Thursday, 29 April 2021

26th-28th April

 A break in the warmer weather on the 26th saw us get our first precipitation since the snow at the start of the month, probably a welcome resource for some of the islands plant life! A much quieter day was also in store but that was no doubt due to the rain, a pair of Barnacle Geese behind Ancum were new additions to the year list and a Tree Pipit was seen briefly around Milldam, meanwhile the previous mornings Mistle Thrush and Common Redpoll remained as did the Lesser Redpoll around North Gravity. The Ruff that had frequented Ancum had also decided to shift and spent the day at the North end of the Links. A rather soggy Stock Dove was on the coast near the Lurn and a Willow Warbler spent the morning around T3. 

The 27th saw the warmer weather return but it also saw a much quieter day on many fronts, the Willow Warbler was still around the obs and the Barnacle Geese were still hanging around the back end of Ancum. The highlight of the day were 4 Tree Sparrows at Bridesness, another year list addition. A Robin was in the pund near Rue and Song Thrush was near Grind. The notable increase of the day went to a small fall of 47 Fieldfare dotted around the island. A total of 4 Chiffchaffs were also present throughout the day as were 9 Carrion Crow and the previous days Tree Pipit had seemingly found its way to the School Brae and a distant Iceland Gull was seen over Stromness.

The weather had seemingly gone back to being nice again on the 28th despite a few isolated hail showers that caught unfortunate obs staff out as they travelled to their census areas in the mornings! The day felt like it never really got going and this was shown by a general lack of new migrants throughout day. The Willow Warbler remained firmly around the obs and in the afternoon the Wryneck was re-discovered up at Neven after a short absence! A 1st Winter Little Gull had joined the now 500+ strong of Black-headed Gulls around Hooking, even displaying at some! One of the Tree Sparrows joined the 3 Brambling and female Chaffinch that have frequenting the bird table at the Farmhouse and a Chiffchaff spent the day singing in Holland.   

                                   Barnacle Geese
                                   Lesser Redpoll

Sunday, 25 April 2021

24th - 25th April

 Highlights from the 24th included a Pink-footed Goose, the 3 White-fronted Goose still, a Marsh Harrier, a Sparrowhawk, a Woodcock, a Common Sandpiper, 5 Black-tailed Godwit, 16 Whimbrel, 6 Sandwich Tern, a Woodpigeon, 4 Collared Dove, a Long-eared Owl, 53 Sand Martin, 5 Swallow, 128 Wheatear, the Wryneck still, 2 Dunnock, 2 Black Redstart, 2 Song Thrush, 2 Ring Ouzel, a Blackcap, 3 Chiffchaff, a Brambling, a Chaffinch, the Lesser Redpoll still, a Rook, 4 Carrion Crow, 2 Snow Bunting, 5 Risso's Dolphin and 8 Orca

Highlights from the 25th included 5 Pink-footed Goose, the Green-winged Teal still, the island's 3rd Spoonbill which flew north over Westness, a Peregrine, 4 Sparrowhawk, a White-tailed Eagle, 20 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Whimbrel, 4 Sandwich Tern, 67 Sand Martin, 7 Swallow, a Black Redstart, 112 Wheatear, 2 Ring Ouzel, a Mistle Thrush, a Redwing, a Blackcap, 7 Chiffchaff, a Willow Warbler, a Goldcrest, 3 Rook, 9 Carrion Crow, a Chaffinch, 4 Brambling, a Common Redpoll, the Lesser Redpoll still and a Snow Bunting. 

2cy Spoonbill

Saturday, 24 April 2021

22nd-23rd April

 The warm weather and light winds continued and migrant numbers have seemed pretty steady over the past couple of days. The drake Garganey was still present on Hooking, a lone Arctic Skua was on Torness. The nets at Holland produced a new and re-trap Robin, a Chiffchaff and a Goldcrest. The previous days female Chaffinch was also in the gardens and a female Brambling was around T1 in the late evening. A group of 9 Carrion Crow were seen cruising around the island, a Common Buzzard made a brief appearance at the North End and the 3 White-fronted Geese were still near Peckhole. The 23rd started with an island wide Eider and Ringed Plover which produced good totals of both species. It was that end of the count that produced the bird of day in the shape of a Wryneck! It's one of the earliest records for here and of course made us wonder what else was out there, a increase in Chiffchaff numbers saw the island total increase to 8 birds, a male Blackcap was at Cursitter, a female Sparrowhawk was flushed from near T2 before hanging around the South end of the island and a total of 33 Sand Martins were around the Links in the afternoon. A small pod of 3 Risso's Dolphins were also seen heading North in the morning. 


