Friday, 25 December 2020

North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory would like to thank all of those who have visited and contributed to the Bird Observatory in this strangest of years and wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 
Thank You all and we hope to see you next year.

This Little Auk was a surprise Christmas present for one lucky islander, found on the doorstep early morning. It was lively and put back out on the sea.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

We finally got in on some Goose action with 3 Russian White-fronted Geese and a single Bean Goose sp. between Holland and Kirbist on 16th. Up to 4 Woodcock have been logged, there are still a few Fieldfare and Redwing scattered about, up to 11 Pintail have been on Gretchen Loch and 2 Jackdaws coming in off the sea at the pier on 23rd is only the second December record of this species. 

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

5th 15th December

The past couple of weeks have been wet and windy to say the least but there are still plenty of Geese to search through, though no White-fronted Geese so far. Three Iceland Gulls were amongst the masses of Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls on 8th, there are still a decent number of Redwings and Fieldfare for December and it appears a good number of Robins are going to spend Christmas on the Island. Up to 80 Twite remain in the Observatory bird crops and singles of Siskin and Common Redpoll were seen on 15th.

Friday, 4 December 2020

25th November - 4th December

 A rather quiet period of just under 10 days has meant there's not really a lot to shout about at the moment but we have had a few interesting bits to keep curiosity going and observers in the field. 

A Sparrowhawk was seen briefly over Milldam on the 25th while the first wintering Shelduck returned to Gretchen on the 28th, a small increase in wildfowl numbers saw the Pintail count rise to 23 with most of the birds being on Bewan and Gretchen. A short sea-watch on the 1st of December produced a Little Auk and a Puffin. Other highlights have included the Green-winged Teal, up to 3 Hen Harriers, 2 Merlins, Short-eared Owl was seen on the 28th and there's decent numbers of Woodcock still hanging around. Other remainders of the Autumn are still lingering too; small groups of Redwing and Fieldfare are still present in hidden corners of fields while small numbers of Robins are still feeding around the Obs, Holland and Ancum Willows. The ever present flock of Twite in the obs crop has stayed at a pretty steady 40-50 birds, they've been joined by a number of Chaffinch over the last few days with up to 6 birds joining the flock. A Grey Plover that has also been present on Nouster beach for much of November has been seen most days. 


                                   Merlin                                                                                   GG
                                   Twite                                                                                      GG


Wednesday, 25 November 2020

17th-24th November

 It's been quite the week, mainly for birding reasons but sadly not here! Dante has now departed for the winter but he'll be back next Spring for the season. While dropping him off in Kirkwall I managed to find Scotland's third Crag Martin while shopping, it would have been rather nice if it was flying round on here but I can't complain too much!

The constant factor here has been wind, rain and a bit more wind. This has meant that birding opportunities have been rather limited especially with quite a bit of work to do and short daylight hours. However we haven't been without birds and some early winter highlights haven't passed us by. For starters the Woodlark is still hanging on in there in the Funny Park and we're now harbouring hopes it might survive the long winter and make its way on 2021's year list! The Green-winged Teal is a constant presence and will no doubt continue to be so. Another late Ring Ouzel, this time a male was on the lawn at Kirbest on the 17th as was an Iceland Gull seen from the bar in the Obs, it happened to be the second Iceland Gull seen from the bar this year! A high count of 11 Goldeneye were on Bewan during really rough weather on the 21st while 10 Pink-footed Geese were with Greylags around Milldam and finally a lone Goldfinch was around Sandback on the 23rd. Other than daily sightings of Woodcock and the odd lingering Robin it's been quiet, but it's nearly December so that's to be expected really! 

                                   Pink-footed Geese                                                              GG
                                   Pot making friends with a Greylag.                                     GG
                                   Ring Ouzel                                                                           GG


Tuesday, 17 November 2020

10th-16th November

 Winter has well and truly set in and we've had some weather to go with it a long with some better days too. Highlights have been few and far between but the ones we have had have been good ones! 

The first of the highlights came on the 12th, a Yellowhammer initially found flying over Longar would later settle on the track near Sangar, it's only the second occurrence of the year so was more than welcome. The Woodlark was still present on the 12th and still in its usual spot in the Funny Park. Both Long-eared Owls remained in the gardens at Holland until at least the 12th when they were re-trapped almost simultaneously much like when they were first caught! 

