Wednesday, 30 September 2020

28th-30th September

 A few days of promising weather included some good birds and quite a few commoner migrant, hopefully all a taster for the rest of the week ahead.

Most of the previous days birds remained, a few new bits included a male Ring Ouzel around the obs crop, a Lesser Redpoll and a few Redwing and Song Thrushes. 6 Yellow-browed Warblers looked like being the highlight of the day until a Little Bunting was found around T1 before relocating to East Loch Park. Following this a an American Golden Plover was heard as it flushed from near the Lenswick Footpath but couldn't be re-located.

The following day was equally migrant filled. The day started with Pied Flycatcher near the poly tunnel at the observatory. A Red-backed Shrike spent most of the day around the bird observatory before being trapped in Holland later that evening. Yellow-browed Warblers broke into double figures for the day while the first Mistle Thrush of year headed up the West Coast towards Tor Ness. A Common Buzzard made its way in off the sea only to be followed by another. 17 Lapland Bunting, 40 Song Thrush and 23 Redwing made for good birding. The Little Bunting re-appeared in East Loch Park to round off a good days birding.

The 30th was frankly a horrible day a record count of 16 Grey Plover were on Nouster during the morning. The first Spotted Flycatcher of the Autumn was on the beach below Garso and a Ring Ouzel was near the shooting gallery.

                                   Little Bunting                                                                        GG
                                   Grey Plover                                                                           GG

Monday, 28 September 2020

25th-27th September

 A good few days of birding that started quietly got better as a few migrants from the east began to arrive and prime sea-watch conditions provided a mega sea-bird for one lucky observer.

The 25th and 26th were quiet in terms of migrants, the Buff-breasted Sandpiper made a re-appearance on Tor Ness before re-locating to a field East of Upper Linnay. A Jack Snipe was flushed from a pool near Trolla, this was the first of the Autumn so was a welcome addition. A male Redstart was at Senness and was the only real passerine migrant for the day on the 25th. The 26th was also quiet in comparison to the following day although a Ring Ouzel near Gretchen was another first for the Autumn. 

The 27th was much busier and a slackening in the wind meant sea-watch conditions looked and they turned out to be exactly that! Along with 163 Sooty Shearwater and 8 Manx Shearwater was something a little different. A small Shearwater with a Manxie proved to be a Barolo Shearwater, a bit of mad moment and not one that will be easily repeated! The sea-watch also produced a Fin Whale. A very smart Red-breasted Flycatcher was hanging around the surgery while 10 Yellow-browed Warblers flitted their way around bushes and gardens in various locations around the island. Three Goldcrests at North Gravity, the Post Office and Upper Linnay were joined on the day list by 4 Chiffchaffs, a Redstart, a Whitethroat at Scottigar, a Blythii Lesser Whitethroat at Bewan and a Green Sandpiper on Ancum.

The weather looks interesting for the next few days and hopefully we'll score big again before the Autumn winds up! 

                                   Red-breasted Flycatcher                                                both GG
                                   Redstart                                                                                 GG
                                     Yellow-browed Warbler                                      Chris Bridge

Thursday, 24 September 2020

21st-24th September

 A bit of a longer period between posts than intended but these things sometimes happen when you're hoping for rarities! The last four days haven't disappointed for the most part although the 22nd was almost a wash-out and the 24th despite early promise never lived up to its billing!

We'll start with the 21st however and a small smattering of birds mostly vestiges from the previous few days of birding. A Yellow-browed Warbler was still in Holland along with the Redstart at Bewan and the Reed Warbler between North and South Gravity. These birds all remained in place until the 23rd. A House Martin was seen at the Lighthouse and then presumably the same bird was seen at Holland in the evening, the first and potentially only record of the Autumn. A Snow Bunting was hanging around on the pier but the day was otherwise quiet.

As previously stated the 22nd was a near wash out with birding made difficult by driving rain and nasty winds, the only avian highlights being 5 Grey Plover and a juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull.

