Wednesday, 31 July 2019

30th July

A day spent shrouded in the fog, drifted over on the light easterly breeze; the only birds of note really were an adult Black Tern on Gretchen – presumably the same one that was last seen on the 14th, now in heavy body moult, 5 Ruff also on Gretchen and more excitingly, a pristine young Garden Warbler trapped at the Obs, our first migrant warbler of the autumn!

Black Tern

Monday, 29 July 2019

29th July

Another decent day with light easterly winds but extensive cloud cover, warm still though, somewhat predictably though thick fog rolled in by mid-afternoon, effectively ending the day; we still await any landbird migration but a slight turnover of birds through the day included 3 Herons, the 2 Garganey, now 5 Ruff on Gretchen, a Greenshank, 2 Green Sandpipers (Gretchen and Cauldhame), the Black Redstart still at Moe Geo and a new Song Thrush in Holland.   Having mentioned the moth trap yesterday it was somewhat inevitable that the record was broken again overnight with a massive 242 Dark Arches filling the trap. 


28th July

Warm and sunny again with a brisk easterly breeze which slowly eased off to become almost still by the evening; it was fairly quiet but as every day now, there was still a decent turnover of waders, gulls and terns as totals included 9 Herons, a Mute Swan (the first one for two weeks), the two Garganey on Gretchen, 9 Shoveler, 213 Oystercatchers, 245 Golden Plover, 18 Knot, 123 Dunlin, 4 Black-tailed Godwits, 20 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Ruff and the Greenshank still on Gretchen, 356 Common Gulls, 15 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a big increase to c2,550 Arctic Terns.   Also of note was the first Peacock of the year in with still good numbers of painted Ladies and a record count of 159 Dark Arches in the moth trap.

Two Garganey and a Shoveler

Black-tailed Godwit

Saturday, 27 July 2019

27th July

Fine again, with acres of bright sunshine but a brisk SE wind with a chilly edge to it made the day just slightly short of perfect; a handful of new birds were seen including the first Black Redstart of the autumn hopping around the Tystie colony at Moe Geo, 3 Ruff on Gretchen (with the first two juveniles) and 2 Garganey also on Gretchen.   Other bits of note comprised 9 Shoveler, a Whimbrel, the Greenshank still, 320+ Common Gulls and 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls including the first juvenile.   The main migration event though was a big influx of 150+ Painted Ladies (although the real total would have been much higher) – the vast majority of which were very bright, fresh individuals (very different to the very worn butterflies that we had earlier in the summer), so they hadn’t come from too far away.

Two juvenile and an adult Ruff

Painted Lady

26th July

Bright and breezy again with birds of note comprising a single Manx Shearwater off the top end, 2 Herons, a Red-breasted Merganser, 400+ Golden Plover, 13 Knot, a Whimbrel, 133 Redshank, the Greenshank still on Gretchen and a Collared Dove.

Friday, 26 July 2019

25th July

A decent day, bright and sunny but with a brisk SE breeze; a Hobby which zoomed over the Obs in the evening was the birding highlight, away from that though it was a case of ‘as you were’ with the Pochard still, the Greenshank still, single Woodpigeon and Collared Dove, the Shorelark still and 5 Common Crossbills near the school.

The last few Arctic Tern fledglings are just taking flight

Thursday, 25 July 2019

24th July

A bright and sunny start but this gave way to several hours of heavy rain through the morning before easing by lunchtime to leave a decent afternoon with fog always lingering close by on the light SE breeze.   The days birding highlight was a drake Pochard flying round Brides – always scarce and a good year list bird; other bits included a Great-northern Diver, a Heron, an increased 41 Knot, 120 Dunlin, a Greenshank on Gretchen, 2 Common Sandpipers and a Swift.

Wheatear fledgling

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

23rd July

Warm and sunny with light winds swinging round into the SE; waders were again prominent with some impressive numbers now building up, especially around Hooking and in the recently cut fields in the centre of the island as counts comprised 350 Oystercatchers, 521 Golden Plover, 420 Lapwings, 13 Knot, 65 Sanderling, 64 Dunlin, a male Ruff at Hooking, 2 Black-tailed Godwits, 271 Redshank and a Green Sandpiper on Cauldhame flash.   Other birds included 23 Shoveler, 370 Common Gulls, a Woodpigeon, the Shorelark relocated to Westness and 2 Common Crossbills.   Also of note was an Oblique Carpet caught overnight in the moth trap – the first record for the island.


Common Crossbill

Monday, 22 July 2019

22nd July

A dry start but light rain moved in, lasting a few hours through the morning leaving an overcast but calm afternoon with a further band of drizzly rain coming in from the south by early evening; new birds through the day with some decent coverage mainly comprised the now regular turnover of waders highlighted by the overdue first Green Sandpiper of the year at Brides and the first Wood Sandpiper of the autumn of the autumn at Bewan.   Other birds of note comprised a Heron, an influx of 17 Shoveler, 14 Knot, 90 Sanderling, 75 Purple Sandpipers, 3 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Whimbrel, a Common Sandpiper, a Collared Dove, the Shorelark still, the Grey-headed Wagtail still, a Sedge Warbler at the Obs (the first dispersing adult away from the breeding areas) and 2 Common Crossbills.