A quite spell filled the next few days after this until the 14th provided a Goldfinch at Sandback, assumedly one of the birds from a few weeks back, the Green-winged Teal put in a showing on Gretchen where we assume it spends most of its time and perhaps most unusual was the appearance of a white farmyard duck on Bewan, it wasn't the white waterfowl anybody was after in any case! 

The 15th also had its highlights, good numbers of Thrushes remain on the island especially between Holland and the obs, in this contingent of remaining Thrushes was a Ring Ouzel near Westness. There also seems to be a good number of Robins scattered about too. The Buzzard is still in the Ancum area and we have to assume its going to winter or die trying! 

                                   Not a Smew...
                                                     ...and that definitely isn't a Fulmar...
                                                                               ...but this is certainly a Woodlark (GG)                              



 

Monday, 9 November 2020

4th-9th November

  With things slowing down for the season and staff members moving into different accommodation for the winter things have been much more low key on the birding front but it hasn't been without highlights and the 9th saw an unpredicted fall that had us back out in the field trying to find a late Autumn gem! 

Highlights have been very few and far between in the run up to the 9th. The only real birds of note have been a juvenile Iceland Gull at Brides on the 4th, a female Sparrowhawk was present in Holland on the 6th and 7th and the long-staying Buzzard was seen on the 7th and 8th. The 8th saw us add Scaup to the year list with a 1st year drake sat on Bewan with 7 Tufted Duck. 

The 6th was also a special day for two of the obs staff, it was time for Rael and Sara to get married, a small party in the observatory in the evening was a lovely way to congratulate the newly-weds and we wish them all the best going forward.

The 9th came out of nowhere a little bit despite us thinking the forecast had looked good a few days previous. A fall of Blackbirds saw well over 1000 birds pass through the island throughout the day. Along with the Blackbirds were pockets of Fieldfare and Redwing with triple figure counts posted for each species. The Woodlark re-emerged in the obs crop after a five day absence, a flock of 42 Twite shows signs of building up in the crop too. Holland was the main focus of our attentions for the afternoon and we managed to get nets open from 14:00-17:00 in this five hour spell we managed to catch 112 birds including 101 Blackbirds, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Goldcrests, 2 Long-eared Owls and a Woodcock, not a bad way to spend an afternoon! The Woodcock count was limited to around the observatory and Holland but saw at least 16 birds counted, meaning there's bound to be more on the island! 

With the season at a wind down and with plenty of jobs to get done in preparation for the exodus of staff and for 2021 the blog posts won't be that regular but I'll try and keep them weekly at the very least! 


                                   Long-eared Owl (Top) Iceland Gull (Bottom).                    GG


Tuesday, 3 November 2020

1st-3rd November

 November has had a slightly better start than we'd anticipated despite unfavourable weather conditions but here we sit, three days in having had some decent migrants, some decent totals of lingerers and even a year tick! 

The 1st was a dreich and damp day but did have its merits, a late Redstart was on the beach near Nouster feeding among the Turnstone and Sanderling. A Short-eared Owl was seen quartering the fields beyond Ancum Willows in the morning while a large mixed flock of Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls spent the day around Bewan with 5 Tufted Ducks, 7 Pintail, 3 Shoveler and a flock of around 100 Wigeon. The bird of the day was a Crossbill flushed from Holland before heading South.

The 2nd was a bit quieter and littered with heavy showers in the afternoon but was otherwise a pleasant day in the field. The 3 Barnacle Geese from last week were still in the fields between Greenwall and Howar while 11 Whooper Swans were on Brides before 6 departed in the direction of Sanday. A flock of 22 Long-tailed Ducks spent the afternoon in the bay at Linklet and lingering Blackcaps were in Holland and around Cruesbrek, as were 2 Siberian Chiffchaffs and at least 7 Robins were on the island adding to the counts. 

The 3rd started with a bit of a bang! The islands 7th record of Woodlark was found in the Funny Park before relocating briefly to the rough ground between the Pier and the County Park before heading back into the Funny Park where it spent the rest of the day. Elsewhere the day was quiet, the Black Redstart from Southness had seemingly re-located itself to the sea-wall at Hooking and a Siberian Chiffchaff was skulking around the entrance to Holland with a lingering Goldcrest.



