Thursday, 28 November 2019
Mainly windy (largely from the east until it moved into the NW on the 28th) and rainy with limited coverage; birds seen over the few days included 6 Herons, the Pink-footed Goose, 8 Pintail, a female Scaup on Brides on the 28th, 2 Hen Harriers, single Merlin and Peregrine, a Woodcock on the 26th, 7 Meadow Pipits, 10+ Robins, c70 Redwing, 2 Song Thrush, 2 Fieldfare, the Mistle Thrush still on the 27th, 40+ Twite and 30+ Snow Buntings.
Monday, 25 November 2019
A decent day on the 23rd with lightish winds, remaining dry; a whole-island Goose count produced 644 Greylags and a single Pink-footed Goose, 2 Hen Harriers, a Woodcock, a Black-tailed Godwit on Gretchen (the second of the month), a little influx of 40 Redwings and 4 Song Thrush, 2 Siskins and still 75 Twite by The Obs. After a wet and windy 24th when a Mistle Thrush was the only bird of note a better 25th produced a few bits including 8 Red-throated Divers, a Black-throated Diver again in Nouster, 7 Great-northern Divers, the Pink-footed Goose, 24 Shoveler, 19 Long-tailed Duck, 5 Goldeneye, 2 Hen Harriers, a Grey Plover, a 2cy Glaucous Gull at Bewan (a quiet autumn for white-wingers so far), a notable influx of 21 Fieldfare, 75 Redwing and a Mistle Thrush and 50 Snow Buntings.
Sunday, 24 November 2019
These are more interesting (if you like that sort of thing!). It proved to be an unprecedented autumn for 'Eastern Lesser Whitethroats' with an estimated 17 individuals recorded between 23rd September and 18th October. A total of eight birds were caught in this period, all of which were analysed, the results of which appear below;
NUMBER 1 - 25th September
This, confiding, dumpy looking bird was thought to be maybe not a Siberian Lesser Whitethroat (the commonest race of 'Eastern Lesser Whitethroat' but its shape was altered by it missing half its tail, with the crucial T5 missing, clouding in the field and hand ID. It was confirmed by mtDNA as S. c. blythi or Siberian Lesser Whitethroat.
NUMBER 2 - 26th September
This bird was caught at dusk so the pictures were a bit ropey but it was confirmed as a S. c. blythi
NUMBER 3 - 28th September
Also confirmed as S. c. blythi
NUMBER 4 - 3rd October
Another fine S. c. blythi
NUMBER 5 - 4th October
Also a S. c. blythi but the only one with a big white wedge on T5 and very bright, white T6
NUMBER 6 - also 4th October
Another S. c. blythi
NUMBER 7 - 17th October
This one was a bit of a surprise, when caught I thought it was 'just' another S. c. blythi but photos do suggest a bluer head, slightly less browny back and longer winged (wing length was slightly longer than the other blythi trapped). Photos though, can be misleading, often accentuating the dark mask and especially in strong light, changing the mantle tones so, despite my thoughts in the hand at the time, this bird came back as a late, nominate S. c. curruca.
NUMBER 8 - 18th October
Similar to the previous bird in that when I caught it I was leaning towards it being Eastern (I was perhaps swayed by the date) but in photos, with the blue head, grey/blue mantle it looks an obvious S. c. curruca which is exactly what it came back as - it wasn't that obvious in the hand with your naked eye though!
In recent years the face of bird identification for many species / races has been helped and accentuated by mtDNA analysis of feathers / faecal samples obtained through various methods; this year on North Ronaldsay produced a whole cast of birds caught and ringed where feathers were sent off for kind analysis by Martin Collinson and Thom Shannon at the University of Aberdeen. The majority of results are now in and although most of them confirmed what we thought in the field / hand at the time it was great to get confirmation with a couple of slightly unexpected results at the end.
SAVI'S WARBLER - 11th May 2019
This surprise, cracking first for Orkney was confirmed as Savi's (even though there wasn't really any need to!)
COLLARED FLYCATCHER - 12th May 2019
This female was confirmed as a Collared Flycatcher
EASTERN SUBALPINE WARBLER - 17th May 2019
This cracking male Eastern Subalpine Warbler was confirmed as Eastern after being caught in the bar having flown in through an open door!
