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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Sanday, Orkney, October 1st-13th 2021 (1 Viewer)

Steve Keen

Well-known member
Have decided to follow Mark Lewis's lead and include a report, in case it helps with future visitors, and to add to the record of this underwatched isle. It will obviously lack the insight of Mark's years of experience here (and I apologise for any excited post about something that is actually mundane, and for what will probably be a lot more waffle), and birds will be fewer as I'm here alone and probably only a fraction as good a birder, but anyway . . .

Drove the 720 miles up from Hampshire, fretting about petrol shortages and motorway closures, on 30th September, then crossed from Scrabster on the morning of 1st. After an adult Glaucous Gull welcomed me into Stromness, spent a few hours in Kirkwall catching up with a couple of familiar faces, seeing Long-tailed Duck on the Peedie Sea, and emptying the shelves in Tesco, then got the evening boat to Sanday, arriving at dusk in gales and pouring rain, and decamped to my cosy log cabin in Lady Village.

2nd October was the first day in the field. A day of F6-7 winds, starting due south, turning a little east in the afternoon.

Started the morning by kicking around the gardens in Lady. 2 Willow Warblers, 1 Song Thrush and a few Chaffinches, seemingly unusually numerous on the Northern Isles this autumn, were the best I could muster, so then headed off on a loop past the Little Sea, Bea Loch, the shop and the airfield. 3 Wheatears were noted, plus a few Swallows, waders on the Little Sea included 170 Dunlins, and a family of 5 Whooper Swans (plus a family of 5 Mutes) were on Bea Loch, together with 3 Grey Herons, and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers (also one on Little Sea) and a Gadwall were with the Tufties.

After lunch headed east and did the North Loch loop. Apart from another 21 Chaffinches passerines were even fewer, but 2 Brambling and 2 Reed Buntings were seen. Also a ringtail Hen Harrier battling the conditions briefly, and two flocks of Pink-footed Geese which abandoned their southward journey in the face of the gale and pitched up in the fields. Scanning the choppy lochs was tough, but among the wildfowl (seemingly in smaller numbers than they should be) were another Gadwall, 5 Whooper Swans, 1 Pink-footed Goose and (on Rummie) an apparently very high count of 16 Coot.

After a short seawatch from the picnic bench on the way to Start Point which only produced Gannet (presumably southerly is not good for seawatching here) the rain set in and I set off for "home". 61 species today and 20km walked.
 

Steve Keen

Well-known member
3rd October

Going to be a long post I think.
A day of constant F7-8 SW winds, with heavy rain first and last thing, which meant I didn't get out until 9, and was back soon after 4.

Started by walking the seaward side of the dunes on the east side, in case anything was sheltering from the wind there. Just 2 Wheatears though (4 in total today). 1 GN Diver, 1 R-b Merganser, 2 R-t Diver & 1 Razorbill were on the sea, a Grey Heron miraculously came in off, and 2 Snow Buntings flew south. Cut in to the road via the easy track opposite The Gallery and checked out the two lochs. Aside from a Goldeneye on North Loch and 3 Whooper Swans on Rummie not a lot to see, although the Coots on Rummie were up to 19.

Next it was time to bash some bushes and gardens! The Gallery was the natural first port of call, and with the conditions so tricky decided to give this ridiculously densely vegetated garden several laps. Was pleased I did because on the fifth go round I picked out a warbler lurking way back in some willows. A bit of pishing gradually coaxed it out, and it's fair to say I was astonished when it revealed itself as a RADDE'S WARBLER!!!! After a couple of minutes of scribbling notes and trying to watch it whilst facing pretty much into the gale it started to lose interest, at which point I decided I really should try and get pics, but unfortunately none of the random shots of bushes contained a bird as I struggled to hold the camera anything like steady. Played the call and got a quiet response a couple of times from deep in the bushes but after half an hour I'd had nothing more.
Also in this area, and heading further south, were 30+ Chaffinches, 4 Bramblings, 7+ Reed Buntings and a Song Thrush.

The ringtail Hen Harrier gave another brief showing, and a young male Peregrine probably accounts for the clinically devoured Golden Plover seen earlier on the road.

After a bite to eat and a much needed cuppa headed up to the Burness area for a couple of hours, birding from the car mostly. Good numbers of waders were at this end, and a young female Merlin, and a brief seawatch from Whitemill Bay before the weather set in added Arctic Tern, Sandwich Tern (x2), Black Guillemot and Guillemot to the list.

To round proceedings off, as I drove back in the rain I followed a Whitethroat down the road before it dived into a fuchsia hedge and vanished.

70 species today, with the trip list (Sanday only) up to 74.
All very encouraging for when the weather quietens down a bit and stuff hopefully becomes more cooperative.
 