                                   Woodlark                                                                             GG
                                   I'm not sure the Redstart is enjoying the weather anymore...GG
                                   Whooper Swans                                                                     GG
 

Sunday, 1 November 2020

29th-31st October

 That's the season officially over! What an Autumn we've had! The last few days haven't really lived up to the start of the month but a very tired but gratified wardening team aren't complaining. The last few days have been filled with plenty of wind and rain. 

The large groups of thrushes are slowly dissipating but still good numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing remain on the island. 6 Whooper Swan left the island early in the day on the 29th while 3 Greenfinch were hanging around at Sangar. A Grey Wagtail was also near the obs. A few lingering Robins and Blackcaps were still present on the island. 

The next couple of days were plagued with winds reaching over 50mph and driving rain, not ideal conditions and it proved so with a general lack of birds. The main talking point was the increase in Gull numbers with over 200 Herring Gulls and 120 Great Black-backed Gulls around Bewan. 

                                   Fieldfare                                                                                GG


Thursday, 29 October 2020

26th-28th October

 A rather pleasant few of days of weather even if we didn't have too many birds to go with it. Light SSE winds dominated the proceedings but didn't really bring any birds of too much note. 

The 26th was undoubtedly the pick of the days with a few lingering birds coupled with a couple of new arrivals. A Yellow-browed Warbler seen briefly in Holland was a late one but couldn't be turned into anything better. The Bluethroat from the previous day had slightly re-located and was now feeding with a Blackcap around the Storm Petrel catching area. A/the Green-winged Teal has finally moulted enough for us to recognise him and was back on Gretchen, we assume it's the same bird that has been returning to the island for over ten years now. The Buzzard was still present around Holland in the evening as was a brief Long-eared Owl as it flushed out of the middle garden in Holland. Lastly a rather smart Black Redstart was feeding around the house at Southness. 

The 27th was also a fairly productive day, a late House Martin over the obs crop was scrutinised but as with the previous days Yellow-browed Warbler couldn't be transformed into anything rarer. The first Iceland Gull of the winter period (I know it's not winter just yet!) was initially seen flying up the West side before being re-found on the Links in the afternoon. The Black Redstart was still present feeding around the Horses at Southness again. Finally three Barnacle Geese were hanging around with a group of Greylags between Greenwall and Howar. 

The 28th although a pleasant day was rather quiet. A couple of lingering Siberian Chiffchaffs at Sangar and Bewan coupled with a few extra bits of wildfowl including 5 Pintail, were about all we had to shout about for the day. The weather was nice though so no complaints really!


                                   Black Redstart                                                                      GG
Bluethroat                                                                      both GG


                                   Barnacle Geese with Greylags                                              GG


Sunday, 25 October 2020

22nd-25th October

 Not quite the rare fest we'd hoped for but still large numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing kept us sifting through Thrush flocks in the hope of finding another Sibe mega. However it wasn't to be this time around and we had to settle for uncommon migrants with not a lot in between! 

The 22nd and 25th both laid claim to Bluethroats, the best of which was a male in the observatory crop on the 25th. A juvenile bird at Westness on the 22nd though it proved illusive enough to evade all but the finder! A mixed bag of weather also meant on some days coverage was rather limited. The Buzzard has remained on the island for the period and it's beginning to look as though it spend the winter on the island. Wildfowl numbers have also been creeping up a total of 180 Wigeon, 12 Shoveler, 9 Gadwall, 4 Mallard, 79 Teal, a drake Pintail and female Goldeneye were on Bewan on the 25th. Five Ring Ouzels were present among some 2000 Fieldfare and 1400 Redwing on the 22nd but we struggled to find anything else among the carpet of winter Thrushes that was spread across the island. The Common Rosefinch also remained until the 24th spending most of its time in the Funny Park and Front Park with a flock of up to 21 Brambling. A late Redstart was present late on the 23rd down by the pier as were Lesser Whitethroats at Bewan and the New Manse. Lastly a Little Bunting was at Iris Taing on the 25th. We feel the Autumn is now beginning to end and it won't be long until we're sifting through large Gull flocks again; but until then we'll be trying to seek out that final late mega!  

                                   Male Bluethroat                                                                    DS


Wednesday, 21 October 2020

19th-21st October

 A very wet and windy few days has left most of dreaming of warm heaters and waterproof trousers that don't leak like a sieve! The prevailing easterlies make us think there are birds to be found but not in the pouring rain that has probably started to sink the island.