WESTERN SUBALPINE WARBLER - 24th August 2019
This one we needed help with! It was caught at Upper Linney in heavy wing and tail moult (presumably not freshly arrived) so the in hand / field ID features were not clear at all, although Western was our best guess!
Friday, 22 November 2019
Not much to report from the 20th but the 21st was a better day, a brisk easterly wind but at least it remained dry and fairly bright; the undoubted highlight of the day was a fantastic pod of c10 Orca hunting very close in, off the foghorn late in the day, they quickly moved further out being seen just off Seal Skerry at dusk – its been a poor year for sightings so it was great to get a quality encounter. Other birds included the Green-winged Teal still, 11 Pintail, 4 Common Scoter (always a good island bird) past the Lighthouse, 2 Hen Harriers, a Merlin, 2 Jack Snipe, a Woodcock, 4 Siskins south and the big flock of Twite at The Obs still. Wet and windy through most of the 22nd so sightings were again at a premium but a single Waxwing was at The Obs.
Wednesday, 20 November 2019
A wonderful calm day, almost still at times, remaining dry; more high Diver / Seaduck counts were posted sat on the calm seas including 27 Red-throated Divers, 39 Great-northern Divers, 37 Long-tailed Ducks and 27 Red-breasted Mergansers while other birds included 9 Herons, the Green-winged Teal still, 2 Merlin, a very distinctive pale, male Arctic Peregrine type along the west coast, a Little Auk on the sea off The Links, 20 Meadow Pipits, 90 Twite and 11 Snow Buntings.
Arctic-type Peregrine Dante Shepherd
Tuesday, 19 November 2019
A quiet day, dry with a moderate NW wind; birds seen included the Green-winged Teal, 9 Pintail, 9 Gadwall, 2 Merlin, 2 Peregrine, 46 Dunlin, 14 Meadow Pipits, a nominate looking Chiffchaff at Ancum Willows (only the third non Siberian this month), a further increase to 112 Twite and 8 Snow Buntings.
Monday, 18 November 2019
Damp and drizzly through the morning but it brightened up by lunchtime and with light winds it wasn’t too bad at all; birds seen through the day included 24 Red-throated Divers and 36 Great-northern Divers (both highest counts of the autumn so far), the Green-winged Teal, single Hen Harrier and Merlin, a Woodcock, 28 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Little Auk off the Lighthouse, a Siberian Chiffchaff still at The Obs, a Siskin, 84 Twite and 56 Snow Buntings.
Sunday, 17 November 2019
A lovely calm day, almost still at times with a nice array of late autumn birds across the island; the calm seas allowed for some good counts including 20 Red-throated Divers, 3 Black-throated Divers (one in Nouster and two off Torness), 19 Great-northern Divers and 26 Long-tailed Duck while other bits comprised 12 Herons, the Green-winged Teal, a Hen Harrier, 3 Merlin, 2 Grey Plover, a single Knot (first one since 25th October), single Jack Snipe and Woodcock, 12 Meadow Pipits, 29 Robins still, 18 Fieldfare, 3 Song Thrush, 42 Redwing, 5 Siberian Chiffchaffs – two at the Obs, two at Holland and one at Sandback, single Greenfinch (last one on 30th October), Siskin and Goldfinch (last one on 14th October), 80 Twite, a Common Redpoll, 39 Snow Buntings and 3 Reed Buntings.
Friday, 15 November 2019
A brisk, cold northerly wind on the 14th brought a couple of nasty hail showers but it was a better, calmer day on the 15th, staying dry and bright; not too much to mention on the 14th but a group of 3 Short-eared Owls at Peckhole was a bit of a surprise seeing as the last one was on 30th October. Some signs that the year is not quite over yet on the 15th included a Sparrowhawk (last one on 20th October), 2 Woodcock, a new Siberian Chiffchaff in Holland, a flock of 25 Siskins in off from the south, 29 Snow Buntings – including 18 out to the south and a Lapland Bunting at Kirbest (last one also on 20th October). Other totals from the couple of days comprised the 10 Pink-footed Geese still, 2 Hen Harriers, single Merlin and Peregrine, 2 Grey Plover, 21 Meadow Pipits, 6 Fieldfare, 2 Song Thrush, 30 Redwing and 95 Twite – seemingly still birds coming in.
