Sunday, 31 May 2020

28th-30th May

It's seldom we find ourselves utterly bewildered with a lack of migrants but here we are. Good birds to our North and to our West but very little to shout about here, we'll just have to hope theres something decent in the mix for us over the next few days.
The airflow moved out of its usual Southerly base and pushed into the East giving us hope of a Spring rarity that hasn't yet arrived or is very good at keeping out of our way! 
The 28th was fairly quiet with the only real highlights being the first Little Stint of 2020 on Bewan and another re-appearance of the dog Otter; this time off of Torness, it was joined briefly by an odd looking Pied Wagtail, that just seems to be a Pied with a funny looking head. Away from bigger fauna a Green-veined White was the first for 2020 also.
The 29th was equally quiet, with a change in government regulations we were finally able to open the mist nets in Holland House and were rewarded with a Spotted Flycatcher. Two Chiffchaffs at Holland and Bewan were the only warblers to speak of apart from the Sedge Warblers who are firmly on territory. 
The latter stages of the afternoon bought about the arrival of 5 Common Redpoll at the obs and Ancum Willows.
The 30th was slightly busier but still didn't really produce the goods. Another Spotted Flycatcher was at Ancum Willows, 2 Dunnocks at the obs and at Holland. The Chiffchaff numbers on the island had doubled overnight to 4, a Siskin was around the obs trapping area and a Fieldfare was near Lurand. The days highlights fell to a Grey Wagtail over Holland, 3 Little Terns that have seemingly appeared out of nowhere, the singing Corncrake was heard near the Mill again and bird of the period was a male Yellowhammer seen around the obs trapping area in the evening. Overall I suppose it's not bad, but it's not what we had in mind when we saw the forecast, maybe we're just having to wait it out for a scarcity or maybe we're just being impatient! 

Otter                                                        GG

Little Stint, a bit distant!                            GG 

Thursday, 28 May 2020

26th - 27th May

A couple of days of settled warm weather with the remanent effects of the previous weeks Southerly airflow still bringing in a few migrants. The 26th saw limited coverage due to a break in of Sheep further up the island that obs staff assisted with. The afternoon however did see a good selection of migrants around the island, not in any great number but we're approaching that time of quality over quantity! A new Willow Warbler was ringed around the obs, a Song Thrush was seen by Parkhouse, it was also seen in the same on the 27th. A Grey Wagtail was hanging around the bottom of the Viggay track, a female Merlin was on the West coast and a Black-tailed Godwit was seen flying over Nouster in the evening, both Merlin and Black-tailed Godwit haven't been seen on the island for a little while. The days highlights were a very smart Ruff joined on Bewan by our first Curlew Sandpiper of 2020 and a male Red-backed Shrike was present at Senness, this may refer to the same bird some three days previous. 
The 27th was almost as busy bird-wise but seemed to lack that cutting edge. The same Ruff was present at Bewan and another was seen on Ancum both birds being males. A lone Barnacle Goose was hanging around with Greylags near Bridesness and a pair of Tree Sparrows were in the Bridesness pund. Other highlights included a Tree Pipit along the Rosefinch dyke and a pair of Brent Geese at Bewan. 

Curlew Sandpiper                                                  GG

Ruff                                                                 GG


Monday, 25 May 2020

25th May

A brisk Southerly based breeze and clear overhead conditions meant we were treated to a good days birding. Wader numbers remained strong with Turnstone taking the prize totalling 929 birds and 408 Sanderling posted an equally impressive total, which isn't bad considering the limited coverage. 
House Martin numbers increased again to sixteen, eleven of which were around the observatory. Two Grey Wagtails, one at Sandback and rather smart male at Gretchen weren't the only migrants, a Willow Warbler and a Spotted Flycatcher around the traps, 7 Sedge Warblers in various locations and a male Common Whitethroat was at Ancum. A group of corvids including 2 Jackdaw and 4 Carrion Crow made their way North through the island. Finally our second Bluethroat, another male, was at end of the Viggay track parading around. 

