A truly horrendous couple of days weather wise with up to 70mph freezing north-westerly winds and seemingly constant blizzards battered the Island! The 4th was spent indoors catching up on paperwork and the 5th was heading the same way until news from elsewhere in the UK, tempted one lunatic outside in search of Arctic visitors. It turned out to be a surprisingly prolific day given the time of year with a Dark-bellied Brent Goose sheltering in Linklet Bay and a second-winter Glaucous Gull at Bridesness seemingly a good return for a torrid day out in the field with the weather. The former was the first of the year and are scarce on the Island but rarer still was a female/immature Blue-winged Teal discovered shortly thereafter in coastal fields near Viggay. The second of the year and seventh record for North Ronaldsay it showed reasonable well (though proved impossible to photograph!) when we were able to stand up between blizzards wandering about in its chosen field before flying on to Bridesness Loch late on. There were plenty of other birds sheltering on the leeward coastline particularly Gulls with 3 Black-headed, 230 Common and 75 Herring Gulls in that area plus an impressive 200 Eiders. There were 2 Grey Plovers on the links, 13 Snow Buntings were seen while the Water Rail showed up again at the Observatory.
Brent Goose-clearly today was not great for photography!
The drake Green-winged Teal was at Gretchen Loch on both days-it looks set to winter on the Island and hopefully one day it'll be close enough or what little light we get this time of year will be good enough for a photo! Otherwise there's not a great deal happening with mainly lingering, wintering birds present but the blast of cooler air from the north were due to get may shake things up a bit? The Twite flock at Kirbest continues to grow at a steady pace, now numbering 156 with a single Linnet tagged on while 40 Snow Buntings remain at the north end. Another 2 (different from those on 1st) Hen Harriers were seen, with at least 2 Merlins and an immature Peregrine also present.
A cracking winters day with plenty of sunshine and a light breeze. The drake Green-winged Teal was back on Gretchen Loch again and a Siberian Chiffchaff which showed well and called plenty of times at Holland gardens was presumably one of the roosting birds from last week. A couple of Hen Harriers included the first male for a while and 21 Redwings and 31 Snow Buntings were also seen.
An un-birdable 29th resulted in a day of paperwork until dark when a hunt around various Lochs for Waders and Wildfowl to catch and ring found 3 Jack Snipe among other species. Another 2 were flushed near Longar during daylight the next day where the Greenland White-fronted Goose and Canada Goose were nearby. There were also still 80 odd Twite at Kirbest with 22 Skylarks also there, 3 Robins spread around the middle of the Island and 53 Snow Buntings.
Also today, a Long-finned Pilot Whale was found washed up at Westness. A shame to see this magnificent animal in such a way but we'll be keeping an eye on the carcass with Arctic Gulls in mind.
Not a huge amount to report, especially given the extremely poor weather of the first two days when other than 7 Whoopers Swans there was little more than the usual collection of wintering Wildfowl and Waders. The 28th was a better day and 115 Twite in the crop field at Kirbest was the most noteworthy sighting. A 'presumed' Siberian' Chiffchaff was a also there while lingering thrushes around the centre of the Island included 15 Redwings and 2 Fieldfares. 12 Snow Buntings were seen, along with a different Peregrine and the lingering Canada Goose.
A pleasant couple of days with calmer winds and plenty of cloud before the stormy weather returns again tomorrow. There has been no sign of the Dowitcher on either date although the drake Green-winged Teal was still on Gretchen Loch on the former. After going missing for a week the Greenland White-fronted Goose was at Sandar the 25th, there was a Little Auk in the bay at Nouster while the 32 Moorhens counted must be a record? Other odds and ends include a couple each of Woodcock, Hen Harrier and Merlin, 5 Robins, 4 lingering Fieldfares among 30 or so each of Redwings and Blackbirds and 7 Snow Buntings.
A pleasant day with light winds, just the occasional shower and even a bit of sunshine for a time. The SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER was with the Golden Plovers at Trolla Vatn in the morning and was successfully twitched by three birders from Orkney mainland-bringing the total to 8 who have now seen this ultra rare Wader during its week long stay so far!!!! The drake Green-winged Teal also spent the day at its favourite haunt-Gretchen Loch and an Iceland Gull flew past the Lighthouse at midday. There were also a few raptors about with at least 2 each of Hen Harrier and Merlin plus the first Peregrine for a long time, while 18 Skylarks together are worth mentioning.
Much better weather the last couple of days and although there was no sign of the SHORT-BILLEDDOWITCHER during a brief search on the 21st, it was back at Lenswick again and showing well on the 22nd. On the latter date the drake Green-winged Teal was also on Gretchen Loch again while 11 Pintails were the only new wildfowl, with 16 Shovelers and 24 Tufted Ducks lingering birds. Twite numbers have at last started to show signs of increasing with 95 on the former date along with 60 Snow Buntings and a Chaffinch also. A surprising 3 Chiffchaffs were recorded with the lingering bird at Kirbest and 2 new individuals which weren't seen until they came into roost at Holland House gardens-both certainly sounded like Siberian Chiffchaffs but it was too dark to judge their plumage and they weren't seen the next morning. The oddest sighting during the period though goes to a very confused Golden Plover at the south end in full summer plumage!
