Sunday, 7 December 2014

5th-7th December

There's been a definite 'chill' in the air as a strong north-westerly wind and frequent hail or sleet showers can make for unpleasant conditions. A couple of late Chiffchaffs on 5th included a ringed 'tristis' type at Brigg and there was an equally late (or perhaps even wintering) Black Redstart at Hooking on 6th. A check of the waders on the links the same day saw 45 Ringed Plovers and 76 Dunlin counted and 25 Shovelers were on the loch at Hooking. The drake Green-winged Teal has been present throughout and the hybrid American x Eurasian Wigeon reappeared on the latter two dates. Some other good counts of ducks were made on the 7th amounting to 407 Wigeons, 10 Gadwalls, 177 Teal, 20 Pintails, 33 Tufted Ducks, 20 Long-tailed Ducks, 8 Goldeneyes and 338 Eiders. There were still 12 Tundra Bean Geese (including the juvenile which hadn't been seen since 30th Nov) plus the Greenland White-fronted Goose, 59 Pink-footed Geese, 7 Barnacle Geese and the Pale-bellied Brent Goose. Other odds and sods of note included 9 Red-throated Divers on the sea, 148 Purple Sandpipers and 14 Snow Buntings.

Green-winged Teal

Thursday, 4 December 2014

1st-4th December

Paperwork, maintenance and all those jobs we ignored in the autumn tend to take priority at this time of the year but we do always try and get some fresh air each day-even if its just a walk with the dogs. Decent weather during the period has allowed most sections of the island to be visited at least once and its the current influx of Tundra Bean Geese which have been the most noteworthy. Between 7 and 10 have been seen daily, but we know there are at least 15 actually present while the juvenile Greenland White-fronted Goose remains, as does the Pale-bellied Brent Goose, 7 Barnacle Geese but some new Pink-footed Geese have arrived as their number reached 62 on 4th. Other wildfowl include 4 Whooper Swans, a Shelduck (3rd-4th) and peak counts of 215 Wigeon, 15 Pintails, 25 Tufted Ducks, 184 Eiders (all 3rd), 22 Shovelers (2nd), 163 Teal and 86 Mallard (4th) and the drake Green-winged Teal has been present throughout. The Grey Plover is still here, a late Short-eared Owl was at Ancum (2nd) and there have been up to 3 Hen Harriers, 2 Merlins and a Pergrine present. Passerine numbers are thinning rapidly but the Dunnock, Blackcap and at least 3 Chiffchaffs remain and peak Thrush counts came to 62 Blackbirds, 23 Fieldfares, 67 Redwings and 8 Song Thrushes. Perhaps as many as 40 Robins are lingering on the isle but the highest daily count has been 17 on 2nd and Twite and Snow Bunting numbers both peaked at 48 on the 3rd.

Reed Bunting

Monday, 1 December 2014

28th-30th November

There was nothing significant to report from a wet 28th and other than a Jack Snipe and Chiffchaff the 29th was a quiet day too. A mild and calm 30th drew most attention but a chance to work through the Geese revealed little change with the juvenile Greenland White-fronted Goose still present as were 9 Tundra Bean Geese (including the unassigned juvenile from 27th which we now believe to be of this race), 48 Pink-footed Geese and the 7 Barnacle Geese still. The drake Green-winged Teal remains on Gretchen, but 6 Woodcocks included a few new birds and the 20th individual of 2014 was caught and ringed with a new Water Rail also caught somehow in the falling apart Heligoland 1! The calm conditions also allowed the nets at Holland to be opened and with nearly 40 birds processed (29 new) it was a surprisingly productive session. Thrushes made up the majority of the days passerine total with 72 Blackbirds (23 new birds trapped/ringed), 39 Fieldfares, 28 Redwings and 4 Song Thrushes logged. A new Dunnock and Blackcap were also ringed, with a second of the latter at the Post office with 9 Robins, 14 Rock Pipits, 13 Twite and 35 Snow Buntings also recorded-not a bad day considering its December tomorrow..

