RSPB Bird Reports
ORKNEY BIRD RECORDS
While two Red-throated Divers had returned to a Rendall breeding site by mid-month, flocks of wintering Great Northern Divers were still at sea with 80 in Wide Firth on 14th and 40 off Rerwick on 23rd. A Great Crested Grebe was a rare visitor to North Ronaldsay on 24th while Slavonian Grebes were conspicuous with 70 in Wide Firth and 19 on the Swannay Loch on 14th.
The largest Whooper Swan herds were 45 on Shapinsay on 17th and 32 at Liddel Loch, South Ronaldsay on 17th. Large numbers of Greylag Geese remained throughout the month and the largest Pink-footed Goose flocks were 250 in Firth on 17th and 97 at The Loons on 23rd. A single Taiga Bean Goose remained in Firth until 17th. The Greenland White-fronted Goose flock at The Loons peaked at 106 on 23rd while a party of 23 European race birds were in Holm on 17th and in Tankerness on 23rd with a single in Firth until 11th; North Ronaldsay also reported two White-fronts on several days during the month. Apart from the large South Walls flock, the only Barnacle Geese reported were a flock of up to 17 in Birsay.
Shelduck gatherings are a feature of early spring, 42 in Widewall Bay being the largest. Pintail seemed slow to return to the islands this spring with the only reports being two-four in Birsay, North Ronaldsay and South Ronaldsay. The Stenness Loch Scaup flock was at its winter peak of 315 on 18th while about the same time considerable concentrations of Long-tailed Ducks were noted in Wide Firth (400 on 14th) and Papay Sound (290 on 19th). Wide Firth also attracted 45 Velvet Scoters on 14th and 30 were off Rerwick on 23rd. A much rarer Surf Scoter was also found during the Wide Firth count but the only Common Scoters reported were two at Herston until 19th.
A Buzzard in the Firth area on several dates was the only unusual raptor. Amongst the waders, Golden Plovers were numerous with 1090 at Widewall on 14th and up to 1000 on North Ronaldsay and 500 in Firth. Counts of wintering waders on the shore included 51 Knot on North Ronaldsay on 26th, 150 Purple Sandpipers on Papay on 20th and 50 Bar-tailed Godwits at Widewall on 7th. Woodcock were perhaps more numerous than is usual in spring with up to four on North Ronaldsay from 19th and singles at three other sites, two of them on Hoy.
The North Ronaldsay Mediterranean Gull returned for two days on 13th/14th. One–two Glaucous Gulls were reported from Shapinsay, Marwick, Rennibister and Widewall while Iceland Gulls were more widespread with one-two at eight localities during the month. An immature Kumlien’s Gull, the Canadian Arctic race of Iceland Gull, was found near Yesnaby on 18th. Sandwich Terns began to make an appearance from 21st when the first was reported from Herston.
A light passage of Wood Pigeons, characteristic of early spring, was reported from North Ronaldsay from 16th with up to three per day. A fine male Snowy Owl attracted attention on Stronsay after it appeared on 26th while the only Long-eared Owl reported was one on North Ronaldsay on 28th. Skylark passage on North Ronaldsay peaked at 359 on 19th while there was still a wintering flock of 100 at Dale, Costa on 13th. Single Grey Wagtails were on North Ronaldsay from 27th-29th and at Ireland, Stenness on 31st. Pied Wagtails appeared in numbers from mid-month with North Ronaldsay recording a peak of 11 on 23rd. Considering the size of last autumn’s arrival, Waxwings were surprisingly scarce, the only report being of one in Stromness on 29th.
An arrival of Continental migrants on North Ronaldsay on 28th brought 11 Robins, a Black Redstart and two Mistle Thrushes, one of the last species also having been seen on 16th. The same island also reported up to four Stonechats, a typical early spring migrant, from 17th. The first Wheatears were found on North Ronaldsay and at Stromness Reservoir on 23rd, ten others being reported by the end of the month. An influx of thrushes to North Ronaldsay on 21st brought 131 Blackbirds, 12 Fieldfares and four Song Thrushes, Redwings having peaked a little earlier with 24 on 13th and 23 on 19th.
A male Blackcap was at Dale, Costa all month having wintered there but single Chiffchaffs in St.Ola (24th), St.Margaret’s Hope (26th) and Gyre, Orphir (29th) were probably early migrants. There was a distinct influx of Goldcrests from 22nd with up to 25 on North Ronaldsay and up to four at six other localities. Much more unusual, however, were the Great Tits that appeared on Papay on 24th and in South Ronaldsay next day and the Blue Tit in Rendall on 30th/31st. A light passage of corvids is another feature of early spring; up to three Rooks were on North Ronaldsay from 18th when five were also seen moving north over Herston; similar numbers of Jackdaws were also reported from North Ronaldsay although a good flock of 75 at Newark, South Ronaldsay probably involved local breeding birds. The only Carrion Crow was one at Sandwick, South Ronaldsay on 14th. Ravens settled to breed during the month but an amazing influx occurred on North Ronaldsay where only a single pair usually nests – 28 were reported on 5th with counts of up to 18 on other dates.
The arrival of migrants on North Ronaldsay on 28th included 14 Chaffinches and a Brambling. While Chaffinches were noted at several other sites, the only other Bramblings involved two on Burray and one that managed to get temporarily stuck in a bird-feeder in Finstown!. The largest flock of Greenfinches was 50 in Finstown on 15th and, of Twite, 200 at Dale, Costa on 13th. Two Goldfinches were seen in Stromness on 1st and 21st, a small party of eight Siskins were found in Orphir on 23rd and a Redpoll was in Herston on 26th. The remnants of last autumn’s Northern Bullfinch irruption included six at Crafty, Firth on 10th and one-three in Kirkwall, Stromness and Finstown. Hawfinches are a characteristic scarce migrant in late March and singles in South Ronaldsay (28th), on Eday (29th) and at Dounby (30th) thrilled their finders. Most of our wintering Snow Buntings appeared to have already moved on and the only report was of 41 on North Ronaldsay on 21st while the largest gathering of Reed Buntings was of 40 at the Finstown School winter farmland bird plot.