Monday, 31 August 2020

28th-30th August

 Another spell of good weather followed by some migrants on the 30th was more than welcomed as the obs has began to fill up with birding guests. A more than welcome supply of extra eyes has been a good addition! 

Friday morning broke and the 3 Common Rosefinches from the previous day had hung around and were still present on the 30th in and around the gardens at Holland. The gardens also played host to 2 Barred Warblers, 4 Willow Warblers and the first Wood Warbler of the Autumn. A Pied Flycatcher was around the obs veg patch in the evening and a lone Curlew Sandpiper was on Bewan with 13 Black-tailed Godwits.

The following day was a much quieter affair with the only real birds of note being a Pintail seen flying south down the links and a the Rosefinches on an otherwise unremarkable day, the next day however was somewhat more productive.

Early signs were good as the nets saw the a Rosefinch and a Barred Warbler re-trapped while the two other Rosefinches and another Barred Warbler stayed away from the nets. The Curlew Sandpiper was at Bewan again while a Green Sandpiper flew south from Westness. A Common Buzzard spent the afternoon being harassed by Ravens at the North end before eventually joining a Hen Harrier near the observatory in the evening. The two major highlights of the day came within minutes of one another! A Fea's/Desertas Petrel was tracking North to the delight of the assembled sea-watchers between 13:40 and 13:45. This was interrupted by news of a Subalpine Warbler at the obs. Initially seen in the morning the bird was eventually pinned down in the afternoon before being trapped in T3 much to the delight of the onlookers. We believe it to be an Eastern Subalpine Warbler but, and I've typed this a lot this year, we'll hang on for the DNA to be analysed by the good folk at Aberdeen Uni. 

Subalpine Warbler                                                                GG

Willow Warbler                                                                     GG

Thursday, 27 August 2020

27th August

 A bit of bumper day that provided no less than two year ticks for the island. The weather wasn't what you'd usually expect for migrants but nonetheless it produced some! 

No fewer than 17 Willow Warblers were hanging around the southern end of the island but that seemed to be the bulk of them! A Pied Flycatcher was at Westness, 2 Barred Warblers at Holland and one trapped and ringed at Ancum were good day additions as were Common and Lesser Whitethroats at Ancum and Upper Linnay respectively. The main highlights of the day were a Reed Warbler trapped at Ancum in the late evening, 3 Common Rosefinches seen throughout the day were eventually trapped at Holland. The two year ticks for the island came in the shape of an adult Hobby seen leaving the island to the South at mid-day and a rather smart Adult Sabine's Gull seen from a sea-watch heading North at 16:00. 

Away from migrants we stumbled across a very late Snipe chick this afternoon! Probably the most un-expected bird of the day all in all! 

All in all a very good day!

One of three Common Rosefinches                                    DS


Snipe Chick                                                                      GG

24th-26th August

A good few days on the back of the bird of the Autumn so far, it'll take some beating but I'm sure we're up to the task.

The Shrike remained in the same spot for the duration of the 24th and at times showing somewhat  better than it had in the previous days. A Barred Warbler was seen briefly at Upper Linnay and 2 Whinchat were present, one at Longar and one in the crop field at Kirbest. The 3 Curlew Sandpipers remained on the loch at Ancum as were 4 Ruff. Finally a rather smart female Merlin was trapped at Holland in the evening.  

The next day was somewhat quieter but nonetheless profitable. The Shrike had emptied its larder and left the island, the Curlew Sandpipers remained on Ancum and the Ruffs had acquired two more to their number. Male and female Peregrines were seen terrorising waders around the island. A Lesser Whitethroat was in the garden at Bewan and the Whinchat at Longar was still present. A Redwing was a surprise arrival in the gardens at Holland.

A slight increase in numbers on the 26th raised excitement for the day that would follow it. A Barred Warbler was now present in the willows at Ancum and the first Chiffchaff of the autumn was hiding in the gardens at Holland. The island played host to at least 8 Willow Warblers. An adult female Hen Harrier was seen hawking the lochs and lastly a Common Sandpiper was flushed from the pier at Bewan. 

