Monday 28 September 2009

Sea, rain, sea, rain, sea ...

Two seawatching sessions yesterday produced the lowest Fulmar passage since I landed in August, at one point yesterday morning down to 35 an hour. So it was surprising that in the afternoon the sea gave up a proper "Blue Fulmar" - what I would term a double dark morph with full gery blue head, body and wings, smart. Prior to this bird I'd seen two rather scruffy looking darker individuals which were either dark pale morphs or they needed a bath.

Also on offer was a Black-throated Diver, passing conveniently with a Red-throat in tow, three juvenile Arctic Terns and various other bits and bats. At the end of the day nine (I think) Dark bellied Brent Geese almost flew in the car-hide window (thus the counting problem, too close and too quick) a wrestle with the ignition and the rain spattered west window descended, fast draw with the bins and I'm just about sure it was nine that disappeared along Birsay beach.

Sunday 27 September 2009

Yank bonanza

Despite the cuckoo going missing I still managed a bit of a Yankie do yesterday in glorious autumn weather.

After several searches gave up looking for the Yellow-bill and headed to the plover field where first one and then the other American Golden Plover turned up. Excellent views and a few record shots were obtained.

A search of the nearby quarry revealed an Accro which was finally ided as a Reed Warbler, also Chiff and Willow there.

The Ringed Plovers at various Deerness locations were then given serious scrutiny but no webbed footed characters were located.

Over on Tankerness, Mill Sands held a huge gull flock which eventually revealed a first winter Med Gull. Crawling through the brush here to get close to the flock may have caused the loss of the new tally counter :-( which despite searching every pocket has disappeared.

Then a trip down the road, a brisk march, mending hopeless disintegrating tripod head en route, to Weethick Pt where stunning views of three scoter species were obtained (nice record shots of these too). Also there 11 Slav Grebes, and a Black-throated Diver which was also severely scrutinised for cross pond species. The Common Scoter was another bird given a grilling for American cousin status, also sadly unproductively. More Slav Grebes and an awkward distant diver were seen from Essenquoy Sands.


Ho, hum what to do .... go and see the crane again I think. Down to South Ron where impatience and very noisy cattle led me to leave too early but stopping off at Murray to look at lots of Pink-feet PH appeared and with a "There it is" the third American species and fifth American bird of the day was bagged. That made 6 of 4 species in 25 hours ... not bad eh?

Friday 25 September 2009

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Edit - Ooops the post was not intended for here, never mind it gives quite good directions to the bird. Hope it is still there this very morn. - The report on News is a little misleading the cuckoo has gone to roost in the ditch on the landward side of the Gloup on Deerness. The Gloup
is not a quarry that might mislead folk to looking in the quarry to
the west . Park in the Gloup car park and walk down the path to the
sea and the Gloup with care. The bird is in the nettle clump in the
ditch about 20m inland from the first viewing bridge on the Gloup.
Earlier the bird was actively feeding in the Gloup care required there
is no fence and it's a bit of a drop :-)

Still can't post pix I'm afraid, a shame as the bird virtually landed on my foot and despite the poor light got a few (slightly blurry) but good enough images. What a mega beast!!!

The pic is here

The bird went to roost opposite the banana - now there's a clue

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Tuesday 22 September 2009


Sitting in a meeting this afternoon with the BBerry buzzing away on
silent every 15 mins; something was going on. When the meeting ended a
quick look at the phone was all it took to secure the next
destination. Having worked some fairly horrendous hours recently and
the meeting being away from base the birding gear was packed in the
boot so no hesitation South Ron here I come. Over the barriers another
crane hopeful was in the rear mirror as we headed south. For once I
arrived with the bird in view and I got all of 3 minutes before it up
and flew, not quite clinching views I felt though. Fortunately a very
sharp eyed observer found the beast lying down in small group of Geebs
and after a trudge along the track. A serious Orkney soaking in the
downpour excellent views were obtained. A chat with a local indicated
it might have been here for two weeks and I'd searched these very
fields on Saturday - not well enough clearly. So Sandhill Crane you're
twitched. Thanks to PH for perseverence in the rain finding it.
However back to normal form later as I dipped the Yank Plover, that's
more like it.