Bluethroat                                                       GG

Swallow                                             GG

23rd - 24th May

After the previous days excitement everyone was keen to get out and see what else might be lurking on the island, this was hampered however by a deluge of rain throughout the morning on the 23rd. The 24th was a much better day despite the strong winds in the morning the afternoon gave way to much more pleasant weather.
Good numbers of waders made for interesting start. The line was lead by a rather smart male Ruff at Senness but its supporting cast was more about the volume of birds, 790 Sanderling were joined by 208 Knot, 638 Turnstone, 101 Dunlin and 2 Whimbrel. 
21 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were joined by a 2CY Iceland Gull at Bewan and an increase in Hirundine numbers saw 49 Swallows, 31 Sand Martin and 11 House Martins in various locations around the island. 
Passerine migrants weren't exactly at a premium but still gave a good showing. A pair of Common Whitethroat at Senness, a Lesser Whitethroat near the War Memorial, 10 Sedge Warblers, a Chiffchaff and our first Spotted Flycatcher of the year around the observatory, which was overdue and very welcome! The days highlight was a very smart male Red-backed Shrike at Lochend, all in all a superb day. 
The following day was equally as good despite lower numbers of migrants. Two Spotted Flycatchers were now present, one around the Pier and one trapped, A Pied Flycatcher was also present in the gardens at Holland. The Ruff was still on the shore around Senness and a Song Thrush was on the West coast. Another Cuckoo backed up the big highlights of the day, a female Red-backed Shrike was trapped near the obs but a stunning male Bluethroat at Senness found by Phoebe in the late afternoon, she was due something! 

Red-backed Shrike      GG

Bluethroat              PCO

Iceland Gull           GG

22nd May

With the wind now originating from the south it felt as though there was good chance of a few migrants in the field despite the ever increasing wind speed. 
The morning started with one of the Cuckoos that had been present the previous day now hanging around the obs trapping area, but evading the Heligolands as they so often do!
A Dunnock was in the gardens at Holland House and the Redwing at Ancum was still singing at every opportunity. A couple of groups of House Martins were seen around with numbers totalling up 7 birds and a lone male Siskin was in the Post Office garden. The highlights for the day were a rather flighty Reed Warbler in the punds at Westness, as per usual it was flushed from a patch of dense scrub and didn't show very well! The big news however was a Spoonbill seen flying South over Ancum, the bird was seen coming in off the sea and appeared to land but a frantic search threw nothing up, the bird had clearly kept going! This represents the second island record the first being in 2013 at Hooking. Finally a 2CY Little Gull was over the School Brae during the evening search for the Spoonbill.

Spoonbill                                                                  GG

Friday, 22 May 2020

20th-21st May

The 20th continued in a similar fashion to the previous day with a good number of migrants still hanging on. A flock of 9 Woodpigeon were around the gardens at Holland as were 4 Collared Doves. The Cuckoos were still present in the morning but had moved on by the afternoon. A pair of Redpoll and Siskin were present throughout the day as was a Grey Wagtail that would eventually find its way into a net near the obs. The only year tick of the day was a singing Corncrake near Hooking in the morning.
A warm start to the day on the 21st meant things looked promising and a Pied Flycatcher trapped early in the day made for a good start. Five House Martins around Holland were joined by 12 or more Swallows. A male Ring Ouzel made an appearance in the Funny Park and our first Black-throated Diver of year, a stunning summer plumaged bird, was sat in the firth. Finally 2 Dunnocks, a Willow Warbler and 2 Blackcaps were trapped through the morning and a male Ruff was seen flying South in the early afternoon.

Black-throated Diver                                                            SMR

18th-19th May

The 18th was by far the quieter of the two days with things very much the same as they had been on previous days. Overnight South-Easterlies meant the 19th was a far more interesting day involving a couple of year ticks.
The highlight of the 18th was the re-appearance of the dark backed Lesser Black-backed Gull that had disappeared a couple of days previously. The thinking is the bird is an Intermedius Lesser Black-backed Gull, the bird sat on Gretchen for a few minutes before being flushes by a Bonxie. A Willow Warbler and a Chiffchaff were around the obs traps as were 2 Blackcaps.
The 19th as previously stated was slightly more interesting. Ten Sedge Warblers were accompanied by 3 Blackcaps and a Chiffchaff. A Grey Wagtail was at Bewan Pier during the morning and represents only the second record for the year. A Tree Pipit was around the traps and a Short-eared Owl was at Burray, but the highlights of the day were a female Marsh Harrier that appeared over the middle of the island before doing a little tour of the lochs and 2 Cuckoos; one at Bridesness and another around the obs trapping area before eventually finding its way into heligoland trap.