Steve Keen

Well-known member
4th October

Aside from a couple of showers first thing and a really hefty one late on, a pleasant day of sunshine with the wind mostly a very tolerable F5 SW'ly

Headed this morning up to Burness in the centre north of the island, for a few hours' scanning fields and bashing gardens. As it was the waders, the main lure after my briefer visit yesterday, has largely deserted this section, but the passerines made up for it. Skylarks were a near constant background sound, many in full song as they enjoyed the change in weather. A Song Thrush at Stangasetter was the first of 7 seen today, and then a Robin, first of the trip welcomed me to Smith's Cott. Which was more than can be said for the owner, who is the only one so far to decline my request to search their garden. Any disappointment I had was very short-lived, however, because as I was leaving the property I picked up a Yellow-browed Warbler low in some willows. A species I was a bit unsure I'd get given how scarce they've been in the country this year, something that made an always-enjoyable experience just that little bit sweeter. A Grey Wagtail at Bellevue was new for the trip, and then Roos Wick provided finally my first Kittiwake, plus singles of Red-throated and Great Northern Diver, plus an adult Peregrine perched out on the Holms of Ire.
The exensive vegetation at Roo kept me busy for quite some time, with 2 more Robins, 3 Song Thrushes, a Willow Warbler, 5 Twite and a Common Redpoll. 6 Bramblings were also seen on this loop.

Popped back for a quick and rather late lunch before heading out to Start Point, only accessed either side of low tide. The habitat here looks the best on the island for any chance of a Lanceolated Warbler, so I concentrated on working the leeward side of the dykes, but other than a couple of Wheatears (6 in total today) there were no migrants. Scanning the sea here produced 5 Red-throated and 1 Great Northern Diver, and a distant lone Sooty Shearwater. Also another (or the same) adult Peregrine seen here.

Next stop was The Gallery, with only a couple of hours daylight left, but just as a Whinchat popped out the heavens opened and instead I contented myself with slowly driving back to Lady, stopping to scan fields of Golden Plovers, but without turning up anything better. Had planned to scan the waders on Cata Sands, but here I was distracted by a showy Short-eared Owl, my first of the trip, and then, after a flock of 54 Pink-footed Geese flew SW I realised that the fields to the northwest of me were full of them. Counted 350, but then they all took flight for a short while revealing the true number to be more like 800!!

A brilliant end to what has been an excellent day. Lots to see, but also that all-important feeling that you could see something good at any moment.

Day list 66. Trip list 83.
 

Steve Keen

Well-known member
October 5th

A clear night and a switch of the wind to the north saw quite a few birds clear out (Chaffinches were well down and I didn't see Brambling or Pinkfoot today), but also a nice little arrival.
A very pleasant morning, with only light northerlies and, after a cold start (about 4C) pleasantly warm, but after a couple of showers early afternoon a fresher feel.

Headed east first thing to do the North Loch loop, with Short-eared Owl on a fencepost en route. Parked at the bottom of the Lettan road and walked north, with the lovely garden at Salties starting things off with a Robin and the trip's first Goldcrest. Noticed later on photos that the latter bore a metal ring, how amazing it would be to have found out from where.

Hit The Gallery with eager anticipation, and on my first loop a bit of pishing saw a bird perch at the top of a shrub in the sunlight - an ICTERINE WARBLER! It stayed just long enough for me to take in all the important features before it realised I was the culprit and it dived for cover. Spent about an hour and a half in the area, and saw it again for a few seconds, in roughly the same area, furtively creeping through the foliage. Also whilst here I again saw the Radde's Warbler, at first surprisingly high up (about 2 metres) catching the sun, but unfortunately attempts at photos saw the camera focus only the branches in front, so I concentrated on writing notes and enjoying the bird. Eventually tried pishing it closer, but this just caused it to fly to more or less the area it was two days ago and into the jungle, and despite much searching by me and local resident Russ there was no further sign of either it or the Icterine. As an indication of how tricky viewing here is, in a combined watching time of about 3 hours a Blackcap (my first) was seen just once and a Willow Warbler just three times. Also in the area singles of Song Thrush and Redwing (another trip tick) were seen, and another boost to the list came from 4 Little Grebes on Loch Rummie (with a further single on North Loch), which also held 17 Coots. North Loch also had a Whooper Swan and a Gadwall amongst the other wildfowl. Another Willow Warbler was at Gleat, favouring a barn roof, and a couple of half decent flocks of Skylarks headed north (totalling 65 birds).

Two each of Razorbill and Black Guillemot were in Bay of Sandquoy, but divers were another absentee from today's proceedings.
Heading back to the car I called into Salties again, and was rewarded with a Yellow-browed Warbler and another Willow Warbler, whilst the property south of here (whose name I don't know) held a juvenile Greenfinch, an excellent North Isles record.