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Sunday 20 September 2009


The looking promising seawatch turned out not so good so after an hour
I decided to go to the beach and look at gulls and waders on the
rising tide. Having spent a good while grilling gulls I glanced down
at the noisy Starling flock just below the car and whOooaah PINK -
adult Rosy Starling.

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Sunday 13 September 2009

Frank and the pipit

Drew a blank. After much searching found the Deerness gull flock but
despite careful scrutiny (some were rather distant though) the two
year old remained elusive, Frank evaded me again. Had just crossed the
narrows and was staring into the sound when the text came in so back
to the Gloup car park but despite assistance from the finder no sign
of the pipit: so it goes. Weather looks ok for tomorrow....

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Blogging from an uninhabited island - because I can ... At least two
Robins and a Willow Warbler

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Saturday 12 September 2009

Let' go ... Seawatching

The weather didn't turn out how I expected, fiercish westerly driving
rain; no brainer then Birsay it was. I prefer the comfort of the
mobile hide in the car park to the rather exposed Whitaloo, also
because I reckon it looks a better bet geographically. At least today
that decision worked out well with very good views of a close Leach's,
11 Soots and various other bits and bats. After 3 hours retreated for
some grub. Bread had developed green spots so had to make scones.
Following a few hours work a return seemed a plan. Waders were flushed
off the beach by hardy walkers but 1140 Goldies were close enough for
a serious grilling, again no littler cousins. Back again to the sea
another Leach's showed briefly, two annoyingly awkward sub adult
skuas defied Id but LTS was a strong possibility for each. Another
fine Leach's showed superbly before time was called.

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Thursday 10 September 2009

In praise of Stanley

Spent the last couple of evenings watching Barry Lyndon a film I
haven't watched for a considerable time. It is truly a cinematic
masterpiece in almost every respect and does not betray its years (
available from Kirkwall public library).

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Wednesday 9 September 2009

Blowy Birsay

It was still blowing this morning and despite oversleeping there was still time for an hour or so seawatching as I had a training event to attend that didn't start until 9. The number of Fulmar passing west close in was so impressive, nearly one a second on average so in excess of 2,700 an hour going west with not one east in the sample count. Gannets were also motoring with about 380 an hour west. The stars of the show were 4 Sooty and 6 Manx Shearwaters all close enough and all heading west. There was a possible storm petrel as well but best forgotten as it was just glimpsed to disappear in a trough never, of course, to reappear. Guillemots and Razorbills were also trickling west. Three small flocks of Teal were seen, 6, 6 9 and it is possible more were missed as these were over the beach and a beautiful pale phase adult Arctic Skua. 15 Bonxie were seen to go west in the hour but this would be an unreliable count for a total as many of these cut in too close to be seen with the scope.

Nipping back to Birsay briefly this evening in the sunshine a very close Sooty skirted the Brough as I got out of the car but otherwise it was much quieter with just a single of each Puffin and Red-throated Diver and Fulmar going west at 550 an hour and east at 130 an hour (east counts from the Brough car park are not a reliable indicator of total passage though as they get "pushed out" by the Brough itself). The main purpose of this evening's visit to look for waders was abandoned due to the state of the tide and the birds being flushed by people.

If I've the energy an early morning trip to Mill Sand may be called for tomorrow (another meeting in Kirkwall provides the opportunity) as a Yank Goldie was suspected today. Which reminds me one of my flocks of Teal this morning had an unidentified plover leading them, mmmm.

Monday 7 September 2009

More beer

There is a second micro-brewery on Orkney, the Swannay Brewery. The
Scapa is a very good IPA.
1222 Golden Plover at Birsay yesterday pm, but no smaller cousins that
I could see. Sparrowhawk was an Orkney tick whilst on my daily exterior
supervisory amble this morning.

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Sunday 6 September 2009

Westerly blowing

The west wind was blowing this morn when I arrived at the delightful Marwick Bay. Many of the Fulmars were doing their hundreds of feet up thing again but just counting the low over the sea ones 1000 an hour were going south with but 240 an hour going north. Gannets were at 500 an hour south and 70 an hour north.

Manx Shearwater was the first of three species I did not see yesterday, four south and one north in 2 hours or so. A Red-throated Diver went south. The or a Whimbrel went south.

