Saturday, 28 May 2022

24th - 28th May

 With the weather being dominated by westerlies for the past few days, decent birds have seemingly been few and far between. 

The highlight on the 24th was a female Garganey seen briefly in the irises at Westness, however it vanished soon after and so have our hopes of having a breeding pair this year for now. One of the Curlew Sandpipers from the previous day remained on Ancum, and elsewhere there was a Ruff at Brides and a Grey Wagtail at Howar. During another successful evening ringing wader chicks round the island, a Short-eared Owl was seen flying round the north end.

The 25th kicked off well with an immature male Cuckoo being found round the obs, shortly followed by a Short-eared Owl flushed from T1. The Curlew Sandpiper relocated to the Links and later in the day a Grey Wagtail was seen briefly by the foghorn at the north end, with a fair few Whimbrel also being scattered round the island. However the highlight of the day came in the form of a Little Ringed Plover seen flying south down the Links. Despite much searching the bird could not be re-found, but nonetheless represents a fourth record for the island.

Sea watching dominated the 26th with good counts being put in throughout the day, highlights from stints at both Westness and from the sea-watch hide saw 3 Manx Shearwater, 1 adult Little Gull, 200 Kittiwakes, 32 Arctic Skua, 27 Great Skua, 219 Gannet and over 1000 Auk sp. Elsewhere on island Curlew Sandpiper numbers peaked with three at Ancum.

The 27th was a quiet day with a single Garden Warbler in Ancum Willows still and a Common Tern near Gretchen being the highlights.

Again, the 28th was slow, but sea watching produced good numbers to lift the overall mood, with 21 Manx Shearwater, 1 Great Northern Diver, 1040 Auk sp. and 178 Kittiwake being seen in three hours from the north end.

The weather looks a little more promising going into the weekend so we're keeping our fingers crossed and ours eyes on the forecast! 

Lapwing chick

Monday, 23 May 2022

20th-23rd May

 The 20th saw some definite leftovers from the previous days bout of Easterlies and a smattering of common migrants were added too by a few scarcer species. The day started with a Reed Warbler that was flushed from the long grass near Brides while the moth trap was collected. An unseasonal Pink-footed Goose spent the next day or two on Ancum before relocating to Hooking a couple of days later. Two House Martins were around Holland and the garden held other migrants to such as Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Garden Warbler and duos of Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. A total of seven Spotted Flycatchers were around the island with the majority (four) around Holland. The Hawfinch was still present in the area also. A Marsh Harrier tracked its way South through the island, a Cuckoo was by the Lighthouse and the first Garganey of 2022 was seen briefly at Hooking. An adult Mediterranean Gull was feeding with Black-headed Gulls near Brides Point and Mistle Thrush was in the fields near Stennabreck to round off a good day in the field. 

The following three days were overall quieter but did produce birds nonetheless, a Yellow Wagtail did quick fly-by over North Manse but couldn't be pinned down while the Cuckoo remained up North and Grey Wagtail was around Howar. The 22nd saw poorer weather but did provide the bird of the week in the shape of a Subalpine Warbler at Scottsha', despite showing well a lack of call and it bouncing out the mistnet left us frustrated, although it was likely a Western based on plumage this is no longer deemed reliable for identification and will likely see it left as a Subalp sp. The 23rd provided our first Curlew Sandpipers of the year with two rather smart birds on Gretchen, they were joined by a 2CY Little Gull that dropped in briefly. The evening saw the Curlew Sands relocate to Ancum where they were joined by 2 Green Sandpipers. 

                                   Subalpine Warbler ssp. 

Friday, 20 May 2022

18th-19th May

 After a manic few days of trying to find rarities things nearly settled down, however prevailing Easterly based winds meant there was no room to let our guard down as would be proved over both days!

