Dec 12, 2009

The bird report for last month from the RSPB.



The largest concentration of Great Northern Divers was of 22 in Echnaloch Bay on 8th but on several dates early in the month, up to 12 per day were watched moving into Scapa Flow from the west. Echnaloch Bay also held the biggest gathering of Slavonian Grebes, 27 on 8th while up to six Black-throated Divers were in Orphir Bay on 28th/29th. Little Grebes were noted in a couple of less usual localities on 29th with three in the Choin, Marwick and one off the Holms of Stromness.

A Sooty Shearwater passed Marwick Head on 11th and a very late Manx Shearwater was seen from the same locality on 28th. Some big gatherings of Shags were noted with some 500 in Hoy Sound on 29th, 300 in Widewall Bay on 8th and 265 in Deer Sound on the same date. Up to 18 Grey Herons gathered in Widewall Bay during the month and 14 at Graemeshall Loch on 30th.

130 Whooper Swans were on North Loch, Sanday on 8th while 38 were at Vasa Loch from 7th to 13th and there were lots of other reports of up to 20. Black Swans are always escapes from captivity in Britain and one has lived on the Harray Loch for many years. However, a new bird was seen on Westray on 4th, and presumably the same individual at the Tankerness Loch and on Shapinsay on 7th.

The November Greylag Goose census revealed a total of 60519 present in the islands with 29234 in the West Mainland and 12321 in the East Mainland. During the census, 863 Pink-footed Geese were recorded of which 714 were in the East Mainland. The wintering flock of Greenland White-fronted Geese in Birsay were late in arriving, the first being 22 on 11th. Numbers built up to 49 by 22nd but then, on 23rd, about 60 were seen flying north past Marwick Head, perhaps the remainder of our usual flock; a single bird was on Stronsay on 16th. Up to four Eurasian White-fronted Geese frequented North Ronaldsay during the month while one was Redland, Stromness on 5th; others of indeterminate race were at Marwick on 15th and Westray (two) on 15th. Six Taiga Bean Geese were found near Birsay School on 4th/5th and were seen again on 21st. The Barnacle Goose flock on South Walls had built up to 1060 by late October; elsewhere up to 37 were seen at the Loch of Skaill and 13 on Sanday. Single Pale-bellied Brent Geese were seen near Stromness on 15th and on Stronsay next day while six Dark-bellied Brent Geese were near the Brough of Birsay on 15th. A Red-breasted Goose, a species that would be new to Orkney, was reported near Kirkwall on 12th but despite thorough searches, could not be relocated.

Small numbers of Shelducks returning from their moult migration were noted in five typical localities, the largest gathering being 12 in Widewall Bay on 25th. Amongst the large numbers of Wigeon, a hybrid Eurasian x American Wigeon was found at Mill Dam, Shapinsay on 4th. 298 Teal on the Harray Loch on 24th was a good count as were counts of 76 Gadwall and 55 Pintail on Sanday’s North Loch on 8th. 197 Scaup were on the Stenness Loch on 23rd and 942 Pochard were on the Harray Loch on 24th with 312 were at their other favourite resort, the Boardhouse Loch, on 27th. The only Velvet Scoters reported were 10 off Rerwick Head on 18th. Up to five Common Scoter were seen in Widewall Bay and a single bird on the Stenness Loch on 23rd was unusual. Single drake Goosanders were at the Ayre Loch, St. Mary’s on 22nd and on Loch of Bosquoy on 24th.

Reports of one-two Buzzards came from the Rendall-Firth area, from Widewall/Hoxa, from Birsay and, more unusually, from Sanday. The Durkadale Hen Harrier roost held at least 14 birds on 16th while five were still utilising the North Ronaldsay site on 22nd. Sparrowhawks were conspicuous with no fewer than four being seen at Binscarth on 5th. There were two reports of Hobbies in late October, one at Marwick on 24th and one on Rousay on 31st while, a large falcon, possibly a dark-phase Gyr Falcon hurtled over Deerness on 15th.

474 Coot were on the Harray Loch on 24th while Water Rails were reported from nine localities including birds that wandered into a house in Stromness on 8th and in Herston on 10th! There were many reports of big flocks of Golden Plovers with 2500 on Burray, 2000 on Shapinsay, Sanday and in Swannay and 1830 on Stronsay with many more flocks of up to 1000. However, the only Grey Plovers were one at Birsay on 7th and singles on North Ronaldsay on 12th and 18th. 350 Sanderlings were at Scuthvie, Sanday on 14th and 260 Purple Sandpipers at Newark Bay, Deerness on 22nd with four other reports of 60-145. 36 Knot were in Widewall Bay on 20th and 25 were at Mill Sand on 22nd and single Ruffs at Loch of Banks on 4th and Mill Sand on 29th. At least 600 Snipe were on Sanday on 8th, other good counts including up to 208 on North Ronaldsay and 125 on Birsay Beach. Three Jack Snipe were at Garson, Stromness on 3rd, two still being there on 29th while singles were noted in three other localities. North Ronaldsay reported peak counts of 11 Woodcocks on 1st and 7th while up to five were seen in Rendall and one-two at 14 other sites. 410 Bar-tailed Godwits were at Cata Sand, Sanday on 7th and 340 at Lama Ness on the same island next day; 160 were at Oddie, Stronsay on 16th. Black-tailed Godwits were, however, typically scarce with just seven on North Ronaldsay on 4th and one at Marwick on 11th. The biggest Curlew flock was one of 1077 in Widewall Bay on 20th while the Burray Whimbrel was seen again on 7th.

