Sunday, 24 October 2021
Wednesday, 20 October 2021
We've finally had some easterlies to get our teeth into and although they haven't quite produced that big highlight bird that was going to round off our Autumn. However that said it's been brilliant seeing large numbers of common migrants around the island.
Saturday was a rather quiet day although a morning sea-watch produced good numbers of Sooty Shearwater but the highlight for the day was a Grey Phalarope that passed in the afternoon.
The following day looked more promising and with the winds switching into the east there more migrants about on the land. Good numbers of Blackbirds and Redwing had made landfall overnight but they didn't really have much of a supporting cast! A Goldcrest at Stromness and a Tree Pipit at Ancum were about all the land had to offer. The sea was again the provider of big highlights for the day another Fea's-type Petrel was the standout bird, a good showing of other sea-birds included a juv Long-tailed Skua, 18 Pomarine Skua, 4 Arctic Skua, 11 Little Auk and 2173 Kittiwake.
The 18th was in simpler terms, absolutely hooching with migrants, a large overnight arrivals of Autumnal migrants included 3000+ Redwing, 700+ Blackbird, 40+ Song Thrush, 10+ Ring Ouzel, 30+ Goldcrest, 58 Robin, 6 Woodcock, 2 Long-eared Owls 200+ Brambling, 3 Chaffinch, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Willow Warbler and a Chiffchaff. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the discovery of perished Cory's Shearwater under the lighthouse!
The 19th was a day of trying to mop up anything that remained and eek out that star bird, however it was much the same story as the previous day although highlights included 4 Long-eared Owls in Ancum Willows, the return of the Green-winged Teal on Gretchen and 9 Woodcock.
Saturday, 16 October 2021
Highlights from the 12th to the 15th of October have included 7 Whooper Swan, a Barnacle Goose, a Velvet Scoter, a Common Scoter, a Little Egret (fourth island record), 10 Manx Shearwater, 356 Sooty Shearwater, 2 Arctic Tern, a new juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs (our second of the autumn and the third island record), a Siberian Chiffchaff, a Chiffchaff, 8 Greenfinch and a Common Redpoll.
Tuesday, 12 October 2021
The quiet birding continues to be a dominating factor in almost everything we talk about at the moment, the weather has been firmly set in a Westerly direction for what feels like weeks. The 11th was probably the pick of the bunch weather wise with two days before being windy and at times quite wet!
The 9th saw the Richard's Pipit make a brief re-appearance in Kirkie Park West before seemingly evaporating into nothing. A Red-breasted Flycatcher was discovered around Senness in the morning and a Yellow-browed Warbler was still around Veracott while 2 Tree Pipits in the Gravity area and Sibe Chiffchaff made up the best of the rest for the day.
The 10th was a pretty awful day with howling winds and showers, the only highlight being a Hawfinch seen briefly in Holland. The 11th however saw things clear up a bit and a nicer spell of weather was more conducive to birding. A Pectoral Sandpiper was flushed off of Cauldhaim before re-locating to Sandsheen. The Sibe Chiffchaff was seen at Westness and good numbers of Snow Buntings were seen around the island.
Saturday, 9 October 2021
Highlights from the 6th to the 8th have included 2 Whooper Swan, 71 Pink-footed Goose, 3 Long-tailed Duck, a Common Scoter, a Sparrowhawk, a Kestrel, 10 Jack Snipe, a Short-eared Owl, a Richard’s Pipit, a Tree Pipit, 3 Robin, 67 Blackbird, 59 Song Thrush, 932 Redwing, 7 Blackcap, 2 Yellow-browed Warbler, a Chiffchaff, 2 Willow Warbler, an unidentified ficedula flycatcher sp, 17 Chaffinch, 18 Brambling, 7 Greenfinch, 2 Siskin, a Hawfinch and 178 Snow Bunting.
Wednesday, 6 October 2021
A fairly settled few days of weather still hasn't produced any numbers of migrants and although there have been a couple of highlight birds the general feeling is of slogging around for little reward, perhaps that goes with the time of year though.