A rather hazy Cuckoo                                                            GG

Woodpigeon                                                                         GG

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

16th-17th May

The 16th didn't really produce much different, the highlights being 6 Snow Bunting, a lone Chiffchaff and 2 Sedge Warblers.
The 17th was somewhat more productive; a sea-watch from the North end produced 157 Guillemot, 28 Razorbill, 32 Black Guillemot, 136 Puffin, 7 Great Skuas, an Arctic Skua and 8 Manx Shearwater, the latter being a year tick and it wouldn't be the last of the day. The Little Gull made a re-appearance at Lenswick after a days absence. The Sedge Warbler numbers increased to five, 2 Blackcaps were round the obs traps, Snow Bunting numbers increased to 7 and Wheatear number also increased significantly to 100 birds. The final noteworthy bird of the day was a female Common Scoter off of Bridesness.

Arctic Tern                                                                      GG

Saturday, 16 May 2020

13th-15th May

It'll possibly come as little shock to you that I'm running out of bad things to say about the weather, it's still mostly and quite windy, although we have had brief interruptions where the sun has managed to break through. The outlook for the latter half of the weekend onwards looks slightly more promising so we're clinging on to that.
The only real things of interest on the 13th were a Little Tern that spent a short amount of time sat in Nouster with up to 3 Sandwich Terns. Four Snow Buntings were dotted around, two at the obs and singles at Bewan and Lenswick.
The next bought a few more waders into the pictures with the count of Knot tripling overnight from 101 the previous day to 305 on the 14th. The first triple figure count of Dunlin also joined the Knot with 121 birds seen throughout the day. The highlights of the period also came on the 14th in the shape of a stunning adult Little Gull opposite Antabrek on a newly ploughed field and a Lesser Black-backed Gull at the lighthouse that was at least an Intermedius if not a little better, but poor views, lack of charge in the camera and the birds vanishing skills played havoc with getting any resolution so it'll just have to be left for now!
The 15th was possibly the worst day weather wise and bird wise, an early sea-watch was fruitless in it's attempts for something more interesting while on the land a cold wind and occasional showers didn't make the birding all that inviting. Five Snow Buntings, three at Lenswick and the same pair at the Obs were joined on the island by solitary a Chiffchaff, Song Thrush and Carrion Crow.

Knot                                                                    GG

Sandwich Tern                                                                      GG

Little Gull                                                                              GG

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

10th-12th May

What would May be on North Ron without a bit of unseasonal snow! The last three days of weather have been pretty awful, a driving Westerly with squalls of sleet and snow, not ideal for the islands breeding birds.
The 10th was possibly the worst day of the lot with the only bird of note being a Blackcap around the obs.
The 11th was slightly better weather wise and a lot better bird wise. A Willow Warbler was in the punds around the Beacon. Up to 213 Sanderling were seen on various beaches and bits of sea-weed as were ever growing numbers of Arctic Tern. A Woodpigeon was hanging around Holland but the bird of the day was a Common Crane seen heading North from the Beacon, not managing to stop thanks to the Ravens!
The 12th saw Arctic Tern numbers grow to 277, the Blackcap was again around the obs as were 3 Snow Buntings including two stunning males, a fourth was around Bewan. A Common Sand was at the North end and up to 10 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were dotted around the island.

Common Crane                                                               GG

Snow Buntings                                                                   RJB

Arctic Tern possibly thinking about going back to Antarctica GG 

Sunday, 10 May 2020

6th-9th May

I'll keep this one short and sweet. The wind had swung its way into the west which provided very little throughout day bird wise; The bird of the day came as a bit of a surprise when Gavin phoned to say he'd manage to catch a Nightingale. Usually a bird seen further South but it represents the 9th island record. The Nightingale's only supporting cast member was a Goldfinch seen at Purtabrek.
The 7th was an equally nice day but seemed as though it would fizzle out into nothing, the Nightingale was still around in the morning. At least 4 Sedge Warblers had re-found their territories and were letting each other know. A group of four Barnacle Geese on Brides were new for the year as was the first Grey Wagtail of the year, a rather smart male feeding on the seaweed. A Green Sandpiper was also present around the loch. The 7th also racked up some big totals, no fewer than 52 Great Northern Divers, 124 Arctic Terns and 74 Wheatears.
A glorious day on the 8th also looked set to produce very little, but in the end it did turn up our first Little Tern of 2020 on Nouster and as the weather turned in the late afternoon a Shorelark was located on the grassy expanse between Bewan and Sjaiver.
The 9th saw the weather deteriorate to the point the birding turned into more of a chore as wind the swung into the North and was interspersed with spells of freezing cold rain showers, never ideal. The highlights for the day were a Wood Sandpiper on Gretchen and a Sandwich Tern on Garso.