Wednesday, 21 April 2021

20th - 21st April

Highlights from the 20th included 4 Pink-footed Goose, 179 Redshank, 12 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Whimbrel, 8 Sandwich Tern, 2 Swallow, 24 Sand Martin, 119 Wheatear, 1 Song Thrush, 4 Redwing,  1 Tree Pipit, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Goldcrest, 2 Brambling, 5 Carrion Crow, the Lesser Redpoll still, 2 Brambling and 2 Snow Bunting. 

Tree Pipit

Highlights from the 21st included 5 Pink-footed Goose, 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Peregrine, 234 Redshank, 2 Whimbrel, 1 Little Tern, 10 Sandwich Tern, 23 Black-tailed Godwit, the Stock Dove still, 26 Sand Martin, 1 Robin, 106 Wheatear, 3 Redwing, 1 Blackcap, 3 Chiffchaff, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Jackdaw, 4 Rook, 2 Carrion Crow, 1 Brambling, 2 Siskin, 1 Chaffinch and 2 Snow Bunting. 

Stock Dove

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

18th-19th April

 The weather has continued to be good to us over the past two days offering up some sort of sunshine and Southerly based winds, unsurprisingly this has kept the year list ticking over quite nicely and always keeps you on high alert for something really good to be lurking around the next corner. 

A drake Garganey flushed from Hooking in the afternoon on the 18th was one of those expected but welcome addition to year list and one that we hope attempts to breed again. The 3 White-fronted Geese are also still around but seem to missing at times. Sparrowhawks were present on both days as was a Kestrel in the Southern half of the island. The Ruff that spent the winter on Ancum has clearly decided it quite likes it there and is being seen again almost daily as is the Green-winged Teal on Gretchen despite a foray off to Brides in the earlier parts of the month. It also seems that the Arctic Skuas are back in some degree with 2 birds seen on the 19th, although these could easily be birds just pit-stopping on their way further North. Sandwich Terns are showing early signs of courting behaviours, a bird was seen displaying and carrying fish to another around Gretchen on the 19th. The Stock Dove was also present in the fields East of Holland House on the 18th while the Woodpigeon it had for company appears to have found another of its own kind further up the island. The Dunnock remained around the Farmhouse and the introduction of seed to the bird table there has pulled in 2 Siskin, a Brambling and a much coveted Goldfinch, the latter of which is a welcome year tick. Wheatear numbers rose to 105 on the 19th while the stars of the show were Ring Ouzels on both days, both males one near Gretchen and the other at Snettan. The final yearlist addition was a Lesser Redpoll seen near South Gravity on the 19th. Other birds present have been 2 Chiffchaff, a Goldcrest and 2 Rook. The week ahead also looks promising so it makes plugging away for birds a much easier task! 

                                   Ring Ouzel                                                              Sorrel Lyall
                                   Lesser Redpoll                                                         Sorrel Lyall
                                   Sanderlings                                                                           GG

Saturday, 17 April 2021

16th-17th April

Highlights from the 16th included the 3 White-fronted Goose still, 2 Pink-footed Goose, the Green-winged Teal still, 3 Black-tailed Godwit, the first Stock Dove in three years, a Woodpigeon, 21 Sand Martin, 3 Swallow, a Chiffchaff, a Goldcrest, 2 Song Thrush, 11 Redwing, 19 Wheatear, 4 White Wagtail, a Dunnock, a Carrion Crow, a Siskin and 3 Snow Bunting. 

male Wheatear

Highlights from the 17th included the 3 White-fronted Goose still, 3 Pink-footed Goose, 2 Common Scoter, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, a Whimbrel, 2 Sandwich Tern, a Kestrel, a Short-eared Owl, a Woodpigeon, 3 Redwing, 2 Robin, 75 Wheatear, a Stonechat, 2 Goldcrest, a Chiffchaff, 5 Carrion Crow, 3 Jackdaw, 2 Lapland Bunting and 5 Snow Bunting.  

