Monday, 3 August 2015

1st to 2nd August

As each day passes come more signs of autumn, with returning waders mainly featuring on the first two days of August. Ruff numbers built from 5 on 1st (although 9 may have been present) to 8 the next day while there was also single Green and Common Sandpipers on the former date and counts of 801 Golden Plovers, 20 Whimbrels (including a flock of 16),  156 Curlews and 125 Redshanks were made on the latter. A Kestrel was new on 2nd, meanwhile Wildfowl are becoming more evident with 31 Teals on 1st, 10 Shovelers on 2nd and the Whooper Swan is still here. Big flocks of Arctic Terns also remain with 3137 on the 2nd but were also seeing some late breeding success with half a dozen newly fledged birds and a handful of large chicks ringed at the Nouster colony. Were expecting more passerine interest as easterly winds and rain arrive in the next few days but there was clearly a movement of Hirundines ahead of this weather on the 2nd, when there was an island record count of 19 Sand Martins, plus 112 Swallows and a House Martin. The first dispersing juvenile Sedge Warbler was caught and ringed at the observatory that evening and there was a small influx of 36 Wheatears while a couple of Common Redpolls lingered.

Friday, 31 July 2015

27th-31st July

July's end brought a Hobby, Merlin and Peregrine to the island, providing some action after a quiet few days with only a Leach's Petrel on the 27th and the Black Tern at Brides Ness on the 30th of particular interest. Wader passage produced a Ruff on the 30th, rising to 3 on the 31st, a Green Sandpiper and 2 Greenshank on the 27th, with 1 Greenshank still on the 29th.
Merlin photo by Peter Butler

Dunlin and Greenshank by George Gay
The island has been quiet for passerines, as perhaps expected for the time of year. Redpoll numbers peaked at 9 on the 27th, but are being seen everyday in small numbers between Holland and the Mill. There were 5 Sedge Warblers on the 27th and 1 Chiffchaff seen at a variety of locations on the island throughout the period.

Redpoll photo by Mark Warren

Sunday, 26 July 2015

22nd - 26th July

There are no new birds to report from the last four days, although the highlights of summer are still sticking around, with the White-rumped Sandpiper seen at Bewan loch on the 24th, a Red-necked Phalarope at Nouster Beach on the 23rd and the Black Tern seen on the 22nd, 24th and 26th. The Quail was heard again in the fields around the post office from the 24th.

 White-rumped Sandpiper (photos Mark Warren)

Autumn seawatching season begun on the 25th with a Sooty Shearwater passing, with 7 Manx Shearwaters also seen. A Short-eared Owl showed well to one observer at Gravity and 13 Redpoll were present (with 7 trapped) on the 25th. Other migrants included 3 Green Sandpipers and the first Red-breasted Merganser of the autumn on the 22nd. Arctic Tern counts peaked at 4133.

Short-eared Owl photo George Gay
The recent flurry of Hummingbird Hawkmoth sightings was proven to consist of at least two different individuals on the 25th, when one was found dead around the obs before one was seen around Nouster.

Hummingbird Hawkmoth (photo Mark Warren)

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

21st July

A Honey Buzzard took us by surprise today, startling the observer as it flew north over Gretchen loch at 4pm, pursued by Arctic Terns. It was tracked up the island to Nether Linnay, before turning south over Torness and being lost to sight.

Honey Buzzard photos by George Gay
There was no sign of yesterday's White-rumped Sandpiper despite a thorough look by a volunteer team who are quite embarrassed about misidentifying it.

Monday, 20 July 2015

16th July - 20th July

The 18th brought the island's fourth ever record of a Bee-eater, found over Westness and watched drifting in land towards the East Links, where it wasn't refound, but presumably was the bird seen on Sanday the next day. This follows just two months after the island's third record was seen over three dates in late May.

Bee-eater photo by Samuel Perfect
A White-rumped Sandpiper was a surprise find at Sandsheen on the 20th - the second record for the island this year.
White-rumped Sandpiper photo by George Gay
Black Tern remains seen irregularly on the island, with sightings at Nouster and Westness on the 18th, whilst two Swifts were also seen on the 18th. Last week's Quail was heard on the 19th and the Whooper Swan remained on its usual lochs on all dates. Redpoll numbers peaked at 23 on the 16th, tailing off to 14 on the 18th and 11 on the 19th. A Ruff was present at the Post Office flash on the 20th.

