Monday, 30 March 2020

27th-29th March

The 27th started as we'd hoped it would go on weather wise, unfortunately the Southerly air flow that had bought us a few early Spring migrants would switch into a rather bitter North-Westerly bringing in very little apart from a few snow flurries!
Bird-wise the 27th wasn't a bad day, the warmer less windy weather allowed us to open the nets at Holland for the first time this decade and it wasn't all that bad. The previous days Dunnock found its way into a mist net as did a Pied Wagtail. Finally the Otter made another cameo between Brides and Stromness point.
In the field things weren't bad either, a Whooper Swan on Hooking was the first since the early parts of the year and Sparrowhawk at Holland was an addition to the year list. A colour ringed Bar-tailed Godwit on the Links proved to be JJJ3, a bird that has returned to North Ronaldsay since at least 2010 when it was ringed.
The 28th was just horrible. A driving cold northerly wind backed with occasional showers wasn't what we had in mind with April on the horizon! The Green-winged Teal was about the only bird of note for the day!
A similar scenario the following day but with slightly less wind meant coverage was a bit more palatable, but it was still rather wet and windy! A ringtail Hen Harrier near Brides and our first Great Skua of 2020 were the stand out birds for the day.
Purple Sandpipers                                                                      George Gay

Friday, 27 March 2020

24th-26th March

With April fast approaching Spring has finally began to take hold up here. The 24th and 25th were pretty similar to the last four or five days. A count of 19 Tufted Duck on the 24th was the highest this year as was a count of 164 Black-headed Gulls.
Another Goldcrest at the Airfield was accompanied by 3 Black-tailed Godwit as they headed North over Holland to complete a good couple of days and maybe the signs of what would be a good next day.
The 26th bought a calm and sunny day and four new birds for 2020.
A Kestrel was first on the menu as a young male made its way South from Cavan and presumably out towards Sanday.
A Wheatear was then seen at the Pier and was closely followed by a Dunnock at Holland. A sixth  Stonechat of 2020, although not a year tick was a nice addition to the day list around the obs and it also led to the finding of the first Chiffchaff of the year down by T1. Spring is in and with settled weather for the next few days hopefully it'll continue to get better!
Chiffchaff                                                              George Gay

Stonechat                                               Sara Macias Rodriguez

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

21st-23rd March

**Firstly lets get some housekeeping out the way. In accordance with advice from the Scottish Government the bird observatory will be closed to visitors at the moment as hotels and self-catering accommodation should not be accepting visitors. We however do hope to welcome visitors once the situation with Covid-19 has been made somewhat clearer, be that in the Autumn or in 2021. We'll also place on record that residential staff already at that obs have been retained.**

Right the birdy stuff you're all really here for!
The 21st bought about a slight change in weather as the wind began to swing into the East and then picked up gradually over the next two days leaving the 23rd as a very windy and ultimately not very nice day.
The Green-winged Teal has remained on Gretchen and was also present on the 22nd. Other waterfowl of interest were 5 Mute Swan on Hooking loch on the 21st and no fewer than 4 Shelduck on the 23rd. 3 Hen Harriers also on the 21st were joined by a single Merilin on the same day and a further two birds on the 23rd. A Peregrine over Holland Park on the 22nd was the first for few days.
Bar-tailed Godwit numbers peaked at 23 on the 23rd as did Purple Sandpipers on the same date with 145.
Passerine numbers have been on a steady increase the highlights of which were 140 Skylark, 6 Fieldfare and 45 Twite on the 21st. 17 Pied Wagtails, 11 Meadow Pipits and a Song Thrush on the 22nd and the 23rd bought 4 Robins, 3 Stonechats, 8 Redwing, 3 Snow Buntings and our first Goldcrest of 2020, which would have been the highlight of the post had it not been for the amazing discovery of a dog Otter on Brides Loch on the 23rd! It's the first island record in nearly a decade with the last being in 2011.


