Tuesday, 30 August 2022

28th - 30th August

Once again with some gentle easterlies at play, plenty more migrants have been pushing through. With some expected autumnal ticks and a nice nets session at Ancum producing a real rarity, there is more anticipation as to what the rest of the autumn will bring.
The 28th became a bit of a sea watching day, with a Great Shearwater passing early morning and an afternoon stint producing 1 juvenile Little Gull, a whopping 451 Sooty Shearwater, 179 Manx Shearwater and some Risso's Dolphins. Away from the sea, there was a Buzzard at Cott and a Garden Warbler at Ancum Willows.
A morning sea watch on the 29th produced a Great Shearwater, presumably the same bird of the previous day, and a Long-tailed Skua. There was a year tick of Rosefinch round the obs, a Pied Flycatcher at the Surgery and a Goldcrest in Holland. In the evening, a nets session at Ancum managed to catch a Paddyfield Warbler, a fifth record for the island and an eleventh record for Orkney. The bird was released at Holland but was not seen again the next morning.
On the 30th, a Great Shearwater was once again seen flying north past Dennishead, along with good numbers of Manx and Sooty Shearwaters. The Buzzard remained in the Cott area, there was a Lesser Whitethroat at South Ness, and the Rosefinch returned back to the obs area. The American Golden Plover was once again seen in the field by Cott, after having not been seen for a few days. The bird seems to have become more rangy though, having been seen also at Westness in the days prior to its vanishing act.

Paddyfield Warbler - MH

Sooty Shearwater - GG

Saturday, 27 August 2022

26th - 27th August

It seems things have finally settled down on the migrant front after the short spell of easterlies a few days ago. There are still some passerine migrants about, but once again sea watching has produced the best of the lot despite what didn't look like favourable conditions for it.

The 26th was fairly quiet, with the last dregs of the previous days seemingly the only bits about. The Red-backed Shrike remained in the Bewan punds, and elsewhere there was a Common Whitethroat in the Shooting Gallery. There were still plenty of Willow Warbler about, mainly in Holland and on the west coast.

A Common Whitethroat turned up at the School House on the 27th, along with a few Swift dotted about the island. The Red-backed Shrike was also still present. A morning sea watch produced a juvenile Long-tailed Skua, along with 66 Manx Shearwater, 31 Sooty Shearwater and 1 Red-throated Diver. The good sea watching continued into the afternoon when a Cory's Shearwater was seen cruising past Dennishead, followed by a Pomarine Skua in the early evening. Also there was 60 Manx Shearwater, 28 Sooty Shearwater and 7 Storm Petrel. The calm conditions also proved good for cetaceans, with a Minke Whale being seen sporadically throughout the day, a group of c.10 Risso's Dolphin, and Harbour Porpoise being seen going north.

                                                               Cory's Shearwater - GG

Thursday, 25 August 2022

23rd - 25th August

The easterlies finally arrived but to our disappointment, with them came the fog. The birding started slow but we still managed to eek out some good birds despite the weather, and when it finally cleared the migrants really started to roll in, meaning overall it has been a very promising start to the autumn.

The 23rd started with the three Tree Sparrows being relocated in the Lurand pund, having moved down the coast from the Shooting Gallery. A Wood Warbler was found early on the west coast just north of Gretchen, raising hopes for what else might be lurking in the fog. The Wood Warbler later found itself in Holland Gardens and was trapped and ringed on the 24th. There was also a Pied Flycatcher at the back of South Ness, a Whinchat and Buzzard between north and south Gravity, and a Common Whitethroat at Westness. Later in the day a Grasshopper Warbler was found in the Haskie thistles and on a trip to put the moth trap out at Ancum, a Short-eared Owl was seen in the car headlights at the War Memorial.