The big highlight of the last few days has been a Lanceolated Warbler trapped and ringed at Senness, it represents the 8th record for the island and our second in as many years following last years showy bird around Trolla. Elsewhere warbler numbers have been in short supply with low counts of Willow Warbler and Blackcap. A Reed Warbler was trapped in Holland on the 4th, while between two and three Yellow-browed Warblers have been hanging around in various thistle patches and the 5th saw Barred Warblers at Trolla and Stennabreck. Elsewhere a Common Scoter has been seen feeding in the bay at Nouster, the first Long-tailed Ducks of the Autumn were back in Linklet, a sure sign that winter can't be too far away!
Pink-footed Geese continue to move South in small but steady numbers with double figures posted most days. A small influx of Blackbirds, including some all dark Scandinavian birds were present on the 5th but lower numbers of other Thrushes doesn't seem to bode well for a big Thrush movement. We've had a couple of frustrating getaways too, a Common Sandpiper like wader has been seen twice now but very poorly and never re-located despite good efforts and a Pipit at Westness gave everybody the slip in pouring rain on the 3rd.
It seems like we'll struggle for any big numbers of birds this Autumn but there's little we can do but get out, keep birding and pray for Easterlies!!
Sunday, 3 October 2021
Highlights from the 30th of September to the 2nd of October included a Little Stint, a Black-tailed Godwit, a Redwing, 20+ Song Thrush, a Ring Ouzel, a Dunnock, a Redstart, a Black Redstart, 3 Robin, 6 Whinchat, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Barred Warbler, a Danish-ringed Reed Warbler, 8 Blackcap, the Arctic Warbler still, 3 Yellow-browed Warbler, 2 Chiffchaff, 3 Willow Warbler, a Goldcrest, 255+ Chaffinch, 15 Brambling, 14 Siskin, 19 Snow Bunt and 6 Lapland Bunting.
Thursday, 30 September 2021
A blustery few days that finally resulted in a few land migrants for us to get stuck into.
Tree Pipits were present on the 27th and 29th while good numbers of Chaffinch and Brambling have remained on the island for the past few days. Good numbers of Whinchat have also been present around the island. A Barred Warbler was skulking around in Holland but avoided the nets. Despite a soaking wet day there were still a few migrants around and a soggy Redstart at Scottsha' was joined by 3 Blackcap and 2 Grey Plover. As the evening wore on and the rain subsided a Marsh Warbler was discovered in the punds around Trolla.
Tuesday bought about a calmer day and with it a few more migrants worked their way out into view, a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers at the Shooting Gallery and Seaside were a nice surprise for folk birding the island. A Slavonian Grebe was in the bay at Westness and was new for the year, this period in late September and early October seems to have been good for them in recent years. The Flava Wagtail remained around Scottigar and an adult Common Tern passed the Seawatch hide.
The 29th was a better day all in all. A Red-breasted Flycatcher was trapped in Holland in the morning while a Ring Ouzel was in a field above Ancum. 4 Common Scoter were off the North end and a Barred Warbler seemingly arrived in fresh at the Beacon. Finally a message in the afternoon reporting rounded off the day nicely as a Arctic Warbler was found on the track down to Gravity.
Monday, 27 September 2021
Highlights from the 26th included a Whooper Swan, 16 Sooty Shearwater, 2 Peregrine (including a probable calidus Northern type bird) the Buff-breasted Sandpiper (which was ringed), 3 Ruff, a Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Jack Snipe, a Redwing, a Western Yellow Wagtail, 2 Willow Warbler, a Yellow-browed Warbler, a locustella sp, 35+ Brambling, 150+ Chaffinch, 2 Snow Bunting and 2 Lapland Bunting.
Sunday, 26 September 2021
A very windy few days have meant that new arrivals of birds have been a little bit thin on the ground, however a slacking of the wind on the 25th did allow for productive sea-watching conditions and other lingering species have kept things interesting.
