Saturday 28 January 2012


I'm reliably informed that the criteria for Kumlien's Gull has changed and that some birds are now being called, "brown winged" Iceland. These are the individuals with the venetian blind like effect in their wings, I think.

I snapped the two birds below at Bay of Skaill this morning. One is clearly Kumlien's but the other one appeared to be an Iceland Gull, but then in flight its tail would surely make it Kumlien's????

 Don't think anyone would argue with this as Kumlien's (3cy)

 This one looks like Iceland (3cy) though

 ...but that's a tail bar isn't it? Kumlien's then?

The brute was slightly more straightforward

There were 10 Iceland (type) Gulls in the bay this morning, with two Glaucous, on the loch there were two more Glaucous.

Thursday 26 January 2012

Awesome sky

Having dipped severely on the aurora the other night, saw the glow in the sky and didn't bother to check it properly, dow! Then having two evenings when we thought it was buzzing but the cloud prevented a view, it was neat this morning to awake to a clear sky to the south. Of late the morning sky to the south has been at best misty. Mars shone brightly to the SW, but best of all was Saturn low to the south with its rings showing really well at x 45. Then just around 7:00 a.m. the ISS passed under it, very neat.

A little later as I went out to the car to de-ice it (that is not to scrape off Iceland Gulls you understand) a Woodcock circled the house and garden. 

Yesterday, to and from Kirkwall to a meeting, a 3cy Iceland Gull on the PDC and then a 3cy and an adult west of Finstown plodding around in a field near Binscarth, didn't even bother to stop to use the bins, well they're trash birds now (only kidding, honest).

Saturday 21 January 2012

More ice in a hooley

 Iceland Gull in a storm

Went out to Marwick briefly today. Almost impossible to go birding, even from the car it was pretty tricky due to the wind blowing somewhere near a Force 9. I staggered out to Sand Geo and beyond where there were about 30 or so Iceland Gulls, including at least three Kumlien's, mostly identified by naked eye as using the bins was tricky, due to the wind, rain and blowing foam. It was like being in a storm of needles. Sheltering in the fishermen's huts provided some respite.

By the Choin at Marwick there were at least six more Iceland types and a 2cy Kumlien's, Also there two adult and one more Glaucous. Inland a bit and there were three more Glaucous on the Marwick pools.

 Adult Glaucous Gull

At home today Tree Sparrow, two or three Chaffinch and a male Hen Harrier; a little way up the fields there were 50 Fieldfare and by The Shunan 100 Redwings and four Moorhens.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

American Herring Gull-maybe

New photographs taken today, as the bird was refound, are much more convincing. I will request permission to post them here. The bird now does look chunky and "aggressive" enough and there are a range of other features that are encouraging.....


Killian Mullarney has looked at the photos and pronounced the gulll an argenteus, So spot on ID Stewart.

Sunday 15 January 2012

It's still a white out

Stayed at home for the first part of the day and managed to get Glaucous Gull on the "from the garden" list as a 1stW flew by.  Other highlights were two Peregrines having a spat, two Hen Harriers, four Golden Plover, 250 Curlew by The Shunan and of course the Tree Sparrow.

In the afternoon I went back to Marwick to look again at the ww gulls. But look at this...

Could this be a Yank HG?

Answering my own question, probably not. I've had a look at the Lonergan and Mullarney paper and also had a comment or two. The bird does not look big and bulky enough for AHG. In particular the bill looks too slight and as Stewart has pointed out the head isn't bulky enough, nor is it the correct shape, it should be longer and flatter I think. I'm also concerned that the tail pattern wouldn't be correct for an AHG of this age. The shade of grey of the mantle and back are not too far off Iceland, and it should be darker. So probably good try but no bananas.... However, what it actually is is quite another question as I don't think its a Herring Gull.

More pictures of the interesting gull. Many thanks to Alastair Skene for his permission to post these.

These five photos, thanks to Alastair Skene who took them today at Sand Geo.

All comments gratefully received.

Gull videos

Videos from Sand Geo, Marwick, West Mainland.

Saturday 14 January 2012

Gull blizzard

A quick post, I reckon to have seen about 90 WW gulls today. I took over 400 pix but will sort them out and post tomorrow.

 Selection box

 Glaucous Gull

 Selection box up

 Kumlien's Gull, juvenile

 Iceland Gull adult

 Iceland, 2nd winter

 Adult Iceland and 2nd W Kumlien's

 Glaucous Gull

 2nd W Kumlien's Gull

Skaill Bay and loch c 11:30 3 Kumlien's; 12 Iceland and 11 Glaucous (probably a
few more Glaucous but I couldn't be in two places at once...)

