Going to the 2014 Rutland Bird Fair? If so, please visit the Bird Observatories Council (BOC) stand where Dr Kevin Woodbridge (Founder) and Alison Duncan (Warden) of North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory will be. Not only can you find out about all of the British Bird Observatories but you can also pick up & fill in a 'Friends of NRBO' form and be automatically entered into our prize draw as well as receive our latest bird report & much more. See below for more details...

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

23rd July

With the Golden Plover flock having built to over a thousand birds yesterday, it perhaps wasn't all that surprising when an adult Pacific Golden Plover was found near Holland mid-morning. After initially being quite mobile around the south-east of the island it went on to favour newly cut fields in the Greenwall/Mill area where it showed well despite the foggy conditions. A minimum of 750 Golden Plovers were also seen along with at least 7 Black-tailed Godwits while overnight 18 Storm Petrels were caught and ringed at the observatory.

Pacific Golden Plover-The 10th (and 3rd in 4 years) to have visited North Ronaldsay!! There can't be any better place in the UK to potentially see the species.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

20th to 22nd July

The Roseate Tern was back in the Westness Tern colony on the 21st, but it was only present in the morning and has been looked for several times before and after so it obviously visits other parts of the island too. Otherwise it's been returning Waders which have generated the most interest, with a couple of Green Sandpipers on Ancum Loch on 20th, a single near the Observatory the next day when the first Greenshank of the Autumn flew over, the first juvenile Ruff was at Holm on 22nd and 1047 Golden Plovers were counted.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

17th to 19th July

Familiar species continue to pass through the island each day and there was even some unexpected quality on the 19th. The sea-watching season has only just began so the eleventh island record of Balearic Shearwater, which passed by the hide at close range mid-morning was a nice early highlight. More surprising was that the bird flew east with 99% of sea-birds on the move, like the 10 Manx Shearwaters also seen, flying west-perhaps a bird feeding in the area? Topping this though was an adult Roseate Tern (probably present since 15th) among the Arctic's at Westness which becomes just the seventh North Ronaldsay record and the eight individual following last years pair. It showed briefly around mid-day before disappearing but was re-located in the evening and performed brilliantly. Wader species showing signs of increase the same day included 23 Knot, 167 Dunlins and 22 Bar-tailed Godwits, while on 18th 230 Oystercatchers were counted and on 17th a group of 6 Black tailed Godwits dropped into Gretchen briefly. The Grey Phalarope was still there on 17th with a Green Sandpiper and a Pochard at Bridesness. A few single Swifts have also been seen and on 18th a Sand Martin was on the Links and a Carrion Crow at the Observatory.

 Roseate Tern

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

12th to 16th July

There have been a few more signs of Autumn migration each day with Wader numbers continuing to build, especially after a blast of easterly winds on 16th. The majority of sightings came from that date when 897 Golden Plovers were counted, along with 144 Dunlins and 148 Redshanks. A Green Sandpiper was heard calling over the Observatory in the evening while there was an unusual mid-summer record of an Iceland Gull near the Lighthouse. 16 Lesser black-backed Gulls were also at the north end, a Common Tern on Gretchen Loch with a Swift there too. The summering Grey Phalarope was seen on 12th and 15th, with 2 Little Gulls still present on the former date and a Collared Dove and Common Redpoll on the latter. The busiest Storm Petrel ringing session so far saw 44 caught and ringed overnight 15th/16th with a Leach's Petrel seen around the nets the same night.

Iceland Gull
Juvenile Twite

Saturday, 12 July 2014

8th to 11th July

Good, summer weather continues, with sunshine on 3 out of 4 days during the period and light winds throughout. A smart male Ruff and Green Sandpiper on the 8th were the more interesting waders among the more routine Golden Plovers (peak of 531 on 9th), occasional Knot and Sanderlings, Dunlins (38 on 10th) and a few Whimbrel (3 on 10th). The Grey Phalarope was seen on Gretchen each day but has now virtually moulted into winter plumage and 2 of the Little Gulls were there until 9th. On a cloudy 8th/9th the first Leach's Petrel of the year was caught and ringed, along with 8 Storm Petrels while 3 Grey Herons were new arrivals on 11th. Arctic Tern chicks are fledging en-mass with at least 220 now airborne and the final figure seems likely to exceed 300-a great turnaround after 10-15 poor years.

