Monday, 29 June 2020

26th-28th June

It would definitely seem that Spring has now finished here and we're into summer, although the bite in the Easterly wind would perhaps suggest otherwise! The prevailing winds for most of this month have done little in the way of brining in Eastern vagrants but I won't sit here and gripe, things could certainly of been a lot worse!
The 26th was by far the busiest day bird wise and by far the nicest weather wise. In fact wall to wall sunshine made for a pleasant days birding and good night for running the obs moth trap. We'll start with moth trap that contained no fewer than four new moths for the year, none of them particularly exciting. 
The American Golden Plover was still present behind the lighthouse, although a little flightier than the previous evening. 
Golden Plovers have been on the rise, numbers reached 145 on the 28th after posting totals of 77 on the 26th and 128 on the 27th.
Other wader numbers include 11 Knot, 112 Turnstone and single Whimbrels on the 26th and 28th. 
Land bird wise things have been pretty quiet, single Woodpigeons have been about all three days, the lone Siskin was still around the traps on the 26th and 2 Swift were over the obs on the 27th.
Finally 2 Hummingbird Hawkmoths on the 26th were seen flying around the dykes near Torness. 

American Golden Plover                                            GG

Hummingbird Hawkmoth                                        GG

Friday, 26 June 2020

25th June

With the wind abating the previous evening we thought it might be good to try and get our first Storm Petrel ringing session of the year going. 
The calm weather proved effective for an early session, meaning we caught 2 European Storm Petrels, one new and one re-trap and while doing the session we also heard and saw a Leach's Storm Petrel flying around the nets and singing occasionally, possibly mocking us slightly.  
The first Ghost Moths of the year were out lekking, with 41 around the obs croft just before we headed off to do Petrels. 
A Common Whitethroat sub-singing around the obs was an early highlight on a day that seemed intent on giving us something. The Corncrake was singing in its usual spot near Peckhole, another group of 4 Crossbill went South over the school and the drake Common Scoter was still in Linklet Bay.
The evening session at Holland wasn't really productive apart from a Song Thrush trapped on the last round and an evening wander around the traps produced a Siskin and a Stonechat but the day wasn't over there.
The final act of the day was a quick scoot about to look at Terns, it didn't produce any rare Terns but did produce a stonkingly smart adult summer American Golden Plover between Sjaver and the lighthouse, the 14th record for the island. Not what we'd expected but certainly something we were happy to accept. 

American Golden Plover (top RJB. Bottom GG)

Common Scoter hiding between the swell                         GG

23rd-24th June

The weather continued in the same Easterly fashion, migrant wise things slowly began to pick up as we entered the final week of June.
A drake Common Scoter off the Links was our third record of the species this year and the Little Terns on the links have also began to exhibit some interesting behaviour so we'll keep an eye on that. 
Elsewhere a Crossbill made its way into Holland from the Kirkyard and two more were feeding on Rosa-rugosa around the obs trapping area. A Chiffchaff was also in Holland as was the Whitethroat from previous days. 
The next day was much the same as the previous. Another unseasonal Redstart, this time a male was trapped at Holland in the morning, a Crossbill went out South over the Lurn and a Quail was singing around Brides. 

Crossbills                                                                              GG

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

20th-22nd June

Things have gone rather quiet over here. The winds are still easterly, we've had a bit of rain but its not really done much for our total of migrant birds. 
The 20th produced a couple of new birds despite what I've said above, a female Black Redstart spent the day feeding around the Mill and on nearby fences, not quite the late June rare we were after but a nice bird all the same. The Quail or a new Quail was heard singing on and off at Brides for the best part of the afternoon, we're hoping for a repeat of last years breeding but we won't be saying much more than that for now!
The 21st was wet and fairly bird-free.
The 22nd was an improvement in both the weather and the birding. We saw our highest count of Arctic Terns for the year with 959 birds counted, an encouraging sign to say the least. Another two species of Tern were also seen during the day, a pair of Little Terns were displaying at the North end of the Links and a pair of Sandwich Terns were seen flying over Garso. 
Lastly the ever fattening Common Whitethroat is still in Holland. 

