Oct 28, 2010

RSPB Sept report

Here is the Sept report from the RSPB...It was the hottest month of the year for sightings...how many did you see??



Traditionally one of the busiest months of the year, this September didn’t disappoint with two good ‘falls’ of Continental migrants (on 7th-10th and 28th-30th) but with much of interest emanating from the north-west in between. So many notable birds occurred that many of the commoner species that are usually mentioned have had to be omitted this month.

Black-throated Divers were noted in Holm Sound on 14th and off Cava (three) on 23rd while the first two returning Great Northern Divers passed the Brough of Birsay on 17th. Similarly, the first two Slavonian Grebes had come back to the Swannay Loch by 19th. Strong winds mid-month produced a good passage of seabirds with up to 1900 Fulmars and 1000 Gannets per hour passing the Brough of Birsay on 17th when 53 Sooty Shearwaters and 35 Manx Shearwaters were also noted. On North Ronaldsay the main Sooty passage was on 25th when 214 were counted while 19 moved through the Copinsay Pass on 29th after strong south-easterlies. 60 Storm Petrels were trapped on North Ronaldsay on the night of 1st with up to six per day recorded at sea there until 22nd and one through the Copinsay Pass on 29th. Large concentrations of Shags included 400 on the Little Green Holm on 19th and 600 in Widewall Bay on 26th.

The first (and only) Whooper Swans were eight over Herston on 25th. A large passage of Pink-footed Geese was witnessed at the Brough of Birsay on 17th when 2100 were counted in two hours; elsewhere the largest count was 229 on North Ronaldsay on 22nd. Migrant Greylag Geese have not arrived in any numbers yet but a flock of 1500, presumably local birds, was on the Loch of Skaill on 20th. A family party of five Snow Geese were in the Stromness area until 10th before what were presumably the same birds moved to Deerness on 14th. A single adult was in Orphir on 13th and 18th while three adults were at Head of Holland and Head of Work 13th-15th with perhaps the same birds on the Loch of Clumly on 26th. The first Barnacle Geese were 12 on North Ronaldsay on 28th followed by 18 there the following day.

Wigeon numbers began to build with 1500 at Mill Dam, Shapinsay on 24th while 19 Pintail were on North Ronaldsay on 12th. The Loch of Clumly was an unusual location for 12 Scaup on 26th. Two Common Scoters passed the Brough of Birsay on 17th and one was on the Loch of Skaill on 20th. The first Long-tailed Duck was off No.4 Barrier on 25th. 41 Red-breasted Mergansers were in Echnaloch Bay on 11th.

A Honey Buzzard that moved south-west over Binscarth on 19th may have been the bird seen at Berstane two days later and over Tenston on 30th. Sparrowhawks became conspicuous early in the month associated with the ‘fall’ of passerine migrants while Merlins were also very much in evidence, an interesting sighting being of two (together with a Peregrine) stooping at Starlings coming into roost over Stromness on 8th. Rare raptors involved a female Goshawk that moved south through South Ronaldsay on 10th and a Hobby on North Ronaldsay on 12th.
The final count of calling male Corncrakes in Orkney this summer was 23, four up on the 2009 total; a migrant bird was on North Ronaldsay on 10th, the same day that a Quail was recorded there. 364 Coot at Loch of Bosquoy on 26th was a good count for so early a date. The two Cranes that had first been seen in the Stromness area on 6th August remained until 19th September and afforded many folk with memorable experiences as they displayed to one another on numerous occasions

110 Ringed Plovers gathered on Stromness Golf Course at high tide on 13th. The largest Golden Plover flocks were 2000 in the Swanbister area on 25th and 1500 at each of Dounby on 2nd and Brough, South Ronaldsay on 26th. An American Golden Plover was a rare visitor to North Ronaldsay from 1st to 22nd. The largest count of Knot was 70 on North Ronaldsay on 8th while 60 were at the Shapinsay Ouse on 12th. Up to eight Curlew Sandpipers were seen on North Ronaldsay with up to five at the Loch of Skaill and singles on Stronsay and in Deerness mainly in the first part of the month. Records of their usual travelling companion, Little Stint, included three on Stronsay on 12th, one-two at Loch of Skaill and singles at Marwick and North Ronaldsay. From across the Atlantic came no fewer than six Pectoral Sandpipers with two on North Ronaldsay, two at The Shunan and singles in Deerness and at the Peedie Sea, the latter remaining from 21st to 30th and providing many folk with their first experience of this species. Also from North America came a Buff-breasted Sandpiper to Brough, South Ronaldsay on 23rd. North Ronaldsay recorded up to 17 Ruff (peak on 12th) but elsewhere only one-two were seen in five localities.