Isabelline Shrike sp. munching its way through a bee

Curlew Sandpipers

Sunday, 23 August 2020

23rd August

A rather quiet morning with very little to shout about was interrupted at 11:24 by a message on the obs Whattsapp from Dante saying 

"Probable Isabelline Shrike at Veracott, need help fast"

Help arrived and the bird was re-located quickly and initially performed quite well before getting into a routine of disappearing, when we thought we were about to get good views the bird would suddenly not be there! 

After returning to re-fuel and read some literature we headed back out, the bird eventually found its way into open nets at Ancum Willows, a bonus considering we weren't really expecting to catch it! With the bird in the hand a full set of biometrics were taken and dropped feathers collected to be sent off for DNA (along with a pellet the bird coughed up!) 

The early thinking is the bird is a Turkestan Shrike but with DNA taken and good biometrics as with the Green Warbler in the Spring we'll just bide our time. 

Elsewhere highlights included 3 Curlew Sandpipers, a Common Whitethroat, a Garden Warbler, a Wood Sandpiper, 2 Willow Warblers and a Hen Harrier but most of the day was taken up by the Shrike, which is barely surprising! 

Isabelline Shrike sp.                                                                          both pics GG

20th-22nd August

 With the fog cleared off by rain on the morning of the 20th the day looked promising and on paper it proved to be so. 

A pair of Green Sandpipers in Gue Park were new arrivals and typically were flushed off the rocks before vanishing South down the West side. The Wood Sandpiper although infrequent has been a regular on Ancum over the last few days often disappearing into surrounding fields. Most of the migrant birds were again in the North. Willow Warblers at Senness and Garso were two of five birds on the island. Senness also played host to the long staying Barred Warbler and one of three Garden Warblers. The Red-backed Shrike remained at Bewan House and was still present on 22nd, although now seems more illusive than ever only being seen as it leaves the garden! Other migrants included a Whinchat at Trolla, a Crossbill at Iris Taing and a drake Common Scoter flew past Tor Ness.

The 21st was extremely quiet in comparison, a Common Whitethroat at Westness was the only noteable migrant. 

A switch in the wind saw strong North-westerlies as the day progressed, however the strange ways in which things work meant this played to our advantage with a fresh arrival of migrants on the island. Common Whitethroats at Northness and Viggay were a welcome addition to the day list as was a Lesser Whitethroat at Rue. Rue also held the first Reed Warbler of the Autumn. The first Common Rosefinch of the Autumn was hiding in the thistle field near Haskie. Finally the highlight or highlights of the day were at least 4 Curlew Sandpipers, the first of which was found on the Links and was soon joined by two other birds while another spend the day around Bewan. More frustratingly was a fourth bird with the three as they flew away, seemingly white-rumped but quite a bit smaller! It'll have to be the one that got away unless it appears! 

Curlew Sandpipers                                                                                        RB

Crossbill                                                                                                           GG

Whinchat                                                                                                          GG

Thursday, 20 August 2020

17th-19th August

Fog has dominated the last three days with island in an almost shroud of the stuff, it's probably effected the birds we might have got but that's all ifs and buts! 

A calm day bought in the first bout of fog and there was little of note around, a lone Willow Warbler was in the gardens at Holland, a ringtail Hen Harrier, that spent the next two days here, was seen in various locations in the South end of the island, a Kestrel was seen hovering over East Loch Park in the early afternoon and a young male Merlin was hammering around the Links in the afternoon eventually killing an Alba Wagtail for it's tea. The days highlight however was our second Mediterranean Gull of the year, a rather smart 1st winter that made it's way North past the beacon during an otherwise fruitless sea-watch.

The following day looked like it would be good on paper but that belligerent fog meant birds probably weren't going to see us and that proved to be the case. A Grey Plover at Haskie was the first of the Autumn and it remained the following day. Willow Warblers at Burray, Upper Linnay and Ancum were the only migrant warblers but were joined by 12 Sedge Warblers including three fledgies at Ancum Willows. Another Rock Pipit on the West side marked only the second of the Autumn period and 4 Ruff near Holland are part of a very slowly growing flock.

