Thursday, 30 April 2020

27th-29th April

The 27th and 28th had a distinctly wintery feel to it with a NNE wind. The 27th even had some birds you'd associate with winter birding! A Long-tailed Duck was sat in Nouster and a Woodcock was flushed from Brek. Leftover birds from the previous days still hung on including 41 Wheatear, 2 Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler. Also hanging on before disappearing was a Common Tern in Nouster.
The next day didn't provide much improvement in weather or birds but it did see an increase in Turnstone and Purple Sandpiper to 650 and 144 respectively. A lone Pink-footed Goose was near Bridesness but the stand-out birds for the day were two Tree Sparrow at the obs, a very nice addition to the ever growing year list.
The 29th saw the wind slacken off almost entirely and it also so a small influx in bird numbers. The bird of the day was a stonking summer plumage White-billed Diver off of Dennishead, the Diver was also joined by 5 or more Risso's Dolphin, the first sighting of any cetaceans this year. Elsewhere a drake Garganey was on Hooking, a Sparrowhawk was in Holland, an Arctic Skua was seen near Torness and the first Arctic Tern of the year flew South past the Lurn. The Tree Sparrows remained around the obs and other lingerers were a Dunnock, 2 Chiffchaff and a lone Willow Warbler. The North End played host to a large influx of Swallows with up to 132 birds coming in throughout the day. Finally our first House Martin of the year was flying around Nouster in the late afternoon.
The weather's looking good for the next few days so hopefully the arrival of some more Spring migrants in imminent!
Risso's Dolphin                                                                   GG

Tree Sparrow                                                                         GG

Knot                                                                                   GG    

Monday, 27 April 2020

24th-26th April

The weather continued in its fine vein of form treating us to unbroken sunshine finally breaking up on the 26th when the wind switched into the west and bought about scattered showers by the evening.
The 24th produced quite a few migrants, 9 Chiffchaffs and 8 Willow Warblers were joined by a couple of Blackcaps, 10 Robin and 7 Whimbrel. The stand-out trio of birds went to a male Redstart at Brigg, a Grasshopper Warbler in the ditch near Howar and a Ring Ouzel in Brides Kirk Pund. Otherwise the usual suspects kept us busy.
The next day was a similar story but seemingly there had been a bit of clear out. Two new year ticks came away from the passerine side of things, a pale phase Arctic Skua was seen heading North past the Lurn and a Common Sandpiper was on the rocks between Hindoo Geo and Stromness point.
A Hen Harrier left south from the obs, a rather grumpy male Sparrowhawk was trapped and Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler numbers had decreased to two and three respectively.
A change in wind direction perhaps bought about a change in birds, the morning started with a Buzzard seen at Sangar heading towards Westness, only to be followed by another that headed South over the obs around an hour later. Not bad considering they're not a common bird this far North. Other raptors for the day included singles of Merlin, Kestrel and the previous days Sparrowhawk. On the land up to 33 Sand Martins were between Brides and the Links, a Short-eared Owl was seen on the Links in the afternoon, another Ring Ouzel was at the lighthouse and our first Sedge Warbler of 2020 was singing near Sangar. Our final year tick of the day was a Common Tern over Brides Loch in the late afternoon rounded off a pretty good day.

Whimbrel                                                                            GG

Common Sandpiper                                                          GG
Goldcrest                                                                           GG

Thursday, 23 April 2020

20th-22nd April

With yet more superb weather things continued to tick on nicely on the birding front the 20th saw us add Short-eared Owl to our year list when a lone bird was flushed from long grass near Peckhole. A pair of Garganey on Hooking, a Whinchat at Holland and a male Blackcap at Lurand were clear stand out birds.
The clear weather meant that birds continued to migrate and no less than 34 Curlew were seen heading North throughout the day. A female Sparrowhawk was in Holland in the evening, 22 Sand Martins were seen between Brides and the Links and 9 Knot were hanging around Sandback.
The 21st bought about a few extra migrants, 11 Chiffchaffs, 7 Robins, a Goldcrest and a Jack Snipe were the supporting cast to another Whinchat, a litoralis Rock Pipit, a male Ring Ouzel and a Long-eared Owl at Holland in the evening that headed out South.
A busier day on the 22nd meant coverage was limited to a couple of hours in the afternoon, the days highlights were a Tree Pipit over Westness, 8 Whimbrel, a Hen Harrier, a Dunnock and a Hybrid Hooded x Carrion Crow.