No fewer than 568 Snipe were counted on North Ronaldsay on 30th. All Jack Snipe records also came from there with an early bird on 9th followed by others from 24th with a maximum of seven on 29th. An early Woodcock also arrived on the island on 29th. North Ronaldsay also saw most of the Black-tailed Godwit passage with two peaks of 107 on 10th and 106 on 23rd; elsewhere the largest count was 16 on Stronsay on 12th. Only four Whimbrels were seen, on North Ronaldsay on 10th and 12th, on Flotta on 24th and on Burray, where the regular wintering bird had returned by 8th. The largest Curlew flock was 550 at Marwick on 20th. Greenshanks were scarce with records of singles from just three localities. Single Wood Sandpipers were at The Shunan on 2nd and 11th and on North Ronaldsay from 9th to 11th. Two Green Sandpipers were at Ireland, Stenness on 26th and one at Durkadale next day, both favourite localities for this species. Up to four migrant Common Sandpipers were on North Ronaldsay from 6th to 12th. A Grey Phalarope was seen from the ‘Pentalina’ on 10th while two passed the Brough of Birsay on 17th.

Our breeding seabirds’ woes are well-known and a complete survey of our breeding skuas confirmed suspicions that even Bonxies are in trouble – numbers have declined by 23% since 2000. Arctic Skuas are faring even worse with a 62% decline since 1992.

A Glaucous Gull was on North Ronaldsay on 25th. As usual, small numbers of Sandwich Terns lingered right through the month as did a few Arctic Terns but the presence of one –two Common Terns on North Ronaldsay right up to 30th was more notable. Tysties were especially conspicuous off the Churchill Barriers on 11th with a total of 74 off Nos 1,2 & 3.

The only Swift of the month was one in the Binscarth area on 8th. A Stock Dove was on North Ronaldsay on 29th while single Turtle Doves were in Kirkwall on 11th and on North Ronaldsay from 22nd. A Hoopoe was a good find at the Warebeth Cemetery, Stromness on 30th. Single juvenile Cuckoos were at the Wee Fea Plantation, Hoy on 8th at Manse Bay, South Ronaldsay next day. Short-eared Owls became much less conspicuous during the month and the only Long-eared Owl was one in Deerness on 9th. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was on Stronsay on about 10th while a small arrival at the month’s end involved birds in Deerness on 28th and in Stenness and Stromness on 30th. The migrant arrival early in the month brought two Wrynecks to North Ronaldsay and one to Hestily, South Ronaldsay between 8th-10th. A Short-toed Lark was a rare, but typical, visitor to North Ronaldsay on 29th. 800 Swallows were still using the Graemeshall reed-bed roost on 9th.

It was a month for interesting pipits! Amongst our resident Rock Pipits and the myriad migrant Meadow Pipits, small numbers of Tree Pipits appeared between 8th–12th, with up to 12 on North Ronaldsay. Then, on 28th, a Richard’s Pipit from the steppes of Siberia and Central Asia was found on North Ronaldsay; a Red-throated Pipit from the tundras of Scandinavia and Russia was heard to call several times as it was mobbed by Rock Pipits over Kirkwall; and, perhaps the bird of the month, a Buff-bellied Pipit from North America and west Greenland, only Orkney’s second, was found at Yesnaby.

Yellow Wagtails are normally scarce migrants here but the ‘fall’ from 8th brought six to each of North Ronaldsay, Deerness and South Ronaldsay with singles to Burray and Twatt, the latter being identified from a photograph as a male Blue-headed Wagtail, the race of Yellow Wagtail common on the Continent. Grey Wagtails were noted in breeding areas in Finstown, Stenness and Kirkwall but also on North Ronaldsay from 27th.

Redstarts were conspicuous in the migrant arrival early in the month with up to 37 on North Ronaldsay and 32 on South Ronaldsay; Whinchats were generally fewer but North Ronaldsay again recorded a peak of 37 on 10th.A Black Redstart was seen at Cara, South Ronaldsay on 7th. Few Robins were seen in this early ‘fall’ but they became more numerous late in the month with up to 17 on North Ronaldsay. Three Bluethroats were also found at this time; in Deerness and at Cottascarth on 26th and on North Ronaldsay on 30th. Coming from both the east and the north-west, Wheatears were in evidence all moth with peaks of 24 on South Ronaldsay on 9th and 110 on North Ronaldsay on 12th probably mainly being Continental birds but 20 on Birsay Links a few days later being considered to be mainly of the Greenland race.

Small numbers of Fieldfares arrived between 6th-12th with up to seven at nine localities. A few Song Thrushes also arrived then but their main influx occurred late in the month with 105 on North Ronaldsay on 29th/30th. An early Redwing was seen on that island on 9th but there were no more then until 26th after which up to 23 were seen at six sites. Blackbirds also became conspicuous at that time while up to three Ring Ouzels were on North Ronaldsay together with a Mistle Thrush, four of the latter also being seen in Rendall on 30th.

