Friday, 17 November 2017

16th and 17th November

A really rough couple of days with a blazing gale force westerly wind bringing nasty squalls with annoying frequency making any venturing outside very unpleasant; a Woodcock by the Obs was basically the only news from the 16th with a few hours spent in the Brides area on the 17th producing 21 Snow Buntings, 3 Meadow Pipits, 4 Rock Pipits, 15 Redwings, 4 Skylarks and 2 Reed Buntings with 15 Tufted Duck and 7 Gadwall on the loch.   60+ Common Gulls were feeding in the surf at high tide with a single Black-headed Gull the only other bird of note in the melee; the Black Redstart was still at the Nouster Pier.

1st year, 2nd year and adult Common Gull,   Simon Davies

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

14th and 15th November

A decent day on the 14th with lightish winds and only a few showers; an hour’s seawatch first thing comprised 2 Sooty Shearwaters, 252 Kittiwakes and a Little Auk with 7 Great-northern Divers on the sea.   Limited coverage then produced the Black Redstart still by the pier, a Merlin, 13 Meadow Pipits, 2 Robins, single Chaffinch and Brambling, 19 Twite and 7 Snow Buntings on the land with 3 Pink-footed Geese, 2 Pintail and 491 Golden Plover also present.

                After early morning rain had moved through it was great day in the field with very light winds and periods of bright sunshine; a range of lingering landbirds appeared out of the woodwork in the calm conditions including 26 Meadow Pipits, 8 Robins, a Song Thrush, 52 Redwings, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Chaffinch and 61 Snow Buntings (including a flock of 24 which came in off the sea at the north end).

                Perhaps the day’s highlight was an excellent count of 76 Moorhens including a big flock of 38 near Hooking, we tried our hardest to beat the island record of 79 but it was not to be!   Other birds included 6 Herons, 2 Whooper Swans, 116 Teal, the Green-winged Teal relocated to Brides, 12 Pintail, 18 Gadwall, single Sparrowhawk, Merlin and Peregrine, 122 Sanderling, 170 Snipe and an increase to 98 Dunlin on The Links.

An extra Raven wasn't appreciated by the Beacon pair,   Simon Davies

Snow Bunting,   Simon Davies

Black Redstart,   Simon Davies

Monday, 13 November 2017

12th and 13th November

A real blast of cold northerlies on the 12th had us hoping for some proper Arctic based birding but it proved to be pretty quiet (and very cold!) out in the field; a morning seawatch produced a single Sooty Shearwater, 629 Fulmars, 249 Guillemots and 9 Black Guillemots while 2 Red-throated and a Great-northern Diver were also offshore.

                Wildfowl included three Whooper Swans, the Green-winged Teal still on Gretchen and 9 Pintail while good winter wader counts comprised 2 Grey Plovers, 138 Sanderling, 62 Dunlin and 139 Redshank.   On the land, birds of note included a Woodcock, 6 Robins and 11 Snow Buntings.

                A very different day on the 13th with the wind dying off to practically nothing during the morning and despite there not being too many new birds, it’s always a pleasure to be out in the field in calm weather at this time of year (it doesn’t happen that often!).   The sea in the morning was more productive than yesterday though with 7 Sooty Shearwaters, a Great Skua, 7 Little Auks, 1,875 Fulmars in an hour including 14 Blue individuals, 58 Kittiwakes, and 615 large Auks sp. with 4 Red-throated and 4 Great-northern Divers on the sea.

                Two Whooper Swans, 3 Pink-footed Geese, 10 Pintail and a Goldeneye were the wildfowl highlights while three Water Rails were running around the Obs.   On the land single Peregrine and Merlin zoomed around while other birds included 4 Fieldfares, 34 Redwings, a Chiffchaff still in Holland, a Chaffinch lingering round the Obs and 8 Snow Buntings.

Rock Pipit,   Simon Davies

Bar-tailed Godwits,   Simon Davies

Saturday, 11 November 2017

10th and 11th November

Strong westerly winds again on the 10th bringing with it a few hails showers but there were some nice bright spells in between; the day’s highlight was a confiding Grey Phalarope just off the pier at Bewan – our first of the year!   Other good birds included a juvenile Iceland Gull on The Links, a Black Redstart at Nouster Pier and a high count of 530 Wigeon across the island.