The Lesser Scaup has remained between Bewan and Garso occasionally making trips out to sit on the sea but for the most part has been seen feeding on the lochs. Good numbers of Pink-footed Goose have also passed through the island on their way South with well over 500 birds between the 22nd and 23rd. Pectoral Sandpipers were present at Brides on the 22nd and Bewan on the 24th, while Snow Buntings have been slowly building up with 4 present on the 25th. A Yellow-browed Warbler was heard briefly in Holland on the 25th but blustery conditions probably aided the bird in its ability to keep hidden. A third Buff-breasted Sandpiper of the year was discovered in East Loch Park also on the 25th where it spent the afternoon feeding with the Golden Plover flock that seems to favour that area. Sea-watching over the past 24 hours has also produced well, 3 Long-tailed Skua, 2 Pomarine Skua, a Little Gull, 5 Manx Shearwater and 100+ Sooty Shearwater along with good numbers of commoner sea-birds made for interesting watching. A trio of Rosefinches was in Holland on the 25th along with a couple of Siskins, the Chaffinch numbers still remain high with over 100 birds recorded on the 23rd but it looks like they're beginning to leave with flocks seen dispersing on the evening of the 25th. A second Little Gull was in Linklet Bay on the 24th and lastly small groups of Whooper Swan are also passing through as they head South.
Year List: 202
Wednesday, 22 September 2021
Highlights from the 19th to the 21st included 6 Whooper Swan, a Dark-belied Brent Goose, 36 Pink-footed Goose, the juvenile Lesser Scaup still, an American Golden Plover (our 2nd of the year), 3 Pectoral Sandpiper, a Jack Snipe, 8 Ruff, a Peregrine, a Swift, a Tree Pipit, 2 Robin, a Red-breasted Flycatcher (first of the year), a Pied flycatcher, 3 Spotted Flycatcher, 4 Redstart, 3 Whinchat, 6 Willow Warbler, 4 Chiffchaff, a Barred Warbler, 4 Blackcap, 2 Brambling, 80+ Chaffinch, 7 Siskin and 2 Lapland Bunting.
Saturday, 18 September 2021
A longer interval between blog post than intended this time so sorry to keep you all waiting! The weather has been somewhat of a mixed bag over the past few days but this can always turn up unexpected birds and in this case it did! The big news however was the departure of Maddy, having been on island since mid-March she now departs for Durham University, we thank her for all of her efforts in the obs and out in field.
The 15th was rather quiet and lingering birds made up the vast majority of the highlights, 2 Rosefinches were still feeding around Holland but were joined by a Redstart that showed fleetingly on and off throughout the day, while a second bird was at Nether Linnay in the morning and a characteristically skulky Barred Warbler in Holland . The Dotterel was still on the Links but that otherwise summed up a very quiet day for new arrivals. A Pied Flycatcher has also been lingering in the Willows at Ancum.
The 16th was a very similar story with very little in the way of new birds, the highlights being 2 Lapland Buntings around Bewan and a lone Brambling in the Funny Park were all we had to shout about.
The 17th was a much different affair, the morning starting with a reconnaissance mission to investigate a dodgy Ringed Plover photographed the day before, but it turned out to be just that, however while sifting through Ringed Plover (a nightmare I thought was behind us following 2020's Semipalmated Plover) a wader started whizzing around the over the Ringo flock, after landing having been sworn at a few times because it was putting the Ringo's up, it transpired to be our second Buff-breasted Sandpiper of the Autumn and all bad feelings towards it were forgotten. With the day other seemingly fading away a trip back up North in the afternoon to have a look at the Buff-breasted Sandpiper would turn up an altogether rarer arrival in the shape of North Ronaldsay's first Lesser Scaup. A rather unseasonal juvenile on Bewan turned into a bit more of a cryptic bird than we thought, but good photos and careful research left us more than happy with the duck in question.
The 18th started with fog. Again. However as the morning wore on the fog burned off and were left with a rather pleasant day. The Lesser Scaup was still on Bewan in the morning, as was one of the Lapland Buntings, once the afternoon rolled around however the Scaup was nowhere to be found and maybe took advantage of the break in the weather and has left the island? The first Spotted Flycatcher of the Autumn was behind the Old Kirk and a new Rosefinch was present in a mixed finch flock at Neven. The news of the day was a large arrival of Chaffinch onto the island, just over 100 birds seemed to have appeared overnight and gave that day a really Autumnal feel and were joined by a few Bramblings.