Thursday, 27 November 2014

27th November

A bit more time in the field today with 2 out the 6 census routes visited and an hour also spent sea-watching. A late Great Skua, 2 Little Auks and a 'dark phase' Fulmar were the highlights from that session with 139 Fulmars, 95 Kittiwakes and 91 Auk sp. also counted. There were 10 Tundra Bean Geese (3 near the Lighthouse, 3 Surgery and 4 Gretchen) while an 11th individual-a juvenile of currently unassigned race (but perhaps Taiga?) was also near the Surgery. The Pale-bellied Brent Goose was still at Trolla Vatn and there were also 49 Pink-footed Geese, at least 1 Grey Plover and a Black Redstart at Senness was the only passerine worth mentioning.

 Bean Goose ssp. The bill length and shape, lack of a forehead and fairly long looking neck are perhaps more indicative of Taiga Bean Goose? Or are the apparent differing features from all the recent Tundra Bean Geese simply a result of this bird being a juvenile?

For comparison a record shot of the 3 Tundra Bean Geese near the Lighthouse

24th-26th November

In better weather some outdoor trap and maintenance work has taken priority but there have been a few bits and pieces seen during the period. The drake Green-winged Teal has been seen on Gretchen daily, while up to 9 lingering Tundra Bean Geese on 24th was the maximum count. The juvenile Greenland White-fronted Goose and Goosander were also seen on that date and on 25th an Iceland/Glaucous Gull passed the Lurn too quickly to be identified with certainty. Passerines have included c30/40 new Redwings/Blackbirds daily, with the occasional Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Robin also new in. At least 3 Black Redstarts included a stunning adult male caught in the Heligolands on 25th on which date a Greenfinch also flew over.

Black Redstart

Sunday, 23 November 2014

22nd-23rd November

Strong south-easterlies and heavy rain on 22nd made for difficult birding conditions once again, but a few hours on the sheltered west coast found reasonable numbers of Robins and Thrushes-some likely new arrivals. Presumably last weeks drake Goosander was now off Nether Linnay, where there was also the first Grey Plover in a while and a Short-eared Owl in the fields. 10 Tundra Bean Geese included 3 possible new birds at Lenswick, with at least 7 still near Gretchen and this was confirmed on 23rd when a whole island 'Goose census' revealed 13 Tundra Bean Geese to be present. A total of 1142 Greylag Geese were counted, plus 56 Pink-footed Geese, the same juvenile Greenland White-fronted Goose and 7 Barnacle Geese. It was also a good chance to tot up some wildfowl numbers and some 335 Wigeon (plus the hybrid), 155 Teal, the Green-winged Teal, 50 Mallards, 9 Pintails, 13 Tufted Ducks and 22 Long-tailed Ducks were among the species logged. There was a movement of Gulls mid-morning with 27 Black-headed, 980 Common, 330 Herring and 75 Great black-backed Gull all recorded heading north up the east coast in an hour, with many passing back south a short time later. There were also 17 Red-throated Divers on the sea, another high count of 179 Rock Doves while passerines included a Black Redstart, 2 new Blackcaps in Holland gardens, a Common Redpoll, 55 Twite and 62 Snow Buntings.

Friday, 21 November 2014

20th-21st November

The sun finally came out on the 20th but not for long-it was gone again by the following day as signs of the next south-easterly storm began to show itself by afternoon. A ringing session at Holland gardens early on the former date yielded at least 3 unexpected Long-eared Owls about at dawn (2 of which were later trapped and ringed) and also a late Dunnock. A Short-eared Owl was then seen flying south past the Observatory over the sea on 21st when 2 Goldfinches popped up at the north end. We don't usually report Rock Doves but an impressive build up of 118 in the crop fields around the Observatory was noteworthy with the same food source no doubt attracting the Yellowhammer which was seen on both dates. The Green-winged Teal remains as do 7 Barnacle Geese, up to 50 Pink-footed Geese and the 2 European White-fronted Geese. There have been a few more Tundra Bean Geese and a turnover of birds seems likely, with 7 on the 20th becoming at least 9 (possibly 10) on the 21st.
Long-eared Owl