                Also of note through the day were 3 Red-throated Divers, a Great-northern Diver, 2 Herons, a single Whooper Swan on Brides, the ringtail Hen Harrier, 149 Purple Sandpipers, 29 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Robins, 41 Redwings, single Fieldfare and Song Thrush, 2 Chiffchaffs still and 24 Snow Buntings.

                Stronger winds on the 11th with more north in the direction and a few more rain showers, not much time was spent out in the field but birds around the south of the island included the Black Redstart again, a Whooper Swan on the beach in Nouster, 3 Pintail on Gretchen, a single Knot with 260 Golden Plover in Loch Park, 2 Robins, 18 Redwings, 7 Twite and 4 Snow Buntings.

Grey Phalarope,   Simon Davies

Friday, 10 November 2017

8th and 9th November

Bright and sunny first thing on the 8th but that soon degenerated into a blazing gale force southwesterly with rain by lunchtime; there were a few bits around in the spell of decent weather including a juvenile Iceland Gull which flew past The Links, a late Wheatear on Lenswick beach and the drake Green-winged Teal still on Gretchen.

                Other birds of note comprised 5 Herons, 359 Wigeon, 119 Teal, single Hen Harrier, Merlin and Peregrine, 2 Jack Snipe, a Woodcock, 37 Meadow Pipits, 17 Rock Pipits, 2 Robins, 2 Song Thrush, 8 Redwings, 13 Twite and 33 Snow Buntings.

                Almost a write off on the 9th with even stronger westerly winds bringing vicious hail showers seemingly every few minutes, there were longer gaps between the squalls in the afternoon allowing us to at least half-heartedly get out into the field which produced 658 Greylag Geese, 14 Long-tailed Ducks, 5 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Red-throated Divers, a Great-northern Diver, the Hen Harrier, a Woodcock, 5 Robins, a Fieldfare, 38 Redwings, 16 Twite, 10 Snow Buntings and 6 Reed Buntings.

Wheatear,   Simon Davies

Purple Sandpiper,   Simon Davies

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

6th and 7th November

Still windy on the 6th with showers sweeping through; time spent in the field was limited with most of the highlights coming from a morning seawatch which comprised the first Velvet Scoter of the year, 416 Fulmars, 9 Sooty Shearwaters, a Little Auk, a Puffin and 345 large Auk sp. while the sea also produced 3 Red-throated Divers, 3 Great-northern Divers and 5 Risso’s Dolphins.   The limited sightings on the land included 2 Robins, 12 Fieldfares and 36 Redwings.

                A surprising day on the 7th, as after some light rain had moved through first thing it was a great day in the field, with much lighter winds than the forecast had promised; the main feature of the day was a good arrival of 104+ Woodcock (not all the island was covered) while other birds on the land in the calm weather included a Jack Snipe, 2 Hen Harriers, 2 Peregrines (including a new ‘Arctic’ type male), 34 Skylarks, 39 Meadow Pipits, 30 Rock Pipits, 10 Robins, 55 Blackbirds, 24 Fieldfares, 4 Song Thrushes, 68 Redwings, 3 Blackcaps, 4 Chiffchaffs, 3 Chaffinches, 2 Bramblings, a ‘Northwestern’ type Common Redpoll and 36 Snow Buntings.

                We took advantage of the surprise good weather and did an impromptu, semi-organised wader count round the coast at high tide where most noteworthy was an excellent total of 804 Purple Sandpipers along with 589 Turnstone, 170 Redshank, 106 Curlew, 12 Bar-tailed Godwits and a single Knot.   Also feeding in the surf round the shore were good numbers of Gulls with 496 Common Gulls, 19 Black-headed Gulls and 174 Herring Gulls.

                Wildfowl totals included 365 Wigeon, 21 Gadwall, the Green-winged Teal, 315 Teal, 48 Mallard, 3 Pintail, 12 Shoveler, 235 Eider, 10 Long-tailed Ducks and 8 Red-breasted Mergansers while 7 Heron stalked around the edges.