Black Redstart                                                                GG
Fledgie Black-headed Gull                                              GG


Saturday, 20 June 2020

17th-19th June

It's safe to say the few days have been a bit frustrating, but theres little you can do but keep birding. The 17th was by far the pick of the days, the following two saw the island shrouded in thick prehistoric looking fog that hasn't really threatened lift meaning visibility has been under 30m, which isn't helpful really.
A Black-throated Diver in Nouster was probably highlight of the 17th but it had a fairly good supporting cast for the day. Up to 6 Black-tailed Godwits were on various island lochs, the bulk of them being on Ancum with an oddly plumaged Dunlin that set pulses racing briefly. With still visible skies a couple of Swifts and a couple of House Martins were around the Holland as were 2 Garden Warblers, 2 Siskin, a Willow Warbler, a Spotted Flycatcher and the Marsh Warbler was hiding out in Rare Bird Corner. 
The next couple of days have very little in the way good birds. The previous days Willow Warbler was trapped at nets in the morning as was a Blackcap and the Corncrake was again singing intermittently at Peckhole, as would do the next day too. Finally a Little Tern was flying along the Links in thick fog on the 19th. 
A rather fog bound Little Tern                                           GG 

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

16th June

A day that we managed to fill with quite a migrants but always felt it deserved that top drawer bird, but it never quite came, nonetheless an island record was broken and we had a decent bird towards the end of the day. 
Probably the warmest day of the year so far on here, the morning was bright, blue and eventually hot, not ideal weather for downing migrants....unless you live 20 miles North of us of course! 
The first news of the day was the island record count, a flock of 53 Canada Geese made land fall on Garso, thankfully they'd moved off by the afternoon, we don't really want them taking up residence here, the Greylags are bad enough! 
6 Spotted Flycatchers, two at Holland and singles at Longar, Ancum, Bewan and Rue made for some good viewing as did 2 Short-eared Owls, one headed out South towards Sanday and another going North over Hooking, both in the late afternoon. 
Nets in the evening proved fairly productive, a new Garden Warbler, Whitethroat and Redstart gave the day a little extra oomph as did a pair of Black Redstarts in the grounds of the Old Kirk. 
3 Little Terns were hanging around on the edge of Ancum mid-Afternoon, 3 Whimbrel were seen throughout the island and singles of Woodpigeon and Collared Dove were joined at Holland by two screaming Swifts. Away from the birding side of things we've had good numbers of butterflies coming through the island, the gardens at Holland were seemingly inundated with Red Admirals and Painted Lady's throughout the day. A Hummingbird Hawkmoth made a brief foray into Holland too, best seen zipping around the outside walls. 
A singing Quail near was a much overdue addition and we're hoping it's one of last year birds returning. Finally our bird of the day went to a 2nd Summer Mediterranean Gull sat with the Black-headed Gull flock between Bewan and the Lighthouse. Although they're ten a penny down South they're a much more sort after migrant up here, so much so that it proved to be an island tick for Gavin and Rael. 
The wind is looking interesting so there's still hoping of us scoring a late rare, but we need a bit of rain or fog in our weather. 

Mediterranean Gull                                                            GG

Majestic. Who needs a Desert Warbler anyway! 

Redstart                                                             GG


14th-15th June

The 14th bought about a day of thick fog and very little in the way of new migrants. The only new additions were 4 Spotted Flycatchers on the West Coast. A singing Marsh Warbler in the Willows at Ancum proved to be the bird initially ringed on 31st May and has now put on a significant amount of fat. Elsewhere the Rosefinch remained around the obs and also managed put on a few grams! 
The 15th was possibly one of the weirdest days we've had in a while but nonetheless was still slightly disappointing in search of that final Spring goodie! The day started with a very unseasonal female Common Redstart around the obs croft, the Rosefinch was also present. Up to 5 Spotted Flycatchers were hanging around the island. Ancum had a few surprises in store too, a trio of Grey Herons were hanging around the irises at the back of the loch while a Wood Sandpiper was feeding in the muddy edges of the loch. 
A Swift whizzed South through Westness and later in the day two birds were whizzing around the house at Holland, finally another unseasonal migrant in the form of a Brambling was feeding near Antabrek. 