A much better day followed and despite a quiet morning involving a Goldcrest and the same ever fattening Barred Warbler in Holland and a Robin at Nether Linnay the birding slowly got better as the day wound on. A Stonechat at Ancum was perhaps a slightly unseasonal record for here, less so were 9 Lapland Buntings, 7 of which were together at Sandar. A Common Whitethroat at Sangar, a Yellow-browed at Burray and the first Siskin of the Autumn also at Burray were good additions to the day list. The highlights of the day consisted of the first Red-breasted Flycatcher of the year at Antabrek seemed to be the bird of day until the visiting Heatherlea group uncovered a rather smart Buff-breasted Sandpiper in the wet field just below Holland.

The 24th showed promise after the previous days late showing and the anticipation increased after the morning nets session produced a Goldcrest, a Blackcap and a Pied Flycatcher, with at least two other Goldcrests in the garden. This however was slightly miss-placed and six hours later the only passerine migrants of note were two Redwings. A general clearout had taken place and the cold Northerly wind had left us with little to shout about!

We're not too worried though, an interesting high pressure developing over Scandinavia will hopefully begin to provide us with birds on the other side of the weekend. 

                                   Red-breasted Flycatcher                                                        GG
                                   Buff-breasted Sandpiper                                                        GG
                                   Reed Warbler                                                                         GG

Monday, 21 September 2020

18th-20th September

 A superb period in which promising weather bought in some good birds and such much needed migrants. 

The 18th started with light winds and drizzle that eventually turned into a light mist, this undoubtably dropped in the first spell of birds. Things started with a Yellow-browed Warbler at Holland followed by one at the Manse before things began to kick off and the day produced a fine haul of migrants a further two Yellow-browed Warblers pushed the day total to 4, a Reed Warbler was between North and South Gravity as was a Chiffchaff, 2 Willow Warblers and a Common Whitethroat, a further Chiffchaff was in Holland. The Baird's Sandpiper was joined by a Little Stint at Bewan. Other migrant totals included 8 Blackcaps, 5 Pied Flycatchers, 7 Willow Warblers, 2 Goldcrests and 2 Tree Pipits. An Unstreaked Acro at Garso remained unidentified due to it's skulky nature and wasn't around the following morning. It seemed Little Buntings at North Gravity and 2 at Stennabrek would be the highlights for the day until a Red-throated Pipit was found feeding around the Irises near Bridesness, a superb end to a superb day! 

The following day was met with anticipation and it delivered. The Red-throated Pipit had disappeared overnight but had been replaced by good numbers of migrants. Yellow-browed Warblers increased to a total of 10 birds spread across the island while Pied Flycatchers had increased to 12. Flocks of Pink-footed Geese totalled over 600 birds by the end of the day as they headed south through low cloud occasionally shrouded from view. Other migrants included a Redstart near the Lighthouse, 2 Whitethroats, 2 Snow Buntings, 1 Goldcrest, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Barred Warbler, a Reed Warbler at Bewan, a Tree Pipit and 2 Brambling. A Crane was heard flying around clearly disorientated by the mist, The Baird's Sandpiper and Little Stint also remained on Bewan. Away from the birds, if you believe we managed to see other things a pod of 4 Risso's Dolphins were seen heading South. It was one of those days of birding that will live long in the memory, superb day! 

The birds didn't linger and the following day saw a clear out of most of the previous days migrants. The Redstart, 3 Blackcaps and 2 Yellow-browed Warblers remained while new birds included 4 Goldcrests, 2 Robins and a Garden Warbler trapped at Holland. The Pied Flycatchers had all disappeared overnight but the Baird's and Little Stint remained faithful to their usual haunt. Pink-footed Geese moved but in much smaller numbers with just over 200 seen heading South. As I said a much quieter day all said and done but by no means a bad day at all! 