A busy night of trapping on the 19th/20th resulted in 114 Storm Petrels, with 3 controls and 111 new birds, with one having unusual leucism. Amongst the Storm Petrels, 1 Leach's Petrel was trapped and ringed.
Storm Petrel photo by Stephen Rutt
A Hummingbird Hawkmoth was seen at Holland gardens on the 18th and at Ancum on the 20th.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

12th July - 15th July

Despite being midsummer bird movement is ticking over quite nicely. The highlight was a Leach's Petrel, trapped and ringed overnight on the 15th, as were 48 Storm Petrels, the highest total of the year so far. Also newly arrived on the island are Common Redpolls, a count of 3 on the 14th had risen to 14 on the 15th, while the Quail near the Post Office was also heard on those two dates. On the 14th a Ruff was briefly on the Post Office flash, while Golden Plover numbers had peaked at 859 birds.

Leach's Petrel photo by Stephen Rutt
More unseasonal sightings included a Short-eared Owl on the 13th, 2 Sand Martins on the 14th and a Whooper Swan still being seen everyday.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

9th July - 11th July

The wind swung easterly briefly and brought rain and a Red-necked Phalarope to the island on the 10th. A nice male, it showed well on the post office flash and pond by Scots Ha before moving to the Nouster area on the 11th. A Green Sandpiper instead took up residence on the post office flash on the 11th, whilst a Swift was seen high over Bridesness on the same day. Meanwhile the Black Tern made a reappearance amongst the Arctic Tern flocks at Bewan Loch on the 9th. Golden Plover numbers keep building: 187 on the 10th became 328 on the 11th.
Black Tern photo by Molly Laban
Red-necked Phalarope photo by Molly Laban

A small arrival of 10 Silver Y moths was also
 noted on the 11th in unexpectedly summery conditions.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

2nd July to 8th July

Movement has been slow and attention has been focused mostly on ringing pulli in the colonies. However Crossbills were seen daily until the 5th, peaking with 5 on the 3rd including one trapped, as well as singles on the 2nd and 5th and 2 on the 4th. June's Quail carried on singing on the 2nd, 7th and 8th and a female Red-backed Shrike was new in the Ancum Willows on the 4th-5th.

Waders keep moving in the summer, with a Greenshank at East Loch Park on the 4th. Golden Plover numbers peaked at 116 on the 6th and Turnstones peaked 44 on the 5th. Less seasonal was a Siskin in Holland gardens on the 2nd and 3rd.

Perhaps most noteworthy was a Hummingbird Hawkmoth on the 2nd: the first island record since 2011.
Above: Arctic Tern pullus. Below: Tystie pullus. Photos by Molly Laban

Thursday, 2 July 2015

29th June to 1st July

Highlights have included the Black Tern again in colonies near the Lighthouse on 30th June, the singing Quail still on the same date and daily sightings of Crossbills, with 5 on 29th, 7+ on 30th and 2 south on 1st. The unseasonal Whooper Swan remains with us (to 30th at least), while there was also sightings of a Swift and female Blackcap on the 29th, Collared Dove on the 30th and Kestrel and Woodpigeon on the 1st July. 

Crossbill (photo Molly Laban) 
Twite (photo MW)

Monday, 29 June 2015

26th to 28th June

Many of the birds from the last few days were seen again during the period with the Black Tern relocating to Gretchen Loch from 26th to 27th, the Marsh Warbler at Holland gardens again on 27th and singing Quails from different sites on 27th and 28th. Golden Plover numbers have built gradually with 92 on 27th, increasing to 123 by 28th with 5 Knot and 2 Black-tailed Godwits also present. A first-summer Whooper Swan at Bridesness on 28th was somewhat unseasonal, with late Spotted Flycatchers on 26th and 28th, 4 Crossbills on 27th and 2 Mealy Redpolls on 28th more traditional fare for the time of year.

 Crossbills (photos MW)

Friday, 26 June 2015

24th to 25th June

Without doubt the best two days of the year weather wise as the island was baked in wall to wall sunshine on both dates. A well appreciated adult Black Tern on the beach at Nouster with a flock of 80 non-breeding Arctic Terns for a few hours on 24th was the highlight and becomes just the thirteenth island record but only the second since 2003. There was also a singing Quail nearby in the fields between there and Holland gardens, which was still present the next day. Also on 24th, a cracking, pink Mealy Redpoll was at Holland with singles of Collared Dove and Chiffchaff also thought to be new. Despite news of a few migrants on nearby Fair Isle, the 25th was a little quite for us with just a late Tree Pipit at Cruesbreck the only certain newcomer. A Marsh Warbler at Holland gardens may have been a lingering bird meanwhile the first Painted Lady butterfly of the year on the west coast may hint at the possibility of more arrivals in the forthcoming easterly winds?