Arctic Peregrine,   Bryony Baker

Common Redpoll,   Simon Davies

Woodcock,   Simon Davies

Blackcap on the Beacon,   Simon Davies

Monday, 6 November 2017

4th and 5th November

A breezy day but plenty of bright sunshine throughout with only a few showers on the 4th producing a decent day out in the field; landbirds were represented by a female Hen Harrier, a Sparrowhawk, 16 Skylarks, 5 Robins, a Ring Ouzel, 43 Blackbirds, a Fieldfare, 4 Song Thrushes, 93 Redwing, a Blackcap, a Chiffchaff, a Goldcrest, 3 Brambling, 19 Twite and 13 Snow Buntings.

                The Green-winged Teal was still on Gretchen with other wildfowl including 7 Whooper Swans, 11 Pintail and 7 Long-tailed Ducks while some detailed wader counts comprised 329 Golden Plover, 213 Lapwings, 192 Turnstone, 182 Redshank, a Woodcock and 207 Purple Sandpipers.   4 Red-throated Divers and 6 Great-northern Divers were offshore and 6 Herons were around the lochs.

                A horrible day on the 5th with a blazing NW wind bringing with it countless vicious, wintery squalls with hail, sleet and rain all strongly represented; highlights were thin on the ground with the Green-winged Teal still on Gretchen, a notable increase of 21 Pintail, 9 Long-tailed Ducks, 3 Red-throated and 4 Great-northern Divers, a single Sooty Shearwater the pick of the seawatching and the ringtail Hen Harrier floating round the Obs again.   There were at least 3 Risso’s Dolphins lingering in Nouster Bay through the morning.

Hen Harrier,   Simon Davies

Fulmars having a chat,   Simon Davies

Saturday, 4 November 2017

2nd and 3rd November

Blessedly calm all day producing a good day in the field on the 2nd with a few lingering birds popping up through the day including a Black Redstart at The Lurn, a Ring Ouzel in East Loch Park, 8 Robins, 16 Blackbirds, a Song Thrush, 24 Redwings, a Blackcap, 3 Chiffchaff, a Chaffinch, 5 Brambling and 41 Snow Buntings.   Other birds included a second winter Iceland Gull past Brides, a ringtail Hen Harrier, 2 Peregrines, single Jack Snipe and Woodcock and the Green-winged Teal still while offshore were 7 Red-throated Divers, 10 Great-northern Divers, a Manx Shearwater and a Little Auk.
Breezier on the 3rd with a brisk westerly wind bringing a few nasty showers: high tide produced some decent counts of birds feeding in the surf including 227 Eiders, 218 Purple Sandpipers, 240 Turnstone and 120 Common Gulls while a Sooty Shearwater passed offshore.   On the land a Long-eared Owl in Holland was the highlight along with 5 Herons, a Merlin, 4 Chiffchaffs, a Rook, 4 Chaffinches, 2 Bramblings and 17 Snow Buntings.

Eider,   Simon Davies

Snow Bunting,   Simon Davies


Thursday, 2 November 2017

31st October and 1st November

A very wet day with long spells of low cloud, drizzle and rain on the 31st but the winds were very light so when it was dry and clear it was nice to be out and about, just a shame that those spells were few and far between!   An adult Iceland Gull flew past Trinley where a flock of 46 Snow Buntings came in off the sea while birds offshore included 3 Sooty Shearwaters, a Pomarine Skua and 4 Little Auks.

                Other birds of note were few and far between with 2 Water Rails, a Grey Plover, a Ruff and just a handful of Thrushes and Robins remaining from the recent arrivals.

                The wind picked up on the 1st bringing with it waves of drizzly rain, it was never pleasant out in the field and rewards were thin on the ground for those who ventured out; a single Pale-bellied Brent Goose was on the sea off Bewan (only the second of the year) where there were also 5 Great-northern Divers and 8 Pintail while 5 Whooper Swans came in across the sea.   A few more Thrushes dotted around included 50+ Redwings and a couple of Fieldfares with a Common Redpoll around the Beacon.

