RSPB Bird Reports
ORKNEY BIRD RECORDS
The only Black-throated Divers reported were two off North Ronaldsay on 20th but calm conditions on 9th allowed a good count of 50 Great Northern Divers in Wide Firth while 48 were off the north shore of Tankerness on 29th. A Red-necked Grebe was off North Ronaldsay on 7th while an important concentration of 75 Slavonian Grebes was in Wide Firth on 9th when 15 were also on the Swannay Loch. Good counts of Herons included 12 at Walliwall and 11 at each of Woodwick and Birsay.
48 Whooper Swans were at the Mill Dam, Shapinsay on 1st while other flocks involved 39 in Toab on 17th and 30 near Dounby on 31st. Good numbers of Pink-footed Geese remained in the East Mainland, 900 at Mill Sand, Tankerness on 11th being the largest gathering. A Brent Goose remained on North Ronaldsay from 15th to 28th but an even better find was a Lesser Canada Goose in the Finstown area on 4th/5th. The best Shelduck flock was of 51 in Widewall Bay on 17th while 800 Wigeon at Carness on 13th was noteworthy for that site. There was a scatter of Pintail from several localities with 15 on North Ronaldsay on 18th being the highest concentration. The prize for Shovelers, however, went to Papay where there were 42, closely followed by the Mill Dam with 40. The Stenness Loch Scaup flock numbered 285 on 16th while an impressive gathering of 105 Long-tailed Ducks was on the Peedie Sea on 25th. The good counting conditions on 9th allowed a tally of 70 Velvet Scoters to be made in Wide Firth; there were also 25 off Tankerness on 29th and a single bird in Widewall Bay on 3rd. The only Common Scoters were two off North Ronaldsay on 23rd and five off Tankerness on 29th, the latter being accompanied by the regular drake Surf Scoter. March is traditionally a time when considerable concentrations of Red-breasted Mergansers occur but a count of 205 in the Bays of Isbister and Firth on 9th was exceptional. The Skaill Loch drake Smew remained for much of the month while the Quoyloo Ruddy Duck was again reported, on 9th.
Hen Harriers and Merlins were taking up their moorland territories by the last week of the month but a Buzzard in Syradale on 12th was the only other raptor sighting of note. Water Rails were noted on North Ronaldsay, Papay and at Graemeshall, Holm.
The advent of snow in the early part of the month made life difficult for some of our wading birds. Oystercatchers, Lapwings and Snipe all seemed to be affected and were conspicuously feeding along roadside verges. Oystercatchers seemed particularly badly hit and many succumbed at that time. However, with warmer weather ensuing, Oystercatchers could be watched copulating by 15th and a Lapwing nest with a full clutch was found on 31st. The Papay Purple Sandpiper flocks totalled 290 around mid-month with 100 Dunlin present too; 90 of the latter species were also found inland in Tankerness on 11th. The snow enabled an amazing count of 31 Jack Snipe to be made on the roadsides of Deerness and South Ronaldsay early on the morning of 7th; elsewhere, up to four were seen at Furrowend, Shapinsay and singles at three other localities. Small numbers of Woodcock (including four at Wideford Hill) were also obvious at that time but became even more so late in the month when a fall of Continental migrants brought 10 to North Ronaldsay and others to Hoxa and Orphir. 60 Bar-tailed Godwits was the peak count on North Ronaldsay (on 28th), 60 being recorded from Widewall on 21st. A single Greenshank was on North Ronaldsay on 28th
The first Bonxies were two in Hoy Sound on 18th and one in Orphir on 27th. North Ronaldsay reported its regular Mediterranean Gull on 14th while Lesser Black-backed Gulls built up in numbers from one at Brodgar on 9th to 21 in St.Ola on 24th. Glaucous Gulls were reported from four Mainland sites (Birsay Bay, Skaill Bay, Finstown and St.Ola) while birds were also seen on North Ronaldsay on 3rd/4th and 30th. Iceland Gulls were much scarcer with just two sightings – at Skaill Bay on 9th and at Scapa on 10th. The first Sandwich Terns were two off Papay on 22nd while others were noted off North Ronaldsay on 3oth and Shapinsay on 31st. The calm conditions of 9th encouraged 450 Guillemots to come ashore at Row Head, Sandwick, a further 750 being counted on the sea close by.
We know little about Wood Pigeon migration but that they do migrate was shown by a count of 16 on North Ronaldsay on 28th with small numbers also being noted in Herston and Burray about the same time. Up to three Long-eared Owls continued to be seen intermittently in Rendall while signs of a regular roost were also found in an Orphir plantation; one-two were also seen on North Ronaldsay and at Herston mainly in the last few days of the month. Short-eared Owls became much more conspicuous during the month and wing-clapping display was noted in both Stenness and Rendall on 29th.
70 Skylarks at Dale, Costa were wintering birds but a peak count of 232 on North Ronaldsay on 28th reflected a marked passage through that island at that time. Records of inland wintering Rock Pipits seem to be fewer than in the past so that two near the Loch of Wasdale on 12th were of note. A Grey Wagtail on North Ronaldsay during the last week of the month was the only record but numbers of Pied Wagtails grew as the month progressed, North Ronaldsay recording 12 on 30th/31st. That island also reported several White Wagtails with three on 26th and a peak on nine on 29th.
The south-easterly wind and rain of 26th caused a substantial ‘fall’ of Continental migrants. The most conspicuous species involved were Chaffinches (up to 65 on North Ronaldsay and up to 22 elsewhere), Blackbirds (256 on North Ronaldsay and up to 50 elsewhere), Song Thrushes (153 on North Ronaldsay), Fieldfares (61 on North Ronaldsay), Robins (52 on North Ronaldsay and up to 10 elsewhere) and Mistle Thrushes (up to eight on North Ronaldsay and singles on Papay and in Holm). Other species included Black Redstart (with two on North Ronaldsay and one at St. Mary’s), Dunnock (two on North Ronaldsay and one in Deerness), Chiffchaff (three on North Ronaldsay and singles at two South Ronaldsay sites); Goldcrest (up to four on North Ronaldsay and a few elsewhere), a Northern Bullfinch, a Yellowhammer and up to four Reed Buntings (all on North Ronaldsay) and, rarest of all, a Little Bunting in Deerness, the first ever spring record for Orkney. Two Wheatears on North Ronaldsay on 28th were the first of the spring, a light passage of Stonechats having gone through that island earlier in the month with a peak of four on 18th. Redwing observations were of interest, with most sightings before 26th being of birds of the Icelandic race coburni while those after that date were mainly of the Continenetal race iliacus.
Other birds of note included a Great Tit in Finstown on 27th, a Carrion Crow at Twatt on 19th and single Siskins in Kirkwall and on Burray on 24th and 27th. A Goldfinch was in song in Finstown on 28th while a flock of nine was in Harray the following day. Up to seven Mealy Redpolls were in Stromness in the first week of the month when four were also at Dale, Costa. Only three single Bramblings were reported – in Birsay on 3rd, Finstown on 10th and North Ronaldsay on 26th. 40 Greenfinches in Finstown on 10th was the largest flock reported while the Dale bird crops supported 240 Twite on 3rd. By far the largest Snow Bunting gathering was of 100 at the Birsay Links on 26th.