Apr 7, 2011

RSPB Orkney bird records for march 2011

Red-throated Divers were back in territory on the Loch of Hundland by 6th while passage of this species saw maxima of 11 off North Ronaldsay on 23rd and 29th. North Ronaldsay also witnessed Great Northern Diver passage with peaks of 15 on 21st and 14 on 29th and, in what is becoming an annual event, a White-billed Diver was found there on 28th. Slavonian Grebes returned to freshwater lochs after disappearing during the ‘freeze-up’; 11 were on the Stenness Loch and 12 on the Harray Loch on 12th. Much more unusual were sightings of Great Crested Grebes on the Stenness Loch on 3rd and the Swannay Loch next day.
Whooper Swans were much in evidence with peaks of 59 on the Loch of Skaill on 29th, 51 on the Loch of Sabiston on 12th, 37 on the Loch of Wasdale on 5th, 29 flying north over Tormiston on 23rd and many reports of up to 20 including up to 10 on the Peedie Sea. Mute Swans also found the Peedie Sea to their liking with 46 there on 21st.
The month saw a strong passage of Pink-footed Geese through the islands with 768 counted around the Harray Loch and 188 at The Loons on 12th, a flock of 200 over Vasa, Shapinsay on 22nd, 200 in seven skeins passing north-west over South Ronaldsay on 23rd and many other reports of up to 100. The Greenland White-fronted Goose flock at The Loons peaked at 55 on 6th while nine were at Tufta, Birsay on 12th and singles in Tankerness on 1st and in Sandwick on 6th; up to five also occurred on North Ronaldsay. Away from South Walls, the only Barnacle Geese reported were up to 33 at the Loch of Skaill (peak on 1st) and three at The Loons on 12th. A single Canada Goose was on Sanday on 30th while a Dark-bellied Brent Goose was at Redland, Stromness on 12th and two Pale-bellied Brent Geese were on Papay the following day.
The peak count of Shelducks in Widewall Bay was 48 on 12th. The vagrant Green-winged Teal was present all month at Mill Dam, Shapinsay. Pintail were quite conspicuous with up to 22 on Sanday, 13 on North Ronaldsay and up to eight on the Lochs of Sabiston and Brockan. 21 Shovelers were on Papay on 13th, 17 on the Brodgar Pools on 6th while, more unusually, nine were on Eday’s Loch of Doomy next day. 640 Tufted Ducks on the Harray Loch on 12th was a good count 72 Scaup being counted there on the same day when 105 were also on the Stenness Loch. The female Common Scoter remained off the Finstown slip all month but Velvet Scoters seemed to be in short supply, the maximum being just five off Rerwick Head on 6th. A spectacular flock of at least 250 Long-tailed Ducks was on Lairo Water, Shapinsay on 20th while 30 Red-breasted Mergansers off the Long Ayre, Tankerness on 22nd was another good count. A drake Goosander was on the Loch of Bosquoy on 12th.
Away from breeding areas, Common Buzzards were noted in Holm, Burray, South Ronaldsay and Eday while a Rough-legged Buzzard was seen in the Dale of Corrigall, Harray on 5th.
The only Water Rail away from known breeding sites was one in Evie on 10th. The great influx of Oystercatchers that began in February, saw a count of 842 around the Stenness Loch on 12th. Golden Plovers, a species that had been driven out by the snow and ice, began to return in some numbers with 600 at Tofts, Sanday on 26th and five other reports of 100-250 as birds of the northern race passed through. There was an unusual count of 10 Grey Plovers on North Ronaldsay on 24th the only other reports being of singles from Deerness and South Ronaldsay. 450 Sanderling at Scuthvie, Sanday on 26th was by far the biggest count of this species although North Ronaldsay logged 48 on 17th. Papay produced an excellent count of 436 Purple Sandpipers on 13th while 280 were on North Ronaldsay on 22nd and there were 128 at Evie Bay on 12th and 65 on the Barrel of Butter,(the first time this locality has been mentioned in one of these reports!) on 28th. Snipe seem to be in very short supply since the harsh weather but one was already drumming over Furrowend, Shapinsay on 15th. The only Jack Snipe were singles at the Stenness loch on 3rd and on North Ronaldsay on 27th. Woodcock, too, were few and far between with only one-two on North Ronaldsay, one on Glimps Holm and a freshly killed bird in Rendall. A single Black-tailed Godwit was at Tofts, Sanday on 26th. The wintering Whimbrel was seen again on Burray on 6th while two early passage birds were on North Ronaldsay on 17th. An most unusual record was of a Grey Phalarope on a small pool at Skelwick, Westray on 7th.
