Here's some additions to our already comprehensive round-up of birds seen on your patch during October (as printed in our December issue)...
Highlights: A Cattle Egret visited Leighton Moss (23rd) and was thought to have roosted overnight. Perhaps up to 10 Great White Egrets frequented the Leighton Moss area at various times after an influx of at least six (6th). Reports elsewhere included two north over Middleton NR (19th). An adult drake American Wigeon appeared at Leighton Moss (from 16th) joining a late Garganey (8th-23rd). A juvenile Sabine's Gull at Heysham Power Station outfalls (2nd-6th) was probably the bird located off Morecambe in late September. Scarce landbirds included a Great Grey Shrike at Heysham Barrows (22nd), Black Redstart at Heysham Power Station (15th), Snow Buntings over Heysham Head (8th) and Morecambe Stone Jetty (23rd), Mealy Redpoll ringed at Middleton NR (24th), Lapland Bunting over Sunderland (30th) and Firecrest at Heysham Power Station (28th-29th). Migrant Cetti's Warblers away from breeding sites saw three at Heysham NR and one at Sunderland Brows Farm (30th). After none in late September, about 46 Yellow-browed Warblers (1st-29th) doubled the record numbers in 2015, with half of them in the Middleton and Heysham areas.
Heysham Bird Observatory: Notable sightings included a flock of seven pale-bellied Brent Geese (2nd-3rd), Whinchat (1st), Stonechat (3rd), House Martin (4th), late Willow Warbler ringed (8th), the first of a trickle of Bramblings (9th), Twite (from 28th) and a Yellowhammer (30th). Visible migration was a little unspectacular, with the big thrush movements bypassing this site, but included a temporary grounding of 125 alba wagtails (7th) and three southbound Crossbills (12th). Grounded thrushes did, however, include a single Ring Ouzel (5th) and two (15th). Other odds and ends included the long-staying moulting adult Little Gull (to 5th), the reappearance of the Czech-ringed Mediterranean Gull (first seen as a juvenile in autumn 2003), a first-year Shag (15th), Merlin (30th), Jack Snipe (from 19th) and the first sign of a regular low-tide Common Scoter flock in the Kent channel (from 19th). Heysham Head saw at least one regular Nuthatch, hitherto a surprising virtual absentee from this area. Ringing included eight Yellow-browed Warblers!
RSPB Leighton Moss and area: The month started with some lingering waders. A Little Stint and two Spotted Redshanks were joined by 18 Greenshanks and an Avocet (1st) on the saltmarsh pools. Later in the month there were two Curlew Sandpipers (9th), 150 Knot (23rd) and the first Jack Snipe of the autumn (18th). Yellow-browed Warblers also reached the reserve again with three ringed and an absolute minimum of three unringed sightings, with captures and sightings mainly along the Lower Hide to Causeway path (to 27th). Raptors on the reserve included two set-to- overwinter Marsh Harriers, a Merlin (23rd) and Peregrine throughout. Huge numbers of wildfowl gathered on the Causeway and Lower Pools, comprising Pintail, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler as well as an unconfirmed report of a Blue-winged Teal. Two calling Bittern appeared to drop out of the sky and chase each other as 171 Little Egrets (and the Great White Egrets) were in the process of being counted into the roost (15th). A first calendar year Little Gull added variety from Eric Morecambe hide (18th) and typical late October migrants rounded the month off in the form of Whooper Swans (30th) and Stonechat (30th).
Other sites: A first calendar year male Scaup was at the Snab (3rd). The Ashton Hall Little Egret roost peaked at 159 (7th), the only night a Great White Egret was also recorded at this roost.
