Thursday, 29 October 2020

26th-28th October

 A rather pleasant few of days of weather even if we didn't have too many birds to go with it. Light SSE winds dominated the proceedings but didn't really bring any birds of too much note. 

The 26th was undoubtedly the pick of the days with a few lingering birds coupled with a couple of new arrivals. A Yellow-browed Warbler seen briefly in Holland was a late one but couldn't be turned into anything better. The Bluethroat from the previous day had slightly re-located and was now feeding with a Blackcap around the Storm Petrel catching area. A/the Green-winged Teal has finally moulted enough for us to recognise him and was back on Gretchen, we assume it's the same bird that has been returning to the island for over ten years now. The Buzzard was still present around Holland in the evening as was a brief Long-eared Owl as it flushed out of the middle garden in Holland. Lastly a rather smart Black Redstart was feeding around the house at Southness. 

The 27th was also a fairly productive day, a late House Martin over the obs crop was scrutinised but as with the previous days Yellow-browed Warbler couldn't be transformed into anything rarer. The first Iceland Gull of the winter period (I know it's not winter just yet!) was initially seen flying up the West side before being re-found on the Links in the afternoon. The Black Redstart was still present feeding around the Horses at Southness again. Finally three Barnacle Geese were hanging around with a group of Greylags between Greenwall and Howar. 

The 28th although a pleasant day was rather quiet. A couple of lingering Siberian Chiffchaffs at Sangar and Bewan coupled with a few extra bits of wildfowl including 5 Pintail, were about all we had to shout about for the day. The weather was nice though so no complaints really!

                                   Black Redstart                                                                      GG
Bluethroat                                                                      both GG

                                   Barnacle Geese with Greylags                                              GG

Sunday, 25 October 2020

22nd-25th October

 Not quite the rare fest we'd hoped for but still large numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing kept us sifting through Thrush flocks in the hope of finding another Sibe mega. However it wasn't to be this time around and we had to settle for uncommon migrants with not a lot in between! 

The 22nd and 25th both laid claim to Bluethroats, the best of which was a male in the observatory crop on the 25th. A juvenile bird at Westness on the 22nd though it proved illusive enough to evade all but the finder! A mixed bag of weather also meant on some days coverage was rather limited. The Buzzard has remained on the island for the period and it's beginning to look as though it spend the winter on the island. Wildfowl numbers have also been creeping up a total of 180 Wigeon, 12 Shoveler, 9 Gadwall, 4 Mallard, 79 Teal, a drake Pintail and female Goldeneye were on Bewan on the 25th. Five Ring Ouzels were present among some 2000 Fieldfare and 1400 Redwing on the 22nd but we struggled to find anything else among the carpet of winter Thrushes that was spread across the island. The Common Rosefinch also remained until the 24th spending most of its time in the Funny Park and Front Park with a flock of up to 21 Brambling. A late Redstart was present late on the 23rd down by the pier as were Lesser Whitethroats at Bewan and the New Manse. Lastly a Little Bunting was at Iris Taing on the 25th. We feel the Autumn is now beginning to end and it won't be long until we're sifting through large Gull flocks again; but until then we'll be trying to seek out that final late mega!  

                                   Male Bluethroat                                                                    DS

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

19th-21st October

 A very wet and windy few days has left most of dreaming of warm heaters and waterproof trousers that don't leak like a sieve! The prevailing easterlies make us think there are birds to be found but not in the pouring rain that has probably started to sink the island.

An influx of Thrushes has been the main talking point with over 1500 Fieldfare and 750 Redwing appeared overnight on the 19th joined by 2 Ring Ouzels, the large flocks of Thrushes presented hope for another mega rare Thrush but it hasn't played out that way....or so far at least! The other bird of note was a rather sodden Short-toed Lark on the 20th at Neven. Good numbers of wildfowl coupled with a bumper Gull count on the 21st left us something to sift through, however the 321 Herring Gulls and 243 Great Black-backed Gulls weren't hiding anything amongst their faction. Wigeon counts totalled over 300 birds on the 19th and again on the 20th while the 3rd Goldeneye of the Autumn was present on Bewan. Otherwise we're picking the bones of birds from a week or so ago with a small scattering of Robins and Chiffchaffs still lingering in various dry corners of the island.