Now here's an interesting thing, why are almost all the Common Gulls on the fields adults (948 out of 950 yesterday for example) and all the ones feeding over the sea, moving south over the sea and generally mooching about on the shore juveniles? Could it be that the young birds need more iron in their diet? Juveniles of this species appeared to be trickling south through the watch.

Here's another interesting thing, why did most of the Fulmars go north yesterday morning but south this morning? Does the wind direction really make that much difference?

Plenty of Mepits again this morning, certainly trickling south and 7 finches that might have been crossbills went south. I didn't hear these too well but they sounded similar to the 15 or so that went south over Dounby at the beginning of the week which had a very strange varient on crossbill call; quite unlike Yorkshire birds.

Other interesting things were a flurry of Razorbills going north and south, Bonxies, going mostly north (12N, 5S) but I'll have missed many of the close and high ones. A Puffin.

On the way to breakfast there were two Greenshank and a male Hen Harrier at The Loons amongst a huge Greylag Goose party, several of these had orange collars. Then it rained very hard, now it's stopped. R-b Shrike at Stromness so perhaps I'd better go birding.

A Big Day Out

The plan for yesterday was to start off with a seawatch at Marwick Bay and then see what might follow. However, arriving at the favoured spot at six or so an immediate problem became apparent, no wind, certainly nothing from the west, if there was anything it seemed like a breath of south-east. A happy hour and a half was spent around the bay, including 30 mins staring hopefully out over the waves. I was there early enough to check the roosts so 306 Curlew and one Whimbrel, 600 or so Common Gulls were decent numbers. After half an hour or so the Mepits began to appear and as usual there were plenty, at least 70 around the bay and probably twice that number. A Wheatear was of interest. Fulmar were going north at 1100 an hour and south at 70 an hour, Gannets were going north at 360 an hour and south at 70 an hour. Other seabirds included two Razorbills; there was also an annoyingly distant, suspicious looking small wader.

The Loons produced several Sedge Warblers, Reed Bunting, a male Hen Harrier, 38 Golden Plover and an assortment of Lapwings and Curlew. Several Water Rails were as usual heard and not seen. A SEO was at the watchpoint but then it started to be very "soft" (drizzle and thick mist) - breakfast.

I had a good feeling about South Ron so embarked on the long trek down to Burswick. Common Buzzard was an instant Orkney tick as was Willow Warbler. But then calamity as I failed to spot the wader roost on the beach before it spotted me - there were interesting bits and bats in there. 27 Snipe were put to flight off the beach and there were plenty more buzzing around. 2 Sandwich Terns were welcome. There were a variety of quackers on the little loch up the road including 3 Shoveler. There was a huge flock of Linnet and Twite (100+) but unfortunately they were in thick and distant vegetation. Out on the east coast I attempted a seawatch whilst eating lunch, not very successful.

On Burray Echna Loch produced its usuals but nothing unusual.

Graemeshall Loch (also known by myself as Loch of Dips) was enjoying a Common Gull party, many on the water and an interchange with a nearby field (kitchen) 950 were counted, all but two adults, sitting in the field with the gulls were 4 Sandwich Terns.

Tankerness, and I had hopes for Mill Sands but rain and a lack of exciting waders made for a slightly dull time despite a lot of tramping about and considerable wiping of optics. A fair selection of waders was amassed, except Sanderling. A Greenfinch landed on the beach. Loch of Tankerness took a bit of grilling for 370 Wigeon and not much more.

Feeling pretty puffed out by this time I reckoned a trip to a new place, for me, Inganess Bay might be of interest. Trying the patience of local drivers, who were exceedingly patient and didn't hoot even when I stopped in the middle of the road reading the map blocking it entirely, I eventually found the track down to Sand of Essonquoy. This was a good move. First Arctic Terns of the day, five; then a Common Tern + juv. What's that Little Grebe doing on the sea, er, funny long neck it's got, altogether an odd looking thing; I eventually worked out it was a moulting adult Slavonian Grebe, first I've seen for many a year (when were those ones on Elland GP Nick?). Red-throated Diver in summer plumage, adult dark phase and pale phase Arctic Skuas. After an hour or so I drove around to the other side, Sand of Wideford where there was a single Sanderling.

Back on West Mainland The Shunan produced at least 46 Snipe.

75 species in total, not a bad day out, I might order it up with extra rare sauce next time though.