                                    Red-throated Pipit                                                                GG
                                    Pied Flycatcher                                                                    GG
                                    Yellow-browed Warbler                                                       GG
                                   Yellow-browed Warbler in the hand                                  SMR

Thursday, 17 September 2020

15th-17th September

 A very profitable couple of days with a quieter one thrown in the middle. Very slight easterly winds on the 15th and over night and into the morning of the 17th provided a few migrants for us to sink our teeth into. 

An early flurry of migrants provided excitement with Blackcaps and Goldcrests in Holland and around the traps. A flycatcher in Holland was probably a Red-breasted but gave appalling views so we're leaving it for now. Fieldfares at Holland and Southness were new for the Autumn. A Redstart at Westness was another first for the Autumn as were a pair of Whoopers Swans seen flying South. The Baird's Sandpiper was present again but the highlight of the day was a very showy Lanceolated Warbler found skulking around the punds near Trolla. If accepted it will represent the 6th island record. 

The following day was a much quieter affair with the highlights being the Baird's Sandpiper again, it was pursued by a Peregrine at about mid-day but managed to escape, this however was the last time it was seen. Two Merlins and two Peregrines joined the three Hen Harrier on the day list while a lone Willow Warbler at Southness seemed to be all that remained from the previous day.

The 17th also saw a small fall of migrant birds. A Black-throated Diver flew south down the West Coast during the morning while at least 11 Pied Flycatchers made their way onto the island accompanied by a lone Redwing in the obs crop, two Willow Warblers and re-emergence of the Pale-bellied Brent Goose near Holland. A Brambling in off the sea at the foghorn was also a first for the Autumn, two Willow Warblers at the Old Kirk and the Shooting Gallery were good additions as was a Blackcap and a Barred Warbler in Holland. Up to 42 Lapland Buntings made for great viewing meanwhile, a pair of Yellow-browed Warblers at Dennishill were the second and third this Autumn. A Bluethroat at Lenswick was probably the pick of the bunch for the day but despite this we still there has to be more out there to see!   

                                   Lanceolated Warbler
                                    Lanceolated Warbler                                                   
                                   Lapland Bunting                                                        all pics GG

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

12th-14th September

 A mixed bag weather wise turned up a few migrants along the way, things haven't started migration wise in a big way yet but it won't be long! 

The 12th saw a day of howling 50mph gusts and prolonged wet spells that made being out an unpleasant experience, that said the birds didn't seem all that bothered and all in all it was a good day out in the field. The day started with our second Pectoral Sandpiper of the year feeding with the Dunlin at Bewan. It was quickly joined by the Baird's Sandpiper, the two making a rather nice combination. A Short-eared Owl was battling the high winds near Rue while a Common Tern was hanging around the point at Brides while small groups of Lapland Buntings and lone Snow Bunting were dotted around. 

The 13th saw the arrival of our first Heatherlea group of the year, it's been good to see a few familiar faces. It also saw the arrival of the our first Robin of the Autumn at Holland, a Barred Warbler was also seen briefly in the gardens. Good numbers of Lapland Bunting and Rock Pipit arrived throughout the day with both posting totals of over 30 for the day. A pod of 10 Risso's Dolphin tracked North from the Beacon. A lighthouse attraction somewhat smaller than the one of three years ago saw around 50 Meadow Pipits attracted to the lighthouse disorientated by a low fog that had descended in the evening.

The 14th was a lovely day weather wise but it ended up being quieter than we'd have wished. The Baird's remained on Bewan with a Curlew Sandpiper. Flocks of Lapland Bunting continued to track South throughout the day. a Willow Warbler and the Barred Warbler were both seen in Holland, a Garden Warbler was at Milldam the evening saw us treated to another pod of Risso's Dolphins off the pier and a colour ringed Hen Harrier was photographed near Hooking. 