A late Bonxie was seen off Marwick and Black Craig on 7th and an early Iceland Gull on Shapinsay on 15th. Little Gull movements are something of a mystery but one was on North Ronaldsay on 5th, one on Shapinsay on 15th and two in Orphir Bay on 29th. An enormous gathering of 8000 Common Gulls on the Stenness Loch on 29th is probably an Orkney record. Sandwich Terns have wintered occasionally in the past and two at Evie Sands on 29th may be contemplating doing just that. Up to three Little Auks were noted off North Ronaldsay on three dates and four in Scapa Flow on 11th while one was found dead in a Stromness garden on 13th.

A Barn Owl was reported from Rennibister on 21st and was apparently of the pale-breasted race as all recent records have been. Three Long-eared Owls were at Lettan, Sanday on 12th and one-two on North Ronaldsay until 17th but the only other reports were of one at Herston 8th - 24th and one at Langskaill, Tankerness on 15th. The bird of the month, if confirmed by the British Birds Rarities Committee, was undoubtedly the Little Swift seen briefly off Marwick Head on 16th. This mainly African species would be new to Orkney although there are two Shetland records and November is a typical month for the species to occur.

North Ronaldsay’s Woodlark remained until 7th while a Short-toed Lark was also there from 1st - 4th. A very late Swallow was at Burwick on 8th. Some Rock Pipits once again performed their strange mini-migration to winter in the West Mainland hills, four being found on Enyass Hill, Rendall (130 metres) on 28th. Most Pied Wagtails left the islands for the winter, only six being reported during the month and being outnumbered by Grey Wagtails of which there were up to three in Finstown and singles in five other localities. A most unusual visitor to North Ronaldsay on 15th was a Dipper; this individual was of the black-bellied race and therefore almost certainly of Continental origin.

Robins became somewhat less conspicuous than in October but there were still 20 on North Ronaldsay on 7th where a Black Redstart was noted 2nd - 7th and a Wheatear on 2nd and 4th. A Bluethroat was a very good find at Echnaloch, Burray on 8th. Scandinavian thrushes were still in evidence with up to 124 Redwings, 172 Fieldfares and 109 Blackbirds on North Ronaldsay early in the month and smaller numbers elsewhere although 150 Redwings were at The Shunan on 21st; a Ring Ouzel was also on North Ronaldsay on 1st.

Blackcaps were widespread in small numbers with up to five on North Ronaldsay and one-three at ten other sites. Similarly, there were up to five Chiffchaffs on North Ronaldsay and one-two at ten other localities, several being reported as being of ‘eastern origin’. The Dusky Warbler was apparently still present on Stronsay as late as 6th.

A Great Grey Shrike must have made a splendid sight at Blackhamar, Rousay on 16th while the Rose-coloured Starling remained in Balfour Village until 4th and a very unusual find in Willow Road, Kirkwall on 30th was a Treecreeper. Two Jackdaws were migrants on North Ronaldsay on several dates while one at Tirlot, Westray was identified as being of the Scandinavian race, because of its white collar. 75 Hooded Crows came into the Langskaill roost in Tankerness on 15th and a single Carrion Crow was at Lyness on 11th.

Up to 25 Chaffinches gathered in the Finstown area during the month while up to five Bramblings were seen there with one-two at three other sites. 100 Greenfinches at Firth School on 7th was the largest flock recorded. An influx of Goldfinches brought up to seven to Hoy, up to six to Finstown and one-two to five other locations. Up to 15 Siskins were in Rendall early in the month but the only others were five in Harray on 7th and singles in Finstown on 8th and 22nd. The Firth School bird crop attracted up to 150 Linnets while 100 were also seen at Dale. Redpolls caused a lot of head-scratching as folk tried to sort out the various species and races. Up to ten in Rendall were mostly Greenland/Iceland Redpolls birds but when trapped, three had the measurements of Lesser Redpolls while two showed the characters of Mealy Redpolls! Elsewhere, up to six were seen in Finstown, one-two on North Ronaldsay and singles at Durkadale and St.Margaret’s Hope. The Dale, Costa Twite flock outstripped all others with 600 present on 11th and 26th; 400 were at Ocklester, Holm on 30th, 310 on Egilsay on 4th and 200 at Aikerness, Evie on 29th while North Ronaldsay retained its flock with a peak of 90 on 4th. 10 Crossbills passed through Rendall on 1st while a single bird was in the White Glen Plantation, Hoy on 9th and 11th.

Some good Snow Bunting flocks were reported with 200 in Deerness and on Sanday, 150 at Howe Brae, Stromness, up to 132 on North Ronaldsay and 110 at Sandwick, South Ronaldsay. A Lapland Bunting that flew over the latter locality on 16th was the only report of this species and a good record anywhere away from North Ronaldsay. 90 Reed Buntings were at Dale, Costa on 11th and 40 at Firth School on 8th while a single Yellowhammer was on North Ronaldsay on 7th.

Eric Meek

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