drake Common Scoter

Thursday, 15 April 2021

14th-15th April

 The warmer weather has continued and with the warmer weather has come more birds, something that all of us are very pleased about! The last two days have seen us add no fewer than 6 year ticks to island total. The 14th was the final day of punding and with that completed in the morning the afternoon was left to bird. The punding however saw us add our first of the 6 year ticks in the shape of two Swallows as they arrived in off the sea at Bridesness before continuing down the coast. The afternoons birding proved productive with a Grey Wagtail at Scottigar, the first White Wagtail of 2021 at the Beacon, 3 Black-tailed Godwits behind Vincoin and 4 Goldcrests. An arrival of Wheatears was also noticeable with 38 pitching in around the island, 9 of which were together between Scottigar and Rue. Other highlights for the 14th included a Stonechat around the obs, 2 Carrion Crow, 2 Pink-footed Geese, a smart Male Snow Bunting, 24 Redwing, 4 Song Thrush and another Swallow at Lenswick. The following day would see a flat calm start and also see another Tystie count, this time we managed to count 1057 birds yet again breaking the island record count, hopefully this indicates we'll have a busy breeding season on our hands. The count also produced a few other bits, most notable were a White-billed Diver off of Westness and the first Common Scoter of the year off the coast near T5. Otherwise a good count of 58 Great Northern Divers, a lone Puffin and several Wheatears made for a good pre-breakfast walk! The rest of the day was busy on the bird front and things kicked off with the first Blackcap of the year, a female at the Bothy, the first Arctic Skua of the year was on Tor Ness, the Green-winged Teal was back on Gretchen, a Sand Martin was seen at Westness in the late afternoon but the bird of the day went to a sub-adult White-tailed Eagle that was initially seen over Linklet Bay before heading North towards Fair Isle, only for it turn around and head South down the West side of the island and out towards Sanday. A busy day but one that seems so far removed from a week ago that you wouldn't believe it possible! The weather for the coming few days looks good and with staff chomping at the bit and enjoying the warmer weather its feels as though the good birds will keep on coming! 

                                   White-tailed Eagle
                                   White-tailed Eagle 
                                   Arctic Skua being photobombed by a Fulmar

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

12th - 13th April

Highlights from the 12th included the 3 Greenland White-fronted Goose still, 3 Pink-footed Goose, 2 Sandwich Tern, 2 Carrion Crow, 4 Wheatear, a Redwing and 2 Snow Bunting.

Highlights from the 13th included the Green-winged Teal still, 3 Greenland White-fronted Goose still, 7 Pink-footed Goose, a Sandwich Tern still, a Sparrowhawk, a Stonechat, 9 Wheatear, a Chiffchaff, 15 Redwing, 2 Fieldfare, 2 Lapland Bunting and a Snow Bunting.


Sunday, 11 April 2021

10th - 11th April

 The wintry weather has continued over the past couple of days leaving temporary blankets of white laying on the island, hardly ideal for the islands breeding birds! However this afternoon finally descended into a more acceptable afternoon of warmer weather. The highlights although somewhat sparse did include yet another year tick in the shape of 3 White-fronted Geese with Greylags and a Pink-footed Goose at Cauldhaim on 10th. Other day highlights were in fairly short supply but a Wheatear around Sjavier was the pick of the bunch. The 11th saw us wake up to a good (or bad) covering snow across the island, the day boasted more migrants than the previous with 5 Wheatear on the Links, 2 Grey Plover, 2 Rook, 186 Sanderling, 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and of course the 3 White-fronted Geese. The highlight of the day was however non-avain and sadly deceased and it came in the form of 2.1m male Flapper Skate that washed ashore in Nouster Bay, a species that has been in decline in more recent times but now looks to be making a bit of a resurgence, judging by the frequency we're stumbling across egg-cases anyway. Elsewhere away from birding it looks set to be a busy week with punding commencing, plenty of trap work and fencing to finish off and the arrival of two new volunteers for the Spring, both Sorrel Lyall and Lauren Evans join us from Edinburgh Uni and will no doubt be helpful in the coming weeks. 

                                   White-fronted Goose
                                   Another Wheatear photo 
                                   Drumming Common Snipe
                                   Flapper Skate (photo doesn't do it's size justice!!)

Saturday, 10 April 2021

8th - 9th April

 Highlights from the 8th included a Pink-footed Goose, a Sandwich Tern, an increase of 5 Wheatear and 4 Redwing.

Highlights from the 9th included a BrĂ¼nnich's Guillemot which flew north-west past the seawatching hide at Dennishead early afternoon, one of the White-billed Diver still, 2 Little Auk, 1 Sooty Shearwater (North Ronaldsay's earliest ever), 1 Manx Shearwater, 3 Blue Fulmar (all dark type birds), 1107 Puffin, 3321 Razorbill/Guillemot, 1627 Fulmar, the Sandwich Tern still and a Song Thrush. 