                                    Pectoral Sandpiper                                                                GG

Saturday, 12 September 2020

9th-11th September

 A wild and windy few days have resulted in very little in the way of new migrants on the land but the 10th produced a spectacular sea-watch.

The 9th was a quiet affair with the highlights being the Semipalmated Plover still on the Links in the afternoon and the Baird's Sandpiper was still feeding around Bewan with 3 Curlew Sandpipers and a group of Dunlin and Knot.

Early signs of a Sooty Shearwater seen from the Links on the 10th pointed to good sea-watching conditions, things were quiet to begin with with just over 30 Sooty Shearwaters passing in the first hour but an incoming band of rain had plenty of birds in front of it. A small flurry of four Manx Shearwater was followed by a rather unexpected Balearic Shearwater; A much commoner sight in the South of England this bird represents only the 18th island record and the first of 2020. A flock of 21 Sooty Shearwaters followed the Balearic before a heavy shower ruined visibility and the sea-watch was suspended. When the sea-watching resumed it did so at quite some speed with a deluge of Sooty Shearwaters passing and eventually gathering to feed on the sea. At least 60 birds passed in the next 20 minutes before slowing up slightly, but with a large amount of birds lingering in the area it was quite some spectacle. Through the middle of all this a larger shearwater was spotted cruising through in the shape of a Great Shearwater, sadly the bird didn't hang around but for three lucky observers it made the effort more than worthwhile! Other sea-watching highlights included 2 juv Long-tailed Skuas and an adult Little Gull. The afternoon was then taking up by re-finding the Semipalmated Plover which proved to be in its favoured spot on the Links. 

The 11th was plagued by strong winds and heavy downpours, highlights were limited but the absence of the Semipalmated Plover among some 130 Ringed Plover was notable. The Baird's Sandpiper remained on Bewan with at least one Curlew Sandpiper and 8 Lapland Buntings were flying around Tor Ness despite the high winds. 

Things are looking interesting just after the weekend so we'll be keeping an eye on the weather for the coming days. 

Lapland Buntings                                                                  GG

Semipalmated Plover                                                          GG 

                                             A not great quality Great Shearwater video               GG

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

6th-8th September

 The Westerlies continued with intermittent spells of rain and an overall colder feel to the weather in general.

The 6th was a fairly quiet day but not without its highlights. A Snow Bunting at Bewan was the first of the Autumn while Lapland Bunting numbers increased to 8 birds, 3 at Sandar and 5 on Tor Ness. The first Pink-footed Geese of the Autumn were below the school and the Baird's Sandpiper remained on Bewan with 3 Curlew Sandpipers until the 8th. Up to 3 Hen Harriers have been stalking the island often seen together over the obs crop or Holland.

The 7th seemed like it was going be fairly quiet, a new Rosefinch at Dennishill looked as though it would be the only highlight on top of a Short-eared Owl near Sandar. A late afternoon message from Dante including a photo of 'an odd looking Ringed Plover' would eventually turn in Britain's 5th and Scotland's 2nd Semipalmated Plover! The bird was striking its overall smaller appearance and worn mantle. It wasn't however until we got back and began looking at photos of the birds feet that reality began to set in. A few emails to notable wader experts confirmed our suspicions, our role good birds continued.

The 8th was taken up mostly trying to re-find the Plover, it was eventually re-found in the early afternoon on the Links before it re-located to the grass between Sjavier and Bewan before heading back to Links. Other day highlights included 33 Pink-footed Geese, a Pale-bellied Brent, 3 Curlew Sandpipers and the Baird's Sandpiper.

Semipalmated Plover                                                            GG

Hen Harrier                                                                            GG

Sunday, 6 September 2020

3rd-5th September

 A wild and windy few days have made for challenging birding conditions but nonetheless produced the goods as has so often been the case in the early parts of the Autumn.

