Wednesday, 21 June 2017

20th and 21st June

Again, still pretty quiet as befits the season with few new migrants to mention, the 20th was nice and warm with a decreasing westerly breeze; a Quail was again around the Obs while offshore 15 Manx Shearwaters, a few Storm Petrels and good numbers of Auks (high proportion of Puffins) passed the seawatch hide.   Overnight, the first Storm Petrel ringing session (slightly ambitious as it didn’t really ever get dark!) produced just two birds in the nets but the first Leach’s Petrel of the year was flying around, calling back to the tape but avoided the nets.

Three Dunlin have been displaying over the summer but there's been no evidence that its progressed further than that...we're still looking though!

                The weather changed the following day as it was overcast with a brisk SE wind; 2 Swifts and a Spotted Flycatcher were new in along with 3 Collared Doves while 32 Knot, 26 Dunlin and 2 Golden Plover were at Westness.   Breeding birds are of course taking our focus at the moment with Arctic Terns, Black Guillemots starting to hatch, Redshank, Oystercatchers and Lapwings taking their first flights and at least 90 Black-headed Gulls are fledging from two sites.
Shoveler chick

Eight Great Black-backed Gull chicks from three nests have now been ringed,   photos Simon Davies

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

18th and 19th June

A quiet couple of days with the weather all over the place as the 18th was breezy and drizzly at times; there were still small numbers of Manx Shearwaters and Storm Petrels offshore from the seawatch hide while the Quail was still singing from near the airfield and a slightly unseasonal Grey Wagtail was feeding in Nouster Bay.   The Sparrowhawk was seen again and a single Golden Plover was the only returning wader of note.


                Heavy rain through the morning delayed proceedings on the 19th somewhat but the afternoon was pleasant with the sun poking through on occasion; there was a hint of some returning ducks as counts on Hooking included 11 Shoveler, 8 Gadwall, 13 Teal and a drake Pintail while other birds included a Heron, 11 Sand Martins, a Collared Dove and a new male Sparrowhawk.   Also on Hooking at least 70 Black-headed Gull chicks were counted flying around with varying degrees of elegance and coordination.
Juvenile Black-headed Gull

1st summer Arctic Tern,   photos Simon Davies

Saturday, 17 June 2017

16th and 17th June

Calmish and warmish again on the 16th with some new birds to keep us on our toes across the island including a Hobby seen briefly as it flashed over Breck, a Quail flushed from near the Obs, an unseasonal mid-summer Sparrowhawk and a Little Stint at Bewan.   Other waders were represented by 185 Knot (over summering birds), 19 Dunlin, 113 Turnstone (an influx of returning birds) and 26 Bar-tailed Godwits while the Black-throated Diver was still in the bay with 2 Great-northern Divers and a female Garganey was at Hooking.

                Other landbirds included a Common Redpoll – rather strangely feeding on the edge of Trolla with a flock of Turnstone, 3 Lesser Redpolls, 7 Sand Martins still (there have been some rumours that they have been prospecting a nesting site but nothing has come of it yet!), a Woodpigeon and 3 Collared Doves.

Redshank showing off

                Overcast with a brisk westerly breeze on the 17th with some spells of drizzly rain late morning; most of the day’s interest came from a couple of hours seawatching first thing as the first Sooty Shearwater of the ‘autumn’ passed the seawatch hide along with 56 Manx Shearwaters, 17 Storm Petrels, 4 Common Scoter and 861 Puffins amongst other Auks.

                The Black-throated Diver was still present along with 2 Collared Doves, the Common Redpoll, yesterday’s Sparrowhawk and the array of waders including 17 Bar-tailed Godwits on Gretchen.
Fledgling Pied Wagtail

Quite a few of the Lapwing chicks are now taking their first flights around the island and this big Oystercatcher isn't far off joining them,   photos Simon Davies

Thursday, 15 June 2017

14th and 15th June

Good conditions on the 14th with light winds and bits of sun poking through; a pod of 5 ORCAS which moved quickly down the west coast was the day’s highlight and consisted of a bull, three females and a calf – it’s been an excellent year for sightings so far (here, Orkney, Fair Isle and Shetland) so hopefully we can expect more as the summer progresses.

                Birdwise there were a few bits here and there with a Kestrel, a Short-eared Owl and a Common Redpoll new on the land while waders included a ‘grey’ Curlew Sandpiper on Gretchen, 6 Black-tailed Godwits and a Whimbrel with the Black-throated Diver seemingly a permanent fixture in Nouster Bay. 

