Saturday, 11 February 2017

6th-9th February

6th Feb

Bits and pieces include Great Northern Diver, Green-winged Teal lingering on Gretchen, Peregrine and a modest count of 21 Dunlin.  3 Sanderling were a notable count given the surprise absence of this species so far this year with the exception of a single bird in January.

8th Feb

The 7th was incredibly windy and with plenty of indoor chores taking priority we decided to leave birding until the 8th.  Even by then the wind had only subsided slightly enabling a Glaucous Gull, Great Northern Diver and 11 Twite to be found.

9th Feb

Our best opportunity to head out in the field and achieve some birding for the first time in several days arrived following a long period of strong southerly winds.  As they weakened a seawatch was in order and produced 4 Red-throated Diver, 8 Great Northern Diver, 8 Long-tailed Duck, 9 Red-breasted Merganser, 122 Kittiwake, 9 Tysties.  The standout highlight was the reappearance of the 1st winter White-billed Diver (assumed to be the individual from 2nd Feb) which lingered for two hours in front of the seawatch hide offering remarkably close views at times and great enjoyment to us lucky volunteers.  Perambulations around the island produced the first Song Thrush of the year, drake Smew, ringtail Hen Harrier, Jack Snipe, 10 Fieldfare, 5 Redwing, Chaffinch.  Waterfowl of note included lingering 6 Eurasian White-fronted Geese, 2 Mute Swan, 69 Wigeon, 2 Gadwall, 6 Pintail and 5 Goldeneye.

3rd-5th February

3rd Feb

Some modest wildfowl counts included 4 Whooper Swan, 2 Pink-footed Geese, 162 Wigeon, 20 Tufted Duck, 5 Goldeneye, Smew and 7 Red-breasted Merganser.  184 Purple Sandpiper represented another peak in their numbers and were coupled with high counts of 28 Bar-tailed Godwit and 127 Turnstone.  The strong winds also brought in many gulls including 121 Herring Gulls, 319 Common Gulls and 3 juvenile Iceland Gulls.

4th Feb

Highlights included 6 Red-throated Diver, 2 Great Northern Diver, juvenile Iceland Gull, juvenile Glaucous Gull, 8 Tysties and 158 auk sp. on seawatch.

5th Feb

More of the same but the lingering winter specialties continue to inspire.  2 Red-throated Diver, 3 Great Northern Diver, 10 Long-tailed Duck, Peregrine, juvenile Iceland Gull, 10 Tysties, 7 Sylarks and 2 Pink-footed Geese.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

1st-2nd February

Winter birding really is good fun up here in Orkney.  We've been very fortunate to encounter white-winged gulls on an almost daily basis.

1st February

The first day of the month brought with it an adult Iceland Gull which glided past Bride's Point before drifting up the coast.  It's outer primaries seemed to show dusky grey outer webs to the trailing half of the wing suggestive of ssp. kumlieni although this was never confirmed with more satisfactory views.  It associated with dozens of Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls, 146 Common Gulls and 7 Back-headed Gulls touring around the island.  Other notable species on the 1st included the lingering adult male Northern Harrier, Merlin, Peregrine, 5 Tysties, 5 Red-throated Diver and 3 Great Northern Diver.  The majority of our effort invested in the field has been focused on the southern portion of the island but still yielded modest totals of wildfowl including 189 Wigeon, 62 Teal, drake Green-winged Teal, 10 Pintail, 7 Long-tailed Duck, 3 Goldeneye and 2 Red-breasted Merganser.  Wader totals amounted to 93 Oystercatcher, 157 Lapwing, 28 Purple Sandpiper, 76 Dunlin, 12 Snipe, 34 Curlew, 38 Redshank and 51 Turnstone.  A yearling Common Seal at Bride's Point was an encouraging sight to round the day off.

2nd February

The day seemed to be set for a similar agenda as a juvenile Glaucous Gull glided past the obs as soon as we set foot out of the door.  A further 2 Iceland Gulls made an appearance cruising along the east coast and included the lingering 2nd winter and a new adult.  These associated with 274 Common Gull and 83 Great Black-backed Gull.  A morning seawatch from Dennis Head was very exciting as a 1st winter White-billed Diver drifted slowly north at 10:40-10:50am.  An additional 4 Great Northern Diver, 3 Red-throated Diver, 3 Little Auk and our first Bonxie of the year also passed by.  Further noteworthy species included 2 Mute Swan, 2 Whooper Swan, Shelduck, 8 Pintail, 135 Eider, 18 Long-tailed Duck and drake Smew.  A mixture of additional highlights included 2 Merlin, 23 Bar-tailed Godwit, 6 Snow Buntings and the first Goldfinch of the year.

juvenile Glaucous Gull (George Gay)

adult Iceland Gull (George Gay)

30-31st January

The theme for the past week has been... wind.  Lots of it but it has been responsible for a rather productive period in terms of gulls.  Little time was spent in the field due to the weather and indoor work taking priority but brief excursions on the 30th produced 9 Long-tailed Ducks, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 26 Bar-tailed Godwits and the lingering 6 Eurasian White-fronted Geese.

The 31st brought with it little change in the bird scene with the lingering juvenile Glaucous Gull, 6 White-fronted Geese and 2 Mute Swans being the only noteworthy species.