Chiffchaff                                                                            GG

White Wagtail                                                                     SMR

Knot                                                                                    SMR

Monday, 20 April 2020

17th-19th April

The weather has stayed nothing short of spectacular with light easterly winds and wall to wall sunshine. The day started well with the first Blackcap of the year being seen at Sangar, singles of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest. Wheatear and Redwing numbers slowly decreased over the period as the warm clear weather prompted them to move on towards their breeding grounds. A Dunnock trapped in the afternoon was only the third caught this year but the undisputed bird of the day was a Magpie, our fourth island record and much welcome one for those of us that missed the 2017 bird.
The 18th was a little quieter but still had a couple of stand out birds, an adult Iceland Gull flew over the obs while the cade lambs were being fed. Six Whimbrel were seen throughout the day 5 of which came in off the sea. Corvid numbers continued to move through with 9 Carrion Crow in various places around the island. Sand Martin and Swallow numbers also peaked on the 18th with 4 Swallows and 8 Sand Martins. The 19th was a little breezier, a Collared Dove was trapped in the morning and a Willow Warbler was trapped in the evening. Two Robins hung around the obs for most of the day and 3 Whimbrel headed out North. The bird of the day was a winter plumaged White-billed Diver at Westness. All together a very productive period of birds!


Sand Martin


Friday, 17 April 2020

14th-16th April

A very different three days of weather with the 16th being by the best. The 14th however was much the same as the previous two but despite the lack of change it did bring a few new birds. Two Brambling remained around the obs and were still being tailed by the female Chaffinch which was still present on the 16th. A ringtail Hen Harrier, a Merlin and a male Peregrine were causing varying amounts of panic throughout wader and wildfowl flocks around the island. Perhaps the oddest bird, not for its rarity value but just sheer oddity was a melanistic Greylag at Holme, across the road on the Cauldhame Flash was a lone Ruff and the highlight of the day were three Garganey that appeared in off the sea and settled around Hooking.
The 15th saw the weather take a nasty turn with freezing north-westerlies and the late afternoon bought squalls off the sea, less than ideal for birds thinking about breeding! It didn't do too much to dampen the spirits of the birds though, the Pink-footed Geese still remained on the island with no less than 5 seen, 22 Black-tailed Godwits were on Gretchen throughout the day as were 6 Sandwich Terns and the Green-winged Teal made another cameo. Lastly a Willow Warbler and a Chiffchaff were hanging around out of the wind below the school.
The 16th was in stark contrast to the previous day in terms of weather, after a brief shower in the morning we were treated to unbroken sunshine and light breeze that would later turn into the North-east. The clear weather prompted a movement in the corvids as 11 Rook, 9 Carrion Crow, 2 Jackdaw and 21 Hooded Crows were all seen moving South. Wheatear numbers also peaked with an increase of over 70 birds overnight pushing the day total to 108. Two Swallow and 11 Sand Martin were seen over Brides, up to 3 Brambling were around the obs and Holland as was a Chiffchaff that found its way into the nets. Redwing numbers also rose to 130. The most frustrating moment of the day came when 3 Bean Geese headed South over Holland but as they're now two species we won't be including on the year list as they couldn't be raced! The weather over the next few days looks interesting so we'll keep you posted.