Bonxies began to return with four singles on North Ronaldsay from 22nd, a few on Papay and one at Yesnaby on 31st. An Iceland Gull remained in Stromness all month while others were seen on North Ronaldsay, Shapinsay, the Peedie Sea and South Ronaldsay. Glaucous Gulls were much scarcer, the only records being of an immature at the Peedie Sea on 24th and an adult on North Ronaldsay on 30th. Lesser Black-backed Gulls returned in force so that by 23rd 45 were in territory at Swart Howe, Holm. Kittiwakes are scarce in winter so that a count of 35 off the Finstown slip during the north-easterly gale on 12th was of note. The first Sandwich Terns began to appear with one at Graemeshall on 21st followed by singles on North Ronaldsay on 25th and 28th and two at Scuthvie, Sanday on 27th. Two Puffins had returned to Northside, Birsay on 31st.
170 Wood Pigeons at Weyland, Kirkwall were probably local breeders but one on North Ronaldsay the day before was certainly on passage. A Snowy Owl was reported from Deepdale, Stromness on the morning of 2nd but extensive searches failed to relocate it. Similarly, a report of a Barn Owl near St. Margaret’s Hope on 14th got a few people searching the area to no avail. Short-eared Owls, however, were much in evidence with reports of displaying birds from 17th.
North Ronaldsay saw a marked passage of Skylarks during almost the whole month with a maximum count of 221 on 22nd; elsewhere breeding birds did begin to sing but seemed to be few in number. Meadow Pipits showed a similar pattern with up to 51 on North Ronaldsay (peak on 25th) but very few elsewhere. A Rock Pipit inland on the shore of the Swannay Loch on 11th was strongly suspected of being of the Scandinavian race, littoralis. Pied Wagtails trickled in during the early part of the month and, by 20th, were widespread. However, the only Grey Wagtail, a species notoriously unable to cope with hard winters, was one on the Crantit Burn in mid-month. A very early Sand Martin was at Inganess, St.Ola on 28th.
A few migrant Dunnocks and Robins were on North Ronaldsay from 16th but no more than two of each on any one day. The first Wheatears were noted on North Ronaldsay and Row Head, Sandwick on 24th with two at Rummie, Sanday on 30th. Stonechats are another species hard-hit by severe winters and the only report was of a displaying pair on Burray on 22nd. There was light Blackbird passage though North Ronaldsay with peaks of 21 on 18th and 29th. A Mistle Thrush also occurred there on 17th and two Fieldfares on 18th but no more than three Redwings were logged others being noted in Finstown and at Wideford Burn.
A Goldcrest was in song at the Langskaill Plantation on 6th while what was probably a passage bird was at a nearby Toab locality on 28th. A very unusual visitor to North Ronaldsay on 29th was Great Tit. Rook passage was noted on North Ronaldsay from 22nd but with no more than three per day. Carrion Crows were more conspicuous than normal with a small party frequenting the Stoneyhill Road area, two in Swannay and singles at Scapa, Birsay Links and Bay of Skaill. 130 Jackdaws was a good count at Chrismo, Evie on 5th.
Bramblings were few but up to six were seen in Rendall during the month. The largest Greenfinch flock was that at Herston which numbered 70. Up to12 Goldfinches were in Finstown early in the month, two remaining to the month’s end, one of them in song; other records involved up to five at Glaitness and singles on North Ronaldsay and in Harray. Four Siskins were in Rendall on 1st but all other records came after 18th when up to six were seen in seven localities. Twite flocks dwindled in numbers as birds returned to breeding sites but 154 were still on North Ronaldsay on 14th and 200 at Dale, Costa on 17th. Up to six redpolls in Stromness from 16th were probably Mealy Redpolls as were one-two on North Ronaldsay and singles in South Ronaldsay and in Rendall. One-two Northern Bullfinches remained in Finstown until at least 20th while a Crossbill was in Rendall on 1st.
Only small Snow Bunting flocks were recorded, the largest being 20 at the Howe Brae, Stromness on 10th. Single Lapland Buntings, returning birds from the great autumn invasion, were noted on North Ronaldsay on 10th and 26th-29th.
The annual Bird Race took place on 6th. The winning score of 91 species by the team of Alastair Forsyth, Julian Branscombe and Barrie & Linda Hamill was especially commendable considering the exodus of birds that had occurred earlier in the winter as a result of the hard weather. Many thanks to Dick Matson for once again organising all the logistics of this popular event.
For other RSPB events in Orkney this summer use your Web browser and type in:
Eric Meek

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