Things still look interesting as the weekend goes on but with the 19th forecast as being quite a soggy we will have to wait and see!
Wednesday, 15 September 2021
Highlights from the 12th to the 14th of September included a Buff-breasted Sandpiper, a Dotterel, 2 (or 3) Pectoral Sandpiper, a Short-eared Owl, a Whinchat, a Redstart, 2 Pied Flycatcher, a Robin, 5 Lesser Whitethroat, 5 Barred Warbler, a Garden Warbler, 2 Blackcap, 2 Common Whitethroat, a Reed Warbler, 2 Chiffchaff, 13 Willow Warbler, 6 Rosefinch and 7 Orca (the 27s pod back hunting again).
Saturday, 11 September 2021
A very mixed bag of weather over the past few days has resulted in some superb birds, the 9th was the last of the more settled weather being replaced by a fairly thick fog and light NE breeze on the 10th the 11th would be best described as a washout, but produced birds nontheless.
The 9th saw the return of the 27's Pod of Orca around the island, unfortunately one less in their number than they should have had with the unfortunate demise of #151. On the avian front the still very obliuging Lesser Yellowlegs was still showing at Brides while the 2 Rosefinches remained in Holland and another 2 birds were at North Gravity and Nether Linnay respectively in the afternoon. Wood Warblers were present at the observatory and Ancum Willows. The bird of the day however wouldn't rear its head until the 10th, a Dove photographed near Greenwall in the early afternoon turned out to be the islands first Rufous Turtle Dove (ssp. Meena). The initial scramble to try and re-find the bird ended after a near three hour search with the bird being re-found between Howar and Greenwall where it spent the rest of the afternoon. It's taken and is taking a lot of work for us to be 100% certain of the birds identity, it's new ground for us here and for birding in the UK with it being the first early Autumn record for Britain, so while we remain confident we're still ploughing the books and online papers in the background. The 10th wasn't without other highlights, Barred Warblers were at the obs and Ancum Willow, while plenty of commoner migrants were around too, but understandably most of the afternoon was taken up by the Dove!
The 11th was sodden and practically unbirdable at times! Again it seemed the birds weren't all that bothered, a smart Pectoral Sandpiper was at Brides in the afternoon. No fewer than 8 Rosefinches were present, a flock of at least 6 birds in Holland and two at Westness including a very smart male. There were plenty of common migrants again but again the potential bird of day remains a bit of conundrum, a Flycatcher seen at Westness in the morning displaying features of Collared, but with poor photos and appalling weather it couldn't be quite be nailed down, hopefully it's one for tomorrow!
Thursday, 9 September 2021
Highlights from the 7th to the 8th of September include 45 Sooty Shearwater, a Fea’s-type Petrel (we are starting to wonder if all of our recent sightings could infact relate to the same bird doing large feeding loops in the area), a Little Stint, 2 juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper (commuting between Brides and Hooking), a juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs (initially found coming in off the sea at Dennishead on the 7th the bird briefly landed on Bewan before disappearing within 30 seconds. Thankfully the bird was relocated at Brides an hour or two later and has been showing exceptionally well since. It represents just the 2nd record for the island since the observatory was opened), a probable Wilson’s Snipe (briefly on Hooking on the 8th - more about the ID features below), a Fieldfare, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Garden Warbler and 3+ Rosefinch still.
Tuesday, 7 September 2021
The settled weather finally broke up on the 5th giving way to overnight rain and slightly windier conditions on the 6th. Both days had plenty of highlights although not all of them avian!
The 5th was dominated by a pod of a Orcas that spent the day touring the coast of the island, the pod consisted of some 10-15 animals from the 27's and the 64's both known locally in Orkney and Shetland. They provided much entertainment throughout the afternoon as they did close passes of the coastline and the pier just South of the obs, even making kills as Lenswick and Nouster as they went. On the birding front things were again a bit quieter on the land than we'd hoped for but a Wood Sandpiper flushed towards Hooking the morning did inspire hope, the bird of the day however came from a sea-watch again and in the shape of a 2cy Mediterranean Gull as it passed close to the Beacon in poor weather.