Another Golden Plover

Melanistic Greylag

Monday, 13 April 2020

11th-13th April

A few days where a bit of extra coverage post sheep work proved key to boosting the totals from the last week or so.
The 11th wasn't really one of those days however and was dominated by folk recovering from the previous days punding.
This however might have been a mistake as late afternoon arrivals in the shape of a Kestrel and a Swallow around the obs indicated there may have been more migrants about.
The 12th was a worse day in terms of weather with a biting Northerly wind that didn't feel indicative of incoming migrants.
The Green-winged Teal was present on Gretchen, as were three Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 22 Black-tailed Godwits.
Elsewhere a group of Greylags played host to three Greenland White-fronted Geese and 6 Pink-footed Geese. A male Brambling was around the Funny Park and made its way onto the year list. A pair of Sandwich Terns were stood on the beach at Nouster enduring the wind, up to 12 Wheatear were dotted around the island and pairs of Goldcrest and Chiffchaff were in Holland later in the day.
The 13th was somehow a colder day than the one that preceded it, the three White-fronted Geese had re-located themselves to the front of Holland House and were joined by 4 Pink-footed Geese. An afternoon sea-watch produced the Puffins of 2020 joined by 31 Kittiwake and 13 Guillemot. A Grey Plover at Haskie was only the second record this year.
Two new Robins included a bird that found its way into T1 as did one of three Bramblings, a Chaffinch was also around the obs in the evening.
High counts for the year of Redwing and Wheatear stood at 88 and 43 respectively, a large number of the Redwing appeared to be of the Icelandic subspecies.
A Sparrowhawk at Holland headed off high North and the bird of the day went to a Willow Warbler seen briefly at Cauldhame.

Brambling                                                               George Gay

Golden the April                    George Gay

Wheatear                                                                  George Gay

Sunday, 12 April 2020

10th April

Again, essential sheepwork dominated the day's activity so coverage was limited. A few birds of interest were noted throughout the day however with the year's first Iceland Gull (a 2CY) past Twingness. Two Swallows and 5 Sand Martins were hunting invertebrates over the kelp and a couple of Wheatears were also in the south end of the island. Modest totals around the Observatory area remained, a dozen Redwings, now increased flock of Twite to just under 40 and two Snow Buntings.

Snow Bunting (Gavin Woodbridge)

9th April

The whole island Black Guillemot census was undertaken during the early hours of the day, with the first calm spell for a while. A whole coastal count revealed 637 Tysties, almost all in breeding dress and some starting to prospect their traditional sites on the rocky shore. This is a modest figure compared to last year's huge total; but perhaps an underestimate given large rolling waves on the west side of the island, leading to concealed birds floating between rising crests which created a challenge for the counter.

The most notable sightings from throughout the day were a surprise flypast drake Goosander at Brides the year's first Swallow near the Observatory.

There were increased totals of many species across the island from recent days due to the extra coverage, particularly of the coast. 13 Wheatears, 2 Rooks, a Carrion Crow, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Snow Buntings and a roost count of at least 108 Linnets were noteworthy. 

A Small Tortoiseshell seen in the middle of the island, appears to represent the earliest record for the island.

 Redwings have been present in decent numbers around the island this week, This one took up residence in the sycamores at Holland House (Gavin Woodbridge)

8th April

With essential outdoor work taking up much of the team's time, there were few sightings to report from the 8th. Totals from around the observatory croftland included 4 Wheatears, a Goldcrest, a couple Song Thrushes, low double figure totals of Redwing and Twite, 11 of which were trapped for ringing with a freshly set whoosh net. 

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

7th April

There was a good influx of migrant birds which kept us busy. The highlight was two Greenland White-fronted Geese at Hooking. 
Starting with larger birds, two Grey Herons were around, while a Red-throated Diver and 11 Red-breasted Mergansers were the best seen on the sea. Nouster bay still held 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a Sandwich Tern. Birds of prey seen were two roaming Hen Harriers and a Merlin out south.
Some songbirds maintained similar as recent totals in the case of 64 Skylarks, 102 Meadow Pipits and 21 Pied Wagtails. There were notable new arrivals however with 23 Wheatears and 36 Redwing most conspicous in the field. Two Song Thrushes, a Chiffchaff, 3 Goldcrests, 2 Siskins, the 18 Twite, a flyover Redpoll (most likely Lesser) and a Carrion Crow made up the rest. 