 Iceland and Kumlien's Gulls, sorting exercise

 Adult Kumlien;s Gull, a rather distinctive one

 Kumlien's Gull, 2nd W

Sand Geo, the fishing huts at Marwick; 3 Kumlien's (at least) but including two
smart and obvious adults; 45 Iceland Gulls (that's an estimate) and 7 Glaucous.
There's a large amount of decaying whale in the geo, the wwgs think it's a

The Choin, Marwick, 12 Iceland and 3 Glaucous.

Didn't have time to get to Birsay or anywhere else.

On the back of Skaill beach from the car there was a small flock of 8 or so
buntings that didn't show any white. Unfortunately I didn't hear them and was
driving at the time, rather suspected that they were laps.

At home the Tree Sparrow was present and a Woodcock flew through the garden at dusk. Also at dusk a hunting hen harrier and Short-eared Owl.

 Home sunsets, including Venus

Sunday 8 January 2012

Rain, tens of white-winged gulls, more rain

I got to Skaill a little later than ideal and the tide was falling, High tide would be best probably. However, at the loch birds were still flying in, so too early in the morn, when you can't see anyway, would perhaps not be so good.

I saw a minimum of 25 Iceland and 11 Glaucous Gulls today - I know AL counted more than me at Skaill (27), but at one point I managed 21 between the loch and the beach.  I think there were at least 8 different Glaucous Gulls at Skaill. There was some evidence that birds were moving though south with birds at Marwick (4 Iceland) disappearing in that direction around 2 or so. However, a short sea watch at Pt of Buckquoy did not reveal any white winged gulls on the move there, there was just a single 3cy Glaucous looking miserable on the Palace beach. There were two Glaucous at Marwick as well.

 I think this is Kumlein's

 Very dark Glaucous Gull

WWGs on Skaill beach

Great photos as usual, although it was slinging it down all day, barely got light

Of the 21 birds I saw at Skaill I think two were Kumlein's but I may be wrong, I have limited field experience of this form (just one I think). The first initially appeared to be an adult, but when I saw it again on the beach, initially thinking it was a different bird, I realised it was not a full adult. The basal 50% of the bill was a murky, pinkish grey, the tip 50% straw yellow with an indistinct red spot. The eye was dark. There appeared to be very feint grey smudges in the primaries, very indistinct. This was a petite bird compared to many of the others present. I don't believe glaucoides can have this combination of bill, eye colour can it? The other bird was a 3cy and had some grey in the mantle, a dark tipped greenish bill, a dark eye and distinct brownish smudges in the primaries, across all primaries, again I don't think this is a combination that's ok for glaucoides but I'll be happy to be corrected. I did see the eyes well at fairly close range and viewed with the scope.

A fantastic spectacle at Skaill, just brilliant, if a little damp in the continuous rain today.


Wednesday 4 January 2012

Bad weather

A lot of rain today, and hail;ouch! It caught me outside.

Seawatch early afternoon produced a Red-throated Diver, a Kittiwake, two Gannets, an auk, an Eider and 143 Fulmars west with 14 east. There were a few Shags and Fulmars hanging out as well.

The Tree Sparrow was in the garden during one of the brief periods it was possible to see outside.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Ring of Brodgar

On New Year's Day I went and had a mooch about by the Ring to see if I could find AL's warbler. He saw it in the bird crop but not so far away there are quite a few bushes by the loch side. Anyway, to no avail.

Woodcock flew from the fields by The Shunan around the house and garden and into the rookery somewhere, the Tree Sparrow showed first thing. First bird was a Hoodie, heard, and first seen was Blackbird.

Rook diary

I'm now publishing a diary of our rookery as a seperate blog, here.

Sunday 1 January 2012

2011 post-script

A tantalising lifer was found on 30th December and the site is within view of the kitchen, problem is it's across the sea. A Gyr Falcon was found by members of Orkney Climbing Club on the top of Ward Hill, Hoy; there's a photo, it looks good. On the same day a possible Hume's was in crop at the Ring of Brogdar, also within view of the kitchen; somehow I missed the posting on this or I would have looked for it yesterday.

The last bird of 2011 was a Short-eared Owl flushed from the ditch by the track as we returned yesterday evening, there was another as well around the byres, but I missed it.

Gyr Falcon or Hume's would be a nice kick-off for 2012, let's see what the year brings. Happy New Year and good birding to regular readers, and others who stubble across this blog.