The 24th was a much better day for migrants, with a Red-backed Shrike being found early on in the Bewan punds. There were Lesser Whitethroat in the Shooting Gallery and at North Manse, Common Whitethroat at Scottigar, Haskie and the Shooting Gallery, and a Whinchat at Ancum. A Barred Warbler was found in the Cruesbreck garden, and a very difficult to pin down acro in the Brides irises eventually turned out to be a Marsh Warbler, our third of the year. There was also a Tree Sparrow and Chiffchaff in the Shooting Gallery. Later in the day a Wryneck was found at the Old Kirk, before it disappeared into Holland garden. Despite getting the nets open quickly, it soon vanished further west and was later seen at the Old Mill. In the evening a Wood Sandpiper was seen flying around Ancum calling.

The 25th was a much clearer and sunnier day overall, meaning there was much less about as migrants started to clear out. Despite this, a Barred Warbler was found at Antabreck and the Red-backed Shrike remained in the Bewan punds. There was also a Buzzard seen flying down the Links, a Pied Flycatcher at Barrenha, Whitethroat in Ancum Willows and Loch Park, and Whinchat in Dennishill and Ancum Willows.

The American Golden Plover remains in the same field at Cott, and overall there are many more Willow Warbler about, being seen in greater numbers every day. A Kestrel has also been seen across all days, mainly between Tor Ness, Westness and Trebb. More Swift have also been seen across the island.

With some more promising easterlies forecast for later in the week, we hope the past few days are just a sign of things to come.

Wood Warbler - AB

Kestrel - VB

Monday, 22 August 2022

21st - 22nd August

The weather has slowly turned more easterly over the past couple of days, but it looks like we're going to have to be patient before it starts turning things up. Even so, there has still been some interesting bits about to wet the appetite for the days to come.

The American Golden Plover was still present on the 21st in the field near Cott, as was the Little Stint on Ancum. The Buzzard is also still hanging about, being seen mostly in the Ancum area round Sangar and South Gravity. A Tree Pipit was seen at North Gravity, our first of the Autumn. Two Kestrels were seen, one at the Old Kirk and another over Bewan. Sea watching continues to produce the goods, with another addition to year list in the form of Balearic Shearwater. A Black Tern, presumably the same bird seen going north then south on the sea watch on the 20th, was seen briefly on Bewan, before it seemingly vanished out south. The biggest surprise of the day came in the evening when one of the wader traps on Gretchen manged to catch a Little Ringed Plover. Just a fifth record for the island, but second of the year, it is the first to be ringed here.

Again on the 22nd, the American Golden Plover and Little Stint were still present in their same locations, as was the Buzzard in the Ancum area. Yet another addition to the year list came when three Tree Sparrow were found at the Shooting Gallery. It proved to be a fairly good day for raptors also, with a ringtail Hen Harrier being seen at Ancum house, and a Peregrine being seen near the lighthouse. There were more Swifts about, with two in the Kirbest area, one at Holland, and potentially another individual at Ancum. A Whinchat found late in the day near Dennishill is hopefully the start of the migrants arriving in the current set of easterlies.

The weather looks good for the days ahead with both easterlies and rain forecast, a combination that always seem to do good for us. Later in the week also looks promising for more sea watching, leaving us hopeful for a repeat of last years Fea's type Petrel influx!

Black Tern - MH
Little Ringed Plover - VB

Little Stint - GG

Saturday, 20 August 2022

19th - 20th August

It has been a fairly eventful couple of days for birds, with some nice year ticks and an overall good spattering of migrants to keep motivation high. The weather has been teasing us with the occasional easterly, but southerlies and westerlies continue to dominate.
The Little Stint was still present on Ancum on the 19th, but it was otherwise a quiet day with the only other birds of note being a White-winger sp that was seen flying high south from Stromness point, and an acro at Scottigar that initially had us scratching our heads before the bird was caught revealing it to be a Reed Warbler.
The 20th was a much busier day, starting with a juvenile Little Gull seen over the Seal Skerry, presumably the same bird that then came to roost on Bewan in the evening. The second Buzzard of the year was first seen flying over the Links, before heading east inland and spending the rest of the day cruising round over the fields. A moulting adult American Golden Plover was found in the afternoon in the field near Cott, giving good views to all the staff who came to see it. The bird was still present at the end of the day in the same place, so will hopefully stick around for a few days. The American Golden Plover was the bird of the day, but was given some stiff competition by a moulting adult Black Tern seen flying north past Dennishead, and an adult Long-tailed Skua that also flew north on the same sea watch. Also on the sea watch was 179 Sooty Shearwater, 20 Manx Shearwater and 1 Storm Petrel. Elsewhere, a Greenshank was seen on the airfield.
With lots more birds seemingly about on the island, the next few days look good to hopefully bring in some more migrants. We can't complain about how the Autumn has kicked off though, with the year list now standing at 185.

