Monday 22 June 2015

Gull-billed Tern

Woke up late, well I was up at 3:30 to turn off the moth trap, it was beautiful then too, 50% clear skies, lovely clouds, should have gone and taken a picture really, but then I would have not got back to sleep and I bet I wouldn't have seen the Gull-billed Tern.

Instead, I slept in, had tea and toast and went birding at 10:00. Cora came to Palace with me and we checked the beaches, well JB had two Little Stints and a Red-necked Phal the other day (on Papay).  Then I checked the gardens, well N Ron had Marsh and Iccy Warblers. A further check of the north beach... all this produced 9 Sanderling, a Dunlin and a couple of smart Turnstone. There were four broods of Eider and one of Shelduck, hopefully a brood I'd not seen before and not one of the large broods reduced to just four. Anyway after all that I was thinking of going home but then I hadn't checked the Northside gardens and I hadn't looked at the Skiba Geo Arctic Terns for a fortnight.

Plenty of food, not sure what this fish is mind


So there I am minding my own business, checking the Arctics. These folk in front of me have a fancy camera and they're presumably getting some nice pictures of the terns and of this Oystercatcher and her chicks on the front edge of the rock...

The terns were coming back and forth fairly frequently so I started scanning towards The Brough to see where they were fishing and that's when I first clocked the GBT, 400 metres out.

Here's what I've written in the circumstances for the BB RC description:
"The terns seemed to be bringing in small fish quite regularly so I started scanning the bay towards Brough of Birsay to see where they were fishing. I quickly noted a distant tern, about 400 metres away, flying slowly south, as if it was feeding, it was clearly not an Arctic Tern. I tried to get on to the tern with my scope and failed dismally, went back to the bins and could not relocate the bird. About two or three minutes later the tern reappeared in the bay closer, at about 200 metres. This time I felt confident about my identification and drew the attention of the photographers to the bird. Although they had binoculars and were photographing the terns these folk didn’t really know what I was talking about, unfortunately. I was slightly distracted by trying to get the other folk on to the bird and in that moment the tern apparently vapourised again. I scanned about and couldn’t find it. After a few minutes I went back to looking at the Arctic Terns but kept an eye on the bay. However, in a short time, a couple of minutes maybe, the Gull-billed Tern flew slowly south again right through the Arctic Tern colony at about 50 metres or so. This time the bird kept going, south along the cliff edge, then over the fields until it was out of view near Point of Buckquoy. Actual observation time was probably less than 2 minutes overall. Despite the note on Birdguides that it was “hawking over fields” this was never the case and was not what I put in the text when I called it in. The bird was not observed to actively feed at any time, it was basically “mooching about” the Arctic Tern colony, in no hurry. When it finally flew off it was in the same leisurely manner.

The camera was sitting by me the whole time but I elected to observe carefully, I’m not great at flight photos and previous experience has taught me to confirm the identification with good observation before going for the camera and potentially getting neither pictures nor all the salient features required for a confirmed identification."

Whoa! that was some good bird!

Sunday 14 June 2015


I've been working away for the last week and fair knackered to be honest. Didn't see much south to be honest, a couple of Osprey being the highight.

Getting home, stuff to do. Did manage to get out to Palace on Saturday, but most of the waders seem to have gone.

Did find this at Palace tho

Rhingia campestris

I'd missed the hoverfly course last weekend as too tired and had to get ready for working away. With moths being a non-starter, trap scored 0 last night, searching for hovers seemed a fair alternative. The Rhingia is common nationally, and obviously quite common here as there was one at home today. That was easy to id, this is a tad more tricky....

Male and female of what I think is Platycheirus clypeatus but this species requires some serious scrutiny so I'm unsure - ah, Roger Morris says it's Platycheirus manicatus, a common species in the north! The thorax is quite dull and (with careful observation) dusted, a diagnostic feature. 

Sunday 7 June 2015

Little Stint and other waders

A wadery day at Palace. Actually I was supposed to be elsewhere but work has been a bit of a hassle of late so I needed some space (sorry folks). Anyway a surprise was in store as Palace beach was heaving with waders, just my favourite scenario. There were about 85 Sanderling, a record for this patch, 45 Dunlin (maybe another record), 45 Ringed Plovers and a cracking Little Stint that I finally wheedled out of the masses.

I love the "Ah! What's this?" moment.

A slight concern at this time of year, actually especially this year, is that it is a Little Stint and not some more exotic Yank thing (like Semi-P). But here the rufous face and rufous scapulars are helpful, also the pale wash into the primaries might be diagnostic?

Dark legs rule out Least and Long-toed (it doesn't look anything like Temminck's either). Size rules out all but Red-necked, Semi-P and Western.

It's nice and bright, has a nice pale V on the back and the bill is short and fine. That's about it then, pretty much has to be Little Stint. Is the primary projection a tad of a concern in this pic tho?

Can't see any toe palmations.

Primary projection looks ok here. Little Stint in summer plumage, smart!

Here are some other waders from the morn...


 Dunlin and Sanderling


 ... and another

 ...and when they're this colour just make sure they are big and chunky with a nice thick bill!!


Got stroppy with me, I was too near the chicks I reckon.

 We've got the garden going at last, just starting to take the purple sprouting broccoli out now, a couple of meals or so left.

 Bosquoy today

Crap pic but you can see some of the chicks hitching a ride.

Saturday 6 June 2015

Recent pictures etc

From today....

These three taken between 11:30 and 1.00 a.m.

Not taken at night

I put this Iceland Gull ull out as a 3cy but on reflection I think it is likely to be a 4cy, bit unsure, the bill would make it a 4cy i think 9according to Malling/Olsen/Larsson

Eristalis pertinax from last weekend, first started seeing them the weekend before, both at Bosquoy in the meadow and by the burn along the track on both dandelions and on kingcup

Finally caught up with Primula scotica at Yesnaby

 This rook was injured. I've been finding quite a number of late with damaged wings, presumably knackered adults are flying into the fences and beggaring their wings.


Mystery Gull opinions sought

I think this is an Iceland/Herring Gull hybrid, but I don't really believe in hybrids....

The bird certainly has the jizz of an Iceland Gull, with that upright stance and wing tips nearly trailing on the floor. But clearly it is not right for that species.

Please feel free to comment.


I have begun to collect my photographs of boats photographed aground in Orkney on Flickr. The collection is at an early stage but more will gradually be added. Take a look, here: