By John Holloway.
Kindly republished here with permission from the Stronsay Limpet
As regards migration, this Autumn has been a bit of a flop! The east winds promised by the forecasters time after time did not materialise, and as a result, many of the smaller bird species normally recorded on the island at this time of year did not turn up.
It has been a very similar Autumn to that of 1989 in this respect.
But as ever there were a few surprises and probably the best of these has been the most recent – Whooper Swans have arrived in big numbers. including a group of birds on the Matpow Loch. Over 100 have been seen on the Lea Shun loch and a small number on the Meikle Water.
Good numbers of duck have also arrived and the wintering waders are back in abundance in the pasture land – several hundreds of Golden Plover and Curlew – all in areas recently vacated by the Greylag Geese.
Don Peace and Julie both saw a Snowy Owl at Samsons lane/Bay on 29th September – ‘As white as my geese.’ in Don’s words. And at the other end of the spectrum a party (‘Funeral’) of Ravens developed at Gesty around the same time.
There were big arrivals of Robins from the continent which are now well-distributed around the farmyards and gardens.
A mixture of finches began to arrive in early October including Siskins, Brambling and Chaffinches, and single Hawfinches were found feeding in gardens – at Cliffdale a Gesty Dishes (Clearly different birds – see photos).
Amazingly single Water Rails were seen in both gardens later in the month! (See photo of Gesty Dishes bird).
Warblers were few and far between but there were half a dozen or so Yellow broweds (See photo), and one or two Lesser Whitethroats and Chiffchaffs.
A few Stonechats arrived in mid-October and 3-4 Ring Ouzels were seen – all briefly as usual! Two Red-backed Shrikes were seen – both in gardens – at Lower Millfield and Slap, but both were as ever very wary and difficult to photograph even from the confines of the car! (see photos).
Another encouraging sign has been the number of Hen Harrier sightings – daily – and at least three different birds have been present, including at least one adult male (‘grey’ bird).
Donald Omand saw a Common Crossbill at Lower Samsons in mid-October and a Little Grebe (Dabchick) and drake Pintail at the Matpow Loch on 22nd, by which time there were good numbers of thrushes arriving in the NE airflow – mostly Redwings, followed by mainly Fieldfares and Blackbirds. And just in time – 4 Long-tailed Ducks in Mill Bay alongside the reserve on 25th!
Thanks for all the calls. John & Sue.