Tuesday 31 December 2013

End of 2013

This time last year I was writing about starting this blog and how I hoped to report my birding activities around Burray and beyond. To try and encourage me to get out and about around my local area I signed up to the Patchwork Challenge.

Now 12 months later it is time to look back and see if I achieved what I had intended to achieve. In short not fully because as usual other things diverted some of my time but I still have been out there birding.

Most of my birding in 2013 has been on my patch, with some on the rest of Burray and some further afield both within Orkney and outwith.

I have added a number of species to my Life List this year all of which where within Orkney and one a Ring Ouzel turned up in my Garden. The other lifers were a Buff Breasted Sandpiper and a Western Bonelli's Warbler (East side of Burray), a Yellow Browed Warbler (Deerness), a Thrush Nightingale (Holm), Blythe's Reed Warbler and a Grasshopper Warbler (North Ronaldsay) and an Ivory Gull (Evie).

For the Patchwork Challenge I found 74 species on my patch which gave me 91 points, so that is my target to beat next year. The challenge got off to a good start with 30 species seen on the 1 Jan and another 8 species added by the end of the month. Species for the rest of the year were added as follows: Feb 4, Mar 4, Apr 2, May 6, Jun 7, Jul 1, Aug 0, Sep 7, Oct 3, Nov 2 and Dec 0. For a full list of species seen and a map showing my patch see the Patchwork Challenge Bird List page.

As well as doing the Patchwork Challenge, I also continued supplying data on the birds in my garden to the BTO Garden Birdwatch Watch scheme and I also joined the BTO Nest Record Scheme.

For the latter scheme I submitted records for two Blackbird nests that were in the garden, one raising a brood of five chicks the other a brood of three chicks, one Oystercatcher nest in the field adjoining my land, which raised a brood of three chicks and elsewhere on my patch a Swallow nest raising a brood of 4 chicks and a Blackbird nest which hatched three chicks but was predated before they could fledge. I also had five or six Starling nests and at least one House Sparrow nest within the garden but these were inaccessible so records weren't raised for these.

Work on enlarging the pond went on throughout the year and once the water was back in, it very quickly became a big attraction for the birds who were using it for drinking and bathing. At times there were upto 40 birds all trying to bathe. It was interesting to watch the young Swallows experimenting with different methods for drinking on the wing.

The best birds in the garden this year had to be the Ring Ouzel (as mentioned earlier a new life bird for me) a couple of visits by a Great Spotted Woodpecker and the Blackcaps.

My bird ringing training continued throughout the year, see my ringing blog for full details. On patch ringing activities included the two Blackbird nests in the garden and elsewhere on the patch Lapwing and Swallow chicks and young Black-headed Gulls, Common Gulls and Oystercatchers. Also on my land there were two ringing sessions targeting Meadow Pipits which also produced a Rock Pipit, a Skylark, a House Sparrow, a Blackbird and a young Swallow which had been previously ringed over at Graemeshall Loch.

So all in all a pretty busy birding year even though I didn't spend as much time out on the patch as I would have liked to.

As far as the blog goes, I have tried to post whenever I have been out and about or something interesting has turned up either on patch or elsewhere on Burray. I haven't got round to blogging about the different habitats within my patch yet but plan on doing that next year.

So that just leaves me to thank you for following my blog, I hope you have enjoyed it and will continue to follow it next year. Best wishes for 2014 and I hope you all have a good birding year.

Saturday 14 December 2013

Pre-Christmas twitch

As I have said before I don't usually twitch birds especially if they aren't on my patch however with the end of the year approaching and not having been out very much birding recently I accepted the offer of a lift from Barrie and Linda to go and see a very special bird.

The last time this species was seen in Orkney was in Kirkwall Bay between the 29 April and the 6th May 1949!!

Earlier in the week a dead male Sperm Whale was washed up onto the beach at Evie on West Mainland. Carcasses of dead cetaceans are known for attracting gulls and after last year's bonanza over near Marwick of Iceland Gulls feeding on a washed up carcass there was hope that some more white gulls would appear and feed on this one.

Sperm Whale carcass

Then on Thursday the word went out that a white gull had been found by local birder Dafi. However what he found wasn't an Iceland Gull this was something a bit more rarer, he had found an Ivory Gull.

This species is normally found in the high Arctic although the odd one or two turn up in the UK on an annual basis.

About the same size as a Common Gull it has a plumper body, broader wings with a longer tail and short black legs. According to my bird book adult birds are all white and first year birds have distinctive black finely spotted plumage and a black spotted face. This bird was generating some discussion between those that had gone to see it as it was inbetween the two plumages.

This bird had black tips to its wings but didn't have a lot of the black spotting on the rest of its wings but it did have black spotting around the base of the bill.

Ivory Gull
Ivory Gull
Thanks to Barrie and Linda for inviting me along and hpefully it won't be another 64 years before another one is seen in Orkney.

More photos to follow.