Monday 30 December 2013

Toodle East

Offspring required taking to meet friends in kirkwall etc so an excuse for a toodle east. The lack of an extended day did limit things somewhat so it was a bit of a rush but first stop was the Toab Glossy Ibis. As well as trying out the new Canon I'm also messing about with digiscoping again, just as a backup for record shots of distant things. I tried a bit of digivideo, handheld Nikon CoolPix 3100 as well.

Ok, not great but passable, you can see what it is. 

Digiscope in terrible light, Nikon CoolPix handheld

Uncropped Canon SX50 ISO 3200 at 50x and 160th, very noisy

Then down to Point of Liddle where there were some nice surprises, amongst the 19 GNDivers and 6 Slav Grebes, 26 Velvet Scoter and 362 Eider, plus assorted LtDucks there was a close inshore Red-necked Grebe and a Black-throated Diver, very nice.

I probably should have spent more time searching for Mr Surfie but instead went to Scapa with thoughts of the thick-billed one.... just Tysties and 11 Slav Grebes here though. All the same a very nice afternoon out east.

Pochard and Twite

A huge flock of 817 Pochard counted yesterday on Loch of Harray by the Merkister was added to today by a flock of 387 Twite at nearby Russland Mill. Both spots are within my Foot It zone so hopefully they will hang around, as hopefully will the Meadow Pipit which can be a tricky species in january. Down at Howaback, which is just beyond my one mile Foot It limit, there was a (hard to get) Pied Wagtail as well as a Slavonian Grebe.

The garden yielded further out of season fayre with a Woodpigeon and  Black-headed Gull.

The afternoon was spent at Palace, a family walk which really and no special birds, but more interesting light with which to play with the Canon SX50 which has replaced the faithful (but sometimes rather irritating) SX20.

 The camera seems to have a depth of colour and sharpness that the SX20 did not achieve.

The light was poor and the zoom high, the image seems pretty sharp to me.

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Year end

Here's a year end picture. Text to follow later maybe....

Warbeth Beach, Stromness, it was barely possibe to make any headway into the wind yesterday.

Sunday 22 December 2013


Having failed to see the glossy one yesterday, I now suspect it was hiding behind the wall of the field, I nipped along there first(ish) thing and connected. The ibis walked out from behind the wall when I parked, it was just across the road.

The ibis was finding plenty to eat in the peedie field.

I moved on to Evie, the idea being to check out the whale corpse. However, high tide,a few sightseers and the appearance of an Iceland Gull when I got there weakened my resolve. half way to the corpse I gave up, most of the gulls were at the other end of the beach.

Searching the other way a Leeb was a fair reward, actually much less common here in winter than an Iceland Gull.

1cy Iceland Gull

1cy Leeb

There has been no sign of the Tree Sparrow at home since last Saturday, 14th, sadly it may have gone or been predated.

Sunday 15 December 2013


The Twitch - I didn't get there that early, it had been light for a while, but I was still the third person there. See the other two and the (rather dead) sperm whale.

Here's the scene, though a bit of a cheat as the gull was not feeding when I first got there, just sitting around. It then flew off strongly north. So after a bit I and two others (two more) tramped north along the shore. I looked the wrong way whilst an otter showed.

About a mile up the coast, scanning, and eventually the whitest one came into view. Flying back across from Eyenhallow, where it may roost. The pure white plumage and very long white wings, very pointed, were a sure giveaway.

This is a very white individual and I do wonder, what with the plumage and the yellow coming into the bill if it might not be a 2cy? The gull book does not entertain such nonesense of course, 1cy or adult are the options.

The bill it would seem is especially adapted to the task of piercing the tough outer whale skin. The gull continually worked at a tiny hole.

Nice bird, early Christmas present I guess, although I could do with a year end find.

WeBS counting today produced two nice drake Goosander on Loch of Bosquoy. The 120 or so Teal on The Shunan refused to reveal a G-wT though.

Sunday 8 December 2013

Goose counting in the rain

Goose counting day again so I headed over to the East Mainland to my goosey spot. Nearly 4700 Greylags counted and a rather low number of Pinkies 209. Also missing were Great Northerns, only abut 4 seen and Slav Grebes, same again. However, two good sized Eider flocks, a 607 and a 330 and a decent flock of 419 Long-tailed Ducks. Only other highlights were a flock of 36 Velvet Scoter and three Hen Harriers.