American Golden Plover - GG

American Golden Plover - GG

Reed Warbler - MH

Thursday, 18 August 2022

16th - 18th August

The last few days have been very typical in terms of expected early Autumn migrants, with more falls of common migrants and the odd scarcity thrown into the mix. The weather has been fairly favourable for sea watching too, which allowed us to add a few more species to the year list.

The 16th saw more Willow Warblers arrive on the island, with individuals seen at Scottigar and Nouster, and 2 in Holland House Gardens. The highlight however was the first Reed Warbler of the Autumn that turned up in the Beacon punds.

The 17th was the much anticipated day of sea watching, with northerly winds having finally slackened off, excitement was high for what would pass Dennishead. Things started well when a drake Velvet Scoter flew north, a nice year tick to get things going. After a small lull in Shearwater passage, more started to move through again, giving things a slightly rarer feel. This feeling soon paid off when a Great Shearwater flew close past the rocks following three Manx Shearwater, giving stunning views as it cruised by. Before the excitement of the Great Shearwater had chance to die down, a Leach's Storm Petrel was picked up flying north, adding two species to the year list in the space of two minuets. The sea remained watched for much of the day, but it seemed the morning effort wasn't to be beaten. Overall throughout the day a total of 125 Sooty Shearwater, 90 Manx Shearwater, around 50 Storm Petrel, and 3 Great Northern Diver were seen past the north end. Away from sea watching, the first Barred Warbler of the Autumn was seen in the dyke at Brides.

The 18th saw a small influx of Common Tern to the island, with 2 seen on the Links, 1 seen by the Beacon and another seen on Bewan. There was also a juvenile Mediterranean Gull sat on the rocks by the lighthouse, before it flew north. A Willow Warbler was also seen late in the day at Purtabreck, along with a Little Stint on Ancum.

As more migrants seem to be arriving, excitement for what the rest of the Autumn could bring continues to rise. The year list is also doing well, currently standing at 183.

Barred Warbler - GG

Common Tern - GG

Monday, 15 August 2022

12th-15th August

 A quieter few days with very little in the way of migrants to get our teeth into. Although better weather on 15th gave us a little hope!

Really it's been business as usual though, a Greenshank and Green Sandpiper were present on 12th, meanwhile a Woodpigeon spent the 13th-14th between Holland and the obs. Willow Warblers were at Westness, Holland and around the Lighthouse on 14th and 15th making us feel like there had to be something else out there to go after. A Kestrel has been present between Torness and Westness while two Peregrines have been seen up North and around Holland. A rather worse for wear Carrion Crow was trapped in the period and is only the third to ever be caught here. 

Away from the birds three Orca were seen from Stromness Point on 12th and a Basking Shark was off Dennishead on 15th. 

Hopefully things begin to take an upturn as we reach the halfway point in the month and those typical August scarcities arrive soon! 