In a quite extraordinary month for migrants, three new birds, Orphean Warbler, Two-barred Greenish Warbler and Siberian Accentor, were added to the Orkney list and many other rarities and scarce migrants were seen. Off Hatston, Great Northern Divers built up to 49 (by 30th). Thirty-six Slavonian Grebes were counted on the Harray Loch (19th) while other good counts included 14 at Inganess Bay (2nd) and 10 on the Boardhouse Loch (20th). Ten Little Grebes were on the Stenness Loch (15th). At sea, Sooty Shearwaters were seen on many dates with peak counts off North Ronaldsay of 44 (2nd), 46 (3rd) and 114 (30th); off Sanday of 45 (3rd); and off Papay of 25 (30th). Manx Shearwaters were seen only off North Ronaldsay with a peak of 17 (1st). Two Storm Petrels passed North Ronaldsay (29th) when one was found dead on Sanday. A total of 6,248 Fulmars passed North Ronaldsay (29th) and, next day, persistence was rewarded with the sighting of a very rare Fea’s Petrel there. A Little Egret was found on North Ronaldsay (4th) and it seems likely that it was this bird that was found on Sanday (6th-26th); another was in the Loch of Sabiston/Loch of Banks area (20th-21st). A Glossy Ibis was another rare visitor to North Ronaldsay (30th-31st). Whooper Swans were noted from several localities with peaks of at least 50 at Sanday’s North Loch (26th) and 141 on North Ronaldsay (30th). Up to nine Bean Geese were on North Ronaldsay after 22nd while seven were in Deerness (29th). There was a strong passage of Barnacle Geese early in the month with 360 over Sanday, 276 at Bay of Suckquoy and 153 on North Ronaldsay, all 4th-7th. Three Pale-bellied Brent Geese were at Mirkady Point, Deerness (20th) to be followed by seven coming in exhausted at Papay’s Mull Head a few days later.
America Wigeons were seen at the Peedie Sea (8th-21st at least), at Birsay Bay (9th) and at Westray’s Swartmill Loch (18th). Another American duck, a Green-winged Teal, was on Sanday (7th & 10th), and on North Ronaldsay (from 23rd). As wintering wildfowl began to arrive there were counts of 754 Tufted Ducks, 900 Pochards and 48 Scaup on the Harray Loch (19th) and numbers of Long-tailed Ducks had built up to 65 in Echnaloch Bay by 11th. Twelve Common Scoters were on the Stenness Loch (20th) with eight at Mirkady Point on the same date and singles on Sanday and off North Ronaldsay. The only Velvet Scoter record involved 23 in Inganess Bay (2nd) while drake Surf Scoters were also there (2nd) and in the Bay of Meil (21st-22nd). Three single Goosanders were seen on Sanday (4th), North Ronaldsay (7th), and the Peedie Sea (29th) while two were on the Graemeshall Loch (25th). Astonishingly, last winter’s Northern Harrier returned to North Ronaldsay (23rd), and that island also supported up to four Merlins.
Twelve Grey Partridges were released by shooting interests on South Ronaldsay. Single Water Rails were seen at The Loons and in Rendall and up to five were noted on North Ronaldsay where a much rarer Spotted Crake was seen (8th). Grey Plovers were noted on North Ronaldsay (up to six), St Peter’s Pool (up to four) and on Papay. Golden Plover numbers peaked at 864 on North Ronaldsay (1st) while 800 were on Burray (19th). September’s American Golden Plover on Sanday remained (to 2nd). A Little Stint at the Bay of Skaill (23rd) was the month’s only record. Curlew Sandpipers were a little commoner with, on North Ronaldsay, up to four early in the month and one (23rd) and singles on Sanday (2nd) and at Rennibister (25th). A Pectoral Sandpiper was on Sanday (3rd) while one-two Ruff were there (19th-20th), four singles having occurred on North Ronaldsay before 12th. An influx of Snipe brought 475 to North Ronaldsay (1st). Thirteen Jack Snipe were there (4th) with up to four at seven other localities. Seventy Black-tailed Godwits were at Bea Loch, Sanday (22nd) while Whimbrel passage continued with up to four in four localities (1st-2nd) and the regular wintering bird on Burray (19th). October is traditionally the month for Woodcock arrivals; 20 were logged on North Ronaldsay (14th) while up to three were seen at eight other sites. Late Greenshanks were noted on North Ronaldsay (7th) and at Dale, Costa (16th) while one or two Grey Phalaropes were noted on North Ronaldsay (1st-9th & 26th).
Seawatching late in the month saw 29 Pomarine Skuas pass North Ronaldsay and one pass Papay (29th-31st). Single Iceland Gulls were in Sandwick (22nd) and on Papay (26th) and single Glaucous Gulls on North Ronaldsay (14th) and Papay (29th). A Guillemot apparently feeding happily in the Stenness Loch (19th) was an unusual sight. North Ronaldsay recorded up to five Little Auks on five dates while other were in Kirk Sound (17th) and off Papay (29th).