Monday, 7 July 2014

3rd to 7th July

Aside from returning Waders and Tern monitoring its been pretty quiet with a couple of staff birthdays, sheep clipping and work on the new heligoland trap the main developments. The Grey Phalarope continues to entertain on Gretchen Loch while Golden Plover numbers are increasing rapidly, having reached a minimum of 632 by 7th when there were also 22 Dunlin. Up to 3 Little Gulls also remain, with a Collared Dove (3rd and 7th) and Kestrel (6th) the only other sightings of any note.
Although a couple of the Arctic Tern colonies have suffered from predation, there's still plenty of encouraging signs. This is 1 of at least 40 Chicks to have fledged in the last few days from the strongest colony at Westness, where another 100+ are close to flying too. 35 more are also now on the wing at other sites where remaining chicks are also growing fast and pairs are laying for a second attempt. While we're still a few weeks away from declaring the season a success, its already been by far the best year for well over a decade!   

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

28th June - 2nd July

Ringing the many Arctic Tern chicks has continued to dominate recent proceedings whilst coverage takes a back seat. Pleasingly some of the above have fledged in recent days and everything is crossed for the few hundred smaller chicks.
The Grey Phalarope has been settled on Gretchen Loch throughout as have varying counts of Little Gulls and Knot whilst recently cut hay fields are filling with returning Golden Plovers and Oystercatchers. An early Willow Warbler was at Holland on the 30th, 6 Swifts were over the airfield on 1st July and a Curlew Sandpiper was on Gretchen with 15 Dunlin on 2nd.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

25th - 27th June

As we enter mid-summer, the last few days, as expected have been fairly quiet with the Grey Phalarope at Gretchen the continuing highlight. A few waders have begun to return though, with the first 2 Purple Sandpipers on 27th when there were also 124 Turnstones and Golden Plovers peaked at 134. Occasional Black-tailed Godwits have also been seen, while the 3 Little Gulls on Gretchen were joined by a fourth on the latter date. Passerines sightings were few and far between but the 2 Chiffchaffs remained in Holland gardens.
See a short video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcBwmrA7AMI

Grey Phalarope

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

21st - 24th June

Coverage hours have dropped significantly as efforts are focused on other projects and ringing the chicks of our breeding birds. The Grey Phalarope continued to entertain and 2 little Gulls remained to 23rd at least, 2 Collared Doves, and a new Chiffchaff were present on 24th when increasing numbers of Golden Plovers reached 91.
The Turtle Dove and 2 House Martins were on 21st, a Pochard on Bewan on 22nd, 32 Knots were on Gretchen on 23rd when a Whimbrel flew south and a single Red-throated and 2 Great Northern Divers lingered on.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

18th-20th June

The spring has kept churning out new birds but things are becoming noticeable quieter now. Lingering scarcities on 18th included both the Western Subalpine Warbler and Marsh Warbler at Holland House while the Grey Phalarope also remaining on Gretchen Loch, being last seen on 19th. The Turtle Dove was seen on 2 dates during the period and up to 3 Little Gulls have been noted among the Arctic Terns on Gretchen. A Quail singing at Senness was possibly a new bird, while a sign of things to come were the presence of a few returning waders, with 43 Golden Plovers on 20th and 16 Bar-tailed Godwits briefly on Ancum Loch on 18th.