Mute Swan

Pied Wagtail

Saturday, 21 March 2020

18th-20th March

It's been a rather hectic couple of days up here, poor day of weather on the 18th didn't allow for too much birding. With plenty of indoor maintenance work to be carried out we took the opportunity to partake in some painting. The 19th however was much nicer so getting out to see what we could add to our yearlist seemed a good idea!
The usual Green-winged Teal hasn't moved from Gretchen but it'll probably be thinking of doing so any day soon. The highlights of the day proved to be a trio of Common Redpoll hanging around in the gardens at Holland and a Siskin that came in off the sea at Hooking. Otherwise there's been an increase in common migrants with noteably more Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails hanging around, with four of each noted around the observatory a few more further afield. Wader numbers seem to have steadied out and most the breeders are well into their courtship rituals! Spring has well and truly started its slow roll, hopefully we'll manage a Wheatear before too long!
The 20th although a good day was busy for other reasons. An exodus from mainland UK meant the arrival of Gavin, Phoebe, Sara and Rael. The latter of which you'll recognise from previous years! Birdy highlights were limited a Merlin over T5 and a Song Thrush trapped around the obs in the morning.

Great Northern Diver

Ringed Plover

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

6th-17th March

It's been a little while but finally we're back with a full compliment of staff. While I was away we saw build up in numbers of Pied Wagtail and our first Stonechat of the year its their appearance on the 12th at the school followed by a female around the obs on 14th and another bird on the 17th at the airfield.
The Green-winged Teal and the Glaucous Gull have been hanging around in similar haunts, a Song Thrush at Holland was new to the year list. Otherwise it's been fairly quiet, in other news we're all keeping safe and isolated from this dreadful Coronavirus! But the less said about that the better, it'll be spring soon!

Green-winged Teal and Glaucous Gull

There might be a reason we haven't had a boat this year...

Saturday, 7 March 2020

3rd-5th March

I'll try and keep things brief as there hasn't been an awful lot bird movement in the last few days.
The Green-winged Teal has remained on Gretchen, I'm sure it'll move eventually! Good numbers of Skylark have been building, with up to 143 birds recorded in the area between the observatory and Kirbest, 63 of which were hanging around the obs.
A Pied Wagtail at the airfield on the 3rd was new for the year, so things are grinding along slowly and the Glaucous Gull that's been hanging about made a brief appearance on the 4th as did a Jack Snipe flushed from the Funny Park, another island year tick!
If you're on Twitter (and if you are and you don't already follow us please do, we're @NRonBirdObs) you'll have already seen the Coot recovery post. A Coot that Gavin ringed in June has been re-trapped some 880km away in St. James Park, London.
Eurasian Coot are relatively migratory so maybe not such a huge surprise, but we're excited as we've only managed to ring nine Coot in thirty-one years so maybe we ought to try and catch a few more! We also assume this is just the Coots wintering ground (in London) and hopefully it'll be back to breed, now with extra leg bling in the shape of a shiny darvic ring.

On a final footnote- There won't be any updates now until 15th March.

The Frogs know it's nearly Spring...

...This Lapwing might not though


Tuesday, 3 March 2020

28th Feb - 2nd March

A weekend of absolutely abhorrent weather meant birding was at a minimum, the only birds of interest were the rather soggy Green-winged Teal and a Robin that kept popping up by the obs. Once Monday arrived we had another poor morning of weather but that quickly cleared and gave way to a splendid afternoon. However I took the option to give one of the heligoland traps some much needed tlc!
Tuesday was another superb day so a walk around the North end in the morning got the ball rolling again. It wasn't spectacular but it's early March. The two Mute Swans were still on Garso, 61 Wigeon, 2 Pintail, 4 Gadwall and 3 Goldeneye were all Bewan had in stock. A small flock of Great Black-back Gulls didn't hold anything and the usual wader flocks still included Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone and Ringed Plover. The main event of the day came back at the obs in the shape of a Woodpigeon, not the most exciting bird but they're a migrant here so hopefully a sign of things to come, as long its not all Woodpigeons!
An afternoon stroll up the West side was a little more exciting, a Robin at Verracott brings the wintering numbers up to at least five. A 1cy male Merlin was on West Beach as was a ringtail Hen Harrier.
So it seems Spring is on its way up here, albeit slowly, but good things come those who wait...or so I'm told!