Heavy snow showers on the 17th driven across the island by a freezing cold, brisk northerly wind persisted until late morning when it brightened up into a lovely, sunny afternoon (albeit keeping the cold N wind); most people delayed their census until the afternoon when there were a good range of highlights seen in the much improved weather – a non-breeding plumaged White-billed Diver which flew past the seawatch hide at 11:45 was probably the headline bird but it had a supporting cast of a good looking Siberian Chiffchaff on the beach at Scottigar (an unusual spring record) and the first Kestrel and Willow Warbler of the year.
There were still 869 Greylags still on the island along with 2 Whooper Swans and 8 Pink-footed Geese while the Green-winged Teal was again on Gretchen; 510 Golden Plover were counted showing that they are still building up prior to heading north and 95 Purple Sandpipers were also still present on the island.
Other little bits consisted of a Merlin, single Woodpigeon, Robin and Song Thrush, 32 Wheatears, 3 Chiffchaffs and 2 Bramblings.
Siberian Chiffchaff, photo Simon Davies
An absolutely stunning, flat calm morning on the 18th was perfect conditions for a whole island Black Guillemot count which produced an all-time high figure of 841 breeding plumaged birds – at least this seabird seems to be going from strength to strength as their inshore feeding habits are not subject to the same environmental pressures that other Auk species are faced with at the moment.
The excellent conditions and coverage also produced a range of other species including the first Manx Shearwater and 2 Arctic Skuas of the year and an excellent count of 42 Great-northern Divers along with the Black-throated Diver reappearing in Nouster (again!), 4 Red-throated Divers, 8 Long-tailed Ducks and 18 Red-breasted Mergansers while a huge feeding frenzy of 440+ Kittiwakes off Torness failed to produce the hoped-for Cetaceans.
Golden Plovers continued to rise with 579 counted in East Loch Park while a range of other landbirds were highlighted by a flyover Crossbill and the Siberian Chiffchaff still near Rue; migrants through the day also included 4 Woodpigeons, a Collared Dove, a Sparrowhawk, 2 Swallows, 21 Wheatears, 12 Redwings, single Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap, 2 Goldcrests, 6 Bramblings, the 3 Lapland Buntings still and 3 lingering Snow Buntings.
Several Tysties with last year's geolocators have been seen coming ashore - just have to catch them to get the data back now! photo Simon Davies
The Ravens are super aggressive now, this one did not appreciate the Heron flying nowhere near their nest! photo Simon Davies
Collared Dove, photo Larissa Simulik