With the weather improving over the next couple of days there's a bit of anticipation in the air for what tomorrow might bring. 


Monday, 19 October 2020

16th-18th October

 A rather quiet period in which very few new migrants seemed to emerge, but with winds switching to the East over Monday and Tuesday there's certainly promise of more to come! 

A distinct lack of birds over the 16th and 17th left us scratching our heads a bit, but also allowed our brains to get some rest after what has been a whirlwind start and middle of October! Highlights from these two days include 4 Grey Plovers, good residual numbers of Robin, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Goldcrest and Redwing, a Lesser Whitethroat and 80+ Snow Buntings. 

The 18th was a slightly busier affair and with increased numbers of observers again we expect the good fortune of this Autumn to continue. A Little Bunting was re-discovered at North Gravity meaning folk arriving today had something to get their teeth into early on. Rosefinches were again re-discovered in the Observatory crop field and at Holland while a Lapland Bunting was also heard in the crop. The first Glaucous Gull of the Autumn was present for short while on the sea below Neven while up to 5 Goldfinches and 4 Greenfinches also made the highlight reel for the day. The first Little Auks of the Autumn were seen during a brief sea-watch that also featured the first Sooty Shearwater for a little while. The island also played host to at least 18 Siberian Chiffchaff with most being around the middle of the island. Despite this the highlight of the day had to be a female Hen Harrier trapped at Holland! Not the expected result for the evenings netting session! 

As previously mentioned the weather for the next couple of days looks interesting and with increased observers anything seems possible at the moment! 

                                   'Siberian' Chiffchaff              
                                   Little Bunting 
                                            Hen Harrier 

Thursday, 15 October 2020

14th-15th October

 A rather quite start to the 14th didn't leave us feeling highly optimistic although a Locustella seen briefly in Holland did give us the feeling that something might happen. The day progressed in an otherwise quiet fashion, the first Greenfinches of the year were at Holland and Sangar while 3 Velvet Scoters also made their way onto the year list. Remaining Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Robins were joined by the occasional Goldcrest, Redwing and Song Thrush but otherwise it felt like the day would fizzle out. However a Pallas' Warbler decided to make its presence felt at about 17:30 in the obs crop and was closely followed by the second Lanceolated Warbler of the year in Holland. A rather bizarre late flurry that left almost everyone a bit baffled to be honest! 

The 15th didn't include quite as much bafflement although there was a bit! A Grasshopper Warbler or what is assumed to be one appeared in the gardens first thing but wasn't seen again. A Common Rosefinch was also in Holland but found its way into a net. Other highlights include 2 Black-throated Diver, a Greenshank, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Tree Pipit. It's slim pickings but things are looking good over the next few days so we'll keep plugging away!

                                   Pallas' Warbler                                                                        DS

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

11th-13th October

 The last few days have seen a mass exodus of the migrants that have graced the island over the past week or so. 

The bird of the period was the previous days Buff-bellied Pipit that made a very welcome re-appearance on the Links, this time hanging around long enough for everybody to get a good view. Yet another Red-throated Pipit was seen briefly over Nouster as it headed towards Howar. Both of the previous days Little Buntings were present near Stennabrek while another Short-toed Lark was heard flying over the Links. A Buzzard was present between North and South Gravity. Otherwise a few migrants remained left over with singles figures and low double figures of Robin, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Goldcrest. 

The 12th bought in winds originating in the North bringing in a cold air flow and near constant light rain. Not the best birding conditions and it proved to be a rather quiet a flock of 57 Snow Buntings were at Westness while one of the Little Buntings was still at Stennabrek and another was around North Gravity. The Buzzard was also present as was the second Goldeneye of Autumn on Brides. A Black Redstart was also present around Haskie. 

The 13th saw the wind from the North-east but overall a much quieter day than perhaps anticipated. A Red-breasted Flycatcher was seen briefly around obs and at least 4 Siberian Chiffchaffs were seen around the island. A large flock of Chaffinch have built up around the Gravity area now totalling 36 birds. 

                                   American Buff-bellied Pipit                                                 GG
                                   Jack Snipe                                                                             GG

Saturday, 10 October 2020

7th-10th October

 It's been equally mad over the past few days but a gradual clear out of migrants has allowed us to go back to some form of birding normality despite lingering mega's and couple more great additions to the North Ron year list! 