The 6th was a bit of a sea-watching bonanza coupled with what we thought had to be new arrivals on the land. A total of 520 Sooty Shearwaters, 2 Balearic Shearwaters, 20+ Manx Shearwater, a Fea's-type Petrel, a Leach's Petrel, 7 Storm Petrel plus good numbers of all the commoner sea-birds made for a great day of sea-watching and took the total of Fea's-type Petrels to 4 for the year! On the land Holland held most of the migrants with at least 3 Rosefinches present and a Barred Warbler that was later trapped in Holland and was also found to be very fat, with a fat score of 6 and an overall weight of 32.4g! Other land migrants included a Tree Pipit, a Short-eared Owl and 5 Willow Warblers.
Sunday, 5 September 2021
Highlights from the 3rd to the 4th of September have included a Black-throated Diver, 12 Common Scoter, 2 Fea’s-type Petrel (one seen on the morning of the 3rd and another seen on the evening of the 4th - potentially making up to 3 different birds since the 2nd), a Cory’s Shearwater, 150+ Sooty Shearwater, 3 Pomarine Skua, a Greenshank, a Willow Warbler, a Robin, a Minke Whale, a Basking Shark and 30+ Risso’s Dolphin.
Thursday, 2 September 2021
A very settled few days of weather has meant the birding on the island has been nothing short of frustrating. A general lack of land migrants has meant a lot of attention has been turned towards the sea and it has been the saving grace in what has been a poor week.
A Barred Warbler on the 29th in the ditch near the school has been the passerine highlight, although it was challenged to its crown by a Woodpigeon that was seen heading South over the obs, other highlights on the land were limited to a Pale-bellied Brent seen touring the island on the 2nd and a Tree Pipit near the Post Office on the same date. A small scattering of Willow Warblers around the island has kept things going while the odd Lesser Whitethroat has had the same effect.
The sea has been a much different story, the big highlight was a Fea's type Petrel that passed the Beacon on the 2nd, a bird that continues the islands recent good form over the years. Two Leach's Petrels on the 2nd, a Pomarine Skua on the 29th was followed by 3 on the 2nd while another superb record of Balearic Shearwater was seen passing on the 30th. Long-tailed Skuas were also seen on the 1st and 2nd. A drake Scaup in off on the 1st was a new bird for the year and 7 Common Scoter passed on the 2nd.
Away from avian highlights a Tuna was seen breaching on the 30th while plenty of Risso's Dolphin were around the island on the 2nd.
Sunday, 29 August 2021
Highlights from the 27th - 29th of August included a Black-throated Diver, 49 Sooty Shearwater, 16 Manx Shearwater, 104 Black-tailed Godwit, 8 Ruff, the American Golden Plover still, a Black Redstart, a Chiffchaff, 8 Willow Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Pied Flycatcher, a Common Rosefinch and a Basking Shark.
Thursday, 26 August 2021
A fog filled few days left us a little frustrated at the start of the week but eventually the weather cleared itself up and the early signs were somewhat promising that we might get a few migrants, however this quickly faded and it seems the fog has scuppered our chances of late August rares for the time being.
With the 23rd mostly fog bound birding was difficult to say the least, the American Golden Plover was and still is present in the fields around Holland, a short absence was only due to us not being able to see the Golden Plover flocks! Things seemed like they were picking up though as the late afternoon produced the first Pied Flycatcher of the Autumn at the back of the Shooting Gallery and a Kestrel over Brigg. An arrival of Ruff peaked on the 25th with 25 birds scattered across the island, the first juvenile Grey Plover was on the beach at Howar and a Little Stint was on Gretchen.
Sea-watching totals have been fairly steady but with Tuesday and Wednesday mostly foggy the sea wasn't really an option but the 26th produced good numbers of Sooty Shearwater and Kittiwake to feed the appetite of the visiting sea-watchers! The first Tree Pipit of the Autumn was at Ancum also on the 26th and a small smattering of Willow Warblers gives an indication that birds might be arriving in dribs and drabs.
With the weather looking largely settled for the next few days it doesn't feel like anything is going to pop out anytime soon, but with September looming on the horizon the rarities can't be that far away....right?