Marsh Warbler

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

16th-17th June

The Scops Owl was seen for a few minutes at Holland gardens just after midnight on 16th but with no subsequent sign both day and night it's assumed to have moved on. Other sightings that day included 2 Black-tailed Godwits and 2 Little Gulls on Gretchen Loch while the Marsh Warbler continued to sing at the gardens regularly. As our minds turn to other projects and breeding birds, coverage is starting to thin but routine ringing at Holland House is still paying off with the star bird of the 17th being a smart male Western Subalpine Warbler caught and ringed in the morning. A Turtle Dove was also there and the Grey Phalarope spent the day on Gretchen with a single Little Gull also present. A Quail singing near the school was new while 6 Great Northern Divers off the coast were likely to include some new birds and Golden Plovers have started to appear too with 16 near Holland in the evening.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

15th June

Nothing to report from the 14th despite plenty of effort and by stark contrast the 15th can be described in one, often used word today-Epic!!!! The phones were ringing just after 6.30am when a magnificent SCOPS OWL was disturbed from its roost in Holland gardens flying straight into an open mist-net! It returned to the gardens sycamores after ringing where it was left it in peace hidden from view but we'll be heading up at dusk to see if it calls/comes out to hunt. Its been a great spring on the Island and this fantastic little bird puts the icing on a very fine chocolate cake! The Mash Warbler continued to sing there throughout the morning, even showing itself occasionally and just before lunchtime the Grey Phalarope was re-discovered on the Gretchen Loch where it showed much better than first time around. Also there was the first Common Tern of the year, a lingering Little Gull and the Black-tailed Godwit.
Scops Owl (photo by Rael Butcher)

(photo by Jackie Hichens) 
This cryptic mega represents the second SCOPS OWL record for North Ronaldsay and the first in the Bird Observatory's lifetime. The previous record was well over a century ago, when one was caught at the Lighthouse on 2nd June 1892. More pictures to follow...
Grey Phalarope

Friday, 13 June 2014

13th June

An absolutely stunning day with another stunning, surprise to boot! The Heatherlea birding group are on fire discovering the islands third ever spring/summer record of Grey Phalarope on the links golf course just before lunchtime. After initially leading everyone on a merry dance this still very smart partial summer plumage bird was tracked down to Trolla Vatn where it showed well to all. A male Nightjar at Holland House was our third of the spring and after previously being an immense rarity (averaging 1 every decade) during the observatory's early years the species is now annual with 7 in the last 3 years! The Marsh Warbler continued to sing at the gardens with what was presumed to be the same Turtle Dove also there.
Record shots of the Grey Phalarope (photo's by Phil Knott) 

The behaviour of the Phalarope was quite remarkable, keeping close company with the Arctic Terns and mirroring their flight and actions with astonishing similarity bar the actual catching of a fish! Numerous times it would ascend high into the sky before pirouetting back down to the Loch,  following pairs of Terns around as if it were one of their offspring. A truly fantastic and fascinating bird to watch and study! 

12th June

There's often a few surprises in June and that was certainly the case when the visiting Heatherlea tour group found a stunning summer-plumage Black-throated Diver drop into the bay off Westness mid-afternoon. Records traditionally come in April and this welcome first of 2014 stayed for just half and hour before flying off strongly to the north. Another addition to the year list came in the form of a Turtle Dove at Holland House in the evening, with 3 Collared Doves also there while a brief burst of song was thought most likely to have come from a  Marsh Warbler (but not confirmed)-perhaps yesterdays bird? There was also a single Little Gull and Black-tailed Godwit on Gretchen Loch while waders along the coast at Lenswick included 68 Knot, 73 Sanderling and 25 Dunlin with a female Pintail there too.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

10th - 11th June

On the 10th the Quail was still singing at Ancum where 8 Black-tailed Godwits were feeding and 4 Little Gulls were on Gretchen Loch with 3  adult Dunlins suggesting return passage. At Holland were a male Kestrel, the singing Chiffchaff, 2 Collared Doves and a Spotted Flycatcher. The 11th was little different but for a Marsh Warbler and a Blackcap at Holland House.
Marsh Warbler