The 7th was probably the busiest day of the lot and with birds still lingering after the incredible fall the day before it's barely a surprise. The adult male Red-throated Pipit was still lingering in East Loch Park while the Short-toed Lark was doing a similar thing just over the wall at Kirbest. The Bluethroat from a few days previous seemingly re-appeared at the Shooting Gallery coupled with the lingering Rosefinch while a further two Bluethroats were discovered at Haskie and Viggay in the afternoon. One of the lingering Little Buntings was seen near Senness and a very smart adult male Red-backed Shrike was seen between the Shooting Gallery and Burray throughout the day, unfortunately for at least one of the many lingering Goldcrests. The highlight for the day would have been the now long staying Eyebrowed Thrush until it's limelight was deservedly robbed by the islands second record of Pallas' Grasshopper Warbler, initially found in irises below Greenwall the bird proved tricky to absolutely get everything on but a net was deployed and the bird was trapped and ringed making for a pretty good first day of the finder David Roche's trip! 

A quieter day followed mostly punctuated with lingering birds again. The Red-backed Shrike was joined on the list by the re-appearance of the juvenile at Holland in the morning, a bird that managed to elude and evade us for a number of days! The Bluethroats at Haskie and the Shooting Gallery also remained as did the initial Rosefinch which would be joined by a second bird arriving at the Lighthouse in the early afternoon. A Reed Warbler was still skulking away in the Kirbest ditch while nearby the Short-toed Lark was still giving us the run around. The Pallas' Grasshopper Warbler and Eyebrowed Thrush still remained giving a good feel to the day overall. 

The 9th would see the disappearance of the Eyebrowed Thrush. A full week after a rather panicked set of obs staff and guests arrived to try and re-find it, it had departed. The story was similar across the board and the PG tips (birders slang for Pallas' Grasshopper Warbler) had also left the island, along with a good number of the commoner migrants. Saying this the Shrike, Bluethroat and one of the Rosefinches still hung on. The new additions for the day came in the shape of a 6th Red-throated Pipit for the Autumn at Rue (yes we's getting silly!), a 1st winter bird that spent much of the day bombing about the North end of the island. The other addition was 2 Slavonian Grebes in the bay at Linklet, they've been rather long awaited! 

The final day in this post and another good bird to add on to the yearlist! But first there had been a major clear out overnight meaning the Short-toed Lark and Red-backed Shrike has also departed for pastures new and we needed to fill the gap that had been left by them with something. That something arrived at about mid-day on the Links in the form of an American Buff-bellied Pipit! Initially feeding on the edge of Sandsheen the bird was seen by three observers including the finder before preforming a highly unappreciated bunk! The afternoon was spent trying re-locate it but this proved a futile task despite extensive searches. Elsewhere the Bluethroat was still hanging around the cow fields at Haskie and 2 Little Buntings were seemingly fresh arrivals near Stennabrek.

                                   Pallas' Grasshopper Warbler                                         Both GG
                                   American Buff-bellied Pipit                                                  GG
                                   Red-backed Shrike with Goldcrest                                        DS

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

3rd-6th October

 As you can probably tell from the lack of posts its been nothing short of mental here over the past few days. The sheer number of common migrants has been a bit overwhelming at times and with a few goodies thrown in for good measure it's been a week to remember for the staff and guests.

The Easterlies have been fairly consistent and with rain involved almost everyday bar the 5th it's been a recipe for migrants that's proved rather tasty. I think the best course of action is to go through high totals for the last few days and throw in the odd rarity! 

3rd October- 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Buzzard, 2 Little Buntings, 43 Snow Buntings, Common Rosefinch, 69 Brambling, 3 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 3 Willow Warbler, 39 Chiffchaff, 15 Yellow-browed Warbler, 5 Garden Warbler, 3 Common Whitethroat, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Barred Warbler, 181 Robin, 3 Tree Pipit, 122 Goldcrest, 2 Red-throated Pipit and Eyebrowed Thrush.