Monday, 23 August 2021
After a prolonged spell of of settled weather it was time for something a little bit different and in turn a little bit more disruptive. A cracking day of warm weather and sunshine on the 20th and the wind swinging into the east was always going to be a recipe for fog! Once the thick haar had descended over the island it left birding as a near impossible task with visibility down to less than 40ft at times so the 21st and 22nd were fairly devoid of migrants and anything else for that matter.
A successful couple of days sea-watching saw a dark phase Pomarine Skua and an adult Sabine’s Gull added to the year list, accompanied by 48 Manx Shearwater, 53 Sooty Shearwater, 15 Storm Petrels, 6 Great Skua, 3 Arctic Skua, 65 Puffins, 1 Red-throated Diver, 1655 Kittiwakes and a probable Long-tailed Skua, but distance and heat haze made for a difficult ID.
The long staying Snow Geese from Germany finally departed on the 20th. Another long stayer that hasn’t departed yet is the American Golden Plover, and after a few days of skulking about in Holland gardens, the now ringed Wood Warbler reappeared.
The only thing other than fog that the easterlies brought was a single Willow Warbler on the west side on the 21st.
Wednesday, 18 August 2021
A much quieter few days have followed what seemed like a manic three days from the last post, but I guess things haven't really got started yet! The weather has had a much wetter look to it over the past four days and as such we've slowly began to see Gretchen and Ancum make a start on re-filling, although its very slow progress! The wind has also been a prevalent factor with Westerlies being the main order of the day.
The American Golden Plover has been the stand-out bird on all four days and seems to have now settled into a routine of plodding around with the Common Gulls at the front of the Old Kirk. It's even been heard a few times when it's been flushed. Other birdy highlights have been a little hard to come by although not all-together absent. A total of 9 Ruff were seen on the 17th along with a Greenshank at Howar. The summer plumaged Grey Plover has also been holding the fort on Tor Ness.
A big female Peregrine was in East Loch Park on the 17th eating what we feared to be the AGP but thankfully it wasn't and it still very alive! The Hen Harrier is still hanging around favouring the obs croft and Hooking.
The weekend is looking promising with Easterlies on the way but with the winds going slack tomorrow its time for a sea-watch!
Year List: 184
Sunday, 15 August 2021
A bumper few days of birds including a couple of head-scratchers! The weather has also been a bit of a mixed bag with some more of that much needed rain thrown into the mix.
The 12th appeared as though it was going to be a fairly quiet day on the birding front, although that said the earlier parts of the morning had produced the first Wood Warbler of the Autumn in Holland and a Kestrel also over Holland. The bird of the day however turned into a bit of an identification saga. An Acro found feeding on the edge of the sand-bank on the Links quickly raised eyebrows, it was apparent pretty quickly it wasn't a Reed Warbler, a lack of warm tones to the rump and tail and an overall con-colourous appearance ruled it out. Splitting Marsh and Blyth's Reed however was a more difficult problem. The immediate gut reaction was the bird looked like a Blyth's Reed but a slightly longer primary projection would be expected cast doubt into the minds of the obs staff. A bit of asking around, an obliging bird and good photos allowed us to come to the conclusion of it being a very early Blyth's Reed Warbler, maybe not such a surprise as they seem to be slowly spreading West with birds breeding in the Netherlands this year. Otherwise the day was fairly quiet with other birds of note being the Barred Warbler now straying towards Milldam, a Hen Harrier and a Peregrine.
The 13th was another a day and another head-scratcher a quiet day on the birding front was interrupted by the discovery of a moribund Swift on the grass near the lighthouse. For the most part this wouldn't be enough to interrupt census but when the bird arrived back to the obs and was measured the biometrics suited the identification of a Pallid Swift. The two measurements that pointed towards this where the distance between the eyes taken across the crown and the gap between the outermost tail feather (T5) and the second outermost tail feather (T4). The crown measurement came in at 20.5mm and the tail at 4mm which would both sit the bird firmly inside the range for Pallid, however the bird itself didn't represent a Pallid Swift in plumage characteristics. Without DNA analysis available for the species as they're genetically identical the bird has to go down as a Common Swift, but nonetheless an interesting bird. Sadly the bird was in very poor condition, some 9g's lighter than it should have been, when it was picked up and passed away despite our best efforts to feed the bird up.
