Monday, 28 April 2014

Things are hotting up!

By this title, I don't mean the weather. The sun seems to have got bored of the north-east and left, and the fog has returned, although it is slightly warmer! The prolonged easterlies mean that things have started to happen, not in a major way as yet, but in a very nice way indeed. For the last few days the island has been covered in Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Wheatears and we have had a mini influx of Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat. Amongst the slightly less common were a flock of 290 odd Barnacle Geese, Mealy and Lesser Redpolls, a single Common Sandpiper and Greenshank. Today stole the show however, with a male Pied Flycatcher and a Wryneck arriving on the islands, both giving excellent views.
Many of the islands Guillemots are now on eggs, the first Razorbill egg was found today on Brownsman, there are now a few Eider nests starting to appear and some Swallows have been prospecting St Cuthberts Chapel. We have also had our second clutch of Mallard ducklings, but none of them seem to be fairing very well at the moment.
With more easterlies predicted for the week ahead, and with certain places in the UK getting some mega birds, we are sure that something big will turn up shortly......

Singing Willow Warbler in the Alders

Some of the 290 Barnacle Geese

Very obliging Common Sandpiper

Lesser Whitethroat sunning itself

Mealy/Common Redpoll enjoying North Rocks

Stunning Swallow hopefully here to stay
The star pair, wonderfully showy Wryneck and....
Pied Flycatcher, equally as pretty!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

When the wind blows from the east....

The migrants turn up. And so they have done, with some cracking birds over the last few days. The uncontested highlight was a Wryneck that was found on Lady's Path yesterday and gave incredible views for all of 30 seconds before making its way around the island and proving very tricky to pin down again. Alongside the Wryneck we've had a female Ring Ouzel present , plenty of Chiffchaffs and a few Willow Warblers (some proving incredibly tricky to separate), a superb male Blackcap and male Redstart, a not-so-superb Brambling, a Garden Warbler and a pair of Wigeon today. The more permanent fixtures include Robin, Wheatear, Song Thrush and a pair of Shoveler.
As I look out the window now, the weather is looking grotty and the easterlies continue to gently blow, which is a great sign for us here on the islands (in rare bird terms)!! We are all keeping our fingers crossed that the Wryneck was just the start of things to come!

Glorious male Redstart

Showing off his tail! Such a shame about the small twig crossing his beak!

Male Blackcap showing down to a few feet

Female type Brambling, sweet and showing very well

As for the seabirds, we have our first Puffin eggs, and the Brownsman team found the first Guillemot egg of the year, so the countdown begins. We are also expecting the return of our Arctic Terns any day now! The peace and quiet e have on the islands at the moment is drawing closer and closer to its end.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Gulls are in the air!

As is spring. With westerly winds, birding has been slow over the last few days, on both the seabird and migrant fronts. Aside from a few wheatear and a blackbird, the sunshine over the last few days has been a welcome relief, and also presented a great opportunity to photograph some of the resident birds on the island, and I chose to target the gulls. Somewhat unappreciated and often demonised, our resident gulls are clean, sharp and elegant looking birds. Our smallest resident is the Black-headed Gull, which doesn't make a particularly pleasant noise but is on the rise and is good news for the Terns and waders that they nest around, as they are great at seeing off predators. We have around 500 pairs on the island, including these two.

Black-headed Gulls reflecting on island life!!

The next step up are the Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls. And then top of the chain, the Greater Black-backed Gulls; ferocious predators which are picking through the islands population of Feral Pigeons at present.

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Herring Gull

Greater Black-backed Gull with its meal

In other news around the islands, Sandwich Tern numbers continue to build, and courtship is taking place, which involves some splendid dancing, offers of small fish and lots of chasing around, as these two are perfectly demonstrating. We have also had our first new arrivals of the year, in the form of 9 very cute Mallard ducklings, and we were delighted today to discover the first Ringed Plover nest of the year, which is incredibly well camouflaged on the rocks and allows great views of this wonderful little bird.

Sandwich Terns courting

Mallard and her ducklings

Ringed Plover returns to the nest

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

One swallow.....

As the winds have turned to the west, things have quietened down in recent days. With most of the lingering migrants clearing out and being replaced by the Puffins which made an appearance on mass today, cleaning out burrows and catching up with each other. A welcome migrant yesterday came in the form of our first Swallow of the year; and every year seeing them for the first time again always brings a sharp reminder just how majestic these birds are. Another big highlight was the discovery of an adult Iceland Gull in the roost, which then gave a wonderful fly-by as we stood on the roof of the Pele Tower. Other than that, Sandwich Tern numbers are increasing every day, and we eagerly await the arrival of our other tern species, and hopefully some nice migrants in the coming weeks!

Bridled Guillemot taking flight

Pretty poor record shot of our first Swallow of the year

Smart Fieldfare in the Veg Patch

Another poor record shot of the adult Iceland Gull, not doing this beautiful bird justice!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

First eggs of the year!

It has been 11 days since I set foot on the mainland, due to fog and rough seas, but today there was a window and a shower was wonderfully appreciated. As we were in the harbour waiting to return, there were meadow pipits pouring over us, so we were eager to get back. On the islands at the moment are two black redstart, five wheatear, eight goldcrests and a host of over common migrants. There were two main highlights today, the first being a great tit, the first since 2005. The second was a water rail, which I was alerted by when it came and scratched on the window as I was in the basement making a shoe rack. Needless to say it was quite a surprise.
The other nice surprise today was our first shag eggs of the year. This is around 30 days earlier than last year due to the truly awful weather that was had in march and april last year. As a result of this, the shags suffered badly, so let hope that this year they will bounce back!

Black Redstart, Phoenicurus ochruros

Black Redstart, Phoenicurus ochruros

Northern Wheatear, Oenanthe oenanthe

Happy family!

One content seal!