Curlew Sandpiper

                A breezy start on the 15th brought a few drops of rain in the morning but this soon petered out to become a lovely, warm, sunny day with returning waders to the fore including 130 Turnstone, 21 Bar-tailed Godwits, the Curlew Sandpiper again and 2 Whimbrel with the first Pintail for many weeks also probably an early ‘autumn’ wanderer.   On and over the land a few new birds included an unseasonal Redwing in Ancum Willows, a Swift, 8+ Sand Martins, 3 House Martins and single Woodpigeon and Collared Dove while the Black-throated Diver was in the bay again with 4 Red-throated Divers.

                Potentially rarer still was a Dragonfly sp. seen whizzing around Scottigar which from the description seems to fit Lesser Emperor or Vagrant Emperor rather than the more expected (although still amazingly rare up here) Migrant Hawker.

The dark phase Arctic Skua pictured above has been returning to breed on the island for a few years now - identifiable by the distinctive missing feather in the left wing.   'Notchy' has paired with this handsome pale phase bird but unfortunately their first clutch was lost early on but they have now relaid, so fingers crossed!   photos Simon Davies

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

12th and 13th June

Warm and calm on the 12th but largely overcast and the combination of the time of year and our focus being more on breeding birds it was quiet for new arrivals although 6 Golden Plover represented the first returning individuals while 65 Sanderling and 8 Bar-tailed Godwits were over-summering birds.   Single Black-throated Diver, Red-throated Diver, Great-northern Diver and Red-breasted Merganser were in Nouster while the long staying Woodpigeon and a random Jackdaw at Westness provided the only other interest.

                Overcast again through the morning of the 13th with a few spots of rain but it brightened up to become a lovely, sunny, warm afternoon; a Quail singing near the airstrip and a drake Garganey which flew over Holland were the highlights with 8 Sand Martins, a House Martin, a Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Chiffchaffs and 2 Collared Doves also seen.   Three Black-tailed and 21 Bar-tailed Godwits were the pick of the waders while single Black-throated and Great-northern Divers were again in the bay.
Great Black-backed Gull

Arctic Skua,   photos Simon Davies

Sunday, 11 June 2017

10th and 11th June

Overcast with light easterly winds on the 10th with a few spots of rain later in the day; the first Marsh Warbler of the year was caught at Holland first thing along with a new Blackcap while the Ortolan Bunting continued to show well along the road near Ancum Willows.

                The Black-throated Diver was in Nouster again along with single Red-throated and Great-northern Divers while wader counts included 127 Knot, 96 Sanderling, 31 Dunlin, 17 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel and 62 Turnstone.

Ortolan Bunting

                After a couple of hours of heavy rain first thing the 11th turned out to be a warm, sunny, calm day but with our focus on finding and ringing wader and gull chicks most of the day’s records were of the more casual nature with a new female Red-necked Phalarope on Gretchen, the Marsh Warbler still around the Obs, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, a Siskin, 7 Bar-tailed Godwits and the Black-throated Diver with a Great-northern Diver of note.
Marsh Warbler

Wrens are acrobatically feeding fledglings now,   photos Simon Davies

Saturday, 10 June 2017

8th and 9th June

After an overcast, breezy start a fine day with warm sunshine and light winds broke out with a fine array of late spring scarce migrants across the island; first up was a fine male Ortolan Bunting found along the road at Parkhouse which showed well to everyone followed by an equally fine adult male Common Rosefinch singing his heart out in Holland and then 2 Red-backed Shrikes with females at Ancum and in a mist net at Holland.

                Other migrants included a Quail singing at Longar, a Collared Dove, 5 Sand Martins, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, a new Sedge Warbler trapped at Holland, a Chiffchaff, a Siskin and a Common Redpoll while also of note was a large influx of 80+ Red Admirals with a few Painted Ladies and Silver Y’s.   The Black-throated Diver reappeared in Nouster with a Red-throated and 2 Great-northern Divers while waders included single Golden Plover and Whimbrel, 8 Bar-tailed Godwits and 3 Black-tailed Godwits.

Common Rosefinch

                Hopes were high for a few more nice bits and pieces on the 9th but this was largely spoilt by the brisk northerly wind bringing with it driving rain and low cloud which gradually turned to drizzle and didn’t die out until late afternoon.   The Ortolan Bunting was still present as was the Ancum Red-backed Shrike while 3 Quail included birds singing at Longar and Burray with another flushed from Waterhouse.