An influx of Thrushes has been the main talking point with over 1500 Fieldfare and 750 Redwing appeared overnight on the 19th joined by 2 Ring Ouzels, the large flocks of Thrushes presented hope for another mega rare Thrush but it hasn't played out that way....or so far at least! The other bird of note was a rather sodden Short-toed Lark on the 20th at Neven. Good numbers of wildfowl coupled with a bumper Gull count on the 21st left us something to sift through, however the 321 Herring Gulls and 243 Great Black-backed Gulls weren't hiding anything amongst their faction. Wigeon counts totalled over 300 birds on the 19th and again on the 20th while the 3rd Goldeneye of the Autumn was present on Bewan. Otherwise we're picking the bones of birds from a week or so ago with a small scattering of Robins and Chiffchaffs still lingering in various dry corners of the island.

With the weather improving over the next couple of days there's a bit of anticipation in the air for what tomorrow might bring. 

                                   Redwing 


Monday, 19 October 2020

16th-18th October

 A rather quiet period in which very few new migrants seemed to emerge, but with winds switching to the East over Monday and Tuesday there's certainly promise of more to come! 

A distinct lack of birds over the 16th and 17th left us scratching our heads a bit, but also allowed our brains to get some rest after what has been a whirlwind start and middle of October! Highlights from these two days include 4 Grey Plovers, good residual numbers of Robin, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Goldcrest and Redwing, a Lesser Whitethroat and 80+ Snow Buntings. 

The 18th was a slightly busier affair and with increased numbers of observers again we expect the good fortune of this Autumn to continue. A Little Bunting was re-discovered at North Gravity meaning folk arriving today had something to get their teeth into early on. Rosefinches were again re-discovered in the Observatory crop field and at Holland while a Lapland Bunting was also heard in the crop. The first Glaucous Gull of the Autumn was present for short while on the sea below Neven while up to 5 Goldfinches and 4 Greenfinches also made the highlight reel for the day. The first Little Auks of the Autumn were seen during a brief sea-watch that also featured the first Sooty Shearwater for a little while. The island also played host to at least 18 Siberian Chiffchaff with most being around the middle of the island. Despite this the highlight of the day had to be a female Hen Harrier trapped at Holland! Not the expected result for the evenings netting session! 

As previously mentioned the weather for the next couple of days looks interesting and with increased observers anything seems possible at the moment! 

                                   'Siberian' Chiffchaff              
                                   Little Bunting 
                                            Hen Harrier 


Thursday, 15 October 2020

14th-15th October

 A rather quite start to the 14th didn't leave us feeling highly optimistic although a Locustella seen briefly in Holland did give us the feeling that something might happen. The day progressed in an otherwise quiet fashion, the first Greenfinches of the year were at Holland and Sangar while 3 Velvet Scoters also made their way onto the year list. Remaining Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Robins were joined by the occasional Goldcrest, Redwing and Song Thrush but otherwise it felt like the day would fizzle out. However a Pallas' Warbler decided to make its presence felt at about 17:30 in the obs crop and was closely followed by the second Lanceolated Warbler of the year in Holland. A rather bizarre late flurry that left almost everyone a bit baffled to be honest! 

The 15th didn't include quite as much bafflement although there was a bit! A Grasshopper Warbler or what is assumed to be one appeared in the gardens first thing but wasn't seen again. A Common Rosefinch was also in Holland but found its way into a net. Other highlights include 2 Black-throated Diver, a Greenshank, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Tree Pipit. It's slim pickings but things are looking good over the next few days so we'll keep plugging away!

                                   Pallas' Warbler                                                                        DS


Wednesday, 14 October 2020

11th-13th October

 The last few days have seen a mass exodus of the migrants that have graced the island over the past week or so. 

The bird of the period was the previous days Buff-bellied Pipit that made a very welcome re-appearance on the Links, this time hanging around long enough for everybody to get a good view. Yet another Red-throated Pipit was seen briefly over Nouster as it headed towards Howar. Both of the previous days Little Buntings were present near Stennabrek while another Short-toed Lark was heard flying over the Links. A Buzzard was present between North and South Gravity. Otherwise a few migrants remained left over with singles figures and low double figures of Robin, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Goldcrest. 