Iceland Gull,   Simon Davies

Brent Goose,   Simon Davies

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

29th and 30th October

The blazing westerlies of the last couple of days had slackened off a tiny bit on the 29th and had shifted more into the north and become much colder; a short seawatch proved to be productive as 5 Sooty Shearwaters, 4 Blue Fulmars, 3 Little Auks, 6 Puffins and 342 large Auk sp. passed the hide while 7 Red-throated and 5 Great-northern Divers were also seen.   The Green-winged Teal reappeared on Gretchen along with 20 Gadwall, 12 Long-tailed Ducks, a Goldeneye and 3 Red-breasted Mergansers while 122 Sanderling and a Ruff were of note.

                A couple of new passerines popped up with a Black Redstart on the west coast and a Mistle Thrush on The Links while an interesting young male Peregrine, also on The Links must have had some northern genes in there somewhere.   Other land migrants included a Sparrowhawk, 8 Robins, a Wheatear still, 22 Blackbirds, 3 Song Thrushes, 13 Redwings, 4 Blackcaps, a Chiffchaff, 3 Chaffinches, a Brambling, a Siskin, a Common Redpoll and 64 Snow Buntings.

Peregrine,   Simon Davies

                The wind had mercifully dropped away to almost nothing on the 30th and gradually moved round into the south; the sea, once again provided most of the interest with our third FEA’S PETREL of the year passing the hide at 11:30 with presumably the same bird coming back round at 13:20 (or maybe even a different bird!), also seen offshore were 6 Great-northern Divers, 41 Sooty Shearwaters, 2 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Pomarine Skuas, 3 Great Skuas, 4 Skua sp., 30 Little Auks, 51 Puffins and a Minke Whale while hour long sample counts included 1,408 Fulmars (with nine Blues), 881 Kittiwakes and 2,063 large Auk sp.

                The Green-winged Teal was again on Gretchen while on the land birds included two juvenile Rooks by the Obs, 11 Robins, 28 Blackbirds, a Fieldfare, a Song Thrush, 39 Redwings, a Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Chaffinch, a Brambling and 47 Snow Buntings.

Sanderling,   Simon Davies
Red-throated Divers,   Simon Davies

Sunday, 29 October 2017

27th and 28th October

A really tough couple of days with gale force westerlies blasting the island; it seemed like we went straight from autumn into winter overnight on the 27th with none of yesterday’s rares or scarcities seen and a big reduction in Thrush and other migrant numbers, there was a trickle of birds passing offshore with a late Sooty Shearwater, 3 Blue Fulmars and a Puffin with a few Auks seen off Trinley while 4 Red-throated and 4 Great-northern Divers were on the sea.   Wildfowl counts of note comprised 4 Whooper Swans, 6 Pintail, 287 Wigeon and 14 Gadwall.

                The reduced number of land migrants included 2 Sparrowhawks, 10 Robins, a Wheatear, a Ring Ouzel, 30 Blackbirds, a Fieldfare, 3 Song Thrushes, 65 Redwing, a Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaffs, 7 Goldcrest, a Chaffinch, 13 Brambling, 2 Siskin and 31 Snow Buntings.

                The blazing westerly wind brought with it regular, nasty showers on the 28th making things even more tricky out and about, it seemed there were even fewer birds around the island today but it could just have been a function of the nasty conditions; migrants did include a late Tree Pipit near Southness, a Sparrowhawk, 11 Robins, a Wheatear, 37 Blackbirds, 4 Song Thrushes, 49 Redwing, 2 Blackcap, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Chaffinch and 10 Snow Buntings.   A few wader counts included 4 Grey Plover, 114 Sanderling, 46 Purple Sandpipers (plus five freshly raptor predated ones around Bridesness Point!), 2 Woodcock and a Black-tailed Godwit.

Siskin,   Simon Davies

Don't you hate it when you get Redwing feathers stuck in your throat...

Friday, 27 October 2017

25th and 26th October

Strong westerlies and frequent showers mad it hard work in the field but there were still plenty of rewards to be had for those willing to put the time in with our third Pallas’s Warbler of the autumn found at the Old Kirk yard the highlight, with lingering scarcities comprising the Olive-backed Pipit still opposite the Surgery, yesterday’s ringed Great Grey Shrike still round the Obs and the Red-breasted Flycatcher still active in Holland (we have long been wondering whether it’s going to make it off the island!).

