Friday, 24 June 2022

18th-23rd June

 It's been a fairly quiet few days although a mixed bag in terms of weather has mixed things up a little bit. Its also meant the internet has been patchy at best! 

Firstly I think we'll mention Avian Influenza again, it does still seem to be present on the island with another Bonxie succumbing over the last few days. This has been backed up with the BTO placing a ban on ringing Sea-birds, Terns and Gulls in Scotland over the summer, a bit of a blow to us and our Summer plans of ringing Tysties, Fulmars and Storm Petrels but just something we have to live with to try and stop AI spreading more that it has I suppose. 

Away from dying birds the living ones have been a little more exciting in the previous days, the Red-rumped Swallow has remained in the Brides area, seemingly hanging around with Sand Martins. The 19th saw a Short-eared Owl hunting over the airfield and the 21st saw a Kestrel appear over Loch Park, it was seen the following day also. The 21st also saw us add Red-necked Phalarope to the year list, a bird that has been more conspicuous in its absence in the past couple of years with birds being fleeting! One would become a pair a couple of days later and we're keeping fingers crossed the habitat is suitable enough! A few commoner migrants on 23rd saw four Mealy Redpolls, 12 Swifts (not a white rump among them!) and two Siskin.

                             Red-necked Phalarope
                             Red-rumped Swallow


Saturday, 18 June 2022

14th - 17th June

 It would appear that Spring is well and truly passed, on a migration front at least. The breeding birds are still doing relatively well with lots of fledgling Starlings, House Sparrows and waders still keeping us preoccupied. 

On a migrant front the Red-rumped Swallow re-appeared between Westness and Quoybanks on 15th and spent the late afternoon at the latter location showing quite well, a change from its previous ability to vanish at will! A group of seven Canada Geese did a tour of the island between 14th-15th before departing and a flock of eight Siskin were around the obs trapping area on 16th. Otherwise as stated its been very much business as usual with hardly migrant birds to look at. 

In other news with the Avian Flu epidemic worsening and it being apparently present within birds in North Ronaldsay the BTO have introduced a blanket ban on sea-bird ringing, which makes it exceedingly unlikely we're going to get into the Terns, Tysties and Fulmars this Summer. Hopefully this will stop the spread in some way and allow the colonies across Scotland to breed without any additional pressures. 



Red-rumped Swallow

Monday, 13 June 2022

9th-13th June

 It's been a very mixed bag in terms of the weather over the past few days but sadly it hasn't been a mixed bag in terms of arriving migrants! It does seem the Spring migration has very much halted and we'll have to wait for those early Summer arrivals, unless the winds and weather have something else up their sleeve of course! 

The 9th started quietly despite the promise of birds arriving, especially after the previous evenings late arrival. However with nets open at 04:30 the only reward was a male Siskin albeit a very smart one! The Red-rumped Swallow didn't make a showing for the whole day and we thought it had probably moved on early doors, we were wrong however as it would re-appear the following day over Holland House but remained elusive being seen on long feeding circuits assumably between Holland, Gretchen, Brides and Hooking. It was also seen very briefly on 11th but hasn't been seen since, however it wouldn't be a surprise if it re-appeared! 

Another bird we that seems to be re-appearing and disappearing is the now long-staying Marsh Warbler in Holland, while it was present on 9th singing away in its favoured haunt it was seemingly not present the following day or in fact until 13th when it suddenly burst into life again, there is of course a possibility it's a new bird, it seems Marsh Warblers in Holland always sing from pretty much the same area but it's not a question we can answer, so for arguments sake it's the same! 

Other highlights have been hard to come by, a smattering of male Siskin have been present in twos at Holland and Ancum while a single bird was at Longar. There also seems to be a Lesser Redpoll commuting around the island having been seen at the Surgery, Scottsha' and Ancum Willows. A big influx of Kittiwake were present around the North end on 12th with c600 birds sitting on the short turf around Bewan and decent arrival of 'Portlandica' Arctic Terns was noticeable on the same day with between 80-100 birds with the adults around Bewan.  

                             Siskins
                             A portion of the Kittiwake flock
                             Terrible Red-rumped Swallow
                             A rather grumpy looking Wheatear chick


Wednesday, 8 June 2022

6th - 8th June

The weather over the past few days has been dominated by warm and drifty easterlies, creating interesting but challenging birding conditions trying to battle with the heat haze. We still managed a couple of additions to the year list though despite the fact that spring seems to be drawing to a steady close.

The 6th was quiet but the two Little Stint remained on Gretchen. The days birding was interrupted by our first walk through of Hooking irises to monitor Black-headed Gull breeding success. We manged to ring 22 chicks and saw plenty more nests with eggs and with chicks too small to ring yet, suggesting this species is going to have another good year off the back of their bumper successes of last year. During our time in the irises we also ringed an adult Greylag, a species which always does well on the island and seems to be doing so again this year.