The 12th bought in winds originating in the North bringing in a cold air flow and near constant light rain. Not the best birding conditions and it proved to be a rather quiet a flock of 57 Snow Buntings were at Westness while one of the Little Buntings was still at Stennabrek and another was around North Gravity. The Buzzard was also present as was the second Goldeneye of Autumn on Brides. A Black Redstart was also present around Haskie. 

The 13th saw the wind from the North-east but overall a much quieter day than perhaps anticipated. A Red-breasted Flycatcher was seen briefly around obs and at least 4 Siberian Chiffchaffs were seen around the island. A large flock of Chaffinch have built up around the Gravity area now totalling 36 birds. 


                                   American Buff-bellied Pipit                                                 GG
                                   Jack Snipe                                                                             GG


Saturday, 10 October 2020

7th-10th October

 It's been equally mad over the past few days but a gradual clear out of migrants has allowed us to go back to some form of birding normality despite lingering mega's and couple more great additions to the North Ron year list! 

The 7th was probably the busiest day of the lot and with birds still lingering after the incredible fall the day before it's barely a surprise. The adult male Red-throated Pipit was still lingering in East Loch Park while the Short-toed Lark was doing a similar thing just over the wall at Kirbest. The Bluethroat from a few days previous seemingly re-appeared at the Shooting Gallery coupled with the lingering Rosefinch while a further two Bluethroats were discovered at Haskie and Viggay in the afternoon. One of the lingering Little Buntings was seen near Senness and a very smart adult male Red-backed Shrike was seen between the Shooting Gallery and Burray throughout the day, unfortunately for at least one of the many lingering Goldcrests. The highlight for the day would have been the now long staying Eyebrowed Thrush until it's limelight was deservedly robbed by the islands second record of Pallas' Grasshopper Warbler, initially found in irises below Greenwall the bird proved tricky to absolutely get everything on but a net was deployed and the bird was trapped and ringed making for a pretty good first day of the finder David Roche's trip! 

A quieter day followed mostly punctuated with lingering birds again. The Red-backed Shrike was joined on the list by the re-appearance of the juvenile at Holland in the morning, a bird that managed to elude and evade us for a number of days! The Bluethroats at Haskie and the Shooting Gallery also remained as did the initial Rosefinch which would be joined by a second bird arriving at the Lighthouse in the early afternoon. A Reed Warbler was still skulking away in the Kirbest ditch while nearby the Short-toed Lark was still giving us the run around. The Pallas' Grasshopper Warbler and Eyebrowed Thrush still remained giving a good feel to the day overall. 

The 9th would see the disappearance of the Eyebrowed Thrush. A full week after a rather panicked set of obs staff and guests arrived to try and re-find it, it had departed. The story was similar across the board and the PG tips (birders slang for Pallas' Grasshopper Warbler) had also left the island, along with a good number of the commoner migrants. Saying this the Shrike, Bluethroat and one of the Rosefinches still hung on. The new additions for the day came in the shape of a 6th Red-throated Pipit for the Autumn at Rue (yes we know...it's getting silly!), a 1st winter bird that spent much of the day bombing about the North end of the island. The other addition was 2 Slavonian Grebes in the bay at Linklet, they've been rather long awaited! 

The final day in this post and another good bird to add on to the yearlist! But first there had been a major clear out overnight meaning the Short-toed Lark and Red-backed Shrike has also departed for pastures new and we needed to fill the gap that had been left by them with something. That something arrived at about mid-day on the Links in the form of an American Buff-bellied Pipit! Initially feeding on the edge of Sandsheen the bird was seen by three observers including the finder before preforming a highly unappreciated bunk! The afternoon was spent trying re-locate it but this proved a futile task despite extensive searches. Elsewhere the Bluethroat was still hanging around the cow fields at Haskie and 2 Little Buntings were seemingly fresh arrivals near Stennabrek.



                                   Pallas' Grasshopper Warbler                                         Both GG
                                   American Buff-bellied Pipit                                                  GG
                                   Red-backed Shrike with Goldcrest                                        DS
  

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

3rd-6th October

 As you can probably tell from the lack of posts its been nothing short of mental here over the past few days. The sheer number of common migrants has been a bit overwhelming at times and with a few goodies thrown in for good measure it's been a week to remember for the staff and guests.

The Easterlies have been fairly consistent and with rain involved almost everyday bar the 5th it's been a recipe for migrants that's proved rather tasty. I think the best course of action is to go through high totals for the last few days and throw in the odd rarity! 