                             Willow Warbler

Thursday, 11 August 2022

9th - 11th August

It seems Autumn has finally kicked off here on North Ronaldsay, signalled by the arrival of our first Willow Warblers in the pouring rain. Whilst conditions have not been the most favourable or inspiring, things have continued to tick over.
On the 9th, a juvenile Mediterranean Gull was seen on the rocks at the observatory end of Nouster beach, before it flew off round the Lurand coast in a flock of Common Gull. It seemed to favour the beach though, being seen there sporadically throughout the rest of the day.  
The 10th saw a Swift fly out south over the obs, and later in the day a rather manky looking Carrion Crow was seen lingering about, still present around the obs on the 11th as well.
The 11th started with a Woodpigeon in Nouster bay, and a Green Sandpiper at Westness. The 2 moulting adult Red-necked Phalarope were still present on Ancum, and it has been very interesting to see these birds at their different stages of moult. Our first Willow Warblers of the Autumn were found almost simultaneously, with one juvenile at North Gravity and another in the thistles at Antabreck.
Overall, there seems to be a consistent passage of waders through the island, with more Ruff being seen in fields and on Lochs, and more Whimbrel about also, with a group of 14 seen flying south on the 11th. Turnstone numbers have also increased along with Golden Plover, with counts suggesting there are just shy of 1000 individuals currently present on the island.
With our first 'proper' Autumn migrants finally moving through, the next few days look promising for more to follow. A set of easterlies forecast for over the weekend has definitely got staff more driven after a quiet summer with no seabird ringing. Now we just have to hope the forecast comes off!  

Mediterranean Gull - VB

Willow Warbler - GG

Tuesday, 9 August 2022

5th - 8th August

The weather has been pretty miserable over the past few days, dominated mostly by waves of drizzly showers and fog. With the North Ronaldsay Sheep Festival also now underway, the obs has been very busy, limiting coverage of the island on some days. But there has still been some good birding to be done, especially with Golden Plover numbers picking up, which will hopefully draw in something more interesting soon.
The 5th saw the return of the 2 Red-necked Phalaropes to Ancum, presumably the same birds that have been seen on previous occasions as they undergo their moult. In the afternoon however, they were joined by a juvenile that didn't stay until the next day, unlike the adults which are now present into their 4th day. There was a also a ringtail Hen Harrier seen flying over Brides.
The 6th and 7th were fairly quiet birding wise, the only birds of note being a Grey Plover and Greenshank, both seen opposite the airfield on the 7th.
On the 8th, a Green Sandpiper was seen flying North over Holland, before being picked up again when it was flushed from Ancum towards the Links.
It looks like the next few days are set to follow the same suit weather wise, but as wader and gull flocks slowly start to build in the fields, and more migrants are turning up further south in the country, excitement for Autumn has well and truly begun.

Red-necked Phalarope - MH

Green Sandpiper - MH

Friday, 5 August 2022

23rd July - 4th August

There is lots to catch up on in this blog post owing to various staff being away from the island, but nonetheless it's been a busy few days with some good additions to the year list.
The 23rd saw a Whimbrel at Upper Linnay, a species we should start to see more of as the Autumn progresses.
On the 24th a Swift flew south over the obs and straight out to sea, as so many Swifts here tend to do.
The 26th proved to be a good day for seabirds, starting with a Roseate Tern on Bewan. A scarce species for the island, and unfortunately also a short stayer, only briefly being seen on the loch. A seawatch saw 12 Storm Petrel pass the Old Beacon, along with 18 Manx Shearwater and our first Sooty Shearwater of the year.
However, the big seawatch highlight came on the 27th, when a Cory's Shearwater cruised past the Old Beacon, along with 5 Storm Petrel, 7 Sooty Shearwater, and 4 Risso's Dolphin. There was also a young Hen Harrier seen over Brides.
On the 29th a Kestrel showed up at the obs.
The 30th carried on our stint of good seabirds, when a Black Tern was found on Bewan. Again, the bird was only seen briefly before seemingly vanishing off the island. A colour ringed Knot, carrying a watlas tag and motus tag for GPS tracking, was also found on Bewan later in the day. It was later revealed that this bird was tagged on the island of Texel on the 29th April 2022 along with 29 others.
On the 1st a Greenshank pitched up on Gretchen, and on the 2nd a Whimbrel flew south over the obs.
The blog will now be updated more frequently as the Autumn progresses, hopefully with rare birds to report.

Tagged Knot - VB

Roseate Tern - HW