Wednesday 8 November 2023

January 2023 Roundup

A new year begins and so does another attempt at doing my blog! At some point I will go back and complete all the blogs that have placeholders as I want to try and keep a comprehensive record of the birds seen on Burray.

The new year starts as the old one finished with me suffering from a very bad cold, I hesitate to call it the flu but it is a pretty bad bug all the same and there seems to be plenty of it going round.

Having not done that much birding over the last two years I want to try and make time to get out and about a bit more this year and if nothing else improve my fitness levels a bit as I do seem to find it harder to do things these days.

To help inspire me to get off my back side the Patchwork Challenge has been relaunched 10 years after it first started. This time round as well as the usual 3km2 patches there is a new category called '10km from home' which is basically an area based on a 10km radius from your home. Now my usual 3km2 patch only covered part of the West side of Burray. To cover the whole of Burray I would need to have three separate patches, So I decided to go for the  '10km from home' option so I could cover the whole of Burray as one patch making it easier to manage the records. If I did the whole 10km radius I could include Holm village, a good part of Holm parish, out across Scapa Flow to nearly the East side of Hoy and a good way down into South Ronaldsay but I'm going to stick with just Burray. That should keep me busy enough and is in keeping with the subject of this blog.

As with previous blogs, the first time I hear or see a species during the year it will be shown in bold.

So the first day of the new year started of dry, with light winds and an overcast sky. This lasted until just before lunch when the rain set in. The SE wind also picked up to F4-5.

As I was still feeling quite bad my bird watching was confined to what I could see from the cottage. The first species seen at first light was a couple of Rock Doves flying over the garden. This was quickly followed by Starling (7) sitting on the power pole in my paddock. The first birds actually seen in the garden were a small flock of Greenfinch (5) sitting in the fuchsia bushes. The field around the cottage held a flock of Redwing (17), a single female Blackbird and a single Fieldfare. Also seen flying by were a single Great Black-backed Gull and a single Common Gull. Not long after putting out some bird food a small flock of House Sparrow (5) arrived which soon increased to (13) and three female Blackbirds, one of which is ringed and I think is the resident breeder. A couple of Redwing also made a brief stop off in the fuchsia bushes. I then saw my first raptor of the year as a single male Hen Harrier swooped over the paddock and heather area on the hunt. In the afternoon a single Hooded Crow flew over the pond and I counted Fulmar (11) on the cliffs on the far side of Echnaloch Bay. As it was going dusk I popped outside to get something from the car and I could hear a group of Golden Plover calling. There is usually a flock of about (50) in the field around the cottage but today they were noticeable by their absence.

Elsewhere on the island my friend Barrie flushed a Woodcock in his garden.

On the 2nd, the wind had gone round to a Westerly direction but remained F4-5 and it turned out to be a dry sunny day. Just after first light there was a flock of Hooded Crow (6) on the far side of the field to the West of the cottage, who were flown over by a Great Black-backed Gull. The flock of Redwing, in the field around the cottage, had now increased to (40+) and were joined by Starlings (30+). A pair of Raven were seen flying South over the field on the far side of the paddock.

In the garden, the usual visitors: Blackbird (1 female), Greenfinch (5) and House Sparrow (11) were joined by Redwing (2) and a solitary Wren.

Unlike yesterday, the 3rd started off wet with Southerly F7-8 winds which decreased as the day progressed  and by lunchtime the rain had died out.

Yesterday's flock of Redwing and Starling had increased to (40+) and (100+) respectively.

Just after 9 a.m. there was a sudden burst of noise coming from the garden. Looking out of the window all the bushes had turned black when a flock of Starling (300+) dropped in.

At lunchtime I was scanning the Redwing/Starling flock and spotted Curlew (2). Mid-afternoon saw a single Hooded Crow venture into the garden.

The 4th was a cooler day with the wind round to the NW F4-5, at least it was dry with sunny intervals.

The mobile flock in the field around the cottage was still present, with a peak count of Redwing (50+), Starling (30+), Blackbird (6) and Fieldfare (2).

The 5th saw the wind backing round to the South and increasing throughout the day to F8. The day started dry but more rain moved in by the evening. At first light a flock of Greylag Goose (14) were in the field on the right of the track going up to the trig point. Just before lunch something spooked the Redwings on the field around the cottage which resulted in (200+) rushing for cover in the fuchsia bushes in the garden.

Late morning there were reports of a Black-throated Diver, a  Little Auk and a Puffin all out in Echnaloch Bay.

On the 6th I was feeling a bit better so ventured out of the cottage and headed into the office in Kirkwall. Unfortunately it was dark when I went out and dark when I came home so didn't get a chance to see what was on Echna Loch or out in the bay. The wind had veered back round to the West and was now F9. That made the crossing over the barriers interesting, and not long after they were closed until early afternoon.