17th-19th November

Apologies for the lack of recent updates-we've had a few internet issues lately. Most of the interest from the three day period has been Goose orientated with at least 5 Tundra Bean Geese present throughout, along with 2 European White fronted Geese-with the juvenile Greenland White-fronted Goose still on 17th, Up to 54 Pink-footed and 7 Barnacle Geese throughout and the Pale bellied Brent Goose again on 19th. The drake Green-winged Teal continues to be seen daily, slightly odd was a Little Auk which flew inland from Nouster Bay on 18th while dwindling numbers of Woodcock left just 6 by the 17th. Thrushes continue to feature with 2 Mistle Thrushes and a Ring Ouzel new on 19th, a peak count of 12 Song Thrushes the same day while approximate daily totals of the other species have fluctuated at around 150 Blackbirds, 200 Fieldfares and 80 Redwings. Occasional Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests have been seen daily, the highest count of Robins was 18 on 17th when the Tree Sparrow was also seen again. A couple of Goldfinches on 18th included at least 1 un-ringed (hence new) bird and on 19th there were 3 Woodpigeons, a smart male Mealy Redpoll at Rue and an impressive count of 225 Snow Buntings.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

16th November

The never ending Autumn continues (not that we're complaining!) with blustery easterlies again seeing large numbers of birds sheltering on the leeward coast. The day's highlight though was a duck, with a less than annual (but 3rd this year) drake Goosander on Gretchen for a few minutes early morning. After yesterday's single it looks like we're on for another Tundra Bean Goose influx, 6 today began with a pair in fields east of Holland House followed by a group of 4 more near the Observatory in the evening. Mirroring the last, 2011 influx they were joined by 2 (adult) European White-fronted Geese on the west coast but bucking the trend was a juvenile Greenland White-fronted Goose in the company of the first 2 Bean's. There were also 58 Pink-footed Geese still, plus 14 Woodcocks, a Jack Snipe, 647 Herring and 109 Great black-backed Gulls. More waves of Thrushes seemed to arrive, with increased counts of 281 Blackbirds, 24 Song Thrushes and 210 Redwings while Fieldfare numbers reduced to 147. A couple of  Short eared Owls were on the west coast and other passerines included 2 Black Redstarts, 21 Robins, 2 Blackcaps and 4 Common Redpolls-the later at least were definitely new.

Goosander-one day the sun will come out!!
And almost as bad-2 of today's Tundra Bean Geese

Saturday, 15 November 2014

14th-15th November

Not so much to report from the 14th, but a Yellowhammer was new at Holland gardens, a few more Woodcock were seen (5) and there were still large numbers of 'big' Gulls around with 565 Herring and 210 Great-black backed Gulls counted. Heavy rain overnight brought more new birds on a calmer 15th, the highlight being a Tundra Bean Goose at Viggay and also seen were 54 Pink-footed Geese, the 7 Barnacle Geese and Pale-bellied Brent Goose again at Bewan. The Green-winged Teal was still present (as was the American x Eurasian Wigeon hybrid at Bridesness) and presumed wintering Tufted Ducks increased to 23. There were also 14 Woodcocks, a Short-eared Owl at Stennabrek, a Black Redstart at Howar, Ring Ouzel at Viggay, 200 Blackbirds, 298 Fieldfares, 3 Chiffchaffs, a ringed Goldfinch at Howar, a Siskin new at Bridesness and 97 Snow Buntings.

Friday, 14 November 2014

12th-13th November

Its a bit late for the strong south-easterlies of the last few days to bring masses of birds but newcomers are still arriving and the birding is good given it's mid-November. Another wave of thrushes late in the afternoon on 13th saw Blackbirds treble from recent numbers to 173-the majority on the sheltered west coast. There were also 80 Redwings, 3 Black Redstarts (including an adult male), 8 Blackcaps, 5 new Chiffchaffs while 2 Goldfinches were likely the birds from the 11th. Increased numbers of Gulls are also typical during such winds and 589 Herring Gulls and 321 Great black-backed Gulls were present. The following day 632 of the former and 453 of the latter were counted and there was also a Great Skua, 3 Whooper Swans, 59 lingering Pink-footed Geese, the Pale bellied Brent Goose again and 12 Pintail.  The drake Green-winged Teal was on Gretchen Loch on both dates while 2 Short eared Owls at Torness were new on 13th. Robin numbers were up on that date to 24, Fieldfares up to 107, at least half of the 171 Blackbirds were likely different from the 12th as were 2 of the 3 Black Redstarts. There were also 12 Song Thrushes, a handful each of new Dunnock's, Goldcrests, Finches and 71 Snow Buntings.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

