Sunday, 25 January 2015

I'd rather have a white one please...

I rarely go out without the scope but yesterday afternoon I was feeling lazy, and it was windy so keeping it still here would be a challenge, so off I set... First up, behaviour of other species indicated there was a raptor about. After a lot of scanning about I was rewarded with a pretty brief view of a dyke hopping large falcon, well very large. Big Peregrine was my thought but... Next it was in the air scrapping with a Peregrine, what I guessed in comparing them was a small male. This time I got a bit of a longer view and the thought of Gyr did go through my head but... In the end I just passed it off but one or two things did bother me about the id. So when I bumped in to my neighbour by his Loch of Bosquoy house late this afternoon and he said he'd had prolonged and close views of a dark phase Gyr hunting yesterday afternoon I was a tad jealous. Trouble with dark phase birds is that I think they are almost impossible to get accepted as the falconers hybrid issue comes in to play. No doubt this was the real deal. Whatever, great bird, even my brief views were of quite a beast. Story wasn't over though as after getting home just in front of the rain this afternoon, sat drinking tea and Louise saw a very large falcon with contrast between the underwing coverts (dark) and the primaries (pale) scoot over our big sycamore and into the distance.

When I finally got to The Shunan yesterday afternoon with no scope and wanting to check if the Blue-winged Teal was still there I just blasted off a pile of photos.

 There's the B-wTeal on the right of the picture

However, this is a tad more problematic, adult Iceland maybe, opinions welcome.

I'll take the scope in future.

Seawatch yesterday produced Fulmars going 3,000 an hour and two Blues with them, and not much else but Guillemot was a Patchwork tick.  The gull scrum produced nothing of note, but always an interesting moment. 

 A very blustery walk around the Links revealed  two Reed Buntings, tricky to get there.

 A few minutes later it looked like this

Late afternoon, end of the telescopeless walk around

Today both the Blue-winged Teal and the Green-winged were in view, there was a Pied Wagtail and a drake Goosander at Bosquoy, early Oystercatcher and drake Shelduck on The Shunan and Louise finished the day off with a brief view of the Gyr (thing) from the kitchen window.

Oh, nice boat at Bosquoy...

Patchwork running totals for 2015
Old Nisthouse - 56 species   FootIt - 51 (66)    Comparitive PWC 2014 - 117 (169 Pts)

Palace, Birsay - 38 species - Comparitive PWC 2013 - 93 (121 Pts)

Wednesday, 21 January 2015


The excitement of the weekend 's birding did not end on Saturday as a 2cy Iceland Gull flew past the kitchen window at about midday on Sunday and the Blue-winged Teal drake was still present. Careful observation of the duck associating with the drake by AL and myself showed it to be just Anas  crecca and nothing more exciting.

A trip to the Links with the hound was not very exciting just adding Song Thrush, although Carrion Crow and three hybrids were present.

Whilst running out of the house in Crocs and T-shirt to try to get better views of the Iceland Gull, which had vaporised, I disturbed a pipit in the field by the house which might have been a Rockit, unfortunately it didn't call and fled into the distance promptly, a species that I would like to add to the patch list and must be possible.

Another interesting moment from the Saturday at Bosquoy was the very small wader that flew with the small group of Golden Plover, really had me wondering but it was way away for an ID.... so it goes.

Patchwork running totals for 2015
Old Nisthouse - 50 species   FootIt - 44 (66)    Comparitive PWC 2014 - 117 (169 Pts)

Palace, Birsay - 36 species - Comparitive PWC 2013 - 93 (121 Pts)

Saturday, 17 January 2015


Despite not getting out as much as last year in January I'm certainly seeing some birds. This morn must rate as one of the best winter morning outings on the patch (perhaps on any of my patches past and present).

WeBS counting so despite the very, very cold, damp morning with the occasional wintery shower I was out there with the hound. Carefull scanning of The teal flock on The Shunan produced a Blue-winged Teal drake (with possible suspicions of a duck too). Despite skulking at the back the bird gave reasonable views and then came a wee bit closer for a while. A twitch was initiated and all of six birders appeared to hunt for it, most of whom were successful. Before the twitch got going though, having had good views I was off down to Bosquoy to count there too. A good omen was the Jack Snipe we flushed as the hound and I skulked along the holiday home fence to get some shelter. In amongst the 200 or so teal I caught a glimpse of a drake that looked interesting and so it quickly proved with Green-winged confirmed.

Not the greatest pix in the world but given the cold, the hail and more cold not too bad. Interestingly the Blue-winged Teal was first seen last year on 18th January on Bosquoy so it is very likely this is the same bird. This time it was associating with a duck quite a bit and although in life the range was too great one of the photos seems to indicate the possibility of a duck B-wT. I will investigate further tomorrow.

The Green-winged is a much hoped for find, something I'm very surprised I'd not found before, total delight was the reaction on the Bosquoy shore.

Even managed a new boat picture for my series. The lucky Hammers t-shirt will never be off my back now.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Glaucous seawatch

A bit late down to the sea but between 10:20 and 12:30 seven Glaucous passed Point of Buckquoy. At least it was watchable today and Fulmars and Kits were passing with Fulmar at 3,000 an hour at a maximum and some hundred or so Kits passing (with just one juv). Also of note were 32 likely but not certain Barnacle Geese distantly east, a male Merlin, a Goldeneye drake. There was a good movement of Great Black-backed Gulls with nearly 100 in the first hour and a steady stream of Common Gulls.

