Sunday 21 January 2018

Intruder or Mate?

Today started off cold but calm. There had been a fairly heavy over night frost and the pond was completed frozen over.

There was quite a nice sunrise this morning but it didn't take long for the cloud to start moving in and by mid-morning the wind started to pick up.

 As soon as it was light Mrs Blackbird and an un-ringed Robin were busy feeding and shortly after half a dozen House Sparrows put in an appearance along with a mixed flock of about 20 Rock/Feral Doves. There were also half a dozen Starlings briefly before they headed out into the fields. I'm assuming the Robin is the one that has been in the garden for a while now but cona't be 100% sure.

Late morning an a male Blackbird appeared in the garden. It has been quite a few weeks since there has been a male in the garden, the female has had it all to herself until now. Although she followed him around the garden she didn't chase him off. So I'm wondering if he is going to be a potential mate rather than a intruder. The male was ringed so he could be from one of last year's or the year before broods. If he sticks around I will have to see if I can catch him and check the ring number out.

By early afternoon he had disappeared but Mrs Blackbird continued to feed in the increasing wind which was up to Force 6 by the time it got dark. The Robin was still about too and was joined by a Wren, both of whom were flitting through the rocks and long grass trying to keep out of the wind.

Thursday 18 January 2018

Nice surprise - Stonechat

On my way back from town this morning (18 Jan) there was a Grey Heron as I came off of Barrier 3 onto Burray tucked in close to the barrier on the East side of the barrier.

I decided to make a brief stop at the lay-by between Echnaloch Bay and Echna Loch before the next snow shower passed through.

Out in the bay there were a couple of Great Black-backed Gulls, a couple of Lapwing, seven Long-tailed Ducks and a single Cormorant. Along the cliffs there was c50 Fulmars.

On the other side of the road on Echna Loch there were a couple of Mute Swans a couple of Great Black-backed Gulls, three Common Gulls, eight Tufted Ducks and three Mallards.

Out corner of my eye I saw something drop down from one of the fence posts onto the ground and a few seconds pop back up again. It continued along the fence line dropping from the each fence post to the ground and then back up to the next post along. It was a pleasant surprise to see a male Stonechat. Not only a new species for the year but a new species for my Burray bird list.


On Tuesday (16 Jan) Morning I had to take my wife to the doctors for an appointment. As we reached the bottom of the hill to join the main road I spotted a couple of flocks of Curlew, totaling roughly 80-100 birds, in the fields on the other side of the main road. In the winter they quite often appear in these fields around high tide when the water level pushes them off the shore where they tend to feed. Sometimes the flocks seem to head over towards South Ronaldsay and on other times they come to Burray. I'm not sure what factors determine which way they go but suspect it maybe to do with the wind direction. As it has been dark when I've been passing these fields so far this year this is the first time I've seen them in daylight with the Curlew in them. So that's another species added to my Burray year list.

On the way back, coming up the hill to the cottage the field to the South of Ruemuera had a mixed flock of c30 Lapwings, c40 Starlings and six Blackbirds.

Back at the cottage the usual Blackbird was rummaging around the garden and three Greenfinches and three House Sparrows put in an appearance. The latter have been quite noticeable lately by their lack of appearance as usually I get good numbers of them.

Later morning saw the arrival of the snow and at first it didn't seem to be settling.

But after an hour the garden and surrounding area was starting to look quite white.

A Common Gull put in a brief appearance to investigate some apple that I had put out but Mrs Blackbird soon saw it off.

Monday 15 January 2018

Windy - Calm - Storm - Snow

Last Tuesday (10 Jan) the weather got a bit blowy, resulting in me taking the precautionary measure of relocating from the work's office in Kirkwall to the home office. This was due to the wind speed increasing from the south-east and high tide was a tea-time. South-easterlies can be the worst direction for pushing the sea in off the North Sea and causing over-topping on the Churchill Barriers.

Having safely got across Barriers 1 and 2 and onto Burray a quick glance at Echna Loch had a few Tufted Ducks and Mallards and a couple of Common Gulls. On the other side of the road there were a few more Common Gull out on the flow and the Fulmars patrolling the cliff.

On Thursday (11 Jan) the weather took a rest and it was a lovely calm sunny day. Tim D one of the local birders was out and about and at lunch time spotted three groups of Black-throated Divers totaling around 60 birds. They were quite a way out into the Flow towards the accommodation platform that is currently moored up. He also found over 50 Slavonian Grebes.

From Friday (12 Jan) onwards the wind started ramping back up again until it peaked on Sunday evening (14 Jan). I was recording gusts in excess of 58mph here at the cottage.

As a result the garden was pretty quiet with just the Blackbird, the two Robins two Greenfinches and six Starlings taking shelter and feeding. Apart from a Raven, a few Common Gulls and a lot of Rock/Feral Doves the only bird of interest was a Grey Heron trying to fly across the fields out the back of the cottage. It was certainly struggling to make headway against the wind even when it dropped down to a couple of feet above the ground!!