3rd October- 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Buzzard, 2 Little Buntings, 43 Snow Buntings, Common Rosefinch, 69 Brambling, 3 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 3 Willow Warbler, 39 Chiffchaff, 15 Yellow-browed Warbler, 5 Garden Warbler, 3 Common Whitethroat, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Barred Warbler, 181 Robin, 3 Tree Pipit, 122 Goldcrest, 2 Red-throated Pipit and Eyebrowed Thrush.

4th October- 1 Buzzard, 6 Willow Warbler, 40 Chiffchaff, 7 Yellow-browed Warbler, 106 Goldcrest, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Common Whitethroat, 1 Barred Warbler, 1 Reed Warbler, 1459 Redwing, 446 Song Thrush, 16 Fieldfare, 17 Ring Ouzel, 105 Robin, 1 Spotted Crake, 1 Osprey, 2 Rustic Buntings, 1 Red-throated Pipit and Eyebrowed Thrush.

5th October- 10 Willow Warbler, 43 Chiffchaff, 4 Yellow-browed Warbler, 144 Goldcrest, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Barred Warbler, 4 Reed Warbler, 4 Whinchat, 1 Stonechat, 106 Robin, 4 Dunnock, 2 Richard's Pipit, 1 Red-throated Pipit, 1 Short-toed Lark, 3 Rustic Buntings and Eyebrowed Thrush.

6th October- Lingering migrants were coupled with a late arrival of birds after a spell of rain. There's still birds to be found tomorrow as the arrival occurred so late in the day! 4 Whooper Swan, 1 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 2 Short-eared Owl, 4 Willow Warbler, 123 Chiffchaff, 6 Yellow-browed Warblers, 3 Garden Warblers, 3 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Barred Warbler, 1 Reed Warbler, 228 Goldcrest, 1 Rosefinch, 1 Little Bunting, 1 Short-toed Lark, 2 Red-throated Pipit, 1 Rustic Bunting, 2 Red-breasted Flycatcher, 1 Red-backed Shrike, 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 1 Pallas' Warbler and 1 Eyebrowed Thrush.

As you can see there's a lot of birds around hense the brief blog post. For clarity the Red-throated Pipit numbers account for at least three individuals with birds at Kirbest, East Loch Park and Westness. Rustic Buntings are a similar story with three proven individuals at Hooking, Brides and Antabrek. The Red-backed Shrike is the same ringed bird from a few days back, the Common Rosefinch and Buzzard also refer to one individual. It's been long days in the field recently so please excuse the blogs clinical demeanour this time around! It looks going forward weather wise too! It's exciting times on North Ronaldsay! 

                                   Rustic Bunting 
                                   Eyebrowed Thrush
                                   Chiffchaff
                                   Song Thrush                                                                     all GG



Saturday, 3 October 2020

1st-2nd October

 An absolutely mental couple of days, the Easterlies didn't disappoint and we were rewarded with two mega Sibes that we could have only dreamed of when the winds kicked off. I think the best way to tackle this post is just to give totals for certain species.

The totals for the 1st were somewhat less than the 2nd but equally impressive. 

A Curlew Sandpiper was on Ancum while there were singles of Corncrake, Redstart, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and Red-backed Shrike. Other numbers were made up of 5 Robin, 4 Ring Ouzel, 14 Blackcap, 4 Chiffchaff, 3 Willow Warbler, 19 Yellow-browed Warblers, 6 Goldcrest and 18 Brambling. The second Red-throated Pipit of the year was in the obs crop were it spent the afternoon giving poor views. The undoubtable moment of the day was a stunning White's Thrush trapped at Holland. Only the second island record and something for everyone to savour the bird was released in Holland where it spent the rest of the day and the following one.

The 2nd involved a massive fall with increases of migrants across the board. 12 Jack Snipe, 6 Ruff, a Greenshank, a Short-eared Owl, a Kestrel, a Buzzard, the Corncrake was still present, 735 Redwing, 186 Song Thrush, 9 Fieldfare, 4 Ring Ouzel, a Dunnock, 57 Robin, 12 Redstart, 3 Whinchat, a Stonechat, 2 Grasshopper Warblers, 68 Blackcap, a Garden Warbler, 3 Willow Warblers, 4 Chiffchaff, 21 Yellow-browed Warblers, 43 Goldcrest, 2 Barred Warbler, 2 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 50 Brambling, 23 Chaffinch, 22 Snow Buntings and 3 Little Buntings. Phew. 