A Stock Dove was a scarce visitor to Howaback, Harray (9th) and 150 Woodpigeons arrived at Berstane Wood to roost (5th), while a single passage bird was on Sanday (5th) and a maximum of 12 on North Ronaldsay (12th). Only three Long-eared Owls were seen; on Sanday (8th), on Westray (22nd) and on North Ronaldsay (23rd). A Kingfisher was a rare visitor to Whitehall, Stronsay (25th) and Hoopoes were seen on North Ronaldsay and Sanday (13th-25th). Sky Lark passage on North Ronaldsay peaked at 341 (16th), while a Shore Lark, a rare visitor nowadays, was on Burray (16th). Swallows lingered until mid-month, the last being two at Brodgar (19th). A Richard’s Pipit arrived on Sanday (4th) to be followed by one on Papay (10th) and two on North Ronaldsay (11th). One or two Tree Pipits lingered on North Ronaldsay (to 6th), while an OIive-backed Pipit was found in Birsay (16th). Single Yellow Wagtails were on North Ronaldsay (24th & 30th) and there were seven widely scattered records of Grey Wagtails. Hopes for a Waxwing invasion were kindled when one arrived in Kirkwall (16th), increasing to 17 there (24th); up to 26 were in Stromness and eight in Tankerness (22nd); up to five were noted in five other localities.
Undoubtedly the bird of the month, and probably the year, was the Siberian Accentor found at Sandside, Deerness (24th-28th). Never seen in Britain before, one was found in Shetland earlier in the month, and the Deerness bird was one of an influx of about 12 into the country, an influx that remains to be explained but probably relates to a high population and a strong easterly airflow produced by a strong anticyclone over Russia and Siberia. A total of 105 Robins were logged on North Ronaldsay (16th) when ‘lots’ were also on Sanday and seven seen as far west as Birsay village. Bluethroats were seen on North Ronaldsay (3rd), Sanday (7th) and in Deerness (24th-26th). Once an extreme rarity but now an almost expected migrant, a Red-flanked Bluetail was on North Ronaldsay (7th-16th). Three Black Redstarts were on that island (6th) and two more (16th). Redstarts were scarce with only one or two at five localities, while the only Whinchat record was of six on North Ronaldsay (6th). Fifty Wheatears were on North Ronaldsay (1st) but there were few after 18th; late birds were on Papay (29th) and North Ronaldsay (30th). There were five sightings of single Ring Ouzels (to 18th) while Blackbirds arrived in some numbers (8th & 16th), the peak being 200 on North Ronaldsay on the latter date. Fieldfares arrived throughout with the peak counts being 312 on North Ronaldsay (16th) and 50 at Rackwick, Hoy (9th). The 16th also brought 111 Song Thrushes and 606 Redwings to North Ronaldsay, other Redwing counts including 110 in Harray (6th), 150 at Rackwick (9th) and 388, again on North Ronaldsay, (29th). One or two Mistle Thrushes were reported from six sites during the month. Among the larger thrushes, it was the White’s Thrush in a Kirkwall garden (3rd) that stole the show. Only the third Orkney record, it was fortunately photographed by the householder, and identified from those photos at a later date, sadly after the bird was long gone!
A Reed Warbler was on North Ronaldsay (24th), a much rarer Blyth’s Reed Warbler having been at Lettan, Sanday (8th). Barred Warblers were at Stove, Sanday (5th), on North Ronaldsay (14th-15th) and at Sunnybank, Deerness (21st-29th). Seven Lesser Whitethroats were on North Ronaldsay (2nd) with one or two (to 19th); six other singles occurred in widely scattered localities with one at Mull Head, Papay (25th) considered to be of one of the eastern races. Whitethroats were typically scarce, with only singles at Hestily, South Ronaldsay (1st) and on North Ronaldsay (4th). Garden Warblers were also scarce with just one or two on North Ronaldsay on three dates. Blackcaps, however, were very much in evidence, with North Ronaldsay logging peaks of 26 (6th), 49 (16th) and 19 (24th); 11 were trapped and ringed at Hestily (20th) and there were at least 10 in Rendall next day; up to six were reported from some 20 other localities.
However, among the Sylvia warblers, it was the Western Orphean Warbler trapped and ringed at Crafty, Firth that caused the real excitement. First found on 18th and a new Orkney record, it remained until the following day and allowed many local birders to see it.
