Recent Bird Sightings on Stronsay June 2020

By John Holloway

Republished here with kind permission from The Stronsay Limpet.


Predicting what uncommon species are likely to arrive in late Spring is impossible – there are always some common species which don’t turn up and a few very uncommon species which do!

A Swift seen by Ant at Gesty Dishes in late May was unusual as nearly all the island records of the species are in July, and 3 Snow Buntings were a surprise for Sue and I on 24th May when they suddenly flew up close to the road as we drove past the Bu Links. A Wood Pigeon and a Carrion Crow (all black) were both surprises further along the road at Springwell. Just a single Spotted Flycatcher was recorded – at Millgrip on 1st June and a Short-eared Owl (no evidence of breeding on Stronsay this year) was seen the same day.

short eared owl Stronsay credit Ian Cooper

Early June is the most difficult time of all for predictions, and this year was a ‘classic’, with a Great White Egret seen by Raymond Dennison in Whitehall Village on 3rd; a Corncrake heard calling on 4th (one had been heard in the same area two weeks previously); a family party of Stonechats on 7th; an adult Rosy Starling on 8th (and on several dates well into the second half of June), and a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at the Matpow Loch briefly on 9th.

The egret (the first record for Stronsay) was a short-stayer but was seen well at very close range along the shoreline behind the Council Houses; the Stonechats are a mystery as they do not breed on the island (not enough gorse here); the Rosy Starling (breeds no closer than Eastern Europe) is one of over 200 in the UK at present, and the sandpiper had somehow found itself on the wrong side of the Atlantic!

A ‘bird of prey’ – seen briefly by Hazel and Norman towards the middle of the month – remains unidentified. It was a ‘small falcon’ which flew in through the open door and down the full length of the Community Greenhouse. It perched briefly at the far end, before flying back and out through the open door. Small birds of prey are notoriously difficult to identify but the time of year suggests it may have been a Red-footed Falcon (rare visitor to Orkney) or perhaps a Merlin or a Sparrowhawk both of which nest elsewhere in Orkney).

male sedge warbler

It is hard not to notice the big return to former numbers of the Skylark and Curlew in particular – both of which nest in the grassy fields – and the tern colony at Matpow continues to thrive although the Mute Swans on the same island reared just a single cygnet this year (5 in 2019), whilst just along the shore, the pair at Gricey Water have 8 (Don Peace)….and Norman and Hazel have just reported that the pair on the Hescome loch have 5 cygnets.

There were 20 adult Shelduck on the Bu loch on 19th June and on the dry sandy rim, one adult female with a brood of 8 tiny ducklings. Lovely!

Thanks again for all the calls.

The Rosy Starling may stay for some time and is likely to feed with the common species. It is very easy to pick out!

oyster catcher

All the photographs taken from inside the car!

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