Finally the 14th presented a more straightforward bird, after a successful net session in which the Wood Warbler was trapped and ringed the trip back to the obs produced a surprise American Golden Plover feeding in East Loch Park with European Golden Plovers. The bird spent the day with Golden Plover flock eventually showing quite well in the Standing Stone field.
For some unknown reason the blog won't let me update the year list! For now I'll put the total at the bottom of each post.
Year List Total: 184
Wednesday, 11 August 2021
The first spells of rain for what seems like months have been a more than welcome change to the dry weather that we've been experiencing this summer. A short spell of Easterly based winds has also provided the first signs Autumn is well and truly just around the corner!
The main highlight from the last few days have been a trio of Barred Warblers, the first arriving on the 8th near Scottigar before a second bird on the 10th at Phisligar and a third at Kirbist the following day, with the Phisligar bird still present on the 11th. A number of Wood Sandpipers have also been hanging around with two birds together at Brides on the 11th and a slightly more site faithful bird at Bewan on all four dates. A lone Green Sandpiper has been patrolling up and down the West coast while Garden Warblers at Senness, Lenswick and the obs have kept things feeling Autumnal. It also appears that dispersing raptors are finding the island as they leave breeding grounds with both Peregrine and Merlin being seen in various locations over the past four days. The long staying Rosy Starling at Lenswick made a brief re-appearance on the 8th despite us thinking it may have left. A Short-eared Owl has also been hanging around and was last seen on the 8th around Kirbist.
Away from avian highlights the moth trap produced the best numbers of the year on the night of the 10th and produced arguably the moth of the year in the shape of the islands second record of Blood-vein, common to those of you that run traps further South it certainly woke us up! A late night ringing session at Bewan wasn't quite as successful as we'd have liked but a juvenile Arctic Tern, a Dunlin and a Teal gave a bit of variety to proceedings.
With rain set in and the wind in something that resembles an Easterly direction there could be yet more birds over the next few days, however with the wind originating from mainland Scotland and whipping around that could be wishful thinking, but you never know!
Saturday, 7 August 2021
With Autumn slowly grinding it way into view our first little spell of Easterly winds have predictably produced little in the way birds but have got the Autumn kicked off in some way. The 4th produced the first Garden Warbler of the year, a rather smart juvenile at Sangar. In the meantime the Quail ended its near 20 day stay and departed the island on the 5th. The 5th also gave us our first Cuckoo of the Autumn at Rue, a juvenile bird that showed quite well before vanishing. A Green Sandpiper was seen on the 6th and 7th hanging around Doo Geo on the West side of the island while Common Sandpipers were present at the pier and around the North end and the Curlew Sandpiper that spent the latter half of July here is also still present. The latter of the two dates would also see our first Reed Warbler of the year at Viggay, a predictably skulky and flighty individual that got us well in the mood for the Autumn ahead, another Acro on the year list would be highly welcome! A total of 5 Willow Warblers have been seen over the past day or so and with an influx of Painted Lady butterflies the signs seem promising for the next week ahead.
Away from the birding we made inroads into ringing Fulmar chicks with the first 40 being done on the 6th, but theres plenty more vomity fluffballs to deal with in the coming days! Away from avian highlights the island football match was played today with both teams sharing the spoils in an exciting 4-4 draw.
Wednesday, 4 August 2021
Highlights from the 1st to the 3rd of August included a Pintail, 16 Sooty Shearwater, 37 Manx Shearwater, 61 Storm Petrel (30 from seawatches and 31 ringed), a Curlew Sandpiper, 2 Ruff, a Whimbrel, the Quail still, a Short-eared Owl, the Rosy Starling still, a Willow Warbler and 6+ Risso’s Dolphin.
Sunday, 1 August 2021
With the final week of the month being dominated by thick fog and less birds than we'd have liked we're now looking forward to the Autumn that lies ahead. It's clearly ready to go with the first Willow Warbler of the Autumn appearing in the willows at Ancum on the 29th along with the first Fieldfare at Waterhouse, a bizarre arrival date for the latter species! Away from the migrants for a little bit and it seems we've managed to get as many of the Tystie chicks as humanly possible for the season and looks to be a very strong total, although I've not managed to add it up yet!