Sunday 24 November 2013

Short-billed Dowitcher

Here's some pix, not the greatest but....

Also managed to stumble upon an Iceland Gull and a tromp down the island produced a very nice Green-winged Teal at Gretchen.

The first time I've ever flown for a bird and a brilliant day's birding. Thanks to MW for transport and locations.

Sunday 10 November 2013

Goosey counting today

...and seeing great birds. My area is north and east of Kirkwall and Tankerness. Really like birding on Tankerness, I should do it more often!!

Kicked off with flocks of 784 Eider and 235 Long-tailed Ducks and then it just got better. A Waxwing on west Tankerness, I was wondering where all the Velvet Scoter were as I only found 7, until i found a flock of 47 in Deer Sound and a drake Surfie with them. Also in Deer Sound was another Eider flock, this time 199. All around Tankerness there were Great Northerns, Slav Grebes, Long-tailed Ducks and a few Red-throated Divers. Other highlights were a Black-tailed Godwit and a Jack Snipe amongst two really large gatherings of wadeers. Geese were restricted to just over 5000 Greylags and 445 Pinkies, plus a weird Canada hybrid.

Sunday 3 November 2013


 Water bubbling up into the field

 At the end of our track, a boat might be handy

A very useful bridge, the ditch, our track (left to right)

Other than all this weather mullarky a slightly frustrating weekend birding-wise. Despite lots of effort on Saturday it took until late afternoon to finally get to grips with the Chiffchaffs that were skulking about the garden all day. In the end one was nailed as tristis, the other probably was one. No pix unfortunately because it was late in the day when i finally got half decent views. The bird looked very like the one in the photo from the other week on N Ron, although the rusty cheek patch was not as marked.

Today I ventured out in the afternoon and in an hour three blue Fulmars passed Pt of Buckquoy, two dark morphs and a deep blue double dark.

Thursday 31 October 2013

Aurora 30 to 31/10/13

From behind our house tonight, excellent!!!

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Greenland Wheatear

Louise phoned me at work and then mentioned she'd just seen a rather interesting looking wheatear down by our ponies. I asked her to nip back with my camera and blast off a few shots so that we could nail the id, and to leave the camera in the tack room. The ponies are in fields about half a mile from work so at lunchtime I nipped down there for a quick look. I found the wheatear in about two minutes and the photos certainly nail the id.

Pot bellied, short-looking tail, long primaries, rich red/brown breast extending to the flanks and towards the lower belly, black tail with black extending to a broad black band, strong supercilium, rich brown in the mantle and back, clearly showing six primary tips, the seventh is just (I think) peeking out from the tertials. Anyone disagree? Any other useful criteria?

Top three photos Louise Forsyth

Sunday 27 October 2013

October's last days

My holiday has involved a fair bit of flogging the patches, initially for little return. A family holiday couple of days to North Ronaldsay was good fun with some good birding too. Then today, a glorious autumn day with great home patch birding, adding a species to the list even.

North Ron highlight was finding a Great Grey Shrike, a team effort as Louise who was about 200 m up the road found it independently and simultaneously, also over the two days, Richard's Pipit, tristis Chiff x2, Long-eared owl in the field and in the  hand, Black Redstart, Wood Sand and a spectacular fall of thrushes.

All black bill, black legs and feet, no greenish hews in the plumage, black alula all look good for tristis. No calling unfortunately Colours in the photo are true to field view.

 The girls enjoyed seeing the LEO in the hand

Scenes from the north end of the island at Bewan.

At home today a Lesser Whitethroat was new in the garden, checking call and quite stron mask would indicate that this was a "standard" individual and not an eastern subspecies. Only a single Chiffchaff seemed to remain, and it was not the more interesting individual of the three yesterday. There were still two Blackcaps and redwings trickled through all day. A Kestrel and a Hen Harrier hunted in the garden.

Down at Bosquoy there were still 37 Blackwits and a drake Goosander was a nice early surprise. best of all though was a patch tick, Jack Snipe.

The rain eventually arrived from the south-east (but we're not expecting any kind f spectacular weather here tomorrow).