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.
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?
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.
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.
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...
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
The birding continues to be productive with slack periods, and often sunshine between the predominantly cooler north-west winds. There was a raptor theme to the first few days with our second Marsh Harrier of the year, and immature male at Hooking on the 11th, there having been different sex Kestrels on 10th and 11th and a male Sparrowhawk on 10th. A smart male Ruff at Bridesness from 10th to 11th was the pick of the waders with 2 Common Terns at Gretchen that day. After a days absence, the 2 Nightjars were in Holland gardens again on 11th with the same sight also attracting a male Red-backed Shrike (remaining to 13th), male Pied Flycatcher that day. The 12th turned out to be the busiest with a Canada Goose at Hooking, a 'brown' Rosefinch at Holland gardens, Siskin there too and a Tree Sparrow at the Lighthouse. Also noteworthy were the Pink-footed Goose again, Sand Martin, 8 House Martins and 2 White Wagtails. A Mealy Redpoll has remained throughout and there have been new warblers each day with 3 or 4 Chiffchaffs daily and what looks like a good candidate for a Siberian Chiffchaff was at Holland gardens on 13th.
Its getting quieter as the westerly winds set in but we can hardly complain-the last few days haven't exactly been birdless! We suggested the Veery might re-appear and on 9th it did just that being re-found in a mist-net again at Holland gardens mid-morning before typically vanishing for the rest of the day. Quite where its been during the interim will remain a mystery but proving much more obliging were the 2 (male and female) Nightjars also at Holland gardens on both dates. Both have been showing well perched out in the on the walls or on garden paths and while we don't exactly have the right breeding habitat for the species, there's plenty of moths so we'll be keeping a good eye on them as stranger things have happened! Most other sightings came from the 8th when a female Red-backed Shrike spent the day at Ancum willows, there were 2 Black Redstarts, 5 Spotted Flycatchers, 3 Carrion Crows and a singing Mealy Redpoll. Non-passerines included the Pink-footed Goose again, 2 Barnacle Geese, a first-summer Little Gull, 20 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 28 Bar-tailed Godwits and 4 Woodpigeons. Meanwhile the female Hen Harrier was seen both dates, a Peregrine on 8th with the only other thing left to add from the 9th being an unseasonal Jackdaw.
Though it was obvious from the onset of the 6th the majority of the previous nights migrants had moved on, there were birds to see with a few new arrivals unearthed too. An Icterine Warbler at Kirbest was the best find (and still present there on 7th) with a flava Wagtail at Howar also new. Totals for the day came to 64 Knot, 4 Black-tailed Godwits, 11 House Martins, the Black Redstart, a handful of warblers, 11 Spotted Flycatchers and a Tree Sparrow. The 7th brought more excitement with an early morning Nightjar discovered in Holland gardens. Formerly a great rarity seven of the previous eighteen records were been found between 2012-2014 and after a little confusion over the sexes it transpired that there were actually 2 Nightjars present (male and female) taking the total to 20 records (9 in 4 years!). Other newcomers included a male Red-backed Shrike at South Ness, female Hen Harrier roaming, a 1st summer Little Gull, 2 Robins, 2 Common Redpolls, a few new warblers while the Pink-footed Goose was seen again.
A busy few days (hence the lack of updates) with long days in the field, but there has certainly been some exciting birding. The Veery was re-trapped again at Holland gardens on the 4th though it remains elusive as ever and it would come as no surprise to see it re-found in several days time. Also of note that day were an Iceland Gull, 4 Woodpigeons, a Short-eared Owl, female Redstart, 5 Garden and 8 Willow Warblers, 8 Spotted Flycatchers and the male Lapland Bunting still. It was on the 5th that the magic of the northern isles was really seen with a strong easterly wind all day, heavy rain during the afternoon and a stunning evening proving the perfect formula for a fall of migrants. Spotted Flycatchers were prominent with 25 in all but it was the first spring record of Olive-backed Pipit (found at 9pm!!) creeping about in the grass at Gue Park which stole the show. Another 'first' concerned the first ever Hobby to be trapped and ringed, though that species is in itself about as rare as the OBP on the island. Other highlights were a male Red-backed Shrike at Brigg and a first-summer male Bluethroat trapped and ringed in the new west coast trap, which on examination of the photos was clearly different from the nearby singing male of two days previously. Other birds, mainly from the evening thrash about included a Kestrel, 18 Lesser black-backed Gulls, a Tree Pipit at the Mill, 31 Wheatears, a Song Thrush, a smattering of warblers which included 3 Lesser Whitethroats, 5 Garden and 6 Willow Warblers and 2 Siskins.
Despite the lack of any favourable winds it was pretty clear from the onset of a pleasant and sunny 3rd that there had been a moderate arrival of birds. Each net-round at Holland gardens saw a new Warbler seen or caught and cumulative totals for the day came too 3 Lesser Whitethroats, 11 Garden and 12 Willow Warblers. The Veery was also still present there but typically elusive while considerably more obliging was the smart singing male Bluethroat just north of Gretchen Loch. Also seen were singles of Robin, Black Redstart and Ring Ouzel, 4 Common Redpolls and the Lapland Bunting remained while non-passerines included an unseasonal Pink-footed Goose, 15 Knot, a Little Gull and Short-eared Owl.