During the two main migrant arrivals on North Ronaldsay, two Grasshopper Warblers were seen on 9th and again on 30th. Sedge Warbler records became fewer as the month progressed although at least 10 were still at Graemeshall on 9th and the last was seen on North Ronaldsay on 20th. One-two Reed Warblers were seen in six localities between 9th-12th with others at Evie Sands on 23rd and on North Ronaldsay on 30th. A Blyth’s Reed Warbler was an extremely rare visitor to North Ronaldsay on 30th. Three Icterine Warblers were noted between 11th-15th with a further two on 26th/27th.

It was a good month for Barred Warblers with ten between 3rd-14th and a further five at the end of the month. Small numbers of Lesser Whitethroats appeared during both ‘falls’ but very few Common Whitethroats were seen with only one-two in Deerness and South Ronaldsay and on North Ronaldsay 9th-12th. Blackcaps and Garden Warblers were two of the main components of the migrant arrivals. On North Ronaldsay, Blackcaps peaked at 28 on 9th and 10 on 30th with numbers elsewhere fewer but similarly distributed. 32 Garden Warblers were found on South Ronaldsay on 9th with 17 on North Ronaldsay the following day, five also being seen on the latter island on 30th; other localities recorded up to three almost all early in the month. Willow Warblers were also common during the early arrival, especially on 9th when 48 were on North Ronaldsay, 28 on South Ronaldsay and up to ten elsewhere; small numbers also arrived late in the month. Chiffchaffs, as usual, reversed this picture with only a few being seen at the start of September but the arrival from 26th bringing in more including up to eight on North Ronaldsay. Wood Warblers were seen in Deerness on 8th with two there next day and another being in Finstown on 10th and 15th. A real rarity was a Western Bonelli’s Warbler on North Ronaldsay on 10th/11th. Right on cue, the first two Yellow-browed Warblers, coming all the way from Siberia arrived on North Ronaldsay on 21st to be followed by others in Stromness on 26th, Rendall on 27th, Deerness and South Ronaldsay (three) on 30th when a peak of seven occurred on North Ronaldsay. Very few Goldcrests occurred before 28th when the arrival brought 16 to North Ronaldsay and small numbers elsewhere.

Perhaps the most conspicuous species of the early migrant arrival was Spotted Flycatcher with 32 on North Ronaldsay, 29 on South Ronaldsay on 9th and 15 on Stronsay on 12th, birds being reported from fourteen other sites. Pied Flycatchers were fewer but South Ronaldsay recorded 18 on 9th and, again, there were records from fourteen other localities including as far west as Yesnaby. A suberb adult male Red-breasted Flycatcher was found at Eastside, South Ronaldsay on 9th with another immature bird at Cara on 30th.
A Red-backed Shrike appeared on North Ronaldsay on 9th with other at Burwick and Costa on 11th. The series of Coal Tit records from Hoy continued with at least one at the Wee Fea Plantation on 8th.

Small numbers of Chaffinches and Bramblings appeared early in the month but the main influx occurred from 26th respective species totals being 50 and 112 on North Ronaldsay on 30th. Siskins were also conspicuous, especially towards the end of the month with 161 on North Ronaldsay on 30th and up to 18 elsewhere. An interesting series of Twite counts came from uninhabited islands in Wide Firth on 19th with 250 on the Little Green Holm, 50 on Muckle Green Holm and 110 on Boray Holm; it would be interesting to know what these birds were feeding on in these remote unfarmed sites! Up to 12 Common Redpolls were on North Ronaldsay from 24th with four on Sanday on 26th and up to ten in Finstown after 27th. The origins of these birds was suggested by the finding of single Hornemann’s Arctic Redpolls (from Greenland) on North Ronaldsay on 20th and Sanday on 26th. Two Lesser Redpolls were seen at Durkadale on 9th and 27th with another on North Ronaldsay on 30th. Single Crossbills were at Durkadale on 9th and Swannay on 11th. One-two Scarlet Rosefinches were found on North Ronaldsay, Stronsay and in Finstown between 3rd-15th with other singles on North Ronaldsay on 20th, 23rd and 29th. North Ronaldsay also recorded a Hawfinch, very scarce in autumn, on 30th.

An Ortolan Bunting, a very scarce visitor these days, was at Cara, South Ronaldsay on 30th while single Little Buntings were on North Ronaldsay on 27th and at Hewing, Firth on 29th.

Perhaps the outstanding event of the month was the arrival of Lapland Buntings almost certainly, despite their name, originating in Greenland. North Ronaldsay witnessed three separate arrivals with 104 on 1st then declining until 135 arrived on 12th before declining again ahead of a third arrival of 272 on 27th. This pattern was more or less mirrored elsewhere with up to 68 occurring on the Brough of Birsay, up to 70 on Birsay Links, up to 120 in the Yesnaby to Black Craig area and up to a dozen in 12 other localities. This is, by far and away, the biggest irruption of this species ever witnessed in Orkney. The first Snow Bunting arrived on North Ronaldsay on 14th and built up to a peak of 242 on 30th up to 22 being noted at five other sites.

Eric Meek

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