                Other birds of note comprised a female Garganey on Ancum Loch, a Spotted Flycatcher, 3 Sand Martins, 14 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Grey Plover and 62 Sanderling.
Red-backed Shrike

Brute of a Great Black-backed Gull chick,   photos Simon Davies

Thursday, 8 June 2017

6th and 7th June

A couple of wet, horrible days came as a bit of a shock for us and the breeding birds after the recent long spell of fine weather; the 6th was almost a write-off with driving rain and strong winds most of the day with 3 Red-throated and 2 Great-northern Divers offshore and 60 Sanderling the pick of the wader counts while in Holland the Woodpigeon, Collared Dove flock and lonely male Chaffinch lingered on.

Knot are still present in numbers

                An improving picture on the 7th with most of the heavy rain moving through by mid-morning and the winds gradually easing with the highlight being out overdue first 2 Red-backed Shrikes of the year – females at the Post Office and at Holland while 2 Spotted Flycatchers and a Willow Warbler were also new in; 7 Sand Martins and the various Holland pigeony things were also of note.

                A few random waders also appeared showing a still noticeable turnover of birds passing through with 3 Grey Plover and 2 Bar-tailed Godwits the highlights with 129 Knot (unprecedented numbers lingering into June) and 55 Sanderling.
Spotted Flycatcher,   photos Simon Davies

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

4th and 5th June

Another gorgeous day on the 4th, warm (almost hot at some stages!), sunny and calm with the highlights being now 2 Red-necked Phalaropes spinning around on Gretchen and an extremely late and unseasonal Jack Snipe at Westness, flushed while we were ringing Redshank and Lapwing chicks!   Other waders are still present in good numbers although now its slightly unclear whether they are still northbound (seems rather late), going to over-summer (seems likely now) or are actually already failed breeders (seems rather early) with 53 Knot, 92 Sanderling, a Little Stint on Bewan and an influx of 33 Bar-tailed Godwits.

The kitchen scraps are doing their job in the crow trap!

                Other little bits through the day included 3 Great-northern Divers and a Manx Shearwater offshore, 10 Collared Doves still, 7 Sand Martins, 2 House Martins, a Garden Warbler, 4 Chiffchaffs (two lingering birds at Holland and two new arrivals) and a Redpoll sp.

                A bit more cloud and a couple of spells of light rain the following day but there were still some new birds with an (also unseasonal) female Ring Ouzel trapped at Holland along with a Spotted Flycatcher, a Woodpigeon, 7 Collared Doves, single Sand Martin and House Martin, 4 Chiffchaffs and a new Willow Warbler.

                The turnover of waders continued with now 3 Red-necked Phalaropes on Gretchen, 2 Little Stints on Bewan, a Grey Plover, a late Purple Sandpiper and still 31 Bar-tailed Godwits while 2 Great-northern Divers were still offshore.
An unseasonal Ring Ouzel

Beautiful, ugly Hooded Crows

and some beautiful, beautiful Redshank,  photos Simon Davies

Sunday, 4 June 2017

2nd and 3rd June

A lovely day on the 2nd with light winds after a damp start; the Short-toed Lark was seen briefly but well first thing in the same field south of Holland but soon disappeared not to be seen again while there was a selection of odds and ends to keep us entertained including the Little Stint still on Gretchen, the non-breeding Curlew Sandpiper in the STL field, the lingering Barnacle Goose at the north end and the Black-throated Diver again in Nouster with 2 Great-northern and 4 Red-throated Divers.  

Other birds also consisted of long stayers with 6 Collared Doves, a Woodpigeon, the Garden Warbler in Holland, a House Martin and 3 Chiffchaffs while counts of 108 Knot and 150 Sanderling illustrated that the waders are lingering on the island much later than is typical – although these flocks contained very few full breeding plumaged birds.

Arctic Tern,   photo Simon Davies

Another lovely, warm day on the 3rd was quieter for new arrivals although a little, late influx of at least 6 Spotted Flycatchers was notable along with 10 Sand Martins, a few new waders including a Black-tailed Godwit, 12 Bar-tailed Godwits and 6 Whimbrel and some Red Admirals and Painted Ladies.   The Black-throated Diver was still in Nouster Bay.

The day was saved later on however, when a Firecrest was trapped in Holland during the evening ringing session – rare at any time of year up here on the Northern Isles but a June record is unheard of; Collared Doves were up to 10 as well!