The 19th was a much better day on paper but involved quite a few lingering birds that have simply avoided the obs staff for a couple of days. The Red-backed Shrike was back at Bewan House and Barred Warblers at both Holland and Senness have been lingering for quite some time now. A little influx of 5 Garden Warblers did show some promise as did the first Pied Flycatcher of the Autumn. Our second Melodious Warbler of the year was showing quite well at times in the garden at Dennishill, as you may have noticed we initially put it out as a Icterine but a few raised queries and a couple of texts and emails and we'd straightened it out, a 10th record for the island, so we're still to get Icterine on the year list! Away from avian things a Basking Shark was lurking off the top end of the island. 

Melodious Warbler                                                               GG

Mediterranean Gull                                                                                          GG

Willow Warbler                                                                                                 GG

Sunday, 16 August 2020

14th-16th August

The last few days has been a fairly mixed bag when it comes down to weather, while the 14th was a much cooler and more settled day the 15th treated us (or hindered us with) blazing sunshine that saw most of the staff out in shorts! A rare site up here anytime of the year. The 16th saw what was supposed to be a dry day plagued with a wet drizzly fog that lingered for most of the day and made for reduced visibility. 
The 14th saw a few new birds mixed in with lingerers from the previous days, both Barred Warblers were present at Holland and Senness. Our first Lesser Whitethroat of the Autumn was at Veracott and similarly the first Autumnal Tree Pipit was flushed from behind Dennishill. A new juvenile Red-backed Shrike was at Bewan House, the first Rock Pipit was back on the West side and an Icelandic Redwing has spent the last three days in Ancum Willows. The sea produced a few goods on the 14th too, the highlight would have been the two large Shearwaters that passed a distant fishing with a large flock of Manx Shearwater had they been identifiable, going on whats in the North Sea at the moment and the jizz of the two birds they were Cory's but at that range it's not worth putting a name to them. So the highlight had to go to a pod of 6 White-beaked Dolphins seen from the North end.
A slightly quieter day on the 15th saw a new un-ringed Barred Warbler appear in gardens at Holland along with a juvenile Willow Warbler. The Wood Sandpiper from the 13th made a cameo around the fields North of Ancum again and the juvenile male Peregrine another fleeting and terrifying (if you're a Kittiwake) visit to the island. With Arctic Terns gathering ready to make the long trip South its only natural you get a few other species thrown in, a Common Tern spent much of the 15th below the Funny Park on the rocks while up to 4 Sandwich Terns were present the day after including a Juvenile at Bridesness. 
A soggy 16th didn't produce much at all, Barred Warblers remained in Holland and Senness the former was joined by a Garden Warbler that did end up in a mist net in the morning. 5 Willow Warblers were dotted around the island while 3 Ruff fed near Kirbist. 

Red-backed Shrike                                                                                            GG

                         Barred Warbler                                                                                          GG

Friday, 14 August 2020

11th-13th August

 The 10th turned out to be a much quieter overall, with very few birds to shout about apart from a couple of Willow Warblers and the first Great Northern Diver of the Autumn. The 12th however would prove much more productive. A rather horrible day weather wise saw the island drenched in near constant rain only interrupted by low rolls of thunder. The birds didn't seem to mind though and we were quickly off the mark with a long awaited first Greenshank of 2020, it must be a long time since we've had no spring records so it felt good to shake this monkey off our backs. Elsewhere Green and Wood Sandpipers were on Ancum as were a flock 7 Black-tailed Godwits. The scarcer migrants started with a juvenile Red-backed Shrike at Lochend that spent most of the afternoon being highly elusive but not quite as elusive as our first Wryneck of the year near Kirbist, initially seen in the iris ditch it quickly moved to the dyke before subsequently vanishing into thin air! Other highlights included the re-emergence of the Melodious Warbler at Westness, it was still being a complete pain to pin down in the field and the Barred Warbler also from the 10th was re-trapped in Holland, it was otherwise quite with a Garden Warbler being the only other bird of noteworthy mention.