The big highlight of the day was yet another mega rare Thrush. This time in the shape of a rather stunning Eyebrowed Thrush that spent the afternoon between Waterhouse and Phisligar often giving stunning views, it was an unexpected treat following the previous days bird. 

We seem to be on a bit of a role and long may it continue! 

                                   Eyebrowed Thrush                                                                 GG
                                   Redwing                                                                                 GG
                                   White's Thrush                                                                      RJB
                                   Yellow-browed Warbler                                                        GG


Wednesday, 30 September 2020

28th-30th September

 A few days of promising weather included some good birds and quite a few commoner migrant, hopefully all a taster for the rest of the week ahead.

Most of the previous days birds remained, a few new bits included a male Ring Ouzel around the obs crop, a Lesser Redpoll and a few Redwing and Song Thrushes. 6 Yellow-browed Warblers looked like being the highlight of the day until a Little Bunting was found around T1 before relocating to East Loch Park. Following this a an American Golden Plover was heard as it flushed from near the Lenswick Footpath but couldn't be re-located.

The following day was equally migrant filled. The day started with Pied Flycatcher near the poly tunnel at the observatory. A Red-backed Shrike spent most of the day around the bird observatory before being trapped in Holland later that evening. Yellow-browed Warblers broke into double figures for the day while the first Mistle Thrush of year headed up the West Coast towards Tor Ness. A Common Buzzard made its way in off the sea only to be followed by another. 17 Lapland Bunting, 40 Song Thrush and 23 Redwing made for good birding. The Little Bunting re-appeared in East Loch Park to round off a good days birding.

The 30th was frankly a horrible day a record count of 16 Grey Plover were on Nouster during the morning. The first Spotted Flycatcher of the Autumn was on the beach below Garso and a Ring Ouzel was near the shooting gallery.

                                   Little Bunting                                                                        GG
                                   Grey Plover                                                                           GG


Monday, 28 September 2020

25th-27th September

 A good few days of birding that started quietly got better as a few migrants from the east began to arrive and prime sea-watch conditions provided a mega sea-bird for one lucky observer.

The 25th and 26th were quiet in terms of migrants, the Buff-breasted Sandpiper made a re-appearance on Tor Ness before re-locating to a field East of Upper Linnay. A Jack Snipe was flushed from a pool near Trolla, this was the first of the Autumn so was a welcome addition. A male Redstart was at Senness and was the only real passerine migrant for the day on the 25th. The 26th was also quiet in comparison to the following day although a Ring Ouzel near Gretchen was another first for the Autumn. 

The 27th was much busier and a slackening in the wind meant sea-watch conditions looked and they turned out to be exactly that! Along with 163 Sooty Shearwater and 8 Manx Shearwater was something a little different. A small Shearwater with a Manxie proved to be a Barolo Shearwater, a bit of mad moment and not one that will be easily repeated! The sea-watch also produced a Fin Whale. A very smart Red-breasted Flycatcher was hanging around the surgery while 10 Yellow-browed Warblers flitted their way around bushes and gardens in various locations around the island. Three Goldcrests at North Gravity, the Post Office and Upper Linnay were joined on the day list by 4 Chiffchaffs, a Redstart, a Whitethroat at Scottigar, a Blythii Lesser Whitethroat at Bewan and a Green Sandpiper on Ancum.

The weather looks interesting for the next few days and hopefully we'll score big again before the Autumn winds up! 


                                   Red-breasted Flycatcher                                                both GG
                                   Redstart                                                                                 GG
                                     Yellow-browed Warbler                                      Chris Bridge



Thursday, 24 September 2020

21st-24th September

 A bit of a longer period between posts than intended but these things sometimes happen when you're hoping for rarities! The last four days haven't disappointed for the most part although the 22nd was almost a wash-out and the 24th despite early promise never lived up to its billing!

We'll start with the 21st however and a small smattering of birds mostly vestiges from the previous few days of birding. A Yellow-browed Warbler was still in Holland along with the Redstart at Bewan and the Reed Warbler between North and South Gravity. These birds all remained in place until the 23rd. A House Martin was seen at the Lighthouse and then presumably the same bird was seen at Holland in the evening, the first and potentially only record of the Autumn. A Snow Bunting was hanging around on the pier but the day was otherwise quiet.

