Highlights from the 27th - 29th of August included a Black-throated Diver, 49 Sooty Shearwater, 16 Manx Shearwater, 146 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!