Greenland White-fronted Geese with Greylags (Rael Butcher)

6th April

There were more arrivals hinting at that Spring migration is well underway and reaching the Northern Isles. A few songbirds made their first appearance of the decade including singles of Lapland Bunting and Sand Martin at Brides and 9 Rooks
Birds on the sea of interest included 3 Great-northern Divers, 5 Long-tailed Ducks, a drake Goldeneye and 7 Red-breasted Mergansers; and the drake Green-winged Teal completed the supporting wildfowl. Three ringtail Hen Harriers bombed around and three Lesser Black-backed Gulls were in Nouster accompanying now 2 Sandwich Terns.
Good totals of wading birds were present including a particularly impressive feeding frenzy at Brides on high-tide. Counts compiled: 107 Oystercatchers, 35 Curlews, 87 Lapwings, 27 Redshank, 300 Golden Plovers, 24 Ringed Plovers, a Knot, 106 Purple Sandpipers, 83 Turnstone, two Sanderlings, a Dunlin, a Bar-tailed Godwit and three Black-tailed Godwits.
Passerines included good totals of 80 Skylarks, 100 Meadow Pipits, 6 Rock Pipits, 24 Pied Wagtails, a Robin, 4 Fieldfares, two Song Thrushes, a Redwing, single Chiffchaff, Chaffinch and a male Reed Bunting trapped at the Observatory.
Lapland Bunting (Gavin Woodbridge)

3rd - 5th April

There was a trickle of new birds with 7 Black-tailed Godwits, a Lesser Black-backed Gull and the first Sandwich Tern of the year North past the Lurn on 3rd of note. 
Birds of prey included a Merlin and a Peregrine on the 3rd, a male Hen Harrier trapped at the Obs on the 5th.
Duck totals through the period included highs of 66 Teal, 62 Wigeon 4 Pintail, 14 Shoveler, 4 Gadwall, 18 Tufted Duck and the drake Green-winged Teal
Passerines seemed difficult to come by though a Carrion Crow flew through on 3rd an increased total of 107 Meadow Pipits, 11 Pied Wagtails, a coupe of Goldcrests on the 5th and a female Chaffinch remained having appeared on the 3rd as well as the usual 18 Twite by the Observatory. 

2CY male Hen Harrier (Phoebe Owen)

Friday, 3 April 2020

30th March - 2nd April

A bit of a longer period than intended between write ups but abysmal weather on the 30th and 2nd meant I didn't have a great deal to work with!
The 30th as mentioned above was just wet and windy, which allowed us to catch up on some of the work needed around obs, but we did manage a quick foray into the field but the only bird of note was a Song Thrush that's now seemingly living in the pallet garden by T1.
The weather was a lot better the next couple of days which allowed for a bit birding time! The prolonged Westerlies have taken their toll a little bit with a distinct lack of anything migratory to shout home about. The 31st produced the best selection with 4 Great Northern Diver, 2 Red-throated Diver, the Ruff was back on Gretchen joined by 3 Black-tailed Godwits, a Woodpigeon was in the Sycamores at Holland, 2 Redwing and a flock of 64 Twite were round the cattle grid.
Despite good coverage on the 1st the birds were making a bit of a fool out of us. A Pink-footed Goose was present between Sandback and Scottigar and Snow Bunting by the gate at Howar.
Finally the 2nd was the worst day of weather by far, but possibly the most exciting bird wise despite not really being able to stand up! A Great Skua at Twingness and a Fieldfare near Breckan were of note while 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls that tracked North from the Airfield were the stand out birds as they're new for 2020. It's a brighter and less windy day today and with things turning Southerly overnight we're optimistic things will pick up over the next week!
Snow Bunting 

Pink-footed Goose with Greylags

An interestingly patterned Ringed Plover