On the 7th a Marsh Warbler was heard singing in Holland House Gardens, perhaps the same bird heard and seen in previous days. There was also a Chiffchaff present. A late report by guests of the observatory of a Spotted Redshank on Gretchen added another species to the year list, despite no staff getting to see it! We also completed a walk through of Loch Park as part of our breeding bird surveys to ring wader chicks and count nests of other species. During the walk through we were able to ring Common Gull chicks, Curlew chicks, Lapwing chicks, and adult female Eider. We also found nests of Arctic Tern, a species which seems to now have also fallen victim to avian influenza, so it's good to see them continuing to attempt to breed.

The 8th saw a very early addition of Roseate Tern to the year list, a species we usually get in July or not at all. The almost summer plumage individual was on Bewan in the morning before being flushed and was not seen again. A Short-eared Owl was also present when an individual was flushed from around Kirbest, before flying in the direction of Holland. A nice surprise came in the evening when we went to put the portable moth trap out at Holland, as a Red-rumped Swallow was seen flying around the buildings closely following a slightly unseasonable House Martin. This is the 4th Red-rumped Swallow of the year despite being a sub-ten for the island.

With more drifty easterlies set to come our way in the following days, we have not given up hope for something interesting still turning up, despite the often slow birding days this years spring seems to have brought us.

Black-headed Gull chick

Common Gull chick


Sunday, 5 June 2022

2nd - 5th June

The short spell of easterlies came to an abrupt end at the beginning of the week, giving rise to yet more northerlies and some very drifty westerlies. However, we can't complain at the bright sunshine and warm weather making the sometimes quiet census more enjoyable.

The 2nd started with the Marsh Warbler trapped the previous Tuesday being seen and heard again in Holland House Gardens, being joined by a second individual later in the afternoon. Also at Holland were two Common Whitethroats and a single Spotted Flycatcher. A very showy Curlew Sandpiper was found at Bewan, and an illusive unstreaked Acro sp. in Ancum Willows proved too difficult to pin down to nail an ID. The evening saw the first Hobby of the year speed south over Lurand, briefly being seen as it disturbed the island's resident breeding birds.

The 3rd was a fairly quiet day for birding , but with two Spotted Flycatchers being ringed at Holland, and another individual in the Antabreck Garden, things kept ticking over. The Marsh Warbler was still present in Holland House Gardens and the Corncrake only previously heard singing was finally seen as it flew from the edge of Hooking Loch back to its previous haunt at Peckhole. A Merlin was seen being mobbed by Starlings at Scottigar, a species which wouldn't normally get a mention in the blog but with such a quiet year for birds of prey compared to last years constant through flow of Merlin and Hen Harrier, the sighting became quite notable. The only other bird of note was a female type Whinchat found at the airfield in the afternoon. Elsewhere, another Ringed Plover was trapped, joining others caught previously in the year as part of the UK's first colour flagging project for this species.

The 4th was a very bird-less day, with only the Corncrake being heard again at Peckhole. 

The 5th was another quiet day and windless for most of the morning, switching to drifty easterlies by the afternoon. We managed to add Little Stint to the year list however when two were found on Gretchen in the early evening.

With the weather set to get better in the week ahead, and reports of the White-throated Needletail apparently being released somewhere near Scotland, we remain hopeful and motivated for the coming days.

Spotted Flycatcher

Colour flagged Ringed Plover


Wednesday, 1 June 2022

29th May - 1st June

With the weather finally turning more favourable with a few drifty easterlies, more birds have arrived on the island over the past few days. Not quite the 'biggy' we have all be hoping for, but nonetheless things have continued to remain interesting.

The 29th started with two 1st calendar year Little Gull on Gretchen, with one in a particularly nice pinkish plumage. The day didn't continue in the same fashion however, with the only other birds of note being the lingering Woodpigeon around Holland and singles of Whimbrel dotted about the island.

The 30th saw the start of the easterlies, but it would prove we needed a day for them to properly get going before they proved fruitful. In light of the slow birding, attention turned to sea watching, with a five hour effort seeing 5 Storm Petrel (the first of the year), 125 Manx Shearwater and over 1000 Puffin past Dennishead. In the evening there were 7 Whimbrel roosting on Ancum.

Things properly started getting going on the 31st with a Reed Warbler and Marsh Warbler being found at the Old Mill. The Marsh Warbler was later trapped and ringed before being released to roost at Holland. A Corncrake was also singing at Peckhole, presumably the same bird returning for it's third year. The highlight of the day came in the form of a Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll found at the north end of the island when it was flushed from Bewan House garden, before flying towards Bewan and giving good views on a gate. Elsewhere in an effort to mist net Black Guillemot, a re-trap that later turned out to have been ringed in 16th of July 1997, broke the current British longevity record by 2 months. 

June appears to have started well and always seems to do better for us with rarities in the past, so hopefully the 1st of the month is just a sign of things to come. There was a Cuckoo flushed from the seaweed at Scottigar, shortly followed by a year tick of Nightjar sat in the Dennishill garden before flying towards Senness. An elusive flycatcher in Holland finally revealed itself to be a Red-breasted Flycatcher after a good few hours of effort trying to get an identifiable view. Elsewhere there was also a Spotted Flycatcher found in the evening at Viggay.

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll




Marsh Warbler