Night time ringing sessions have also been a bit of a staple with efforts for Storm Petrels, Arctic Terns and Waders all producing good results, the Terns were especially good with 38 new birds trapped over two sessions including a very exciting Finnish control!
Elsewhere the wader numbers are steadily rising and our hopes of pulling out a Nearctic (or Eastern) goody out of the many flocks haven't faded. The first Ruff, Common Sandpiper and Greenshank of the Autumn have all passed through the island in the past week again giving a feeling that things could soon kick off! The pair of fence hopping Snow Geese are still on Garso, barely a surprise given the general lack of wing feathers at the moment and the Quail at the obs has continued to give a good account of itself often waking guests up in the small hours of the morning. Finally the Rosy Starling is still feeding at the bottom of the Lenswick track and has been with us for the best part of three weeks now!
Saturday, 24 July 2021
Highlights from the 20th to the 24th included the two escaped Snow Goose still, a Curlew Sandpiper, 247 Golden Plover, 148 Dunlin, the Quail still, a Short-eared Owl, a Hen Harrier, 2 Rosy Starling (including a new individual which has been roaming the island widely along with the Lenswick individual).
Monday, 19 July 2021
The last few days have seen a mixed batch of weather with some superbly sunny days mixed in with a couple of cooler and much windier days. Bird wise things have been predictably slow but not without highlights. The 16th saw an island wide powercut (during fish and chips no less!) that also knocked the internet out for a couple of days but we seem to be back to some level of normality now on that front!
The main highlight of the post also came on the 16th in the shape of a rather obliging Quail, although only seen in flight on it's first day it showed superbly on the 18th giving superb views at close quarters. Elsewhere the Rosy Starling is still present and has been frequenting the shore near Lenswick and nearby fields. A steady flow of birds out to sea has seen a number of Manx and Sooty Shearwater pass the island over the past few days and with Silage well underway a trickle of returning waders are beginning to gather numbers.
A Short-eared Owl was around Loch Park on the 18th and another sighting of Orca added a gloss to the final outlook on the days proceedings. A Storm Petrel session was the cherry cake and another 90 new birds ringed took the years total 177 new birds ringed and 7 retraps along with another Leach's Petrel.
Tystie chicks have also taken up a large portion of our time and we've broken into triple figures and look set break another totals record which is a small success story in the gloomy world of sea-bird numbers! It's other wise very much business as usual and with a week of punding coming up its set to be quite busy at the obs!
Wednesday, 14 July 2021
Highlights from the 12th to the 13th of July included the 2 Snow Goose still, 93 Storm Petrel, a Leach’s Petrel, a Common Sandpiper, a Curlew Sandpiper, a Hen Harrier, a Short-eared Owl, the Rosy Starling still, a Song Thrush and a Willow Warbler.
Monday, 12 July 2021
A week of mixed weather consisted mostly of either sunshine or fog saw the beginnings of the late summer wader passage begin, our first Storm Petrel session of the year and even a surprise arrival.
With silage getting going it was inevitable that there would be an increase in wader numbers as they gather to feed on fields that have been covered by vegetation for most of the Spring. A flock of 174 Oystercatchers, 190+ Golden Plovers and various other dribs and drabs have kept us on our toes for the arrival of something a bit more exciting, but it's yet to happen. A Greenshank and a Curlew Sandpiper have been the big wader highlights so far this month.
The two German escaped Snow Geese are still on Garso while the Hen Harrier from the start of the month is still lingering around the island. Elsewhere Swifts have been passing through the island in low numbers with most being seen over the obs and around Holland House.
The main highlight of the last week has been our second Rosy Starling of the year, found on the 8th the bird was still present on the 11th with Starlings going between the beach and fields at the bottom of the Lenswick footpath.
On a last note the moth traps have finally began to draw in numbers after a very quiet start, but it's mostly common stuff however an Oblique Carpet on the 10th was a nice highlight with under 30 records for Orkney.