BrĂ¼nnich's Guillemot with Common Guillemots (rear bird in all the pics). Note jizz (overall compact bird - neckless, rounded belly, short rear end, peaked forehead), projecting feet, blackness of upperparts (the Common Guillemots it was with were obviously brownish in the field, this bird was 'Razorbill-black') and bill shape (thick base leading to a point, there's even a hint of a pale tomium in several of the images). 

two of the three Blue Fulmar which passed the seawatching hide during a 9 hour seawatch. These birds are 'svalbard dark'. 

Thursday, 8 April 2021

5th-7th April

 A deluge of snow showers, strong winds and cold weather isn't exactly what we had in mind when we were discussing what birds we might get in the first week of April. With the weather nearly un-birdable on the 5th and 6th the highlights were scant but nonetheless there are highlights. 2 Wheatears on the Links were stand out highlights supported by a cast of a lone Grey Plover, the leftover 4 Whooper Swans that hung around Gretchen and of course the long staying Green-winged Teal. The 7th was a much better day in general with a few bits being seen. Morning census provided some migrants to get our teeth into a smart Snow Bunting and Wheatear were near Brides, Litoralis Rock Pipits were at Brides and Westness, a total of 16 Redwing and 4 Fieldfare gave an unseasonal Autumnal feel to proceedings while an increase in Tufted Duck numbers saw the island total climb to 44 for the day. An afternoon of sea-watching was somewhat productive with 3 White-billed Divers seen sat on the sea off the North End, accompanied by 2 Great Northern Divers and a Red-throated Diver. The Diver fest continued in Nouster with 3 Great Northern Diver, 5 Red-throated Diver and a Black-throated Diver that gave us a 4 Diver day! The sea-watch produced good numbers of other birds too, with 148 Puffin, 109 Kittiwake, 52 Gannet, 39 Razorbill and 529 Fulmar. The other bird of interest was an Auk that will have to remain unidentified, a squat rugby-ball shaped bird with a brilliant white underwing certainly caught our attention, however brief views and terrible photos mean we can't take things any further than it being an interesting looking Auk. 

                                   Golden Plover
                                   Black-headed Gull

Monday, 5 April 2021

3rd - 4th April

 Highlights from the 3rd included the 4 Whooper Swan still, a Pink-footed Goose still, a Goldeneye, the Black-throated Diver still, a possible adult female American x Eurasian Wigeon hybrid, the first 2 Sandwich Tern of the year, 4 Woodpigeon, the Wheatear still, 9 Redwing and 5 Snow Bunting.

possible adult female American x Eurasian Wigeon. Aged and sexed by white trailing edge to secondaries and extensive white on upperwing. Dusky underwing and lack of broad black tips to greater coverts rule out pure American but whitish pale-centered greater, median and lesser coverts forming a 'male-like' oval pattern on upperwing indicator of American, though perhaps within extreme variation of Eurasian. Strong black mask and the rather cold grey area at front of head, which contrasts with the darker spotted breast, supportive of American too though some Eurasian can show similar. Any comments welcome. 

Highlights from the 4th included the 4 Whooper Swan still, the 4 Woodpigeon still, 8 Redwing and 3 Wheatear. 

Saturday, 3 April 2021

1st - 2nd April

 A couple of bright but blustery days on the island saw us add yet more species to the island year list, which is always exciting. With the wind set in a Northerly trajectory the days have been a little colder than they could be but spells of sunshine have given a Spring like feel to the days. The upcoming weather however looks a little less promising but winds originating from Arctic Circle could always bring an unseasonal goody! The 1st was a rather quiet affair with little to report migrant aside from 42 Bar-tailed Godwits between Ancum and Westness, 9 Redwings in various locations, two of which were singing near North Gravity and 3 Song Thrushes rounded off a fairly average day on the land. The big news came from the island Black Guillemot census that produced a whopping 955 birds and a new island record count, thankfully one we seem to have broken a lot in recent years! The 2nd was a little more eventful and saw us add two birds to the year list. The first of which came in the shape of Whooper Swan, a total of four birds touched down on Gretchen mid-morning and spent the day feeding around the loch. The next addition was the first Wheatear of 2021, always a hugely welcome addition to the year list whenever the first one makes landfall. Other highlights included the re-appearance or appearance of a Male Lapland Bunting around the obs crop, it was however seen leaving to South in the evening as was a Sparrowhawk.