As previously stated the 22nd was a near wash out with birding made difficult by driving rain and nasty winds, the only avian highlights being 5 Grey Plover and a juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull.

A much better day followed and despite a quiet morning involving a Goldcrest and the same ever fattening Barred Warbler in Holland and a Robin at Nether Linnay the birding slowly got better as the day wound on. A Stonechat at Ancum was perhaps a slightly unseasonal record for here, less so were 9 Lapland Buntings, 7 of which were together at Sandar. A Common Whitethroat at Sangar, a Yellow-browed at Burray and the first Siskin of the Autumn also at Burray were good additions to the day list. The highlights of the day consisted of the first Red-breasted Flycatcher of the year at Antabrek seemed to be the bird of day until the visiting Heatherlea group uncovered a rather smart Buff-breasted Sandpiper in the wet field just below Holland.

The 24th showed promise after the previous days late showing and the anticipation increased after the morning nets session produced a Goldcrest, a Blackcap and a Pied Flycatcher, with at least two other Goldcrests in the garden. This however was slightly miss-placed and six hours later the only passerine migrants of note were two Redwings. A general clearout had taken place and the cold Northerly wind had left us with little to shout about!

We're not too worried though, an interesting high pressure developing over Scandinavia will hopefully begin to provide us with birds on the other side of the weekend. 


                                   Red-breasted Flycatcher                                                        GG
                                   Buff-breasted Sandpiper                                                        GG
                                   Reed Warbler                                                                         GG


Monday, 21 September 2020

18th-20th September

 A superb period in which promising weather bought in some good birds and such much needed migrants. 

The 18th started with light winds and drizzle that eventually turned into a light mist, this undoubtably dropped in the first spell of birds. Things started with a Yellow-browed Warbler at Holland followed by one at the Manse before things began to kick off and the day produced a fine haul of migrants a further two Yellow-browed Warblers pushed the day total to 4, a Reed Warbler was between North and South Gravity as was a Chiffchaff, 2 Willow Warblers and a Common Whitethroat, a further Chiffchaff was in Holland. The Baird's Sandpiper was joined by a Little Stint at Bewan. Other migrant totals included 8 Blackcaps, 5 Pied Flycatchers, 7 Willow Warblers, 2 Goldcrests and 2 Tree Pipits. An Unstreaked Acro at Garso remained unidentified due to it's skulky nature and wasn't around the following morning. It seemed Little Buntings at North Gravity and 2 at Stennabrek would be the highlights for the day until a Red-throated Pipit was found feeding around the Irises near Bridesness, a superb end to a superb day! 

The following day was met with anticipation and it delivered. The Red-throated Pipit had disappeared overnight but had been replaced by good numbers of migrants. Yellow-browed Warblers increased to a total of 10 birds spread across the island while Pied Flycatchers had increased to 12. Flocks of Pink-footed Geese totalled over 600 birds by the end of the day as they headed south through low cloud occasionally shrouded from view. Other migrants included a Redstart near the Lighthouse, 2 Whitethroats, 2 Snow Buntings, 1 Goldcrest, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Barred Warbler, a Reed Warbler at Bewan, a Tree Pipit and 2 Brambling. A Crane was heard flying around clearly disorientated by the mist, The Baird's Sandpiper and Little Stint also remained on Bewan. Away from the birds, if you believe we managed to see other things a pod of 4 Risso's Dolphins were seen heading South. It was one of those days of birding that will live long in the memory, superb day! 

The birds didn't linger and the following day saw a clear out of most of the previous days migrants. The Redstart, 3 Blackcaps and 2 Yellow-browed Warblers remained while new birds included 4 Goldcrests, 2 Robins and a Garden Warbler trapped at Holland. The Pied Flycatchers had all disappeared overnight but the Baird's and Little Stint remained faithful to their usual haunt. Pink-footed Geese moved but in much smaller numbers with just over 200 seen heading South. As I said a much quieter day all said and done but by no means a bad day at all! 

                                    Red-throated Pipit                                                                GG
                                    Pied Flycatcher                                                                    GG
                                    Yellow-browed Warbler                                                       GG
                                   Yellow-browed Warbler in the hand                                  SMR