The 18th saw a day of superbly sunny weather, following some rather poorer birding conditions in the days previous. The day started with a Cuckoo around the observatory once again, before it headed off towards Holland where it spent most of the day. Ancum held the first Ruff of 2022 and the first confirmed Wood Sandpiper, both feeding along the back edge of the loch for the majority of the day. The Cuckoo was joined in the Holland area by a Pied Flycatcher near the Old Kirk while the first Swift of the year was seen over Antabreck and yet another White-tailed Eagle drifted over Gretchen bringing the annual total to at least 10 bird/days. The highlight of the day was an Icterine Warbler trapped in the gardens at Holland in the evening but had a supporting cast of Spotted Flycatcher, Chaffinch, Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and the long-staying Hawfinch, in the meantime the third Mediterranean Gull of the year drifted over the gardens and a stonking male Black Redstart interrupted dinner rounding off a great days birding.

The 19th was a day of glorious sunshine and yet again the birding was good if a little more frustrating than the previous days outing. The Icterine Warbler, Black Redstart and the Cuckoo all remained around the obs in the morning, while further up the island a Little Tern was feeding offshore near Quoybanks. Frustration also mounted further North as an Acro Sp. (most likely a Blyth's Reed Warbler) bombed around the planty-crues and punds, never giving itself up in true skulky Acrocephalus warbler style! A Grey-headed Wagtail made its way onto the year list as it was photographed by visiting birders on the Links and another Wood Sandpiper was at Nessmuir. The highlight of the day and perhaps the week was a Black Kite that drifted over the obs in the late afternoon before shooting out South towards Eday and Sanday. 

                             Wood Sandpiper

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

13th-17th May

 A bit of an overdue post this one so apologies for the long delay in blog posts! It's been a superb migrant filled few with some some real goodies thrown in and total mixed bag of weather as well!

The 13th saw a smart adult Little Gull on Bewan, the Kumlien's Gull remained as did the six Dotterel, but all in all was a quiet day for new arrivals. The 14th was somewhat similar but a Cuckoo showed on and off around the obs in the morning and the first Goosander of the year was seen flying over Loch Park. A Little Tern powered its way up the links. A Kestrel on 15th was joined on the days list by a Common Tern at Trolla, another Cuckoo, this time at Parkhouse, a Siskin in Holland and perhaps most remarkably another Red-rumped Swallow! That makes it at least three individuals this year, meaning we've had more birds in 2022 than in total! 

The 16th started off with a Barnacle Goose on Garso and went from strength to strength, a Common Sandpiper was on the rocks behind Trolla, the Common Tern was also present near Trolla. The bird of the day was a very frustrating and brief encounter with a Wryneck at Iris Taing and seemingly the gates to the East had opened with a good arrival of migrants including a Redstart, two Spotted Flycatcher, three  Common and three Lesser Whitethroats and a Whinchat. The following day was more frustrating as a thick haar set in making birding very tricky, numbers were much the same as the previous the day but two big additions came in the form of a female Bluethroat and a Short-toed Lark feeding together around the lighthouse! The other highlight for the 17th was a pair of Goosander heading up the East side. 

Friday, 13 May 2022

9th-12th May

 Another mixed bag of weather, but this time there's definitely a wet and windy theme going on! 

The 9th was probably the worst of the four days with heavy showers and strong winds making birding and just being outside in general an overall unpleasant experience, however our second Marsh Harrier of the year was a reward for those brave enough to step outside.

The 10th gave way to a much more bird-able day and with it the arrival of some migrants. Five Collared Doves at Holland and Woodpigeon around Ancum were joined by Sedge Warblers at Hooking and Holland while the bird of the day was a 3CY Kumlien's Gull at Sjaever and the six remaining Dotterel. 

More migrants on the 11th saw our first Hawfinch of the year at Holland, a rather smart male that spent the day going between the gardens and the roadside verge. The other bird of note was a Long-eared Owl that eventually found its way into mistnet at Holland and two Goldfinch shot through the garden in the evening. The Kumlien's Gull was on Gretchen and the Dotterels were still around Sandar.

