Saturday, 23 July 2022

20th-22nd July

 Highlights from 20th-22nd


Juvenile Stonechat, Ancum Willows and fem/imm Hen Harrier, Peckhole


Two Red-necked Phalarope, Ancum (possibly birds from June undergone post-breeding moult)


Two Whimbrel, Purtabreck and juv Lesser Black-backed Gull

I'm away for a few days now so the blog may not be updated until Aidan returns towards the end of the month. 

                             Red-necked Phalaropes

Tuesday, 19 July 2022

18th - 19th July

The past couple days have been dominated by very drifty winds and quite humid weather. A few rain showers though have kept the lochs topped up, meaning water levels haven't yet sunk to the almost barren and water free levels of this time last year.
The 18th started well with it being the first day in a while not to be battered by strong winds. As the day went on though it turned out the nice weather was not the only thing to be excited about, when a 1st summer Sabine's Gull was found on Bewan. First being picked out amongst Kittiwake by its punitive and moulting head, it then gave flight views, revealing its black leading edge across the outer primaries and greater coverts, and its slate grey half moon shape across the rest of the wing. The bird stayed briefly on Bewan giving good views to those there, before it flew out to the coastal rocks to sit amongst around 600 Kittiwakes. It took a bit of effort to re-find the 'Sab's' within the Kittiwake flock, but gave decent views when it finally was. The bird then dropped out of sight onto the sea but was eventually flushed along with all the Kittiwakes by a Bonxie flying over. Its distinct flight appearance stood out in the big flock, before it left the main group and seemingly flew off on its own high north. Searching likely places for it to pitch up on the rest of the island confirmed the bird to be a short stayer, seemingly having vanished after around 30 minutes from being found.
The 19th followed suit proving to also be a good day for birds. A Corncrake was heard singing early morning in the Breckan area, perhaps the Peckhole bird or a new individual passing through. Throughout the day there was also good movement of Swift, with 3 over Holland and 2 over the obs, all passing immediately out south.
The night of the 18th also turned out a good showing of moths, in both the trap at the obs and the portable trap in a never before trapped area in heather at the back of the lighthouse. Combined, the traps pulled in over 100 Dark Arches, our first Common Rustic and our first True Lovers Knot of the year.
Autumn migrants appear to be slowly showing up in places elsewhere, so all the staff are looking forward to when the season properly gets going after an extremely quiet Summer.

                             Sabine's Gull                                                                      GG

Monday, 18 July 2022

13th - 17th July

The temperatures here over the past few days haven't quite hit the same dizzying heights as further down south, but it has been slightly warmer and a little less windy. In fact, a couple of the days it was even warm enough to go out with just one jumper on!
In a similar fashion to the last blog post, birding has been slow once again. The only bird of particular note being an unseasonable House Martin that was seen flying around Neven on the 15th.
Elsewhere, we have mainly been continuing our monitoring of breeding birds round the island, carrying out a coastal Fulmar count on the 15th. There were 170 individuals sat on nests, with either a chick or an egg, a seemingly lower number to last year. But with the inland nests still left to count, it may be that more individuals have been preferring the shelter of the inland dykes and roofs over being battered in the near constant winds on the coast.
Big build ups of Kittiwake have continued to occur at the north end, with 603 individuals on the 13th, and then over 1000 on the 15th. Numbers of Purple Sandpiper have also started to increase over the past few days, with 41 individuals around the coast in census area F on the 15th.
We colour ringed another Curlew chick on the 16th, but keep seeing more around the island so we will hopefully be adding more to our total over the next few days. A Common Tern also showed up on Gretchen on the 16th.
The night of the 17th we put our Storm Petrel tapes out to hopefully draw a few in to the island. We ended up with around 20 birds flying round our heads, making it more disappointing not to be able to ring them this year.
It seems the moth trap has been producing the most interest over the past few days, after finally getting some good trapping nights. A Current Pug caught on the 11th later turned out to be a first record for the island, and a Purple Bar caught on the night of the 17th was a fourth for the island. We've also been seeing good numbers of Magpie Moth, Ghost Moth and Cetaceous Hebrew Character, along with lots of the more commonly trapped species.
With calm weather set for the week ahead, hopefully we start to see a few early migrants make their way through. 


Purple Bar

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

1st - 12th July

The first days of July have been a bit slow birding wise, mainly due to staffing shortages with outbreaks of covid and some away for a few days. The weather has also presented difficulties with days of thick fog leading into strong winds, not the most inspiring conditions for birding.

The 1st saw 5 Orca off Stromness point, cruising round to the north end before going out north. There was also a juvenile Stonechat in East Loch Park, a species that doesn't breed so is presumably from elsewhere on mainland Orkney. 12 Siskin in Holland were an unseasonable surprise, and 2 Greenshank on Gretchen added another species to the year list. Elsewhere, the Turtle Dove was still present, being flushed from Lurand before flying towards the bothy on the West Coast

The Turtle Dove was present until the 4th and represented the only bird of note across these days. 

An extremely slow few days for birding between the 5th and 10th meant very little was seen. However with more staff arrivals coverage of the island has now increased again, so hopefully there is more out there to be found.

An effort on the morning of the 11th saw 4 new Oystercatcher chicks ringed and a single Curlew chick colour ringed, part of a project taking place on the rest of Orkney. 2 Swift flew past the obs in the late afternoon, but other than that the day was filled was sheep work and a few obs jobs to make the most of the grim weather.

Over 500 Kittiwake showed up around Bewan on the 12th, and a satellite tagged Common Seal was seen off the north end, so it will be interesting to see where this individual was first tagged.

With the weather set to stay windy and wet over the next few days, it seems the birding will continue to stay slow, but with silaging starting to take place in fields over the island, hopes that this will pull in something more interesting remain high.

Juvenile Arctic Tern

Lesser Black-backed Gull in the silage

Saturday, 2 July 2022

24th-30th June

 With the final week of June behind us it actually seems things are finally hotting up a bit, not something I expected to be typing to be honest after a fairly quiet month! 

Three Siskin and three Swift are all the early part of the week had to offer with both records coming on 25th and 26th respectively. Counts weren't helped by a bout of illness that seemed to afflict staff but it was quickly over by 29th and thankfully wasn't Covid! The bird of the day on 29th came from a very mundane sea-watch, without much passing it was a bit of shock when a Great Shearwater cruised past the sea-watch hide heading South, a superb bird for the year list and one that started a couple days of decent birds. A rather grotty Chiffchaff was in Holland on 30th but was quickly overshadowed by yet another year tick in the shape of a Turtle Dove, initially found near Ancum the bird got up and bombed off south only to be re-discovered on the road outside Holland House some ten minutes later as we headed back to the obs. With July on the horizon we're hoping a month like 2020 produced full of oddities and goodies! 

                                    Turtle Dove