Fulmar family

Sunday, 21 July 2019

21st July

A decent day with a moderate southerly breeze and some good spells of sunshine; the most exciting news of the day concerned two small Corncrake chicks seen near as a field was being cut for silage, they were seen to run safely to the edge to disappear into a ditch – the first confirmed breeding on the island since around 2003!   Other birds seen through the day included a Heron, a notable influx of 167+ Sanderling, 4 Black-tailed Godwits, 9 Whimbrel, the Grey-headed Wagtail still along the Sangar track, the Shorelark still near the Lighthouse and a male Crossbill trapped at the Obs.

The first triple figure count of Sanderlings of the autumn included these two Orkney colour ringed birds

Saturday, 20 July 2019

20th July

Rain first thing eased off by mid-morning but was then replaced almost immediately by thick fog which more or less lingered through the rest of the day although the north end of the island completely cleared for a while the south end remained shrouded; the birds were made up of more quality than quantity with the Shorelark again by Bewan and a smart male Grey-headed Wagtail along the track to Sangar the highlights along with a Heron, 320 Golden Plover, 29 Purple Sandpipers, a Whimbrel and a male Crossbill in Ancum Willows.


Grey-headed Wagtail


19th July

Another lovely, fine day with light winds swinging round into the east through the day; more Tystie chicks were ringed through the day – we’ve already beaten last year’s total!   The main feature of the day’s birding was a further influx of returning waders as totals included 486 Golden Plover, 3 Knot, 59 Sanderling, 30 Purple Sandpipers, 163 Dunlin (including the first juvenile of the autumn), 17 Bar-tailed Godwit, a Whimbrel, 91 Curlew and 166 Turnstone while other birds of note comprised a Little Tern, 1,460+ Arctic Terns, a Swift, 2 Chiffchaffs and 3 Common Crossbills including a juvenile trapped at the Obs.


Friday, 19 July 2019

18th July

A fine day, light southerly winds and plenty of sunshine; most of our time was spent ringing Swallow chicks and scrabbling around under rocks looking for Black Guillemot chicks but birds seen did include presumably the same female Two-barred Crossbill back briefly at Ancum Willows, a flock of 6 Common Crossbills south down the west coast, a Heron, 26 Purple Sandpipers, 70+ Dunlin, a Whimbrel, a Sandwich Tern and a Collared Dove.

Swallow fledgling

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

16th and 17th July

Light south-easterlies dominated proceedings and while always appreciated, it meant that the fog drifted in and out over these couple of days – although it was more in than out!   It was quiet for migrants although a clear start to the 16th allowed the Hobby seen on the 15th to head south out to sea off The Lurn followed by a cloud of screaming Terns while a handful of waders including a Whimbrel and 3 Collared Doves also left to the south; not much else to mention really although the Shorelark reappeared at the Lighthouse and the two ringed Common Crossbills were joined by a further flock of five at Southness.


Tuesday, 16 July 2019

14th and 15th July

An OK day on the 14th, overcast with a moderate NW wind; quiet on the bird front but the Black Tern reappeared at Bewan and the first returning Common Sandpiper was at Nouster Pier.   A calmer day on the 15th with a decreasing NW wind which swung round into the N and varying cloud cover; it was a good birding day as the highlights included a Hobby which came in off the sea at Nouster and continued north up the island and an almost certain Little Bunting seen briefly near Holland with the observer only hesitating due to the time of year!   The other main feature was increasing numbers of waders and gulls which appear instantly and as if by magic when the silage fields start to get cut as counts included 435 Oystercatchers, 280 Golden Plover, 400 Lapwings, 174 Redshank, 260 Common Gulls and 9 Lesser Black-backed Gulls in amongst which were 3 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel and the first returning Ruff of the autumn – a nice male.   Also of note were 2 Woodpigeons, 2 Swifts, a Lesser Redpoll and a Common Crossbill.

Still some big Curlew chicks to be found

Sunday, 14 July 2019

12th - 13th July

A decent day on the 12th with light westerly winds and plenty of cloud cover but thick fog covered the island on the 13th -  slightly unusual on a westerly!   A / the female Two-barred Crossbill (re) appeared back in Ancum Willows on the 13th but more unusual was the Shorelark found at the Lighthouse in the evening of the 12th -  unsurprisingly the first July record!   Other birds included a Great-northern Diver, singing Quail and Corncrake still, a steady increase to 420 Golden Plover, 17 Sanderling, 2 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Little Terns still and the 2 ringed Common Crossbills still while 5 Risso’s Dolphins were off the Lighthouse on the 12th.