The 12th was easily the pick of the days, the Dotterel were unsurprisingly, still around but just down the track from them on the pools at Westness was something we weren't predicting in the shape of the islands 6th (I think) Mandarin, a very smart drake spent the day feeding around the area and was last seen sat on the sea in Garso Wick. The other notable bird of the day was an adult Mediterranean Gull that was first seen heading North over Milldam before its re-location at Nether Linnay and subsequently on the freshly ploughed field near Holland. 

                             Drake Mandarin
                             Mediterranean Gull
                             Long-eared Owl

Monday, 9 May 2022

6th-8th May

An interesting few days that have produced some good birds and a few surprises on the way. The weather has gone from horrible squalls and wind to glorious sunshine and even warmed up enough to see some members of staff out birding in shorts and t-shirts! 

For all intense purposes the 6th looked as though it wasn’t up to much, however the first Sedge Warbler of the year singing in the Willows at Ancum gave a feeling that stuff may have arrived despite less-than-ideal conditions. The Sedge Warbler was followed by a male Ring Ouzel in the Shooting Gallery near Lenswick but was quickly forgotten about after the discovery of six Dotterel feeding the short grass around Sandar in the late afternoon, having been largely absent in Spring in recent years it’s a very welcome year list addition at this early stage. 

The following day was one of warm weather and pleasant birding conditions, there wasn’t a great deal going on in the morning apart from a Lesser Whitethroat trapped in Holland, but the afternoon certainly produced. In a bit of a twist a phone call about another Red-rumped Swallow at Westness quickly turned into two Red-rumped Swallows! As photos revealed two individuals one most likely the bird seen a few days previously just dried out and looking a little bit less knackered and a smart bird that must have been new in. This doesn’t constitute a huge surprise as hirundine movement had been constant throughout the afternoon with over 120 birds moving through the island. The day wasn’t finished there A Grey Wagtail was seen flying over Ancum towards Verracott and the Dotterels made a late evening re-appearance. 

The 8th was a much less appealing day than the previous and was dominated by a stiff South-westerly breeze. The Dotterels remained in place and were even buzzed in the evening by our second Osprey of the year as it tracked North up the island. Two Sedge Warblers were heard singing in Holland and at Hooking but otherwise the day remained quiet, overnight moth trapping was poor species wise, yet again the only moths caught were 94 Hebrew Characters! 


Thursday, 5 May 2022

30th April - 5th May

 The end of April came and went in fairly unspectacular fashion with the highlights for a rather wet day. The highlights for the day were two Short-eared Owls at Longar, one of which was present for a couple of days after, and a Tree Pipit seen briefly at Sandar. 

A few more migrants would follow for the opening day of May. Twelve Barnacle Geese were at Sandback. A couple of Arctic Terns were present, however this figure would balloon over the coming days and by the 5th numbers were over 300 birds in the various coastal haunts around the island. Two Blackcaps, three Willow Warblers and four Chiffchaff. Other notable migrants included three Song Thrush, a Collared Dove and a Sparrowhawk. 

The 2nd would see two Collared Dove and a similar story in terms of passerine migrants although a few less than on the previous day. The 3rd was a better day starting with the fourth island record of Glossy Ibis coming in off the sea, despite a wild, uh, Ibis chase? around the island it was re-seen briefly near Kirbest but not again. The other bird to find its way onto the year list was a Garden Warbler seen fleetingly in Holland. 

The 4th looked as though it was set to be largely unremarkable however a surprise Red-rumped Swallow shot passed on the Links and looked to have vanished until it was relocated between Sandback and Neven where it showed superbly and represents the 4th island record after last years bird. While looking for the Red-rumped Swallow three White-tailed Eagles drift over and a Yellow Wagtail ssp. flushed from near Sandsheen, not a bad days work all said and done! 

The 5th saw low cloud and plenty of rain to throughly dampen the spirits from the previous day, with the Swallow having seemingly moved on the show was stolen by a crazy total of four White-tailed Eagles at Brides before they split up headed North. Other birds included 10 Whimbrel and the aforementioned 300+ Arctic Terns. 

                             Red-rumped Swallow
                             White-tailed Eagle
                             White-tailed Eagles