Mar 14, 2009

Here is the monthly bird report published by the RSPB for febuary. The most elusive bird out there must be the Snowy Owl. I see it was reported on Birdguides yesterday so it is still about some where between shap and the west mainland or across the isles there. Keep looking..



Black-throated Divers have been few and far between this winter but singles were off Breck, Orphir on 8th and in Echanloch Bay on 28th. The largest concentration of Great Northern Divers was 50 off southern Egilsay on 13th. The most Slavonian Grebes was a count of 14 on the Swannay Loch on 8th while seven Little Grebes on Westray’s Saintear Loch was notable.

20 Whooper Swans at the Sabiston Loch on 21st was the month’s largest count but more folk will have seen the flock of 16 right in front of the St. Andrew’s School from mid-month on. Tankerness is the headquarters of our wintering Pink-footed Goose population and 1100 were there on 24th. Much scarcer were the four Tundra Bean Geese in Holm on 1st, another being found in Tankerness on 24th alongside a Taiga Bean Goose another of which was seen on North Ronaldsay on 19th and 23rd. The Loons Greenland White-fronted Goose flock peaked at 75 on 22nd, 17 also visiting the Swannay Loch on 12th with other singles in Tankerness and on North Ronaldsay. The Canada Goose was again seen on North Ronaldsay on 1st/2nd and on 23rd while the only Brent Goose reported was a pale-bellied bird in Tankerness on 28th. Away from South Walls, Barnacle Geese were in short supply with, except for 30 at the Skaill Loch on 1st, no more than six in any locality.

47 Shelducks were at the Mill Sand, Tankerness on 6th while up to 42 were on The Ouse, Shapinsay, peaking on 22nd. The Stenness Loch again attracted the most Gadwall with 43 on 24th. Teal are in their magnificent spring finery now and amongst those at the Mill Dam, Shapinsay from 18th, was a North American visitor, a Green-winged Teal. A good scatter of Pintail was reported but by far the largest concentration was 40 at Sanday’s Loch of Rummie on 5th. Another North American visitor was a Ring-necked Duck on North Ronaldsay from 11th-24th, a first for that island and only the fourth for Orkney. Scaup peaked at 205 on the Stenness Loch on 24th while a record of two drakes off Hoxa Head on 11th was unusual. 90 Long-tailed Ducks were in Gairsay Sound on 13th while an interesting observation was that, of 75 on Shapinsay’s Lairo Water on 22nd, 66 were adult males. The largest flocks of Eiders were 180 in Gairsay Sound on 13th and 250 in Rousay Sound on 17th. Few Velvet Scoters were reported, eight off Yinstay on 13th and seven in Gairsay Sound on 13th being the most noteworthy. The hard weather during the second week of the month caused the Smew to move from the Skaill Loch to the Brig o’ Brodgar where there was some of the only open freshwater in Orkney, water that also attracted many hundreds of other diving duck species.

Eight records of Buzzards during the month probably referred to just four birds, on Westray, in Birsay, in Firth and in the northern part of South Ronaldsay. Single Water Rails were noted on North Ronaldsay on 8th and, more unusually, on Westray on 10th.

Oystercatchers started pouring back into the islands from their more southerly wintering areas with, for example, 269 around the Stenness Loch on 24th. Away from their more usual north isles sites, single Grey Plovers were seen at Widewall on 17th and Skaill Bay on 27th. Very few Knot were seen with just one on North Ronaldsay on 10th and six at Widewall on 17th being reported. The Bay of Scuthvie again proved the favourite resort of Sanderling with 320 there on 2nd. Purple Sandpipers numbered 258 on Papay on 22nd with 140 at Scuthvie and 108 on North Ronaldsay about the same time. Three wintering Ruffs were located at Loch of Banks on 27th and again included the Dutch colour-ringed bird. Seven individual Jack Snipe were found during the month in a variety of moorland, wetland and coastal habitats while the total of 265 Common Snipe found on Westray on 10th was notable for the time of year. The hard weather resulted in some unusual concentrations of Woodcock with eight in Rendall on 10th and 14 at Hestily, South Ronaldsay on 13th with eleven other records of one-two. There were 110 Bar-tailed Godwits at Overbister, Sanday on 10th and 52 at Widewall on 17th but the only record of a Black-tailed Godwit was of one at Shapinsay’s Mill Dam on 18th. The wintering Whimbrel was seen on Burray up until at least 26th while a count of 890 Curlews in Widewall Bay on 17th was impressive. On the same date, there were 126 Redshanks in the Bay while further south at Liddel Loch, 220 Turnstones gathered.