The wind was back round to the South on the 7th and had dropped right down to F3 although it strengthen again later in the day back up to F6. The usual flock was in the field around the cottage for most of the day, although there appeared to be less Redwing (30+) but more Fieldfare (11), also Blackbird (3) and Starling (80+). In the garden there were Redwing (10), Fieldfare (1), Blackbird (5), Starling (27), House Sparrow (20+) and Greenfinch (4).

There was a report of a White-billed Diver in Echnaloch Bay and my friend Barrie saw Snow Bunting (10) on the beach at the Burray end of Barrier 4.

On the 8th I was sitting in the sun porch with a brew when I saw a Sparrowhawk fly across the paddock and up onto the top of the Hydro pole. It sat there briefly before dropping down into the field on the far side of the paddock, where it appear to catch something which it then tried to carry off. Unfortunately it was struggling in the gale force winds and dropped back into the field out of view. Then in a fuchsia bush in front of the sun porch a Dunnock appeared and worked its way through the bush.

The usual flock of Redwings (80+) were in the field around the cottage throughout the day but I didn't spot any Fieldfares today.

No observations on the 9th as I was in the Stromness office, so it was dark when I left and returned to the cottage.

Working from home on the 10th and the most obvious thing throughout the day was the apparent lack of birds. The flock of Redwings in the field around the cottage had disappeared with only (3) being seen. There was the occasional group of two or three briefly stopping in the fuchsia bushes in the garden as they passed through. Perhaps the knew there was a big storm approaching and they had moved on. The SSE wind veered round to the West and was gathering strength throughout the day with the forecast predicting F10-11 by midnight. The rain arrived around midday and persisted into the evening. The garden was very quiet too, with only a single Greenfinch, House Sparrow (8) and Rock Dove (10) being the main visitors. There was a brief visit by a Jackdaw who was pecking at some of the seed by the ground trap.

Friday 4 September 2020

Wilson's Phalarope

After the appearance of the White-winged Black Tern on Wednesday the 2 Sep 20 at Echna Loch / Echnaloch Bay late the following afternoon produced another stunning bird.

Initial reports from a visiting birder was of a small Greenshank type bird which was seen standing on floating vegetation on Echna Loch. Initial word went out of a probable Marsh Sandpiper but when photos of the bird appeared it was confirmed that the bird was in fact a Wilson's Phalarope.
Further photos reinforced that confirmation.
Then just before 7 a.m. this morning came word that the bird was still present. Within 15 minutes six local birders joined the finder at Echna Loch only to be told the bird had disappeared. After around 30 minutes of scanning the loch and the bay there was still no sign of the Phalarope but the White-winged Black Tern was still present feeding out in the bay and resting on the shore line. This was one lucky bird as later in the morning it had a close encounter with a Peregrine but fortunately survived.

Despite several birders looking over the course of the morning the Phalarope was not seen. Working on a hunch Burray birder Barrie went up to the pools below the trig point on the West side of Burray and re-found the bird on the most Westerly pool.
Several birders including myself made the trek up to the pools and managed to see it although at times it disappear behind tussocks of grass but at other times stood in open areas of the pool giving good but distant views.

I managed to get a few record shots.

Wilson's Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor)

This was a second life tick for me in three days so well chuffed that they were both on patch.
It was also a new species for the Burray bird list and only the third record for Orkney. The previous two records were interestingly also in the first week of September with the first at Birsay Bay on the 3 Sep 1981 and the second at Loch of Tankerness on the 5 Sep 2002.

Tuesday 1 September 2020

White-winged Black Tern

 On the last day of August, as yet another month drew to a close and a definite feel of autumn starting to creep in new broke mid-afternoon that a juvenile White-winged Black Tern had been spotted at Echnaloch bay.

I was just wrapping up a job that I had been doing in Kirkwall when I saw the message of its presence so quickly finished what I was doing and headed off. As the bird had been spotted on my patch I was definitely going to  stop off on my way past and take a look.

 On arrival, as expected the lay-by was full of cars and people wanting to take a look at this rare visitor. It was a lifer for me and not only a new addition to my Burray list but a new addition to the 'Burray Bird list'.

Having parked the car and join the group of watchers I was invited to take a look through a scope already trained on the visitor. It was sitting on the water line close to an Arctic Tern and a Black-headed Gull which were useful for size comparison.

I managed to get a few record shots, so the quality isn't too good, as it was quite a way along the beach from where we were observing it.

A couple of times it took off and flew across the road to have a few dips in Echna Loch before returning back to the bay side. It also spent a good ten minutes flying around out over the sea.

                            Juvenile White-winged Black Tern (Chlidonias leucopterius)


August 2020 Roundup

To be updated sometime.

July 2020 Roundup

  To be updated soon.

June 2020 Roundup

  To be updated soon.

May 2020 Roundup

 To be updated soon.