Swift                                                                                GG

Surely we'll get a Rosy any day now....right?

Sunday, 14 June 2020

12th - 13th June

With wind set firmly in the East we felt there had to be one last rarity in the mix for us, but it wasn't really to be. The previous days Common Rosefinch was around the traps while a second bird, a singing immature male, was at Howartoft. The Marsh Warbler was still in Holland but seems to have stopped singing, perhaps an interesting development, perhaps he's just bored of not getting response! Meanwhile the Garden Warbler with half a bill was also still in Holland. A Spotted Flycatcher was seen in the Willows at Ancum while a Little Tern was on the beach at Nouster with the Arctic Terns. 
The following day didn't see much change in weather, apart from plenty more fog or birds really. The Corncrake was heard singing briefly around Peckhole, again we're hoping the lack of singing means he's found himself a lady! The other breeding conundrum is a pair of Siskins we've seen hanging around the gardens, but we'll wait and see on that! A Willow Warbler and a Chiffchaff were around the observatory as was a rather unseasonal Brambling. The first Blue-tailed Damselfly of year was a Hooking. Finally a rather worn female Peregrine was seen around the Lurn. 

Foggy Great Black-backed Gulls                                         GG

Blue-tailed Damselfly                                                           GG

Common Rosefinch                                                  GG

Friday, 12 June 2020

10th-11th June

The Easterlies swung into a slightly more Northerly position which seemed to dash any big hopes of fresh migrants arriving.
The morning of the 10th was a little breezier than we'd have hoped for meaning we couldn't get nets open but an evening session provided a Garden Warbler, bizarrely missing half of its upper mandible. A stray Rock Pipit had returned to island spending the day feeding behind Sandback. The bird of the day however was our first Rosefinch of the year around the obs, it eventually made its way into a heligoland trap.
The following day was much the same weather wise, an early morning nets session produced 3 Blackcaps and the Garden Warbler was also in the garden. The Marsh Warbler was still holding out in the Rosa-rugosa in the gardens. The previous days Rosefinch was seen briefly on the lead up to T1. The afternoon was spent away from migrant birds and with the islands breeding birds. The Black-headed Gull colony at Westness has had a good start to the season with 15 chicks ringed, surprisingly good for a very small colony! Other chicks ringed included 3 Curlew chicks and an Oystercatcher chick.

Common Rosefinch                                                                                   GG

Common Rosefinch                                                                                    GG

Thursday, 11 June 2020

8th-9th June

The spell of Easterlies that was forecast finally arrived but it's not produced much thus far, but there's still plenty of time for something. The 8th was again a day to look at on paper, in reality it was quite frustrating. A lone Whimbrel was heard near Westness. It was Holland that again produced with our third Garden Warbler of the Spring and the Marsh Warbler remained holding it's territory in a Rosa-rugosa bush. A Lesser Redpoll was at Upper Linnay feeding around the garden, another Red-backed Shrike was on the fences between Senness and Dennishill and finally a pod of 30+ Risso's Dolphins spent morning in the firth (see video below, credit Gavin Woodbridge).
The 9th saw a continuation of weird goose migration month, following the 16 Canada Geese in late May a lone bird was on Ancum, if this wasn't odd enough it was joined by two Snow Geese of highly suspicious origins. The Marsh Warbler remained and a Chiffchaff was in Ancum Willows. A female Common Scoter spent most of the day on Brides. Our search for a Rosy Starling continued in vain, its led to good Starling counts though with 1561 counted throughout the island. Lastly the last few days have seen waders begin to return with 90 Lapwing, 89 Knot, 16 Dunlin, a lone Black-tailed Godwit, 17 Bar-tailed Godwits, 33 Curlew and 32 Turnstone. Surely it's only a matter of time until a rarer waders hits the island.