A truly horrendous day with a cold northerly wind and regular showers but some time was still spent out in the field. The SHORT-BILLEDDOWITCHER was with the mixed wader flocks at Lenswick in the morning with 5 Whooper Swans also there. There were a few other sightings of note with a Little Auk, female Common Scoter and 14 Long-tailed Ducks in Linklet Bay and an immature Scaup on Hooking Loch. A total of 317 Wigeon were counted, most on the Links where the Grey Plover remains with 26 Dunlins and 72 Ringed Plovers. Passerine sightings were limited to a Chiffchaff and 2 Snow Buntings.
The SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER was re-located again this morning and has now even been heard calling several times-most satisfying!! It was around Bewan Loch again for the first hour of the day before visiting a number of sites around the north end up with the roaming wader flocks until at least midday. On a cold day, with frequent sleet and hail showers there wasn't much else to report with 22 Snow Buntings and a couple of Merlin's all that's worth mentioning.
A quick reminder that the Observatory is still open to guests, so if your thinking of coming to try and see the Short-billed Dowitcher then contact us on 01857 633200 or by the e.mail address on the homepage for accommodation information. The bird will be looked for daily and the birding information services updated accordingly.
Despite extensive searching there was no sign of the Short-billed Dowitcher today, but it could easily still be lurking somewhere on the Island. This has clearly been the case with the Green-winged Teal, which after a couple of days of absence re-appeared on Gretchen in the afternoon. Other birds found during the day included a Grey Phalarope with the Redshanks at Scottigar, the lingering Greenland White fronted Goose and a White Wagtail and at least 16 Snow Buntings.
Wow, what a day-North Ron scores big-time! A Dowitcher sp was found among feeding Redshanks and Turnstones in the Bewan/Rue area mid-morning and once the sheep started to behave themselves it showed well until lunchtime allowing plenty of photo's to be taken. Originally it was considered to be a Long-billed but limited experience of the two species and nagging doubts prompted several hours of research in the afternoon and after much circulation and correspondence on-line, the current consensus is that the bird is a first-winter SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER-just the fourth British record! All other news is largely irrelevant although a cursory glance at the sea logged 2 Little Auks while the late White Wagtail remains at the surgery.
A blustery couple of days with the gale force westerly winds making walking difficult, let alone birding! Christmas shopping, packing and a leucistic Redwing pretty much sum up the 14th, but we'd like to take this opportunity to thank Simon (who heads south today) and all the seasonal staff and volunteers for all their hard work and company during the season. The 15th must have been the 'greyest' day of the year so far, with so much cloud it didn't seem to get light! A Grey Phalarope in the bay at Nouster seemed like a fair return for a hike around the more sheltered south-eastern coast. But this proven merely to be the entre with a drake Green-winged Teal found sleeping among the wildfowl at Bridesness a few hours later-the eighth North Ronaldsay record and the fourth in 3 years. A couple of Merlin's were also seen, along with 5 Red-throated Divers, 2 Woodcocks, a Jack Snipe and 25 Snow Buntings.
Somewhere in this rubbish photo there's a Green-winged Teal!
A very windy day on the 12th with plenty of vicious showers whipping through made things difficult out in the field but we put the effort in and got some good coverage across the island; the female-type eastern-type Redstart was seen again near Burray in the morning but when we returned with spring-traps to attempt to catch the bird it was nowhere to be found! The late White Wagtail was also still present along with 130 Blackbirds, 150 Snow Buntings, 18 Woodcock, 2 Jack Snipe, 11 Whooper Swans and a Yellowhammer. A [slightly] calmer day on the 13th produced little in the way of new birds but the Yellowhammer was caught at Holland where there were still 60 Blackbirds, 40 Fieldfares and 45 Redwing. Wildfowl totals included 7 Whooper Swans, 5 Gadwall, 12 Shoveler, the long staying Scaup and 5 Goldeneye.
A lovely calm day on the 10th produced little in the way of new birds with a Little Auk in Nouster Bay, a single Chiffchaff still with small numbers of lingering Thrushes and Robins and 9 Whooper Swans and the Canada Goose the pick of the wildfowl. The weather rapidly deteriorated through the night, culminating in a really rough patch in the wee small hours but had largely blown through by the morning to leave a good day with only a few showers to hide from; the rough weather produced a good November arrival of birds with an intriguing female-type Redstart at Ancum showing an obvious whitish wing patch the highlight - surely of eastern origin. Other birds included three Yellowhammers, at least 54 Woodcock, a White Wagtail, 330+ Blackbirds, 55+ Fieldfares, 2 Woodpigeons and 4 Blackcaps. Three Mealy and a Lesser Redpoll remain along with a Chiffchaff and a Black Redstart while at least two Merlins enjoyed themselves, being seen to catch several migrants including Snow Bunting and Blackbird.
Some of the Woodcock were particularly approachable with one keen to improve our ringing totals by catching itself in a lobster creel!
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North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory NRBO was established in 1987 to study and record the migrant birds that pass through Orkney's most northerly island each year. The number and variety of birds that arrive here on migration in Spring and Autumn can be spectacular, and North Ronaldsay is well-known as one of the best birdwatching sites in the country. The observatory also provides comfortable accommodation for visitors to the island.