Sedge Warbler
Barnacle Geese



Wednesday, 6 May 2020

3rd-5th May

The 3rd was the final of the migrant filled days as the birds desperate to continue to their breeding grounds continued on their journeys. Most of the remaining migrants were either around the bird obs or up the West coast. 2 Tree Pipits at the obs at and in Gue Park, a Dunnock was also around the observatory along with a Ring Ouzel, a Common Whitethroat, a Redstart, a Whinchat and 3 Jackdaw that headed North. A Robin was at Snettan, while two other Redstart were at Cott and Brigg. Lesser Whitethroats were at Veracott and in the Funny Park. An unstreaked Acro was also at the obs but managed to evade us, but first impressions of the bird and the date point towards it being a Reed Warbler, but without proper confirmation we'll leave it for now! The bird of the day was our first Black Redstart of the year near Antabrek. Elsewhere there were 7 Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaff, 13 Willow Warbler, 4 Pied Flycatcher, 4 Tree Sparrow, a female Brambling and a male Siskin.
A much quieter day on the 4th saw 3 Willow Warblers, a Chiffchaff and the Black Redstart. An afternoon sea-watch saw 35 Guillemot, 2 Razorbill, 57 Auk sp., 18 Kittiwake, 22 Puffin and the adult White-billed Diver.
The 5th was also quiet but still had migrants, most of which seemed to be hanging around the North end! The White-billed Diver was again off the North end, a Common Sandpiper was at Dennishead as was the dog Otter! Not seen in well over a month it provided quite the surprise as did a Buzzard as it came in off the sea being mobbed by the Ravens!

Raven                                                                                     GG

Black Redstart                                                                        GG

Buzzard                                                                                GG

Sunday, 3 May 2020

30th April - 2nd May

With the wind sat in the East we'd been anticipating some kind of arrival of migrants, despite this by late afternoon on the 30th we'd still had very little to shout about. It wasn't until a brief shower of rain at about 4pm that stuff started to appear. First a Wood Warbler by T5 followed by a little flurry of Chiffchaffs and Willow Warbler prompted a text to get people into the field looking for what else may have dropped in. A mad dash around in the afternoon produced 2 extra Wood Warblers, a Grasshopper Warbler, a Whinchat, Lesser and Common Whitethroats, a Garden Warbler, a Pied Flycatcher, a male Redstart and at least 4 Tree Pipits before it was too dark to keep birding.
The next day was met with obvious anticipation and early walk around the obs proved it to be well placed! At least 4 male Pied Flycatchers, a Ring Ouzel, a Green Sandpiper and yet another Tree Pipit. The day continued in the same way until around 1700 when a massive rain shower put a stop to most the birding. The pre-rain birding still produced our first Yellow Wagtail of the year at Cruesbrek, no fewer that 14 Pied Flycatcher, 35 Willow Warbler, 3 Wood Warbler, a Garden Warbler, 14 Blackcap, a Common Whitethroat, a Lesser Whitethroat, 21 Song Thrush, 10 Fieldfare, 73 Wheatear and 3 Whinchats! Post rain the most exciting bird was a breeding plumaged Ruff at Kirbest Myre, we don't seem them in their finery all that often on here!
A slightly less dramatic affair the next day as the wind had moved into the North and birds settled in to feed they head off again. Two drake Garganey were on Hooking as was a stray Pink-footed Goose. The Passerine numbers were quite similar with a ditto of 35 Willow Warblers and 14 Pied Flycatchers, five less Blackcap with 9 recorded, a new Siskin and a couple of new Ring Ouzels. Elsewhere 18 Arctic Terns made their way back onto the island tailed by an Arctic Skua. The second Common Sandpiper of the year was by the cattle grid, Sanderling numbers crept up to 303 and likewise many other wader numbers are also on the rise. We'll leave the update there as I'm sure there's something lurking undiscovered on the island!

Wood Warbler GG

Pied Flycatcher GG

Redstart GG

Garden Warbler SMR