Thursday, 3 November 2016

More Seawatching From North Ronaldsay, Orkney.

Wednesday 2nd November Strong NW High seas.

Sunny intervals, heavy showers. Lots of rainbows!


Another early start seawatch from the hide at the north-west end of the island.
Samuel Perfect and I see 6 little auks during 4 hour seawatch. Also 113 sooty shearwater, 1 manx shearwater, 6 long-tailed duck, 233 fulmar, 131 kittiwake, 95 gannet, 4 red-throated divers, 1 great northern diver, 28 guillemot, 2 razorbill, 1 puffin, 6 black guillemot, 97 auk sp.
21 snow buntings fly in from far out to see and head inland.


Heavy showers briskly pass, their coming forewarned by beautiful rainbows, including a few doubles. The Sun is low in the sky here in November, making each rainbow tower high overhead.

A restful afternoon before a meal and then a meeting of a newly formed Green Birding Group. Plans and requirements listed and discussed for a future event.

An email arrives stating that the RBA (rare Bird Alert) weekly round up of the rare birds seen during the week. On opening it and scrolling down we find the Fea's Petrel we saw a couple of days ago listed and detailed.
Also they have placed our Youtube moment of the sighting onto the page!



Thursday 3rd November Light S-SE

Sunny intervals at first, heavy showers later.

Yet another early start seawatch from the hide at the north-west end of the island. Samuel and I enjoy them so much and the variety of birds passing each time holds the promise of yet another very special bird.

The clarity of the air, as we cycle the four miles from Observatory to hide, is superb and Fair Isle is a series of dark, ricky lumps on the horizon.
We follow the same routine as of the last couple of seawatchs; that is we block four 15 minute counts to make a first hour total of all passing bird species and then free seawatch for the next three hours, listing the 'better' birds.

Our total for the first hour then goes like this:-

Fulmar 3,383
Blue fulmar 7
Gannet 213
Kittiwake 251
Auk sp, 212
Guillemot 32
Little auk 5
Black guillemot 1
Sooty shearwater 26
Manx shearwater 1
Long-tailed duck 7
Red-throated diver 2
Great northern diver 2
Greylag 5
Pomarine skua 6
Mallard 6
Purple sandpiper 1

There is a temptation to count the fulmars as such high numbers are passing. We don't because there are so many other distracting bird species to watch. The number of blue fulmars and sooty shearwaters is relatively high and the skuas are passing again.

Then there's Fair Isle. Today the island is mirage-like and bits keep disappearing in the haze. Sheep Rock is almost a constant, except when a heavy shower hits the island from the south. Yet Malcolm's Head is suddenly not there. The geos of the west coast and Ward Hill are usually clear and just occasionally features can be seen on the cliffs.

I am watching for passing seabirds using Sheep Rock as a marker when a few intermittent tall splashes occur just to the south of it. I alert Samuel and we both watch as a very distant whale species breeches repeatedly. Too far away to discern what species it actually is, we do see it clear the water on a few occasions. Frustratingly that is the last we see of it and also frustratingly we can't alert the other volunteers at the Bird Observatory as the mobile signal is out of action. Two hundred yards from a couple of huge radio masts and no signal!

Our three hour count gives us :-

Blue fulmar 27
Little auk 8
Black guillemot 2
Puffin 6
Sooty shearwater 87
Manx shearwater 3
Long-tailed duck 6
Red-throated diver 2
Great northern diver 1
Pomarine skua 5
Great skua 6
Skua sp. 3
Mallard 8
Wigeon 4
Teal 2


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