10th-11th November

The 10th was another still, windless day but a change on 11th to the strong south-easterlies again means there's no let up in the birding just yet. The main sightings from the former date were of 2 Sparrowhawks (with a new male trapped and ringed), 3 Hen Harriers, 4 Knot, 26 (late) Black-headed Gulls passing south, a Woodpigeon, 34 Twite, 2 Goldfinches and 40 Snow Buntings. The drake Green-winged Teal was present on Gretchen on both days and there was also a smattering of new Robins and Warblers, while any Thrushes seen were thought to be mainly lingering birds. On 11th the Short-toed Lark was found to still be present in the stubble field at Nether Linnay and of the new arrivals 9 Goldcrests on the western coast were the most notable. There was also a Water Rail on the coast, 2 Dunnocks were likely new and a Black Redstart was caught and ringed in the new Heligoland trap.
Black Redstart


Sunday, 9 November 2014

8th-9th November

Much more pleasant conditions over the last few days have allowed us to have a good look around the island in the aftermath of the latest south-easterly storm. The 8th was definitely a day for the ringers with the mist-nets at Holland House open all day and 110+ birds were trapped and ringed. A good total of some 88 Blackbirds were processed while the 12 Woodcocks caught and ringed represents a new annual record in itself-a total of 9 were ringed in 2013, and the annual total most years is of only 4 or less! A Yellow-browed Warbler in the Nether Linnay crop and Great Grey Shrike near the School were the highlights and counts from the day came to 6 Barnacle Geese, a Sparrowhawk (trapped on 9th and found to be wearing a Norwegian ring), 39 Woodcocks, 2 Woodpigeons, a Short-eared Owl, a Dunnock, 22 Robins, 228 Blackbirds, 230 Fieldfares, 11 Song Thrushes, 182 Redwings, 3 new Blackcaps and a Common Redpoll. Most of those listed above were present in similar numbers on 9th, but 33 Rock Pipits were counted, Robins increased to 33, there were also 3 Black Redstarts, 308 Fieldfares, 3 more new Blackcaps and 6 Chiffchaffs included 3 'Siberian' type birds with newcomers at Newbiggin and Holland gardens. Presumably the same juvenile Pale-bellied Brent Goose reappeared at Trolla Vatn, likewise a Great Grey Shrike in the middle of the island was presumed to be yesterday's, but 10 Rooks were new in as was a Water Rail in the rocks at Stromness Point and Snow Bunting numbers were up to 95.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

7th November

Another torrid day weather wise, with heavy rain throughout although the strong south-easterly wind was more tolerable by late afternoon. After almost 24 hours of being stuck indoors we had to just get outside and with the first walk of the traps resulting in a Great Grey Shrike caught and ringed and 10 Woodcocks seen there was plenty of incentive to go and get wet!! A second Great Grey Shrike was found sheltering along the west coat near the airfield and the Woodcock total reached a record breaking 174-although with less than a third of the island covered the real total would have no doubt been in excess of 300!!! Only the (apparently) sheltered north and west coastline were checked in 4 hours of afternoon birding with remaining sightings comprising 2 Long-eared Owls (Antabrek/Dennishill), 3 Short-eared Owls (2 on the rocks off Senness/West dyke), a Black Redstart, 356 Blackbirds, 55 Redwings, 185 Fieldfares, 10 Song Thrushes and 21 Snow Buntings.

Great Grey Shrike

Thursday, 6 November 2014

5th-6th November

A couple of completely different days with a cool, northerly wind yet pleasant day on 5th replaced by south-easterly gales and heavy rain rendering the 6th un-birdable past 12pm! On the former date the Short-toed Lark was found to still be present in the stubble field at Nether Linnay while the drake Green-winged Teal remained on Gretchen Loch. Also seen were 13 Pintails, a late Kestrel, 2 Black Redstarts-including a new individual at Howar, a similar selection of the usual Thrushes, Robins and Warblers also included some new birds, 75 Twite, a Mealy Redpoll and 61 Snow Buntings. An early attempt at sea-watching on 6th had some unexpected results, with 4 eared-Owls (too distant to be identified) picked up separately and then coming in-off west of the Lighthouse in just an hour! A juvenile Pomarine Skua, Great Skua and 'dark' phase Fulmar were more predictable while an attempt at birding around the (slightly) sheltered Westness area found a Long-eared Owl offshore and attempting to come in there which was presumed different from the sea-watch birds. There were also at least 5 Woodcocks and a Jack Snipe plus several Thrushes and Robins sheltering around the walls so it'll be interesting to see what's around when the weather's more co-operative.