May 4, 2010

RSPB bird records for april 2010

APRIL 2010

An interesting month with spring migration really getting under way. A Great Crested Grebe was in Widewall Bay on 27th. A strong Fulmar passage involved up to 5000 per hour past Marwick on 1st; a ‘blue’ bird was off Birsay on 16th.

Whooper Swans decided it was time to head back to Iceland; 36 were over the Harray Loch on 9th while seven sat on the sea at Marwick on that date building up their courage! 40 flew out to sea over Birsay on 12th. There was a big movement of Pink-footed Geese as they headed the same way; 2700 passed over North Ronaldsay between 20th-23rd, 600 were over Costa and 600 flew out to sea over Marwick on the latter date while there were many reports of up to 500. The Loons Greenland White-fronted Goose flock held just 32 birds on 4th although one was nearby at Twatt on 22nd and four on Egilsay on 27th; most unusually, 500 moved north over Durkadale in three flocks on 11th. Less common grey geese involved a Bean Goose on North Ronaldsay on 15th and 20th; two Eurasian White-fronted Geese there on 2nd; and two Snow Geese in Sandwick on 27th. Barnacle Geese were conspicuous after 20th with up to 53 on North Ronaldsay, 42 at the Skaill Loch, 24 at Costa, 22 on Burray and 19 at The Loons; 13 remained on Papay all month. During the same period, up to 24 Light-bellied Brent Geese were found at Marwick with six in Birsay Bay, three on Papay and one on North Ronaldsay; the latter island also reported two Dark-bellied Brent Geese on 9th and 27th.

Ever an early breeding species, a Mallard duck accompanied 14 ducklings at Scapa Distillery on 28th. The best Pintail count was 28 at Sanday’s Loch of Rummie on 7th while that for Gadwall was 36 at the Brodgar Pools on 17th. A spectacular drake Mandarin was at Mill Dam, Shapinsay on 17th while North Ronaldsay’s Ring-necked Duck remained there all month. 50 Scaup were on the Skaill Loch on 28th while the Peedie Sea provided an excellent count of 120 Long-tailed Ducks on 21st. A pair of Goosanders were on the Stenness Loch on 5th and one on the Loch of Brockan on 23rd. The Loch of Skaill Smew put in its final appearance of the winter on 11th.

Away from breeding areas, a Buzzard was in the Widewall area all month and, more unusually, one was on North Ronaldsay on 28th. Marsh Harriers put in their customary spring appearance with singles at Loch of Banks on 2nd, in Rendall on 4th and on Rousay and at The Loons on 27th. Goshawks have become more regular in recent years and one was in Rendall on a typical date of 13th.

The first Corncrake was back on Papay on 26th. By far the largest Golden Plover flock was 1300 on Burray but there were many reports of up to 400 as northern race birds prepared to move back to their breeding grounds. The only Knots reported were three singles on North Ronaldsay up to 13th and 19 on Papay on 29th. North Ronaldsay also produced the peak counts of Sanderling (82 on 16th) and Purple Sandpipers (104 on 28th). A single Black-tailed Godwit was at The Shunan from 11th then, from 20th, five flocks of up to 10 were noted. This month saw an especially strong passage of Whimbrels from 18th on, peaking on 27th when small parties were noted in many parts of South Ronaldsay and an amazing flock of 58 was at the Mill Dam of Rango. Three Common Sandpipers had returned to a breeding site at the Loch of Bosquoy by 25th. More unusual waders included Ruff (one at the Skaill Loch on 24th and two at Rango on 28th), Wood Sandpiper (one at The Shunan on 25th), Greenshank (one over Shapinsay on 11th, one at Burwick on 14th and one in Deerness on 29th) and Spotted Redshank (the wintering bird at The Shunan until at least 23rd).

A very early Arctic Skua was seen over Stenness on 11th, one off Marwick on 16th, one on Papay on 17th and two off Shapinsay on 18th then no more until 26th. Common Gulls were already sitting on eggs on Shapinsay by 23rd, an early date. The Stromness Iceland Gull lingered until at least 26th while others were seen in Holm Sound on 12th and at Rennibister on 17th. The only Glaucous Gull was one at Newark Bay, Deerness on 29th. Sandwich Terns became widespread but the first Arctic Tern, typically, was not seen until 25th (Loch of Tankerness) and the first Common Tern on 27th (Rango).