Today the temperature has dropped and we are now in for a week of snow, sleet and hail. As I was driving up the track to the cottage this evening I spotted what looked like a Short-eared Owl hunting along the fence line. I didn't get a clear look at it as it kept dropping out of sight and it was also out of the main beam of the headlights, but from the colouring I did see, it's shape and flight it certainly looked like one. If it was that would be the first time I have seen one in the dark, all my sightings to date have always been in full daylight.

It's starting to get light as I set off for work now, so in a few more weeks I'll be able to start checking out Echnaloch Bay and Echna Loch on my way to work.

Time to go and find my boot grippers just in case we do actually get some proper snow.

Tuesday 9 January 2018

First Lapwing of the year

I came home a bit earlier than usual this afternoon, as the strong SE wind was starting to cause the sea to over-top Churchill Barrier 2 and with an incoming tide I didn't want to get caught out on the wrong side of the Barriers if condition worsened as high tide approached.

So it was still daylight and as I turned of the main road through the island onto the road towards the cottage there was a flock of eight Lapwing in the field below Ruemuera.

Saturday 6 January 2018

6/7 Jan 18 - First weekend of the year

Saturday was spent trying to catch up on a few jobs around the cottage, but I kept one eye on the garden and had the ground trap set to do some ringing if the opportunity arose.

Weather-wise it was dry, generally cloudy with the odd sunny interlude and the wind was decreasing from North-West as it backed round to the West.

It was fairly quiet in the garden with my usual female Blackbird, a few House Sparrows and Starlings and mixed flock of Rock Doves and feral pigeons. I also saw two Robins, I know it was two as one was ringed and the other wasn't, and also the male Pheasant was back.

However, I managed to add two new species to my 2018 Burray list in the form of eight Greenfinches and a Wren.

On one of the fields the other side of my paddock there was another gathering of Common Gulls and a quick scan of the cliffs on the North side of Echnaloch Bay had 60+ Fulmars up a bit on the count a couple of days ago.

Sunday was spent doing a few outdoor jobs until the cold got the better of me and I retreated indoors to do some other jobs. Again my ground trap was set and I managed to catch the ringed female Blackbird and confirmed that I ringers her back in March 2016 when she was a youngster. The only other bird caught was a female Greenfinch.

Other birds in the garden today were 12 Starlings, four House Sparrows, a Wren, the male Pheasant and a Robin. In the fields around the cottage there were 50+ Common Gulls and two Hooded Crows.

Tuesday 2 January 2018

2 Jan 18 - Last day of Xmas Hols

Today was my last day of the Christmas break and it started off calm with an almost full moon setting behind the hill to the West.

As it started to get light the female Blackbird was spotted feeding on the lawn rather than in the area where I put food down. Apart from that it was a very quiet day in the garden with just the Robin and a male Pheasant.

There were a few more Common Gulls in the fields between the cottage and the road and a single Raven flying over my paddock.

A quick look through the scope out on to Echnaloch Bay produced a count of 40+ Fulmars on the cliffs on the North side of the bay and a couple of Great Black-backed Gulls on the water.

By lunch time the wind had got up and the rain had arrived, notification that Storm Eleanor is on her way although she is not predicted to hit Orkney.

Monday 1 January 2018

1 Jan 18 - Happy New Year 2018

Happy New Year 2018 and I hope you have a good year birding on your patch and further afield.

Where did 2017 go? As you will have seen by all the placeholders in my blog 2017 has ended up like 2016 where my blog didn't get very much attention. This year I am going to try to update the blog as the year progresses and in addition I'm going to go back through my notes and references and backfill the missing info so that there will be a reasonable set of information on the bird activity in Burray since my blog started.

So whereas 2017 ended on a wet and windy note the first day of the new year started calm and dry with a reasonable sunrise. There was a short period of rain during the early afternoon which then cleared revealing the almost first full moon of the year. The full moon actually occurs on the 2nd Jan.

The first bird of the year seen was a Rock Dove in the field surrounding the garden here at the cottage. It was soon joined by other Rock Doves and some feral pigeons.

Next up a group of Starlings appeared on the roof of my old byre and flying over the fields to the East of the cottage was a small group of Ravens.

Having put some food out my resident female Blackbird appeared, along with a Robin and some House Sparrows.

I took the opportunity to set my ground trap and caught and ringed a House Sparrow and three Starlings. My first ringing of 2018 and the first time I have done any ringing on the first day of a new year.

We were out for lunch and one the way to our friends I saw three Hooded Crows, one Common Gull and 31 Greylag Geese between leaving the cottage and driving down the track to the road.

There was just time for a very quick look on Echna Loch as we drove past and I saw two Mute Swans, six Tufted Ducks, three Mallards and a Grey Heron. Then while crossing Churchill Barrier 3, on the Scapa Flow side, there were a couple of Eiders and eight Shags sat on the wreck.

No the longest of lists to start the year but here is plenty of time to get a good look around the island to see what is about.

If you are birding on Burray and you see anything interesting do send me a message via the blog using the form on the right hand side of the blog main page. I look forward to hearing from you.