                Migrants across the island showed slight decreases with the change of weather but still included a Sparrowhawk, 2 Woodcock, a Woodpigeon, a Short-eared Owl, the Tree Pipit again with the OBP, a Dunnock, 30 Robins, 7 Wheatears, 3 Ring Ouzels, 178 Blackbirds, 9 Fieldfares, 19 Song Thrushes, 758 Redwings, 9 Blackcaps, 2 Chiffchaff, 13 Goldcrests, 4 Chaffinches, 22 Bramblings, a Goldfinch, a Common Redpoll and 8 Snow Buntings.

                Four Red-throated and 3 Great-northern Divers were offshore while other wildfowl included 20 Whooper Swans, 5 Pink-footed Geese, 5 Pintail, 5 Long-tailed Ducks and 5 Red-breasted Mergansers.   A Grey Plover and 2 lingering Ruff were the wader highlights.

Pintail,   Simon Davies

                The wind had swung further round into the NW and remained brisk on the 26th but it brought with it some good new birds with our second Dusky Warbler of the year found at Longar, our second Richard’s Pipit of the year identified from just a leg and a few feathers after it had a run in with a Merlin on Westbeach and a juvenile Iceland Gull at Bewan – the first of the autumn.   To add to the day our remaining scarcities were still in place with the Olive-backed Pipit, Great Grey Shrike and Red-breasted Flycatcher still in situ.

                With the northwesterlies came an influx of certain other migrants with another pulse of 910 Redwings comprising big, dark, long-winged Icelandic birds and a jump to 84 Snow Buntings and 143 Purple Sandpipers; other migrant totals included 2 Sparrowhawks, 4 Jack Snipe, 5 Woodcock, 57 Robins, 2 Black Redstarts (including a fine adult male), 7 Wheatears, 6 Ring Ouzels, 253 Blackbirds, 17 Fieldfares, 50 Song Thrushes, 5 Blackcaps, 12 Chiffchaffs, 17 Goldcrests, 7 Chaffinches, 42 Brambling, a Siskin, 4 Common Redpolls and a Yellowhammer by the lighthouse – the third of the year.

                Dabbling ducks showed some increases with totals comprising 317 Wigeon, 19 Gadwall, 107 Teal, 60 Mallard, 6 Pintail and 23 Shoveler while 293 Turnstone, 253 Snipe and 2 Grey Plover were also of note and 3 migrant Water Rails were seen in funny places.

Dusky Warbler,   George Gay

Iceland Gull,   Simon Davies
Richard's Pipit remains,   George Gay

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

23rd and 24th October

Still easterly winds but heavy rain soon moved in on the 23rd and the wind slowly swung around to the SW; it was a tough day in the field with long periods being just awful to be out in, migrant totals were again high though but not much new was unearthed with totals comprising a Peregrine, 4 Jack Snipe, 15 Woodcock, a Grey Wagtail, 2 Dunnock, 41 Robins, 2 Redstarts, 9 Wheatears, 12 Ring Ouzels, 201 Blackbirds, 35 Fieldfare, 51 Song Thrush, 1,219 Redwings, 2 Mistle Thrush, 4 Blackcap, 5 Chiffchaff, a Willow Warbler, 13 Goldcrest, a Chaffinch, 25 Brambling, 4 Siskins and 3 Snow Buntings.

                Four Red-throated Divers were offshore along with a Great-northern Diver and 8 Long-tailed Ducks while single Ruff and Black-tailed Godwits remained and 7 Herons were dotted around the island.

                A bit of rain first thing on the 24th gave way to a windy day with a force 7 SW whipping across the island, despite this some good highlights were picked out with our second Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll of the autumn on the west coast near Gretchen, yet another Olive-backed Pipit behind the Surgery and a Great Grey Shrike caught at Ancum.   In amongst the other totals there were a range of lingering ‘summer’ migrants which are getting to be on the late side now with 3 Redstarts, 13 Wheatears and a Tree Pipit to mention.