The adult Mediterranean Gull was seen at the Peedie Sea on several occasions while an immature Little Gull put in an appearance off a Stromness pier on 3rd. Iceland Gulls were conspicuous with up to four on Westray, three in Stromness Harbour, three in the Kirkwall area and singles in three other sites. The sheep and seal carcasses at Marwick continued to attract up to three Glaucous Gulls while there were up to three also on North Ronaldsay, two on Westray, and singles at the Lochs of Swannay and Skaill.

The Snowy Owl that had been seen on Westray and in Sandwick during January made its way to Shapinsay and was last seen there on 21st, remaining very elusive throughout its stay.

The cold weather produced some unusual concentrations of Skylarks with 100 on Birsay Links on 9th and 48 in Tankerness on 12th being the largest. Meadow Pipits were very conspicuous for the time of year with, for example, 17 at Stromness Golf Course on 7th, 146 found on Westray on 10th and flocks of 28 and 60 in the Elwick area of Shapinsay on 13th. Similarly, there were far more Pied Wagtails than usual in February, with an amazing count of 35 at Kirkwall Marina on 17th. A Grey Wagtail was seen in the Willows area of Kirkwall on several dates. Single returning Waxwings were in Stromness and at Herston between 3rd-9th with another in Kirkwall on 21st and 24th.

Blackbirds were conspicuous with 110 counted on Westray during fieldwork for the BTO Atlas on 10th; up to 50 were also on Papay during the month. Following on from last month’s amazing record of a Ring Ouzel on North Ronaldsay on 17th January, another record came to light, this time on Burray two days earlier. Fieldfares appear to have arrived late from Scandinavia; most were seen in South Ronaldsay with 100 at Ward Hill on 15th, 89 at Widewall on 17th and 80 at Herston next day while there were seven other reports of up to 50. Redwings were fewer though 30 were in Finstown on 7th and up to 22 on North Ronaldsay; most of our wintering birds are of the Icelandic race as were, for example three in Stenness on 8th but, later in the month, Scandinavian-race birds were also seen with one-two, again in Stenness, on 23rd/24th.

A cock Blackcap appeared at a Stenness bird table at the start of the hard weather on 7th while single Chiffchaffs were found in Kirkwall on 5th and 8th and on North Ronaldsay from 17th-23rd. The wintering Coal Tit was seen again in the Hope on 9th and towards the end of the month so it looks as though it is going to survive an Orkney winter!

50 Jackdaws were at Hatston on 5th and single Carrion Crows on Westray on 10th and at Widewall on 15th. 67 Hooded Crows at Eastabist, Birsay on 21st was a notable concentration as was a count of 56 Ravens on Westray on 10th.

Last autumn’s Tree Sparrow was relocated at Keigar, Deerness on 7th/8th. The largest Chaffinch flock was 25 at Stenaday, Finstown on 7th while the only Bramblings were one-two in that same area for most of the month. The snow and frost concentrated 60 Greenfinches in Finstown with 30 in Stenness on 7th. It was Finstown too that attracted the most Goldfinches with a peak of nine there on 28th, singles also being seen on North Ronaldsay, in St.Ola, on Burray and on South Ronaldsay. 450 Twite gathered at Grindigar, Deerness on 14th with flocks of 200 at Mull Head, Deerness and Sands of Wright, South Ronaldsay. The two wintering Common Redpolls in Russadale, Stenness were present until at least 18th. In a rather poor winter for Snow Buntings, up to 82 on North Ronaldsay (peak on 23rd), 70 at the Brig o’ Waithe (on 26th) and up to 62 at Dale, Swannay were the largest concentrations, Dale also logging the best Reed Bunting flock, 50 on 9th.

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