Thursday, 30 September 2021

27th-29th September

 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

26th September

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. 

juvenile Buff-breasted Sandpiper - first ever ringed in Scotland and first in the UK since 1995

Sunday, 26 September 2021

22nd-25th September

 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

                                   Pink-footed Geese arriving with a Sooty Shearwater to left
                                   Wigeon avoiding the surf

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

19th - 21st September

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.

Lesser Scaup and Red-breasted Flycatcher

Saturday, 18 September 2021

15th - 18th September

 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! 

                                   Lesser Scaup

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

12th - 14th September

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).

juvenile Buff-breasted Sandpiper (top) and juvenile Dotterel (bottom)

Saturday, 11 September 2021

9th-11th September

 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! 

                                   Rufous Turtle Dove?
               Flycatcher sp.

Thursday, 9 September 2021

7th - 8th September

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.

juvenile Pectoral Sandpipers

juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs

probable Wilson's Snipe
The bird shows three key features - extensively barred auxiliaries (overall more dark than light), extensively dark underwing coverts (again overall more dark than light) and a thin trailing edge to the secondaries. Other supportive features include the small size, cold tones and cold flanks (white between the flank barring). 

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

5th - 6th September

 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.

                                   Orca #34 from the 27's Pod
                                   The 27's in Nouster

Sunday, 5 September 2021

3rd - 4th September

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.

Sooty Shearwater

Thursday, 2 September 2021

29th August - 2nd September

 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. 

                                   Willow Warbler
                                  ......and an awful picture of the Pale-bellied Brent Goose