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.

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