4th October- 1 Buzzard, 6 Willow Warbler, 40 Chiffchaff, 7 Yellow-browed Warbler, 106 Goldcrest, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Common Whitethroat, 1 Barred Warbler, 1 Reed Warbler, 1459 Redwing, 446 Song Thrush, 16 Fieldfare, 17 Ring Ouzel, 105 Robin, 1 Spotted Crake, 1 Osprey, 2 Rustic Buntings, 1 Red-throated Pipit and Eyebrowed Thrush.

5th October- 10 Willow Warbler, 43 Chiffchaff, 4 Yellow-browed Warbler, 144 Goldcrest, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Barred Warbler, 4 Reed Warbler, 4 Whinchat, 1 Stonechat, 106 Robin, 4 Dunnock, 2 Richard's Pipit, 1 Red-throated Pipit, 1 Short-toed Lark, 3 Rustic Buntings and Eyebrowed Thrush.

6th October- Lingering migrants were coupled with a late arrival of birds after a spell of rain. There's still birds to be found tomorrow as the arrival occurred so late in the day! 4 Whooper Swan, 1 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 2 Short-eared Owl, 4 Willow Warbler, 123 Chiffchaff, 6 Yellow-browed Warblers, 3 Garden Warblers, 3 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Barred Warbler, 1 Reed Warbler, 228 Goldcrest, 1 Rosefinch, 1 Little Bunting, 1 Short-toed Lark, 2 Red-throated Pipit, 1 Rustic Bunting, 2 Red-breasted Flycatcher, 1 Red-backed Shrike, 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 1 Pallas' Warbler and 1 Eyebrowed Thrush.

As you can see there's a lot of birds around hense the brief blog post. For clarity the Red-throated Pipit numbers account for at least three individuals with birds at Kirbest, East Loch Park and Westness. Rustic Buntings are a similar story with three proven individuals at Hooking, Brides and Antabrek. The Red-backed Shrike is the same ringed bird from a few days back, the Common Rosefinch and Buzzard also refer to one individual. It's been long days in the field recently so please excuse the blogs clinical demeanour this time around! It looks going forward weather wise too! It's exciting times on North Ronaldsay! 

                                   Rustic Bunting 
                                   Eyebrowed Thrush
                                   Song Thrush                                                                     all GG

Saturday, 3 October 2020

1st-2nd October

 An absolutely mental couple of days, the Easterlies didn't disappoint and we were rewarded with two mega Sibes that we could have only dreamed of when the winds kicked off. I think the best way to tackle this post is just to give totals for certain species.

The totals for the 1st were somewhat less than the 2nd but equally impressive. 

A Curlew Sandpiper was on Ancum while there were singles of Corncrake, Redstart, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and Red-backed Shrike. Other numbers were made up of 5 Robin, 4 Ring Ouzel, 14 Blackcap, 4 Chiffchaff, 3 Willow Warbler, 19 Yellow-browed Warblers, 6 Goldcrest and 18 Brambling. The second Red-throated Pipit of the year was in the obs crop were it spent the afternoon giving poor views. The undoubtable moment of the day was a stunning White's Thrush trapped at Holland. Only the second island record and something for everyone to savour the bird was released in Holland where it spent the rest of the day and the following one.

The 2nd involved a massive fall with increases of migrants across the board. 12 Jack Snipe, 6 Ruff, a Greenshank, a Short-eared Owl, a Kestrel, a Buzzard, the Corncrake was still present, 735 Redwing, 186 Song Thrush, 9 Fieldfare, 4 Ring Ouzel, a Dunnock, 57 Robin, 12 Redstart, 3 Whinchat, a Stonechat, 2 Grasshopper Warblers, 68 Blackcap, a Garden Warbler, 3 Willow Warblers, 4 Chiffchaff, 21 Yellow-browed Warblers, 43 Goldcrest, 2 Barred Warbler, 2 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 50 Brambling, 23 Chaffinch, 22 Snow Buntings and 3 Little Buntings. Phew. 

The big highlight of the day was yet another mega rare Thrush. This time in the shape of a rather stunning Eyebrowed Thrush that spent the afternoon between Waterhouse and Phisligar often giving stunning views, it was an unexpected treat following the previous days bird. 

We seem to be on a bit of a role and long may it continue! 

                                   Eyebrowed Thrush                                                                 GG
                                   Redwing                                                                                 GG
                                   White's Thrush                                                                      RJB
                                   Yellow-browed Warbler                                                        GG