Glaucous passing

After 12 I walked down to the whale bones with Louise and the hound. The waves were spectacular. The last Glaucous juv went by as we were by the bones.

Glaucous past the bones

Saturday, 10 January 2015

A tad breezy

Managed to get out briefly to Palace but it was hard enough to stay standing up let alone do much birding, hound wasn't that bothered though.

 Looking to Marwick

 Seawatch views

Skaill Bay

The Whoopers are still on The Shunan and a Moorhen walked across the track as I drove up.

Old Nisthouse - 45, Foot It - 40

Palace, Birsay - 34

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Palace kick off!

No not footie it's the Patchwork Challenge. Site 2 and a good start with a Glaucous Gull, some Snow Buntings and sometimes awkward to find there Robin.

Rubbish pix

Back at the ranch, playing with the GoPro I found one of our Robins is ringed. Now hopefully within the 6,000 or so photos there are enough to get the whole ring sequence...

075 so far...

Not much birding today. Some bathroom decorating time as the weather was pretty rubbish a.m. Things improved in the afternoon and spent a casual two hours wandering around the nearby fields and looking in the garden. Kestrel was a good bird, sometimes hard to get here and the Rooks and Jackdaws came in to the roost but then left, not sure if they have returned.

 Afternoon light


Patchwork Challenge species:

Old Nisthouse - 44, Foot It - 40

Palace, Birsay - 34

 Moon spoiling the aurora fun tonight...

Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Year's rain

At least it wasn't windy, but it rained all the time I was out on foot.

I went down to do the ponies at nine or so, hoping to nab the Pinkie, Fieldfare and Redwing which were present yesterday, job done.

Had home duties til eleven but then off on foot around the patch, in the rain. Star bird and unexpected was a Ruff at Loch of Bosquoy where I failed to find Jack Snipe or Goosander. Then searching around at home failed to find the recent Brambling, However Linnet was a useful bonus as they can be hard to find. A late afternoon outing to Howaback revealed a huge flock of at least 250 Twite across the loch from Howaback and a hunting Merlin. Total 38 species, Foot It total, 34 species.

Tomorrow it may be an attempt on Patch No 2 at Palace.

From Howaback

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Last glimmer

Trying very hard over the last few days to add to my Patchwork Challenge total, December so far being the only month where I have not added additional species. A mid-month dip in the shape of Mistle Thrush on the lawn was the closest I had come. And then this morning, doing the ponies, a small gaggle of geese went over, 21 flew right by but two turned away and headed south, one of those two was not a Pinkie (which all the others were), neither was it a Greylag, but I just couldn't nail it due to the light and the direction of flight, I'm thinking whitefront but....

Here are some photos of an interesting crow at the PDC yesterday. It just shows how easy it is to pass hybrids off as Hoodies. This is quite a subtle hybrid.

 Looks like a Hoodie (however, the central streak on that feather above the near leg is too broad)

 Now its true identity is revealed, but these feather were very hard to see from other views

A good clue is the way the black and grey "join" at the nape. It should present as a very distinct, clear demarcation, unlike this. A rider to this is that in July Hoodie juveniles are similarly marked.

Patch round-up
2014 was the fifth complete year on the patch, the actual starting date was October 2009. The patch total of species for the year was 117 (plus tristis Chiffchaff), Patchwork Challenge points 169. New species added to the patch list this year: Garganey, Blue-winged Teal (twice), Common Scoter, Water Rail, Red-footed Falcon, Great Grey Shrike, Blue Tit, Lapland Bunting and subspecies Redpoll, C.f.islandica. Also seen this year and worth mentioning, Marsh Harrier, Corncrake, Curlew Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Jack Snipe, Kittiwake, Iceland Gull, an unclaimed Glaucous Gull (seen whilst having a bath, that's me not the gull), Waxwing, Ring Ouzel, Stonechat and  Grey Wagtail. Dips I'm aware of were Snow Goose (of German provenance most likely) and Mistle Thrush. Since October 2009 I've seen 146 species from the patch (includes Gannet and Shag which are viewable with persistence by scanning Clestrain Sound 8km away - not included in this year's total). To my knowledge 153 species have occurred during that time (I've excluded the Snow Geese).

The last of the day, New Year's Eve

Sunday, 28 December 2014

A over T

Ouch!! Just not careful enough on the very icy track this morn, fortunately none of me or of my gear broken, ****** hurt though.

It was worth going out. I had to approach Bosquoy from across the fields as the track down there was just ice. This route gives a nice elevated view over the loch and having checked and counted the wildfowl I noticed a bit of a splash to my left. Watched the dog otter for about an hour. Managed to walk closer, he was quite aware that Cora and I were there but just ignored us.

Video quality a bit naff as I'm not used to using it.

 The photos aren't much better to be honest

Also down there a Jack Snipe.

On to Palace after lunch, and the Snow Bunting flock had grown. Other suspicious looking characters down there that will require further checking, a few bits and bods bombing about that I failed to get on to.

Then to Stromness where the adult Iceland Gull showed briefly before flying off to roost.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Boxing Day

A Woodcock was star bird of the day, flushed from the garden. Also nine Brambling, a Hen Harrier that tried to join us in the kitchen and the three Whoopers, two ads and a juv were still on The Shunan. It's very, very cold.

And here's another pic from the GoPro yesterday....

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Christmas skies


Here are a couple of stills taken with my new toy (basic GoPro Hero).