A June!
Fledgling Blackbird

Large flocks of waders are lingering late in the summer,   photos Simon Davies

Friday, 2 June 2017

31st May and 1st June

A windy start on the 31st but this calmed down through the day to practically nothing by the evening; the day’s highlight was another immaculately plumaged female Red-necked Phalarope bobbing around on Gretchen in the afternoon where there was also a summer plumaged Little Stint.  Other little bits included a slightly unseasonal 2nd year Iceland Gull at Senness, a Little Tern again in Nouster investigating the Arctic Tern colony, the lingering Barnacle Goose at Bewan, a late Redwing and a new Blackcap trapped in Holland while wader totals still included 98 Knot, 188 Sanderling, 2 Purple Sandpipers and single Bar-tailed Godwit and Whimbrel.

That moment when your song comes on! (or maybe, that moment when 4 interloping Shelduck try and land on your loch..)   photo Simon Davies

                With the wind back in the east and overcast conditions the 1st of the month felt good so for once it was a welcome surprise to be proved right when a Short-toed Lark was found in a ploughed field just south of Holland (a field, to be fair that had been crying out for something good!); it ended up being very elusive though being seen only a few times though the day.   The same field later in the evening, as it was being rolled, then held a very dark and diminutive Lesser Black-backed Gull which showed many features of a near adult Baltic Gull.

                The rest of the day’s noteworthy birds included the Little Stint still on Gretchen, male and female Ruff, a Heron heading north, 5 Collared Doves, 7 Sand Martins, lingering Garden Warbler and Chiffchaff, a new Spotted Flycatcher and lingering Barnacle Goose, Redwing and Chaffinch.
Baltic-type Gull, I imagine that's all it will ever go down as!   photo Simon Davies

There's a handful of 1st summer Arctic Terns in each flock at the moment which show amazing variability in plumage and bill colour, there was one just down the beach with a red bill and almost no black cap!

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

29th and 30th May

Great conditions on the 29th, very calm and overcast and it just felt promising out in the field; it was however just a feeling!  The overdue first Green Sandpiper of the year was the highlight on Kirbest scrape along with other wader counts including 162 Knot, 141 Sanderling, 3 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel and 223 Turnstone while the lone Barnacle Goose was wandering around the north end and 3 Red-throated Divers and 5 Great-northern Divers were counted on the flat seas.

Tysties are on eggs now,  photo Simon Davies

                A light easterly on the 30th brought some fog and drizzle for a time before the wind switched to the west and picked up into a rough force 6; a few more odd waders appeared as the bulk of the commoner species started to disperse with a ‘grey’ Curlew Sandpiper and a full summer Little Stint on Gretchen while a single Golden Plover and 8 Purple Sandpipers were leftover.

                A handful of migrants were seen through the day including a Woodpigeon, 3 Collared Doves, a Sand Martin, single Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Siskin while the Barnacle Goose remained and the Black-throated Diver and a Little Tern popped up again in Nouster.

and there's lots of baby waders running around,  photo Simon Davies

Monday, 29 May 2017

27th and 28th May

Another fine, sunny day with an increasing SE breeze on the 27th led to all the quality birds being along the more sheltered west coast; the highlight was a Common Nightingale in sheep punds at the north end of Torness – it was a tricky bird in the field as views had suggested a Sprosser but as the Obs staff assembled, a net was erected and the bird easily caught to reveal it was the rarer (on here anyway!) Nightingale, only the 6th record for the island.

                Also along the west coast were a female Bluethroat and an extremely late Woodcock while elsewhere a Sparrowhawk, 6 Woodpigeons, 4 Collared Doves, 3 Sand Martins, 2 House Martins, a Chiffchaff and a Pied Flycatcher were the other migrants of note.

Nightingale,   photo Simon Davies

                 A different day on the 28th with overcast skies and a brisk westerly wind; a Hobby which flew south through the northern census area was the first for the year while another wave of waders included and excellent count of 370 Knot with over 300 at Westness alone but it was interesting to note that the high numbers comprised mainly grey plumaged birds with the high numbers of sparkling, bright red birds already passed through.   Other wader counts included 221 Sanderling, 103 Dunlin and 317 Turnstone.