Thursday, 14 November 2019
A lovely winter’s day, calm, dry and bright but the light northerly breeze was pretty cold; a Coue’s Arctic Redpoll was seen at Sangar in the afternoon but couldn’t be relocated by the Obs staff while other totals included 10 Pink-footed Geese, the Green-winged Teal, 2 Hen Harriers, single Merlin and Peregrine, 2 Woodcock, 8 Skylark, 7 Meadow Pipits, 34 Robins (a notable increase but probably just birds feeding out in the open in the fine conditions), 12 Fieldfare, 75 Redwing, the Mistle Thrush again, 3 Siberian Chiffchaffs still, 75 Twite, 3 Common Redpoll and 48 Snow Buntings.
Tuesday, 12 November 2019
A mixed few days, nice and calm on the 10th, horrible blazing easterly and driving rain on the 11th and then a cold northerly on the 12th;birds included the Green-winged Teal still on Gretchen throughout, 6 Goldeneye, up to 2 Hen Harriers and 4 Merlin, a Long-eared Owl at Holland at dusk on the 10th (very poor autumn so far), an influx of 22 Meadow Pipits on the 10th, 15 Fieldfare, a Mistle Thrush new on the 11th, still 2 Siberian Chiffchaffs (Funny Park and Garso), up to 60 Twite still and a confusing, huge, pale Common Redpoll trapped at Holland on the 10th – almost an Arctic!
Sunday, 10 November 2019
Another lovely day, very calm with sunny spells but pretty chilly as befits the time of year; most species enjoyed a slight increase in numbers due both to slight coverage improvement and some new birds coming though; totals included 2 Merlin, a Grey Plover, 6 Skylark, 2 Waxwings – one at the Obs first thing and another single south down the island at lunchtime, 25 Robins, 23 Fieldfare, 7 Song Thrush, 98 Redwing, a Chiffchaff, 2 Siberian Chiffchaffs still, a Brambling, 3 Siskin, 68 Twite, a good 53 Snow Buntings and 5 Reed Buntings.
Thursday, 7 November 2019
A very different day with a very cold, brisk NNE wind cutting right through you and some nasty little hail / rain showers early in the morning; the Siberian Rubythroat was seen briefly at Antabreck again early in the morning but unfortunately couldn’t be relocated afterwards for a visiting birder on the lunchtime plane and wasn’t seen again. Other birds through the day included 10 Pink-footed Geese, single Merlin and Peregrine, a Grey Plover, a Jack Snipe, 11 Robins, 6 Song Thrush, 50 Redwing, 4 Fieldfare, a single remaining Siberian Chiffchaff, 60 Twite and 2 Snow Buntings.
Twite (and a Sparrow!)
A lovely day, almost flat calm with varying cloud cover, great to be out in the field; the undoubted highlight of the day (and autumn) was a wonderful female SIBERIAN RUBYTHROAT found in the garden at Purtabreck by Pete Donnelly as he had a cup-of-tea and gazed out of the window, it had disappeared by the time everyone else rocked up but within the hour it had been re-found next door at Antabreck and showed well to everyone – the [some might say overdue] first for the island! Other birds through the day included the adult Black-throated Diver in Nouster again, the drake Green-winged Teal still, a Hen Harrier, a huge female Peregrine, single Grey Plover and Woodcock, a bit of a late influx of 17+ Meadow Pipits, 18 Robins, 2 Siberian Chiffchaffs – one at Ancum Willows and a new one in Funny Park, 2 Brambling, 74 Twite, a Common Redpoll and 8 Snow Buntings.
Siberian Rubythroat Simon Davies
Wednesday, 6 November 2019
Not a bad day with moderate and decreasing NNE winds, remaining dry; most of yesterday’s Blackbirds and other Thrushes had departed overnight leaving a quieter day in the field but birds seen did include 4 Hen Harriers, 4 Grey Plover, 4 Woodcock, 6 Skylark, 10 Meadow Pipits, 21 Robins, 38 Fieldfare, 13 Song Thrush, 167 Redwing, a Blackcap, 4 Siberian Chiffchaffs still (including a new bird at Howar), 3 Brambling, a Common Redpoll and 26 Snow Buntings.
