6th, highlighted by the first Common Tern of the year at Bewan with an increasing number of Arctic Terns, slowly building up towards their usual late summer peak.

                Another year tick came on the 7th as a Marsh Harrier flew south over Gretchen and straight out to sea towards Sanday in the morning while other bits of note included the Heron still on Ancum, a male Ruff on Bewan where the Common Tern was still present, an excellent count of 185 fledgling Black-headed Gulls around Hooking (indicating another great breeding season for them!) and a male Common Redpoll at Holland.

                All of the interest on the 8th came during the morning’s seawatching which included 2 Red-throated Divers, 4 Sooty Shearwaters, an excellent total of 104 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Storm Petrels, at least 23 Arctic Skuas, 380 Kittiwakes, 800 Puffins, 950 large Auk sp. and a pod of 4 Risso’s Dolphins which moved quickly through.


Common Tern with the Arctics

Friday, 6 July 2018

3rd - 5th July

Settled still with generally light winds, plenty of sunshine and continuingly dry conditions – many lochs have or are in danger of drying up!   A good selection of waders on the 3rd included 45 Purple Sandpipers (the first returning birds arriving en masse), 87 Golden Plover, 37 Dunlin, 2 Black-tailed Godwits, 42 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel and 80 Redshank.  

Other birds included a Sandwich Tern, a Collared Dove, a single Swift over the Obs and a couple of Chiffchaffs still in Holland.   Also of note was a Hummingbird Hawkmoth seen on The Links associated with a little arrival of Butterflies including 14+ Painted Ladies and 11 Large Whites.

A seawatch in the afternoon of the 4th produced the first Sooty Shearwater of the year along with 7 Manx Shearwaters, a Storm Petrel and 475 Puffins in an hour and a half.   Other little bits included 2 Sandwich Terns, the Heron still, a returning flock of 7 Wigeon on Ancum and the first Fulmar chicks starting to hatch.

A Spotted Flycatcher was an unusual July record in Holland while the female Garganey was seen again on Brides (but again, no chicks were seen) and two male Ruff on the rapidly disappearing Gretchen were the first returning individuals.

Purple Sandpipers

Our moth trap is slowly improving as we move into July and included this fine male Ghost Moth

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

30th June - 2nd July

More settled weather with sunny skies and light easterly winds; ringing Arctic Terns, Black Guillemots and wader chicks took priority with migrants largely restricted to a few returning waders which totalled 205 Golden Plover, 50 Redshank, 120 Oystercatchers, 38 Knot and 21 Black-tailed Godwits along with Whimbrel and Greenshank (only the second of the year) on the 1st and a breeding plumaged Grey Plover on the 2nd.

                A few uninspiring lingering birds included the Heron on Ancum, 2 Collared Doves and a couple of Chiffchaffs remained in Holland and one of the Gue Park Fieldfares reappeared, having a bath with a flock of Starlings.