Snow Geese                                                                          GG

Monday, 8 June 2020

6th-7th June

The 6th was one of, those despite there not being much new about, a great day on paper kind of days. Weatherwise it was a muggy start with drizzly patches and felt good for things dropping in. Many of the usual suspects were still hanging around in the gardens in Holland including the Green Warbler that again gave awful field views and repeat the same feat the next day giving perhaps worse views! Not sure how those Danish lads got the pictures they did if I'm honest! I share the my efforts below, but they're not good! 
The Green Warbler was joined by one of the Marsh Warblers, a Common Whitethroat and 2 Lesser Whitethroats in the garden while a further 3 birds were seen elsewhere on the island. 
The female Red-backed Shrike was still present at Ancum and a male joined the party a little bit further down the road giving superb views throughout the day, both were also present in the same locations on the 7th. 
The Corncrake that had been frequenting the area around Peckhole also made appearances on both days, although not so much appearances, more vocalisations. Finally a Peregrine was seen briefly during poor weather at the Lurn. 
The 7th was day of little to shout about, as previously mentioned the two Shrikes, the Green Warbler and one if not two of the Marsh Warblers still remained. The days highlight was a rather smart 2cy female Grey-headed Wagtail near Sandsheen. Otherwise it was business as usual, the outlook from tomorrow evening onwards looks interesting, maybe another smart Eastern vagrant to end the Spring on a high isn't out of the question after all! 

Grey-headed Wagtail                                                                               GG  

I said they weren't great...

...and I wasn't wrong 

Saturday, 6 June 2020

4th-5th June

With an awful day forecasted for the 5th it was pretty crucial me made a good go of the 4th while the good weather lasted, even if that involved Northerlies!
The strange late Spring goose migration continued with a lone Pink-footed Goose on Garso sitting amongst the Greylags. A couple of Manx Shearwaters were again seen buzzing past the North end of the island and a lone Blackcap was near the lighthouse.
A Dunnock remained in the gardens at Holland as did one of the Marsh Warblers and the female Red-backed Shrike was at Ancum still.
The 5th was as we expected completely awful weather wise, a driving Northerly gale was peppered with bouts of long showers. Not nice.
The weathered cleared up a little towards the end of the day but the birding highlights came during deliveries of Fish and Chips from the Observatory to the islands hungry inhabitants, a superb scheme funded by the North Ronaldsay Trust! The first highlight was the Red-backed Shrike seen at Ancum again. The second was a far bigger surprise! Having finished the last delivery of fish and chips and ringing a brood of Lapwing chicks that had made their way into the road, George and Gav flushed a pale Lark from the side of the road near Milldam, the birded landed a bit further up the field so they pulled alongside it only to let a out a torrent of appalling language followed by the words
'Short-toed Lark!'
I'll let you fill in the blanks if you want too! We've both never been delivery drivers before but if it's this good we'll do it again!

Short-toed Lark                                                       GG

Short-toed Lark                                                          GG 
Pink-footed Goose                                                  GG