The 13th was much the same with all of the previous days suspects (barring the Wryneck) still in place, the main additions were new Barred Warblers at Westness and Senness and a Whinchat at Rue. A juvenile Redpoll trapped at Holland House turned out to be one of the juveniles ringed on Fair Isle this Spring and finally a Storm Petrel session rounded the day off nicely with 86 new birds caught and 5 re-traps including a British control, A Leach's was seen flying around the nets but evaded capture.

Wryneck                                                                                DS

Melodious Warbler                                                               GG

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

7th-10th August

 The last four days have been good, census has been interrupted the ringing of the Fulmar chicks, hense the slightly late post. For anybody interested we ringed 174 chicks. 

The 7th saw the first of a few days of sunshine and showed the perils of letting your guard down, while stopped in Ancum Willows having brief rest and waiting to see if anything popped out a distant 'blip blip blip' call characteristic of Bee-eater, despite rushing out into the open it couldn't be picked up and was heard disappearing away to the South. Another Little Gull this time a 2CY was on the Lurn and the second year tick of the day came in the shape of an Osprey as it headed North over West Beach in the evening. 

The next day would see blazing sunshine and the start of the Fulmar ringing meant coverage was limited. A Black-throated Diver went South over the Lurn in the morning while a slowly rising number of Short-eared Owl started with a lone bird around Laird's Park. A juv female Hen Harrier was also knocking around the island. The bird of the day however went to a probable juvenile Baltic Gull on the airfield, unfortunately that's how it'll probably stay, probable. 

The Baltic Gull was present albeit briefly on the airfield again and the Short-eared Owl count climbed to 4 birds, 3 of which were hunting around the loch at Brides. The Little Gull was present again in cut fields near Gerbo and 3 Ruff were in similarly cut fields near Holland. A Green Sandpiper flew over the obs in the morning while a juvenile Common Sandpiper interrupted the start of the second day of Fulmar ringing as it flushed from Sand Geo. Finally 4 Common Redpoll spent time hiding the jungle of Fuschia in the gardens at Holland and the frequently visiting juvenile male Peregrine was seen causing near pandemonium amongst the feeding wader flocks. 

With the Fulmars done it was time for some birding. The news from further South was somewhat encouraging with Spurn scoring early goodies, however by lunchtime it seemed clear we weren't quite in for the same trickle goodies. This all changed at around 13:30 when photos from Dante of an interesting Hippolais warbler at Westness soon turned into our 8th record Melodious Warbler, just the start we wanted and a much sort after island tick for some of the staff! With a Melody under our belts it only felt right that we opened nets at Holland. This proved to be profitable as in amongst the catch juvenile birds was a rather smart and maybe even expected Barred Warbler, a superb way to round off a good day. 

With winds set to the East for the next few days the middle of the week is looking quite tasty! 

Melodious Warbler                                                               GG

Short-eared Owl                                                                       GG

Osprey                                                          James Wilson (JAW)

'Probable' Baltic Gull                                   Dante Shepherd (DS)


Friday, 7 August 2020

4th-6th August

Quite a busy few days bird wise with a large number of waders passing through the island on the 4th and 5th. We'll jump straight in with that and the highest totals of the commoner waders over the past three days. 
281 Oystercatcher, 140 Ringed Plover, 1222 Golden Plover, 172 Lapwing, 306 Sanderling, 167 Dunlin, 42 Bar-tailed Godwits, 132 Curlew, 89 Redshank and 679 Turnstone all made for impressive totals, especially the Sanderling as 279 of the 306 were on one small beach near Hooking! Otherwise it's been much of the same with a few new bits thrown in. The Short-eared Owl first seen on the 3rd has been seen everyday in slightly different locations. The juvenile Goldeneye remained faithful to Brides Loch. Presumably the same juvenile Ruff was near Holm on the 5th and a juvenile Kestrel went South over Peckhole on the same date. 
A lone Crossbill was around the obs on the morning of the 5th followed by 3 birds on the 6th. Up to 2 Hen Harriers have been patrolling the newly cut fields between Holland and Bridesness while the same number of Sparrowhawks have been no doubt terrorising Linnets around Holland. A Common Sandpiper at Sand Geo was the first of the Autumn as was an early Garden Warbler at Brigg on the 6th. Finally the Tern numbers have really built up over the last three days with a count of 2283 on the 4th only being surpassed the next day by 2827 birds, including a flock of 1300 around Bewan that contained adult and juvenile Common Terns. 
With a period of light Easterlies on the horizon we're hoping for a speedy start to Autumnal migration having been given good early signs! 