The strange passage of Wood Pigeons through the north isles was again noted with five on Papay on 1st and up to three on North Ronaldsay between 1st-5th and again on North Ronaldsay on 27th/28th. Collared Doves were also noted there with up to three on four dates. A Cuckoo was calling in Rendall from 23rd and another was seen on North Ronaldsay on 27th. What was perhaps the rarest bird of the month was a Hoopoe, on Stronsay, from 6th-10th. A Long-eared Owl was on North Ronaldsay on 12th and a very early Swift over Stromness on 28th.

The first Swallow was noted in Stenness on 11th followed by a scatter of records up to 23rd after which birds became widespread. Sand Martins also first appeared on 11th when five were in Birsay, 18 having gathered there by 25th and others having been seen in four localities. An early House Martin was seen on North Ronaldsay on 7th but then no more until 25th after which birds were seen at five sites. The first White Wagtails were two in Birsay Bay on 25th then 26 were reported there on 30th, possibly an Orkney record count. Grey Wagtails were noted at their breeding site in Kirkwall and in other possible nesting areas at Wideford Burn on 4th and St. Margaret’s Hope on 9th.

Following the first Wheatears in late March, birds became more widespread during early April with, for example, six at Houton on 5th and up to 29 on North Ronaldsay from 9th – 12th; a strong passage was noted on the latter island on 27th when 175 were logged. Single Black Redstarts were seen on Rousay on 7th and North Ronaldsay on 10th while a Ring Ouzel was in Rendall on 10th and three on North Ronaldsay on 28th. Fieldfares were only seen on North Ronaldsay with one on 7th and up to three after 26th. Up to 40 Redwings were seen in Stenness and on North Ronaldsay mid-month while there were several records of singing birds in Rendall, Swannay and Costa. In amongst all this migratory activity, local Blackbirds got on with their business and a fledged brood was noted in Kirkwall as early as 15th.

The first Sedge Warbler was noted at Hestily, South Ronaldsay on 26th followed by others at The Loons and in Costa over the next couple of days. A Grasshopper Warbler was in song in Rendall on 30th. A Blackcap visited a Greeny garden on 7th and two were on North Ronaldsay on 10th. Two others occurred after 25th when one-two Lesser Whitethroats appeared in Evie, Deerness and on North Ronaldsay the latter locality also reporting an early Common Whitethroat. Chiffchaffs were noted in ten localities with up to four on North Ronaldsay and three in Rendall. The first Willow Warblers were two in song at Finstown on 10th, several more arriving on 11th/12th, a maximum seven being recorded on North Ronaldsay on 27th. A Pied Flycatcher was in Deerness on 28th.

A Great Grey Shrike was a good find by a visiting birding group at Whaness, Hoy on 12th. North Ronaldsay reported its usual light spring passage of corvids with a peak of nine Rooks on 9th and six Carrion Crows on 28th; a Rook was also on Papay on 8th.
Bramblings were noted in nine localities with as many as four in Finstown on 25th while one-two Goldfinches were reported from six sites. Similarly, small numbers Siskins passed through with one-two at six sites and up to five in Rendall. Up to three Common Redpolls were on North Ronaldsay on 25th/26th while two Lesser Redpolls were in Rendall on 27th and 30th. A possible Arctic Redpoll was seen in Costa on 21st/22nd. Up to three Crossbills were seen in Rendall with the maximum on 2nd when one was also in Holm; another was found dead on Burray on 19th. The late March arrival of Hawfinches continued into early April with singles reported from Lythes and St. Margaret’s Hope (South Ronaldsay), Stromness, Rendall and North Ronaldsay during 1st – 3rd. Two-three lingering Snow Buntings were noted in three West Mainland localities and on Papay during 15th-28th while single Lapland Buntings were seen on North Ronaldsay on 3rd and 10th.

Eric Meek

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