Thursday, 4 June 2020

2nd-3rd June

After the previous days events the morning was spent corresponding with different folk in the birding community to try and get further with the identification of our Green/Greenish Warbler. The consensus was pretty clear from most of the people I spoke to and doing more research ourselves we felt a little more confident too, that said we're still deciding to wait for DNA; why rush when you don't have too?!
The 2nd saw the winds switch into a more Northerly position and with it the birds dried up a little too. The suspects from the previous day remained however, both Marsh Warblers were singing in Holland, now about 20ft apart giving one another earfuls of song! 
The Red-backed Shrike had re-located to Ancum, as we'd predicted it probably would and a lone House Martin around the gardens rounded off a day mostly dedicated to muted high fives and pats on the back!
The 3rd saw the winds intensify slightly and Holland would offer up almost all the days highlights! 
Away from the gardens first though. A rather smart pair of Black-tailed Godwits were seen heading South off of Ancum Loch and the Red-backed Shrike was yet again at Ancum Willows, this time doing classic Shrikey things like catching Bees and impaling them on twigs. 
Back to the gardens, a Spotted Flycatcher was hanging around the South facing wall of Holland with a Chiffchaff and a Lesser Whitethroat, the latter two birds eventually finding their way into Mistnets. 
One of the Marsh Warblers was still calling in rare bird corner, all be it in muted croaks. 
Of course the major highlight of the day was the re-appearance of the wing-barred mystery! Initially giving good views in the sycamores to a couple of lucky observers before vanishing, not all was lost though and the bird was re-trapped, it was nice to know it was still about and a major relief to Pete who could now finally see it! Mowing the lawns at the Manse nearly cost him big time! The good news for the bird was that it had put on weight and fat, so maybe it's gearing up to move again! The outlook for the next couple of days isn't wonderful, Friday's looking especially naff!

Green/Greenish Warbler                                                        GG
Red-backed Shrike                                                              GG
Black-tailed Godwits                                                           GG

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

1st June- Greenish, Green, Greener

A new month but the same weather. The Easterlies continued but they were greeted in the morning by thick bank of fog that coated the island. Always good migrant weather! 

The morning however was quite quiet, nets turned up a few bits, the previous days Marsh Warbler still being rather vocal as was a Willow Warbler giving the gardens a bit of morning life. A brood of three Redshank chicks were ringed near Gretchen, always a bonus to get Redshank chicks, they’re notoriously hard to track down as ex-assistant warden Mark Warren would testify!

It was the afternoon that really got the ball rolling though, another Willow Warbler and two Lesser Whitethroat were added to the day totals as was a Chiffchaff and a Little Tern. 

The first highlight came in the shape of our third Red-backed Shrike of the year at North Manse, another rather smart looking female. 

However, it was the evening nets session that stole show and by some way! 

Firstly, a second Marsh Warbler, initially heard singing was trapped in the South-East corner of the garden. Things however turned up a notch when a wing-barred Phyllosc was trapped at about 21:45, the bird initially thought to be a Greenish Warbler seemed to show a lot of features that would make it a very strong candidate for the much rarer GREEN WARBLER! An overall yellowish wash, yellow orbital ring and certain biometrics all make for a strong case in its favour. However, the bird dropped a few feathers, and these will give us a definitive answer at a later date. So, bearing this in mind we felt it’s best not to jump the gun and we’ll wait until the folk at Aberdeen University work their magic and we'll bide our time until they do as such, jumping the gun would be foolhardy, especially with a bird thats quite fresh to the forefront of British Ornithology. If the bird proves to be the much rarer Green Warbler it will be the 7th British Record, but we may have to wait a while on this one.  

Green/Greenish Warbler                                                    RJB

Green/Greenish Warbler                          AED

Red-backed Shrike                                                            GG

31st May

With the winds still set into the East and still a general lack of scarce migrants we felt something had to give, be it our barren run or the staffs resolve! A duo of Lesser Whitethroats were seen, one at Bridesness and one around Holland sparking early hope of a vagrant, these were followed by an island record count of epic proportions… labelled by Rael as ‘the worst record count ever’ 16 Canada Geese were hanging around the Greylags on Garso before making their way South towards Kirbest. Garso wasn’t all bad though, a 1st Summer Little Gull made up for the presence of the Canada Geese! Two Spotted Flycatchers, on at Holland and one in the Ancum Willows bolstered the migrant totals as did 3 Lesser Redpoll. Our second Swift of 2020 was a welcome sight but represents a really Spring for the species up here. The bird of the day however was more than welcomed, a cracking bit singing led us to the first Marsh Warbler of the year singing away in the gardens before it eventually found its way into a mist net. Finally, something to sink our teeth into a bit and shake the feeling of being left out! A slight tweak to the wind direction and the knowledge we’d probably wake up to misty conditions left us excited for the day ahead.

Marsh Warbler                                         GG

Canada Geese                                                          RJB