 Black Tern (top photo Molly Laban, bottom MW)

Wheatear (photo Molly Laban)

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

21st to 23rd June

With such poor weather earlier in the spring, I guess we shouldn't be surprised that the birds seem to keep on trickling in. The most significant new arrivals on the 21st were 2 Little Stints at Bewan Loch (remaining to 22nd), 4 Crossbills, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Spotted Flycatcher. The Subalpine Warbler was still at Gravity and at least one of the Marsh Warblers was in Holland gardens (to 22nd).We've also started to see a build up of returning waders with 30 Golden Plovers on that date, 31 Redshanks on 22nd and 96 Lapwings and 3 Black-tailed Godwits on 23rd. The male Red-backed Shrike last seen on 16th re-appeared from nowhere with proper new birds on 22nd including a male Kestrel, Black Redstart, new Garden Warbler, 2 new Spotted Flycatchers and a very large, Common Redpoll.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

20th June

A blast of easterly wind brought a further rarity today, this time in the form of the North Ronaldsay's twelfth Subalpine Warbler. The bird was trapped and ringed a couple of hours after being first found in the Gravity willows at around 6pm and continued to show there after release. Opinions welcome on its specific identity, pending further investigation we're favouring Western (rather than Moltoni's) but are certainly not 100% sure. In the field (although we have no direct experience) we'd edged towards Moltoni's - the true underpart colour hasn't quite come across in the photographs but it wasn't heard to call. In the hand, some biometrics, the slight orangey tone to the underparts and moult have led us more towards Western, although the bird has a heavily worn tail with no white visible on T5. Earlier the first 2 Marsh Warblers had been found in mist-nets at Holland gardens-one of which subsequently started singing. There was also one yesterdays Icterine Warblers there and a new Siskin.

Subalpine Warbler


 In the field photos by Stephen Rutt

 Marsh Warblers (both photos Stephen Rutt)

Saturday, 20 June 2015

18th to 19th June

No need to stop for summer just yet as the spring trickles on with more new arrivals the last few days. Admittedly it hasn't been heaving with migrants but 3 year ticks on 18th in the form of 6 Storm Petrels off the north end, a Swift at Bridesness and a Lesser Redpoll (if such a thing exists these days!?) at Ancum Willows were very welcome. Also on 18th a male Nightjar at Holland gardens was not seen well enough to be photographed so for the time being is assumed to be the previous days bird relocating and there were 3 Mealy Redpolls and 2 Collared Doves. The 19th began with much excitement when 2 Icterine Warblers (including a singing male) were discovered at Holland gardens mid-morning. Both were trapped and ringed but with better weather the rest of the day was spent ringing Gull chicks so we'll have to see what we can pull out of the bag tomorrow... 
 Icterine Warblers (photo Stephen Rutt)
Lesser Redpoll (photo George Gay)

Thursday, 18 June 2015

14th to 17th June

A largely wet and windy period, so fingers crossed the poor weather hasn't had a negative impact on some of our ground nesting species. Despite this, occasional birds of interest have still been seen such as the male Red-backed Shrike near the Kirk (to 16th) and male Nightjars at Holland gardens and near Scotsha (15th and 17th respectively). A brief spell of easterly winds on 16th brought 2 Spotted Flycatchers, a Robin and 6 Collared Doves to Holland gardens with a Siskin and pair of Redpolls (biometrics suggesting Lesser but appearance Mealy?!) since the 15th with a pink, male Mealy there too on 17th. The Tree Sparrow was still at the north end on 14th, with up to 5 Chiffchaffs and singles of Garden Warbler and Blackcap lingering. Meanwhile, poor weather has hampered attempts to identify a songster in Holland gardens since the 16th. An Acrocephalus sp of some sort is considered the likeliest culprit, but with only a few minutes of song heard in total and no bird, its 'watch this space' for the time being on that one. Noteworthy non-passerines have included 13 Lesser black-backed Gulls (14th), 2 Grey Herons (15th) and 2 Golden Plovers (16th).

 Nightjar(s) at Holland top and Scotsha below (both pics MW)
A few pictures from recent wader chick ringing sessions. Curlews above and Redshank below