Sanderlings                                                                                                GG
Goldeneye                                                                                                      GG

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

1st-3rd August

With the recommencing of census on the 1st it goes without saying we've been experiencing higher counts of birds the last three days than in previous weeks. Fine weather on all three days allowed for good coverage despite sheep working taking up much of the 2nd for some. 
The 1st provided an early highlight with the first Willow Warbler of the autumn, a rather be-draggled looking bird that has perhaps spent the summer here, but we haven't seen it. A bird that clearly did spend the summer here was a moulting Song Thrush, first trapped on the 25th June. Three Swifts around the obs were amongst other fly-by birds such as a 1cy male Peregrine, a 1cy Kestrel and 2 Whimbrel. Finally the first Ruff of the Autumn was with Redshank near Holm. 
Despite being a very sheep work orientated day the 2nd provided some good highlights, 3 Crossbills left the island to the South mid-morning and Woodpigeon spent the day hanging around the obs, loitering in their usual nervous style. Another couple of Whimbrel were present including a rather showy bird near the lighthouse with a flock of 9 Curlew. Finally another showy bird for the day came in the shape of a Short-eared Owl on Brek that was seen in the evening hunting over the crop strips. 
The 3rd saw complete coverage and therefore provided good counts. a juvenile Goldeneye was seen briefly on Brides and a White Wagtail was seen carrying food to a nest near North Gravity. Our first quadruple figure counts of Golden Plover and Arctic Tern stood at 1116 and 1285 respectively rounding a good period in August. 

Short-eared Owl                                                                                                GG

Whimbrel                                                                                                          GG

Arctic Skua                                                                                                        GG

Saturday, 1 August 2020

28th-31st July

A rather quiet period in the month without a great deal to shout about. The 28th was frankly disgusting weather wise and didn't see much more than a few outstanding indoor jobs getting done! However a break in the weather the next day would allow us to venture out and see what the rain had left behind. It wasn't a great deal if I'm honest, a Common Tern was on Bewan with around 480 Arctic Terns, a brief sea-watch produced 2 Sooty Shearwaters and 5 Manx Shearwater and another Long-tailed Skua surfaced giving us our 14th bird of a remarkable influx, away from the birding side of things Gavin left for uni on the 29th, he's been a huge help this spring and summer especially on the ringing side of things and we look forward to seeing him again in October. 
With high winds dropping to almost nothing on the 30th the day was dominated by sea-watching and it proved fruitful. 332 Manx Shearwaters, 38 Sooty Shearwater, 18 Storm Petrel, 87 Puffin and good counts of commoner sea-birds made for a healthy day total and fairly constant views of Harbour Porpoise weren't bad in between Shearwater flocks either! The sea-watch did also produce one live and one not so alive Risso's Dolphin, the Fulmars, needless to say, preferred the not so alive animal. 
Finally the 31st saw what seemed to indicate the exit of the Long-tailed Skuas, they've entertained us for a while now and have proved an invaluable learning tool for those of us that spent long hours photographing and enjoying them! Away from Skuas a group of 43 Knot were on Bewan along with 8 on Sjaver giving us our highest count of the Autumn so far. It was otherwise a quiet day to round off the month, the final highlight being a Shoveler dazzled in the evening. With August looming we'll be back into passerine migration again soon and we're looking forward to it! 
Shoveler                                                                             GG

                                             Manx Shearwaters                                             GG