Monday, 4 November 2019
A slight improvement again with lighter NNE winds, remaining dry and some obvious new arrivals across the island; totals comprised 8 Herons, single Whooper Swan and Pink-footed Goose, the Green-winged Teal still, at least 4 Hen Harriers, 6 Woodcock, 7 Skylark, at least 4 Waxwings around the Obs including one seen heading south out to sea, 10 Robins, 119 Blackbirds (an obvious arrival in the south of the island, mainly comprising adult birds, 54 Fieldfare, 9 Song Thrush, 210 Redwing, 2 Blackcaps, 3 Siberian Chiffchaffs – two at Scotsha and one in Ancum Willows, 3 Brambling, 2 Siskins and a Common Redpoll.
Still moderately breezy with the wind again in the NE but infinitely better than yesterday, remaining dry and birdable; the days birds included 2 Black-throated Divers in Nouster – an adult and a first-year (the first ones since May), a single adult Whooper Swan, the Green-winged Teal still, 4 Hen Harriers, 2 Merlin, a Woodcock, a Black-tailed Godwit, 390+ Herring Gulls, 2 Waxwings south over the airfield, 7 Robins, 80 Blackbird, 40 Fieldfare, 9 Song Thrush, 147 Redwing, 6 Brambling and 2 Snow Buntings.
Sunday, 3 November 2019
A shocker of a day with a blazing easterly wind and almost constant, stinging rain making any forays out into the field a bit of a mission but after the disappointing rugby, a couple of brave souls headed out to count the new arrivals; birds included 2 Whooper Swans, a Hen Harrier, a Woodcock, a huge build-up of storm-driven Gulls including 730+ Herrings and 545+ Great Black-backs, 2 Waxwings around the Obs, 14 Robins, 88 Blackbirds, an increased 285+ Fieldfares (highest count of the autumn), 20 Song Thrush, 215 Redwing, a Blackcap, 4 Brambling and 7 Snow Buntings.
Saturday, 2 November 2019
Moderately breezy throughout wind the wind finally working its way round into the east with the odd spot of rain thrown in, maybe to give us a last few new birds over the coming week; an almost certain Coue’s Arctic Redpoll was briefly near the Obs with three Common Redpolls in the morning before flying off towards Nouster. Other birds included the Green-winged Teal, 3 Hen Harriers, a Merlin, 2 Peregrines, 2 Jack Snipe, 7 Woodcock, 21 Robins, the Ring Ouzel still at Holland, 12 Fieldfare, 22 Song Thrush, 141 Redwing, the Mistle Thrush still around Funny Park, a Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaffs, 3 Siberian Chiffchaffs – two at the north end and one in Ancum Willows, a Brambling, 18 Linnets, 5 Siskin, 43 Twite and a Snow Bunting.
Friday, 1 November 2019
Calm again first thing but the southerly wind steadily picked up through the day becoming breezy by the evening and maybe moving into the east a little bit; some increased coverage produced some increased numbers with hints of a few new bits still on the move, perhaps indicating the autumn is not quite over yet! Birds seen through the day included 10 Red-throated Divers, 6 Great-northern Divers, a bit of movement over the sea with a Sooty Shearwater, 4 Common Scoter, a juvenile Pomarine Skua, 5 Little Auks and 3 Puffins, 8 Herons, 312 Wigeon, 8 Pintail, 112 Teal, a massive influx of 104 Tufted Ducks – the second highest island count, probably involving a roaming flock from Sanday rather than actual migrants, 31 Long-tailed Ducks (highest count of the autumn), 3 Hen Harriers, 4 Merlin, 3 Woodcock, 28 Rock Pipits, 14 Robins, the Holland Ring Ouzel still, 8 Song Thrush, 145 Redwing, a Mistle Thrush, 3 Siberian Chiffchaffs (new birds, caught in Holland), 3 Brambling, 66 Siskin and 7 Snow Buntings.
Another nice and calm day, overcast and dry but with few new arrivals; totals comprised 6 Red-throated Divers, 3 Herons, single Whooper Swan and Pink-footed Goose, the Green-winged Teal still, a Hen Harrier, 2 Merlin, a Peregrine, 2 Woodcock, 2 Short-eared Owls, 10 Robins, a Ring Ouzel still at Holland, 5 Song Thrush, 66 Redwing, 2 Blackcap, a Chiffchaff, 3 Siberian Chiffchaffs, 2 Brambling, 2 Greenfinches, 11 Siskin, 65 Twite, a Common Redpoll and a Snow Bunting.