Yellow-browed Warblers break new records every year. The influx that began in September peaked on 2nd when at least 255 were present, including 86 on Sanday, 53 on North Ronaldsay, 18 on Papay and 10 on Burray; smaller numbers were seen thereafter with the last being singles in Harray (21st) and Birsay (22nd). Willow Warblers are always scarce in October but up to five were seen at four sites (to 7th) with late birds near Dounby and on North Ronaldsay (21st). October is ‘Chiffchaff month’ and a peak of 67 was logged on North Ronaldsay (16th) with seven still present at the end of the month; elsewhere up to five were seen at about 20 sites. Siberian Chiffchaffs were identified on Sanday (6th), South Ronaldsay (16th), Finstown (23rd) and Deerness (27th) with as many as three on North Ronaldsay (17th). Rare warblers from the east involved a Greenish Warbler on Sanday (8th), a Dusky Warbler on North Ronaldsay (22nd) and a Radde’s Warbler there next day. However, it was Papay that stole the Phylloscopus warbler prize when a Two-barred Greenish Warbler was found at Hundland (9th). This close relative of the Greenish Warbler comes from much further east in central and eastern Siberia and has only been seen in Britain on a couple of previous occasions.
Goldcrest influxes brought 149 to North Ronaldsay (7th) with 85 there (16th) when about 100 were reported from Rousay. The much rarer Firecrest was seen in Deerness (6th), on North Ronaldsay (4th-11th) and in Finstown (29th). Five single Pied Flycatchers were reported (1st-22nd), a figure just outstripped by Red-breasted Flycatchers with singles on North Ronaldsay, Sanday Deerness and South Ronaldsay (two) (1st-17th). A Great Grey Shrike was seen on Sanday (16th) and a Red-backed Shrike in Evie (22nd) but much rarer was the Brown Shrike seen in Burness, Sanday (6th), only the second Orkney record of this Siberian vagrant.
A Blue Tit was a rare visitor to Hestily (16th-27th). Four Long-tailed Tits on Sanday (17th) were of the rare Northern race but one at Dale, Costa (24th) was probably British. Twenty-four Bramblings were on North Ronaldsay (6th) while 92 arrived (16th); 30 were in Finstown (15th) increasing to 17 two days later and up to 20 were at 12 other sites. Goldfinches continue to consolidate their position in Orkney with 36 in Finstown (19th); eight migrants were on North Ronaldsay (8th) with one or two on Sanday on three dates. Siskins were few with no more than five at seven sites. The largest Twite flock was that at Dale where 100 were present (30th). Common Redpoll numbers peaked at 25 on North Ronaldsay (16th) with up to eight at several other sites. One-two Lesser Redpolls were noted on North Ronaldsay and at Hestily while single Arctic Redpolls were found at Burwick (8th) and on North Ronaldsay (14th).
Up to 10 Common Crossbills were in Rendall (from 21st) with singles on North Ronaldsay (16th) and one in Tankerness (23rd). Five single Scarlet Rosefinches were reported on North Ronaldsay (two), Westray, Costa and Rendall while single Bullfinches were at West Heath, Holm and at Langskaill, Tankerness (23rd). Usually more of a spring visitor, one or two Hawfinches were seen on North Ronaldsay (two), Sanday, Deerness, South Ronaldsay and Finstown.
A marked influx of Lapland Buntings resulted in a peak of 61 on North Ronaldsay (2nd) and 50 on Sanday (4th-5th), with singles on South Ronaldsay (8th) and in Deerness (16th). Snow Buntings peaked at 61 on North Ronaldsay (2nd) with a further peak of 30 (29th); only one or two occurred elsewhere. One or two Yellowhammers occurred on North Ronaldsay on three dates (16th-23rd) while an Ortolan Bunting was there (6th & 8th). It was a remarkable month for Little Buntings with a maximum of six on North Ronaldsay (6th), two in Deerness (9th) and singles on Sanday (two) and Hoy (2nd-10th).
Highlights: There was Fair Isle’s first and Britain’s sixth Siberian Accentor(20th), then amazingly another (22nd), Radde’s Warbler (2nd) three Red-flanked Bluetails (2nd, 6th-7th and 12th-13th), Pechora Pipit (2nd-15th), Blue Tit (15th-20th and sadly found dead, 22nd), Great Snipe (3rd), Marsh Harrier (7th), four Pine Buntings (female, 11th-17th, joined by another two females, 16th-17th, then a male, 22nd-26th), Dusky Warbler (12th-13th), the first Shore Lark (12th) then recorded to the month’s end with a peak of seven (17th-18th), two Spotted Crakes (13th), two Velvet Scoters (13th), Siberian Stonechat (14th-16th) then another showing potential characters of Stejneger’s (16th-30th), single pale-bellied Brent Geese (19th & 28th-30th), Short-toed Lark (1st-7th), Arctic Warbler (2nd), Lanceolated Warbler (2nd-4th), two Blyth’s Reed Warblers (2nd & 6th), single Red-throated Pipits recorded on five date (2nd, 6th, 10th, 11th & 14th) but it was difficult to work out how many individuals involved, and at least four Olive-backed Pipits with the first on the 4th then recorded up to the 20th.
