Wednesday, 25 November 2020

17th-24th November

 It's been quite the week, mainly for birding reasons but sadly not here! Dante has now departed for the winter but he'll be back next Spring for the season. While dropping him off in Kirkwall I managed to find Scotland's third Crag Martin while shopping, it would have been rather nice if it was flying round on here but I can't complain too much!

The constant factor here has been wind, rain and a bit more wind. This has meant that birding opportunities have been rather limited especially with quite a bit of work to do and short daylight hours. However we haven't been without birds and some early winter highlights haven't passed us by. For starters the Woodlark is still hanging on in there in the Funny Park and we're now harbouring hopes it might survive the long winter and make its way on 2021's year list! The Green-winged Teal is a constant presence and will no doubt continue to be so. Another late Ring Ouzel, this time a male was on the lawn at Kirbest on the 17th as was an Iceland Gull seen from the bar in the Obs, it happened to be the second Iceland Gull seen from the bar this year! A high count of 11 Goldeneye were on Bewan during really rough weather on the 21st while 10 Pink-footed Geese were with Greylags around Milldam and finally a lone Goldfinch was around Sandback on the 23rd. Other than daily sightings of Woodcock and the odd lingering Robin it's been quiet, but it's nearly December so that's to be expected really! 

                                   Pink-footed Geese                                                              GG
                                   Pot making friends with a Greylag.                                     GG
                                   Ring Ouzel                                                                           GG

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

10th-16th November

 Winter has well and truly set in and we've had some weather to go with it a long with some better days too. Highlights have been few and far between but the ones we have had have been good ones! 

The first of the highlights came on the 12th, a Yellowhammer initially found flying over Longar would later settle on the track near Sangar, it's only the second occurrence of the year so was more than welcome. The Woodlark was still present on the 12th and still in its usual spot in the Funny Park. Both Long-eared Owls remained in the gardens at Holland until at least the 12th when they were re-trapped almost simultaneously much like when they were first caught! 

A quite spell filled the next few days after this until the 14th provided a Goldfinch at Sandback, assumedly one of the birds from a few weeks back, the Green-winged Teal put in a showing on Gretchen where we assume it spends most of its time and perhaps most unusual was the appearance of a white farmyard duck on Bewan, it wasn't the white waterfowl anybody was after in any case! 

The 15th also had its highlights, good numbers of Thrushes remain on the island especially between Holland and the obs, in this contingent of remaining Thrushes was a Ring Ouzel near Westness. There also seems to be a good number of Robins scattered about too. The Buzzard is still in the Ancum area and we have to assume its going to winter or die trying! 

                                   Not a Smew...
                                                     ...and that definitely isn't a Fulmar...
                                                                               ...but this is certainly a Woodlark (GG)                              


Monday, 9 November 2020

4th-9th November

  With things slowing down for the season and staff members moving into different accommodation for the winter things have been much more low key on the birding front but it hasn't been without highlights and the 9th saw an unpredicted fall that had us back out in the field trying to find a late Autumn gem! 

Highlights have been very few and far between in the run up to the 9th. The only real birds of note have been a juvenile Iceland Gull at Brides on the 4th, a female Sparrowhawk was present in Holland on the 6th and 7th and the long-staying Buzzard was seen on the 7th and 8th. The 8th saw us add Scaup to the year list with a 1st year drake sat on Bewan with 7 Tufted Duck. 

The 6th was also a special day for two of the obs staff, it was time for Rael and Sara to get married, a small party in the observatory in the evening was a lovely way to congratulate the newly-weds and we wish them all the best going forward.

The 9th came out of nowhere a little bit despite us thinking the forecast had looked good a few days previous. A fall of Blackbirds saw well over 1000 birds pass through the island throughout the day. Along with the Blackbirds were pockets of Fieldfare and Redwing with triple figure counts posted for each species. The Woodlark re-emerged in the obs crop after a five day absence, a flock of 42 Twite shows signs of building up in the crop too. Holland was the main focus of our attentions for the afternoon and we managed to get nets open from 14:00-17:00 in this five hour spell we managed to catch 112 birds including 101 Blackbirds, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Goldcrests, 2 Long-eared Owls and a Woodcock, not a bad way to spend an afternoon! The Woodcock count was limited to around the observatory and Holland but saw at least 16 birds counted, meaning there's bound to be more on the island! 

With the season at a wind down and with plenty of jobs to get done in preparation for the exodus of staff and for 2021 the blog posts won't be that regular but I'll try and keep them weekly at the very least! 

                                   Long-eared Owl (Top) Iceland Gull (Bottom).                    GG

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

1st-3rd November

 November has had a slightly better start than we'd anticipated despite unfavourable weather conditions but here we sit, three days in having had some decent migrants, some decent totals of lingerers and even a year tick! 

The 1st was a dreich and damp day but did have its merits, a late Redstart was on the beach near Nouster feeding among the Turnstone and Sanderling. A Short-eared Owl was seen quartering the fields beyond Ancum Willows in the morning while a large mixed flock of Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls spent the day around Bewan with 5 Tufted Ducks, 7 Pintail, 3 Shoveler and a flock of around 100 Wigeon. The bird of the day was a Crossbill flushed from Holland before heading South.

The 2nd was a bit quieter and littered with heavy showers in the afternoon but was otherwise a pleasant day in the field. The 3 Barnacle Geese from last week were still in the fields between Greenwall and Howar while 11 Whooper Swans were on Brides before 6 departed in the direction of Sanday. A flock of 22 Long-tailed Ducks spent the afternoon in the bay at Linklet and lingering Blackcaps were in Holland and around Cruesbrek, as were 2 Siberian Chiffchaffs and at least 7 Robins were on the island adding to the counts. 

The 3rd started with a bit of a bang! The islands 7th record of Woodlark was found in the Funny Park before relocating briefly to the rough ground between the Pier and the County Park before heading back into the Funny Park where it spent the rest of the day. Elsewhere the day was quiet, the Black Redstart from Southness had seemingly re-located itself to the sea-wall at Hooking and a Siberian Chiffchaff was skulking around the entrance to Holland with a lingering Goldcrest.

                                   Woodlark                                                                             GG
                                   I'm not sure the Redstart is enjoying the weather anymore...GG
                                   Whooper Swans                                                                     GG

Sunday, 1 November 2020

29th-31st October

 That's the season officially over! What an Autumn we've had! The last few days haven't really lived up to the start of the month but a very tired but gratified wardening team aren't complaining. The last few days have been filled with plenty of wind and rain. 

The large groups of thrushes are slowly dissipating but still good numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing remain on the island. 6 Whooper Swan left the island early in the day on the 29th while 3 Greenfinch were hanging around at Sangar. A Grey Wagtail was also near the obs. A few lingering Robins and Blackcaps were still present on the island. 

The next couple of days were plagued with winds reaching over 50mph and driving rain, not ideal conditions and it proved so with a general lack of birds. The main talking point was the increase in Gull numbers with over 200 Herring Gulls and 120 Great Black-backed Gulls around Bewan. 

                                   Fieldfare                                                                                GG