A rather wet day on the 3rd saw the re-appearance of the Subalpine Warbler around the traps, despite this after it was re-trapped it remained elusive. There were 3 Rosefinches at Holland however an un-ringed bird meant that one had been replaced by a new arrival. Up to 5 Lapland Buntings were made their way onto the island and represented the first records this Autumn after just one Spring record. The 11 Pale-bellied Brent Geese remained in their favoured spot behind Lochend and were also present on the 4th, at least 2 Swifts made appearances but the likelihood is that there were up to 4 birds on the island including 2 that attempted to roost on the observatory buildings. A Kestrel over the airfield, a new Barred Warbler at Upper Linnay and 2 Curlew Sandpipers on Gretchen would have made for a good day, but we weren't done there! A very smart Juvenile Baird's Sandpiper was discovered at Westness in the early afternoon before it disappeared giving the rest of us the run around! It left Westness and was re-located sometime later at Lenswick where it flew back towards Westness, but with no sign at Westness things looked rather bleak, until a search party re-discovered the bird feeding on Trolla Vatn where it remained for the rest of the day, giving superb views. This is only the 4th island record and 6th in total for Orkney. Finally a late influx of Wheatears saw 55 birds counted on the grass between the lighthouse and Bewan in the last hours of light.

A rather wild day followed the 3rd however the Baird's remained and a few other lingerers made for pleasing viewing in windy conditions, the Curlew Sandpiper total rose to 5 birds with 3 on Bewan and 2 on Gretchen still. Other than these the likelihood of stumbling across any passerine migrants was slim to the say the least!

The 5th saw the wind calm ever so slightly, the Baird's Sand had moved slightly and was now on Bewan with 3 Curlew Sandpipers and up to 15 Dunlin. Lapland Buntings at the obs and Stromness continued their little pulse onto the island while 2 of the 3 Rosefinches were seen sat Holland. A Grey plover was on the beach at the far end of Nouster and 33 Sooty Shearwaters passed the sea-watch hide. 

The wind looks set to drop off which should hopefully provide some good sea-watch conditions otherwise we seem to be stuck in a system of Westerlies for the next week or so, but it's September in the Northern isles and you simply never know!! 

Baird's Sandpiper and a Dunlin                                          GG

Baird's Sandpiper                                                                 GG

Wheatear                                                                             GG


Thursday, 3 September 2020

31st August - 2nd September

 A mixed bag in the way of weather, with fine weather eventually turning into a howling southerly gale that although didn't make things unbirdable, it certainly hampered progress! 

The Barred Warbler and three Rosefinches remained in Holland throughout the period often favouring one of the courtyards surrounding the main house. The Common Buzzard also continued to tour the island being seen in most census areas. Two Little Gulls passed the sea-watch hide on an otherwise uneventful sea-watch. The days highlights were a group of 11 Pale-bellied Brent Geese originally on the Links they re-located to the fields behind Lochend where they remained for the duration. The final highlight was probably one of the most unexpected! A Yellow-browed Warbler in the Willows at Ancum is the earliest British Autumnal record, despite this the bird has been uncharacteristically skulky, often only being seen in flight! 

A quieter day followed with the Yellow-browed Warbler still remaining in the Willows and up to 3 Curlew Sandpipers feeding on various lochs. 2 adult and 2 juvenile Common Terns were on Bewan in the afternoon and Garden Warblers were at Holland and Upper Linnay, but all in all a much quieter day. 

By day-break on the 2nd the island was being swept by howling Southerly gales which meant anything that may have arrived will have been keeping low and out of sight! Two Willow Warblers in the Funny Park looked a bit scared of flying more than a few feet in fear of being blown away. Two of the Rosefinches remained at Holland while another seemingly seeked pastures a-new at Phisiligar but didn't stay long. A couple of Grey Plovers were hanging around on Tor Ness and Gretchen. With Westerlies setting in for the next few days we'll keep our fingers crossed for a Trans-Atlantic vagrant! 

Pale-bellied Brent Geese                                                     GG

Grey Plover and Redshank                                                  GG