                Totals today included a Hen Harrier, 2 Merlin, a Peregrine, 2 Jack Snipe, 15 Woodcock, a Woodpigeon, a Grey Wagtail, a Dunnock, 58 Robins, 16 Ring Ouzels, 292 Blackbirds, 82 Fieldfare, 88 Song Thrush, 1,442 Redwings, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Garden Warbler, 5 Blackcap, 13 Chiffchaff, 18 Goldcrest, the Red-breasted Flycatcher still, 12 Chaffinches, 58 Bramblings, 45 Twite, 11 Common Redpoll and 10 Snow Buntings.

                Other little bits included a juvenile Glaucous Gull at Bewan, a Grey Plover and a good total of 84 Purple Sandpipers.

Great Grey Shrike,   Simon Davies

Ring Ouzel,   Simon Davies

Glaucous Gull,   George Gay

Monday, 23 October 2017

22nd October

Another great day with lighter easterly winds and overcast conditions; it had been clear for long periods overnight so plenty of birds had the chance to move on but there were still excellent numbers of migrants spread over the island with a few more highlights including 2 Shorelarks – with one at Nether Breck and a second bird in Nouster (found while rushing to twitch the first one!), an Olive-backed Pipit at Westness and another beast of a female Arctic Peregrine on Torness.

                Migrants totals comprised 2 Sparrowhawks, 4 Woodpigeons, 4 Grey Wagtails, 3 Dunnocks, 136 Robins, a Black Redstart, a Redstart, a male Stonechat, 15 Wheatears, 18 Ring Ouzels, 377 Blackbirds, 35 Fieldfares, 120 Song Thrushes, 1,839 Redwing, a Lesser Whitethroat, 14 Blackcap, 3 Yellow-browed Warblers, 15 Chiffchaffs, 55 Goldcrest, the Red-breasted Flycatcher still, 8 Chaffinches, 102 Brambling, 5 Siskin, 5 Common Redpolls and 44 Snow Buntings.

                Wildfowl totals included 25 Whooper Swans, 12 Pink-footed Geese, 600 Greylag Geese, 210 Teal, the Green-winged Teal still, 65 Mallard, 2 Pintail, 18 Shoveler, 15 Long-tailed Ducks and 4 Goldeneye while 7 Red-throated and 3 Great-northern Divers were offshore, 8 Herons were present and another late Arctic Tern was floating around with waders totalling 790 Golden Plover, 90 Purple Sandpipers, single Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit and 2 Jack Snipe.


Ring Ouzel

Purple Sandpiper

Photos Simon Davies

Sunday, 22 October 2017

21st October

While there were still thousands of birds spread across the island, the magical easterly wind had shot up to a blasting force 7-8 which, when combined with the long periods of driving rain made counting them much harder!   There were inevitably highlights through the day, with a smart COUE’S ARCTIC REDPOLL found at Nether Linney, now 2 Pallas’s Warblers present with the original bird still in Bewan House garden and a new bird seen along the wall at the top of The Links and the first 3 Glaucous Gulls of the autumn at the top end with a big arrival of Gulls which comprised 632 Herring, 750 Great Black-backs and 165 Commons.

                Numbers of other migrants were slightly down on yesterday but still very impressive and included 2 Jack Snipe, 18 Woodcock, 3 Woodpigeons, the late Swallow again, a good 6 Grey Wagtails, 143 Robins, 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Redstarts, a Stonechat, 10 Wheatears, 22 Ring Ouzels, 300 Blackbirds, 16 Fieldfares, 99 Song Thrushes, 2,053 Redwings, 2 Mistle Thrushes, a Lesser Whitethroat, 11 Blackcap, a Yellow-browed Warbler, 9 Chiffchaff, 58 Goldcrest, the Red-breasted Flycatcher hanging on, 10 Chaffinch, 48 Brambling, 3 Siskin, 2 Common Redpolls, a Lapland Bunting and 3 Snow Buntings.

                Nine Whooper Swans lingered and the Green-winged Teal was still present with 75 Teal.

Black Redstart


Photos Simon Davies