Friday, 12 July 2019

10th - 11th July

A couple of days where thick fog was the dominant feature, grounding planes to cause traffic chaos; there were breaks in the fog though – a few hours in the afternoon of the 10th when it actually felt pretty warm and sunny for a while and then the afternoon of the 11th when it was overcast but calm (it was still foggy in Kirkwall though so no flights got in!).   We finally got in on the Crossbill irruption on the 10th, albeit briefly with a female TWO-BARRED CROSSBILL seen and heard near the Old Kirk from where it flew over to the coast but couldn’t be relocated.   Other birds included a Heron, the Quail singing from long grass near Holland, an increased 270 Golden Plover, one Little Tern still in Nouster and 2 Common Crossbills trapped and ringed in the evening of the 10th.

Common Crossbill

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

9th July

Another good day in the field; it started out calm and sunny (with 13 Storm Petrels caught overnight - plus a  Leach’s Petrel which bounced out of the net) but the easterly breeze picked up through the day and it clouded over by lunchtime with light rain by the evening.   It felt promising with the easterly winds (almost like autumn!) and there were some good highlights comprising a skulky Marsh Warbler found at the Obs, a female Common Crossbill at Ancum Willows in the evening (not the Loxia we were looking for but a nice year tick none-the-less) and the 4 Red-necked Phalaropes still on Bewan.   Other birds of note included 8 Manx Shearwaters off the Lighthouse, a Heron, a Quail which gave a brief burst of song near Gretchen, a further increase to 228 Golden Plover, 13 Sanderling, 6 Purple Sandpipers, 117 Turnstone and single Woodpigeon and Collared Dove.   Also seen were a Hummingbird Hawkmoth at Holland House and a medium sized Basking Shark off the Lighthouse in the evening to round off a great day.

None of the day's highlights really gave themselves up for pictures so here's a baby Pied Wagtail!

Monday, 8 July 2019

8th July

A day with lots going on so it deserves a blog post to itself!   Glorious conditions with wall to wall sunshine and an easing westerly breeze moving round into the east by the evening; the good array of birds was highlighted by a drake Goosander over Westness (a good island scarcity!), a nice group of 4 Red-necked Phalaropes on Bewan and the Black Tern again at Trolla.   Other bits of note  comprised good late summer influxes of waders including 165 Oystercatchers, 140 Golden Plover, 183 Lapwing, the first 11 returning Purple Sandpipers of the ‘autumn’, 4 Black-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel, 127 Redshank and 65 Turnstone, an adult Common Tern at Bewan, the 2 Little Terns still, a Collared Dove, 7 Swifts and a little influx of butterflies with 30 Painted Ladies, 12 Red Admirals and 7 Large Whites.

Red-necked Phalaropes

Purple Sandpiper

4th - 7th July

Two days of pretty much constant low cloud, drizzle and poor visibility on 4th - 5th followed by nicer conditions on 6th - 7th but with most of the staff off for a break in Kirkwall coverage was limited.   The visibility finally improved in the evening of the 5th allowing some hopeful Giant Petrel inspired sea-watching from the Lighthouse, no Petrels but a fine Long-tailed Skua was pretty decent compensation along with 12 Manx Shearwaters.   Other birds included the Black Tern still present on the 4th along with 800+ Arctic Terns (with 1st summers now up to 450+), 6 returning Wigeon, the Corncrake still giving brief snatches of song, a Common Tern in Nouster on 7th and a small pod of 3 Risso’s Dolphins off the lighthouse, also on the 7th.

Black Tern again

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

1st - 3rd July

The same mix of sunshine and showers with spells of rain but also long periods of dry and sometimes sunny weather; nice and calm on the 2nd degenerating into wet and windy conditions by the afternoon of the 3rd.   Breeding bird work dominated the proceedings with good numbers of Arctic Tern chicks ringed as well as the two fluffy balls of death (Bonxie chicks!) ringed; other birds included 2 Great-northern Divers, 3 Manx Shearwaters on the 3rd, a singing Quail at Ancum on the 3rd, wader totals peaking at 43 Golden Plover, 36 Knot and 41 Dunlin, an increase to 1,460+ Arctic Terns (including 400+ 1st summer birds) in amongst which were an adult Common Tern and an adult Black Tern on the 3rd,  a Collared Dove and a male White Wagtail at Trolla.

Black Tern

Monday, 1 July 2019

29th - 30th June

Some spells of heavy rain swept across the island through the last few days of the month, especially through the evening of the 29th as several showers of biblical proportions meant further woes for the breeding birds.   The selection of birds over the few days included 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Great-northern Divers, 6 Manx Shearwaters and 4 Storm Petrels off the Lighthouse on the 29th, the Whooper Swan still, a female Garganey on Garso on the 29th, a Kestrel at Westness, a further increased 98 Golden Plover and 2 Collared Doves. 

Plenty of aggro still around the island!