                A late Barnacle Goose was wandering around Bewan with other migrants including a Sparrowhawk, 3 Woodpigeon, 2 Collared Doves, a Short-eared Owl, a Sand Martin, 3 House Martins, single Garden Warbler, Blackcap and Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Chiffchaffs and the lingering Chaffinch in full song at Holland.   It was a good day for other wildlife as well with a Minke Whale seen heading south off The Lurn and a beautiful Hummingbird Hawkmoth seen along the coast at Quoybanks which, when combined with a little influx of Silver Y’s provides a good sign of more southern goodies to come!
Arctic Skuas continue to entertain,   photo Simon Davies

while big gangs of young Starlings roamed the countryside,   photo Simon Davies

Saturday, 27 May 2017

25th and 26th May

A nice day on the 25th, warm and sunny with light winds started brilliantly with a seawatch off The Lurn, near the Obs producing a fine drake Surf Scoter flying south, close inshore with two Common Scoter – the first record for the island since 2008!   Two Manx Shearwaters were also offshore before the rest of the day was again dominated by wader numbers which continue to remain high (shouldn’t be long before they start to disperse) as counts included 310 Ringed Plover, 80 Knot, 427 Sanderling, 152 Dunlin, 6 Whimbrel, 734 Turnstone and a single Curlew Sandpiper still.

                Other new arrivals were slow with a Grey Wagtail at Westness the pick, along with a Kestrel, a Short-eared Owl, 7 Sand Martins, 11 House Martins, 2 Tree Pipits and single Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Spotted Flycatcher.


Teamwork!   photos Simon Davies

The stunning 26th also started brilliantly with a pod of 3 ORCAS feeding (just mooching around really!) in Nouster before they drifted off out towards Sanday; the day’s other highlight came late morning with a smart female Honey Buzzard seen drifting up the west coast before seemingly heading away north but it bottled out of the sea crossing ahead of her and drifted back in allowing the rest of the staff to get fantastic views as it perched on rocks near Westness.

                It was a similar day to yesterday after this with the exception of the first 2 Little Terns of the year briefly in Nouster; the Curlew Sandpiper was still present with a reduced number of other waders while other birds included a Sparrowhawk, single Woodpigeon and Collared Dove, 9 Sand Martins, 5 House Martins, 2 Blackcap, 4 Chiffchaff and a Spotted Flycatcher.

Honey Buzzard,   photos Simon Davies

More North Ronaldsay pictures

Thursday, 25 May 2017

23rd and 24th May

Nice and sunny with a fresh westerly breeze but it was hard work out in the field as it seemed that few new birds were out there to be found; all that changed in the space of ten minutes late afternoon though when first a lovely female Red-necked Phalarope appeared on Gretchen Loch and then, shortly afterwards, a cracking diminutive Temminck’s Stint dropped in to land on the same loch!   The Stint is not surprisingly much rarer than the Phalarope with only nine previous records.

                A full summer plumaged Ruff also appeared on Hooking while other waders were still present in high numbers including 60 Knot, 223 Sanderling, 26 Purple Sandpipers, 105 Dunlin, 2 Whimbrel and 426 Turnstone.   The Black-throated Diver was still in Nouster along with 4 Great-northern Divers and 3 Red-throated Divers while a Common Tern was noted amongst 858 Arctic Terns who are busy displaying and setting up territories and 19 Lesser Black-backed Gulls in a recently ploughed field was the year’s high count so far.

                Landbirds were quieter as migrants comprised 2 Woodpigeons, a Collared Dove, a Short-eared Owl, 12 House Martins, 10 singing Sedge Warblers, 2 Garden Warblers, 2 Blackcaps, 6 Chiffchaff and 2 Spotted Flycatchers.

Baby Starlings by the bucket load are now starting to appear,  photo Simon Davies

                A slower day on the 24th with mist and murk coming and going throughout the day; waders showed some slight increases including 298 Sanderling, 40 Purple Sandpipers, 118 Dunlin, 102 Knot, 700 Turnstone and the Ruff still with the Black-throated Diver still present among 24 Great-northern Divers and 9 Red-throated Divers counted on flat calm seas.

                Other birds included a Collared Dove, a Short-eared Owl, 6 Sand Martin, 9 House Martins, 11 Sedge Warblers, a Reed Warbler trapped at Holland, a Blackcap, 3 Chiffchaff, 3 Spotted Flycatchers and a lingering Chaffinch.

We've made a few wader catching attempts with Dunlin and Oystercatcher among the captures,  photos Simon Davies

There are also many goslings running around now and inevitably some of them get separated and have to be gently guided back towards their parents!