The first four Whooper Swans arrived (20th) with a peak count of 13 (29th-30th), Pink-footed Geese peaked at 120 (10th), Barnacle Geese at 1,275 (4th), and Greylags at 408 (29th). There was a good showing of tundra Bean Geese with three (15th) and peak counts of seven (26th & 28th). The first seven European White-fronted Geese arrived (15th) rising to 18 (22nd) and there was a Greenland White-fronted Goose (14th). Other scarce waterfowl included a Shelduck (17th), a Pintail (1st-16th, with two, 5th), a Shoveler (4th-13th, then another, 19th), a peak Tufted Duck count of four (6th), a Gadwall (1st-4th), up to 10 Long-tailed Ducks, a Goldeneye (12th-31st), a peak of three Common Scoters (17th) and up to three Red-breasted Mergansers. There were five Red-throated Divers with two (1st), four Great Northern Divers with two (18th), two single Sooty Shearwaters from the Good Shepherd (18th & 25th), two Cormorants, up to 15 Grey Herons and up to five Slavonian Grebes. Raptors of note were five Sparrowhawk sightings, Kestrel passage through the month peaked at four (17th), there were up to three Merlins on several dates, and two Peregrines was the peak day count.
Water Rails were recorded throughout with a peak of four. Wader passage peak day counts were three Oystercatchers, 14 Ringed Plovers, 84 Golden Plovers, a Grey Plover, seven Lapwings, two Knot, four Sanderlings, 37 Purple Sandpipers, six Dunlin, 28 Jack Snipe, 97 Snipe, 50 Woodcock, 15 Curlew, a Common Sandpiper, 80 Redshanks and 190 Turnstones. Great Skua numbers dropped to four by the month’s end, there was an adult Iceland Gull (14th), and juvenile Glaucous Gulls (8th).The first Little Auk arrived (23rd) then there were two (25th). Short-eared Owl was recorded throughout with 13 (16th) and up to two Long-eared Owls near the month’s end, there was a Wryneck (6th), and three Great Grey Shrikes. Up to four Carrion Crows were present throughout and the biggest migrant flock of Hooded Crows was 18 (10th). Goldcrest passage peaked at 213 (7th). Sky Lark passage peaked at 245 (9th), 19 Swallows was the high count (2nd), and the last one was seen on the 10th. Common warbler daily highs were 55 Chiffchaffs plus up to seven tristis birds, nine Willow Warblers, 86 Blackcaps, five Garden Warblers, 13 Lesser Whitethroats, a Whitethroat, a Grasshopper Warbler, a Sedge Warbler and a Reed Warbler. Peak count of Yellow-browed Warblers was 72 (2nd), and there were five Barred Warblers with three (3rd). Waxwings were first recorded with two (15th) then recorded to the month’s end with a peak of 10 (23rd).
Thrush peak counts were 440 Blackbirds, 453 Fieldfares, 1,286 Redwings, 301 Song Thrushes, 11 Mistle Thrushes and six Ring Ouzels. Passage peak counts pf chats were a Spotted Flycatcher (9th-13th), 219 Robins, four Black Redstarts, two Redstarts, four Bluethroats, four Whinchats, 44 Wheatears, nine Red-breasted Flycatchers with four (2nd) and the last (15th), three Pied Flycatchers and 16 Dunnocks (18th). Wagtails included up to 14 White, seven Pied, two flava subspecies, and up to six Grey. There were two Richard’s Pipits (3rd), then one to 6th, just two Tree Pipits (2nd & 11th), 726 Meadow Pipits (1st) and 149 Rock Pipits (1st). Finch peak counts were 14 Chaffinches, 137 Bramblings, six Siskins, four Greenfinches, 10 Goldfinches, two Linnets, up to 213 Twite, five Lesser Redpolls, 59 Mealy Redpolls, a male Northern Bullfinch (22nd-27th), a Crossbill 1, three Scarlet Rosefinches (2nd), with a late bird (30th) and four single Hawfinches (from 13th). There were 139 Snow Buntings (30th), 22 Lapland Buntings 22 (6th), five Yellowhammers (16th-20th), four Little Buntings on several dates and 24 Reed Buntings (19th).