Jul 3, 2009

RSPB monthly bird report


JUNE 2009

Small numbers of Great Northern Divers remained in Orkney waters all month, maxima being five off North Ronaldsay on 23rd and off Egilsay on 29th. A surprise visitor was a summer-plumaged Red-necked Grebe on the Loch of Bosquoy on 12th. An even bigger surprise was the sighting of an albatross, probably a Black-browed Albatross, off Noup Head, Westray on 1st. A bird of this species has been in the St.Kilda – Sula Sgeir area for several years now and this may well have been the same individual. Up to 10 Manx Shearwaters were noted off North Ronaldsay on several dates whilst a flock of 60 moved from Swona into Scapa Flow on 13th. The recently established Gannet colony on the Noup, Westray this year has 499 apparently occupied nests, a major increase on the 2008 figure of 345. Grey Herons began moving back into the county during the month, the largest gathering being six at Burwick on 15th. A Purple Heron was reported at Herston on 20th, which, if confirmed, will be the first record for many years. A Little Egret was at Graemeshall Loch on 5th/6th.

Two Whooper Swans remained on North Ronaldsay all month and one was at Loch of Banks on 12th. A Pink-footed Goose was another unseasonal visitor to Rendall on 6th. Three broods of Wigeon were reported from Echnaloch, Burray on 22nd, making this loch important for this species not just in local but also in national terms. A drake American Wigeon was at Graemeshall Loch on 21st and 27th/28th. Lingering winter visitors included two Long-tailed Ducks on Echnaloch on 12th and a Goldeneye in Echnaloch Bay on 20th. Moulting drake Eiders gathered into substantial flocks of 400 off Thieves’ Holm on 4th and 250 off Flotta on 23rd. Similarly, there were 40 drake Red-breasted Mergansers in Evie Bay on 11th while a Common Scoter was off North Ronaldsay on 13th.

Quail were heard calling on North Ronaldsay on 22nd and 26th (two) and at the Tomb of the Eagles on 29th. Water Rails rarely reveal themselves but one swam (!) across part of Graemeshall Loch on 27th and two were in front of The Loons hide on 30th.

It was a good month for more unusual birds of prey with a Honey Buzzard on Stronsay on 23rd, an Osprey over North Ronaldsay on 16th, Marsh Harriers at Graemeshall Loch on 9th and at The Loons on 14th and a Hobby on Burray on 2nd.

The maximum count of Knot on North Ronaldsay was 55 on 6th and of Sanderling in the same locality, 36 on 2nd; other Sanderling flocks included 14 at Newark Bay, South Ronaldsay on 11th and 19 at Bu Sands, Burray on 19th. Little Stints were seen on North Ronaldsay on 2nd, 13th and 15th with three Curlew Sandpipers there in the same period. Single Purple Sandpipers were on the same island on 11th and 26th. A Pectoral Sandpiper was found on Westray’s Swartmill Loch on 14th, one being seen in Holm at about the same time. A Ruff was at Lairo Water, Shapinsay on 27th. Black-tailed Godwits showed signs of migration with up to 16 at The Loons and up to six at three other sites. The biggest Bar-tailed Godwit gathering was of 32 in Bay of Lopness, Sanday on 18th. Whimbrel also began their return movements with up to three on North Ronaldsay and one at Hestily, South Ronaldsay on 27th. A Greenshank was on North Ronaldsay on 25th and 27th and a migrant Common Sandpiper there on 18th. A Red-necked Phalarope gave folk a treat at The Shunan on 17th/18th others being seen on North Ronaldsay on 16th, 27th and 28th (two).

One-two Glaucous Gulls were seen in the Bay of Skaill area mid-month with others on Westray, Papay and at The Loons at about the same time. Two Little Terns were seen on North Ronaldsay on 9th. The famous Puffin site at Westrays Castle o’ Burrian held 750 birds on 15th.

Up to 11 migrant Wood Pigeons were on North Ronaldsay with a peak on 8th. Small numbers of Collared Doves also passed through as did a Turtle Dove on 3rd and 5th, another being seen at Hoxa on 2nd. A Nightjar was seen on North Ronaldsay on 11th, the second record of this rare visitor there this spring. Cuckoos remained quite conspicuous with two in Rendall on 9th and singles there and at six other localities mainly before 10th. A pair of Short-eared Owls was found breeding on Flotta during the month, perhaps the first breeding record for that island that doesn’t hold the owls’ main prey item, Orkney Voles. Single Long-eared Owls were seen in Orphir and in Rendall 4th-8th. Up to five Swifts were noted on North Ronaldsay with one-three at four other localities.

Grey Wagtails reared a first brood and appear to be having a second at The Willows, Kirkwall while breeding was also proved in Orphir and thought likely in Stenness; single migrants passed through North Ronaldsay on 4th and 22nd. Marsh Warblers were recorded on North Ronaldsay on 8th and 23rd while one in Stenness on 16th was a welcome addition to the writer’s garden list! An Icterine Warbler was on North Ronaldsay on 2nd and Lesser Whitethroats there on 2nd/3rd and 10th with another singing in Rendall on 4th. Rendall also had a singing Garden Warbler on 9th, others being seen on North Ronaldsay on 2nd and 13th-15th. Single Blackcaps were also noted there on 5th and 9th. Up to four Chiffchaffs were seen on North Ronaldsay with singles also on Papay and at three Mainland locations. Spotted Flycatchers were seen in Rendall on three dates 17th-26th and on North Ronaldsay on 19th.

A cock Red-backed Shrike was a surprise find on the Hoy moors near Rackwick on 1st. A report of a small colony of Tree Sparrows in North Walls is intriguing and is being investigated; the species hasn’t bred in Orkney for 40 years other than the single bird that hybridised with House Sparrows on North Ronaldsay. Siskins were few - one was on North Ronaldsay on 3rd and one-two in Rendall 7th-16th. A Common Redpoll was on North Ronaldsay on 8th following a Scarlet Rosefinch there on 1st.

The most exciting event of the month, however, was the irruption of Crossbills that became evident in the final few days. Three were in Stenness on 14th then 30 in Rendall and 16 in Hoy on 22nd. The main arrival occurred from 27th with up to 70 in Finstown and at Hestily, South Ronaldsay, 35 in the Stenness Hills, 30 in Kirkwall’s George Street and on North Ronaldsay and up to 20 in several other localities. If any corpses are found could folk please let me know as analysis of the feathers may give us clues as to the origins of these birds.

Eric Meek

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