RSPB Bird Reports
ORKNEY BIRD RECORDS
The now annual, so-called `Bird Race’
took place on 6th and saw eight teams of four folk attempt to record as
many different types of bird as possible during the day. The winning
team saw 89 species with two other teams recording 86. Between the eight
teams, a record 105 species were seen, quite remarkable for a cold, winter’s
day in Orkney.
17 Black-throated Divers were together in Waulkmill Bay on 6th with eight off Fara on 3rd. 10 Great Northern Divers were off Shapinsay on 3rd ; 40 were in Rerwick Bay on 21st, and 30 had gathered in Wide Firth on 4th , along with an impressive 48 Slavonian Grebes.
The only decent Whooper Swan flocks were 35 at Mill Dam, Shapinsay; 31 at Liddel Loch, South Ronaldsay; and 35 on the Loch of Sabiston but there were up to 15 on North Ronaldsay. A count of Pink-footed Geese in the East Mainland on 23rd turned up a massive 1,270 birds. There were also 210 at Grimeston, Harray on 6th. The Birsay Greenland Whitefront flock peaked at 88 on 15th and there was a single bird of the European race at Holland, Firth on 5th. The largest Barnacle Goose flock was 220 at The Loons, Birsay on 15th. There was a Taiga Bean Goose in Firth from 5th- 9th and in Stenness on 17th and a Tundra Bean Goose in Holm on 18th. A small Canada Goose was in Tankerness from 21st- 23rd.
Some notable duck counts included 250 Long-tailed Ducks and 50 Velvet Scoters in Wide Firth on 4th with 20 in Rerwick Bay on 21st, accompanied by a superb male Surf Scoter, still remaining from January. Single Black(common) Scoters were in Echnaloch Bay on 5th and Finstown Bay on 7th with two at Herston all month. 385 Scaup were on the Harray Loch on 2nd ; 40 Shoveler were on the Loch of Banks on 6th; 22 Gadwall graced the Stenness Loch on 17th; 37 Shelducks gathered at Widewall Bay on 2nd with 28 on the Shapinsay Ouse on 20th.
One or two Buzzards were seen in Firth and Stenness throughout the month; some Sparrowhawks had returned to their territories by 22nd and 13 Hen Harriers were watched going to roost in Birsay, also on 22nd. A report of a probable grey Gyr Falcon seen in Holm on 18th is exciting but as yet, unconfirmed.
February saw the big return of the Oystercatchers with large flocks suddenly appearing just about everywhere. Easily the biggest flock of Golden Plovers was at the Birsay Loons with 1,130 on 12th but 600 at Bosquoy, Harray were also noteworthy. Despite there still being some big Lapwing flocks, eg 510 at Loch of Banks on 12th, the first full breeding displays were seen on 22nd at The Loons and Curlews were bubbling away even earlier on the rare, bonny day. There were 22 Knot on North Ronaldsay on 22nd and 3 at the Oyce of Quindry, Widewall on 11th. There were flocks of 150 and 120 Dunlins on Evie Sands and Widewall Bay respectively, as well as an impressive 69 Bar-tailed Godwits at the latter site on 22nd. Even more Ruff were recorded than last month, with five at the Mill Dam, Shapinsay, two in Widewall Bay and one at the Birsay Loons. There were a few Jack Snipe records with birds being flushed from blanket bog, dense heather and from boulders at Marwick!
Sightings of the so-called `white-winged gulls’ continued. It seemed that the Iceland Gulls (from Greenland!) had cleared out , as none were seen during the Bird-Race on 6th but they had reappeared by 9th with 1-3 seen in Stromness, Marwick, Rennibister, Holm, Herston and North Ronaldsay up to the month’s end. There were even more sightings of Glaucous Gulls (from Iceland!) with 1-4 at 10 sites throughout the month. Our Ring-billed Gull, which has frequented the Stromness Golf Course area for 16 winters, was only seen on 6th –7th . An impressive gathering of 4,000 Common Gulls fed at Rennibister, Firth early in the month and an early-returning LBB Gull was seen in Holm on 6th.
Overwintering Long-eared Owls were recorded from three sites: at Firth, St Ola and Rendall involving one, four and five birds respectively. 400 Rock Doves were at Dale, Costa on15th whilst 40 Collared Doves were seen all month along the Heddle Road, Finstown. Display flights by this species are already a common sight. Skylarks became more numerous as birds returned to the islands, the largest flocks being 92 on North Ronaldsay on 20th; 52 at Durkadale on 21st and 40 at Dale , Costa on 20th. The first full and delightful song was heard at the Birsay Loons on 6th,. The only records of wintering Pied Wagtails came from Stromness with singles at two sites.
A Blackbird was on eggs on Burray by 9th; a Song Thrush was in full song at Dounby on 12th whilst a Dunnock first sang its heart out in Stromness on 17th. The only Fieldfare flocks of any size were 60 at Dale, Costa on 21st and 40 on Shapinsay on 4th. Redwings were even scarcer with a maximum of 30 on North Ronaldsay on 8th and 10 at Herston on 11th. The only warbler record was the male Blackcap which has remained at Dale, Costa for most of the winter. Up to 24 Ravens were on North Ronaldsay; there were flocks of 100, 60 and 32 Jackdaws at three sites on South Ronaldsay with a further 65 on Glims Holm. Only four Carrion Crows were seen: at Widewall, Burwick, Windwick and Lyness Pier.
The largest reported House Sparrow flock was at Crantit, St Ola with 60 on 19th. The Firth School grounds once again held the only decent Brambling flock with over 60. The Twite flock at Dale, Costa maintained its numbers with up to 420 present most of the month. There were also 150 at Skail, Deerness and 60 at Crantit. There were still one or two Goldfinches to charm us at one or possibly two sites in Stromness and at Bigswell, Stenness. A slightly worrying issue concerned Greenfinches seen at Finstown, Firth and Rendall which looked decidedly ill, possibly caused by Salmonella. Reasonable numbers of the big and stunningly bright Northern Bullfinches are still around to delight us with up to 10 in Finstown and 1-4 reported from four other sites.
Keith Fairclough. RSPB Senior Site Manager, Orkney.