RSPB Bird Reports
ORKNEY BIRD RECORDS
Records from Scapa Flow being lacking, a count of 40 Great Northern
Divers in Wide Firth was the highest of the month. The same locality
provided a record of 15 Slavonian Grebes on 15th, a count equalled
on the Swannay Loch on 23rd, five being on the nearby Boardhouse Loch
on 15th. A single Red-necked Grebe was also on Swannay on 22nd.
505 Shags fishing in Hoy Sound on 26th must have been a fine
The largest Whooper Swan herds were 96 on Shapinsay on 23rd, 71 on Stronsay on 16th and 43 at the Sabiston Loch, Birsay on 14th. The closely related Bewick's Swan is a rare visitor to Orkney so that two at the Clumly Loch on 14th, moving to Swannay next day, attracted a number of admirers. The census of Greylag Geese that took place throughout the county mid-month resulted in a new record count for this species. The overall total was 43647 far outstripping the 30000 recorded at this time last year. Of these, 21135 were in the West Mainland, 9019 in the East Mainland and 3500 on Shapinsay. During the survey, 225 Pink-footed Geese were also found in the East Mainland, the next largest flock being only 17 on Stronsay; a single Tundra Bean Goose was located near the Boardhouse Loch.
The usual Greenland White-fronted Goose flocks established themselves
at The Loons, Birsay (105 on 25th) and on Stronsay (41 on 16th) while one-two
also appeared on North Ronaldsay. Barnacle Geese are more in evidence
this winter with the South Walls flock continuing to hold more than normal
numbers (1600) and other islands attracting smaller groups, for example
110 on Stronsay, 36 on Papay and 17 on Shapinsay. Single Pale-bellied
Brent Geese appeared on North Ronaldsay 3rd-10th and in Sandwick on
The drake American Wigeon remained at St. Mary's Ayre Loch early in the month while 330 Teal in two flocks on Stronsay on 16th was a good count. Gadwall maxima were 28 on North Ronaldsay and 22 on the Stenness Loch while Shoveler numbers peaked at 30 on Shapinsay and 27 on North Ronaldsay. Six-eight Pintail were noted on North Ronaldsay, Stronsay and Shapinsay. Velvet Scoters seem to have been decreasing as a winter vistor in recent years so that a count of 40 in Wide Firth on 15th was encouraging; two were also present on the brackish Stenness Loch on 13th and, even more unusually, one was on the Swannay Loch on 23rd. Ruddy Ducks peaked at nine on the Bosquoy Loch on 2nd.
Buzzards were reported from Melsetter and Binscarth early in the month but it was the number of Hen Harriers using their communal winter roost sites that really caught the attention of raptor watchers. At least 18 were counted at Durkadale and up to ten at Cottascarth with ones and twos at other sites.
A Water Rail found dead in Rendall on 3rd was well away from a breeding site and was probably a migrant. The largest Golden Plover flocks reported were 800 in Firth on 10th and 700 in Birsay on 15th. Jack Snipe were again well reported with up to five on Egilsay, four in Stenness and one-two at three other sites; unusually singles in Birsay and Stenness were found utilising dry fields. By far the largest concentration of Common Snipe was the 303 on North Ronaldsay on 3rd. Woodcock arrived in small numbers from their Scandinavian breeding grounds, one - three being seen on North Ronaldsay, Papay, Firth and South Ronaldsay. The Brig o' Waithe attracted its obligatory winter Greenshank on 19th.
The Ring-billed Gull returned to the Stromness golf course on 30th for its 17th winter! 1000 Common Gulls on Egilsay on Egilsay on 6th was a large concentration while the only Glaucous Gulls of the month were singles on North Ronaldsay on 17th and 26th. It takes a milkman to be birding at 0330 hrs but it paid off on 6th when five Little Auks were found wandering the roads in the Scapa area following strong winds.
Single Long-eared Owls were reported from North Ronaldsay on four dates and from South Ronaldsay on 9th; up to three took up residence in Rendall mid-month. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was an unusual visitor to Flotta on 2nd. Late Swallows were seen on Eday and North Ronaldsay (2) on 5th while two more were on the latter island on the very late date of 12th. A Rock Pipit was found almost 3 km from the sea in the Stenness Hills on 21st and the only Grey Wagtail reported was also in Stenness on 3rd/4th and 21st. The Waxwing irruption that began in such spectacular fashion in October gradually petered out with up to 15 being reported from seven localities but with none after 14th.
Single Black Redstarts were on North Ronaldsay on 1st and 10th with very late Whinchats there on 1st and 8th and a migrant Stonechat on 2nd. Much rarer, however, was the Pied Wheatear from Central Asia that was present there from 17th - 26th. An influx of migrant thrushes on 9th/10th brought peaks of 110 Blackbirds, 134 Fieldfares and 101 Redwings also to North Ronaldsay.
Blackcaps, so scarce all autumn, put on a slightly better show in November with up to three at eight localities while a late (and unfortunately tail-less) Barred Warbler was in Costa 1st - 6th. One - two Chiffchaffs were reported from North Ronaldsay, South Ronaldsay and Evie, at least the two in South Ronaldsay being considered to be of the Siberian race, tristis. Also from Siberia came a Yellow-browed Warbler to Rendall on 17th and, even rarer, a Dusky Warbler to Cara, South Ronaldsay from 9th - 15th. The latter represented only the fifth Orkney record and its long stay enabled most local birders to see it although its skulking habits made observation difficult.
Great Grey Shrikes were on North Ronaldsay from 10th - 13th and in Rendall on 17th, the latter attracted to the large numbers of small seed-eating birds at a sacrificial crop. The largest Brambling gathering was of just 20 in Birsay on 22nd while one-two Goldfinches were on North Ronaldsay on four dates early in the month and four were at Binscarth on 16th. By far the largest concentration of Twite was in Costa on 23rd when 700 were counted, the next largest being 180 in Birsay on 12th. Redpolls, all thought to be Mealy Redpolls were reported from North Ronaldsay on 15th, Egilsay (3) on 21st and Papay (3) on 22nd/23rd. A lingering Scarlet Rosefinch was still on North Ronaldsay on 1st while a small influx of Northern Bullfinches brought singles to Melsetter, Holm, Binscarth and Hoy between 1st and 16th. The star bird of October, the North American Yellow-rumped Warbler remained in Costa until 6th but became very elusive. Snow Bunting flocks were conspicuous during the month the largest being 300 at Brodgar on 28th, 209 on North Ronaldsay on 6th, 120 at Costa on 21st and 100 on Shapinsay on 22nd. Sacrificial crops attracted good numbers of Reed Buntings with 100 at Durkadale on 21st and 150 at Costa on 28th up to three Yellowhammers also appearing at Costa after 16th and another on North Ronaldsay on 10th.