Headed home for lunch, skilfully avoiding a couple of showers, before spending the rest of the day exploring Lady's gardens and on down the Overbister road (which mostly involved scanning Golden Plovers!). The second Robin of the day was in Lady, and the Surgery garden then provided another three seconds-of the day: Yellow-browed Warbler, Blackcap and Greenfinch (this time a male). A visit to Russ's property at Bressigarth finally got me my first trip Chiffchaff.

On returning, aching and tired but very happy, to the cabin a Wheatear on the track was only my second of the day.
Also today got fairly distant flight views of the two presumably questionable Snow Geese flying in a flock of Greylags. Presumed to be the colour-ringed birds that arrived a while back on the islands from the continent, but not yet seen well enough to confirm.

Day list 62. Trip list 91.
 

Steve Keen

Well-known member
October 6th

A day of light northerlies, a little fresher in the morning, with blanket cloud and a occasional bits of drizzle, then in the afternoon virtually windless, lots of blue sky, but also frequent showers (the worst of which were thankfully always elsewhere).

Kicked off by bashing the Lady gardens. A small arrival of Redwings, totalling at least 7, a Robin, a Song Thrush and a Chiffchaff were the best of the returns. From here I headed on a new route, the road out to Cleat. Highlights were another Greenfinch (at North Hill), my 4th Kestrel sighting, a Short-eared Owl, a Great Northern Diver flying around over Otters Wick, and the two dodgy Snow Geese again. On the way back through the village a Willow Warbler had joined the Chiffchaff in the Surgery garden.

After an early lunch I headed up to Burness. Stangasetter was the star location, with a Garden Warbler and 2 Dunnocks more or less in the same bush. A walk out to Oyce and Beyond got both Peregrine and Merlin, and Otters Wick hosted 5 Razorbills, 4 Red-throated Divers and a Grey Heron.

Spent the rest of the afternoon driving between sites, including getting in a takeaway order at the Kettletoft Hotel to collect later! Roos Loch had 2 Pintails, Bea Loch 2 Whooper Swans and a Little Grebe. 2 Stonechats and 2 Redwings were at Little Isgarth, from where I scanned the waders on Little Sea, where there were also another 4 Grey Herons.
I finished proceedings by walking out to the Neolithic Quoyness Chambered Cairn. 2 Wheatears were on the track and a Twite by the parking area, and a calm Sty Wick held 1 male Long-tailed Duck, 8 Red-throated and 1 Great Northern Diver, 5 Black Guillemots, 5 Razorbills, 2 Kittiwakes and 2 Sandwich Terns.

Some interesting weather forecast overnight: calm and mostly dry in southern Norway, but rain moving into Orkney from the SW from about midnight. To add to the interest, anything tempted into leaving Scandinavia will encounter strongish SE winds before reaching the coast. I'm know expert, but that sounds like good conditions for a fall of sorts.

Day list 69. Trip lisy 95.
 

Steve Keen

Well-known member
October 7th

A bit of a damp one. Wet more or less all morning, often extremely so. Mostly dry between about 1 and 4, after which the wet returned. Mild though, temperatures up to 14C.

Headed out to the east of the island first thing, flushing a couple of Redwings from the road in the village and a couple of Wheatears further east, but birding was quite disappointing in the wet conditions. A Brambling was the sole reward at The Gallery. Salties had a female-type Blackcap, with a male at the garden south of here (which I STILL don't know the name of), and another Redwing. When a spell of particularly heavy rain came in I hunkered down for a bit of seawatching from by the parking area on the way to Start Point. Finally added Fulmar to the list (5 north, 3 south), with Kittiwake, Black Guillemot, 2 Razorbills, a Red-throated Diver and a Guillemot also seen, but after about an hour I admitted defeat and headed back for lunch to allow the weather to pass.

Once it had dried a poke around the gardens in the village revealed quite a few more Redwings, plus a flock of 5 Song Thrushes and a Robin.
Drove to the pools on the Cleat road, but the water was well up from yesterday, and birds well down, apart from a magical performance from two Short-eared Owls.

From here it was back round to the east side, but focusing on the gardens and lochs (8 Whooper Swans, 17 Coots the pick; no Little Grebes). The gardens and adjacent fields had still more thrushes, pushing the counts for the day up to 53+ Redwings and 9 Song Thrushes. Not quite the fall I'd hoped for, but an arrival of some sort, so I wasn't entirely wrong! Salties also held 2 Robins and the garden-with-no-name the bird of the day, a Goldfinch, a good species for the North Isles.

Day list 61. Trip list 97.
 

Steve Keen

Well-known member
October 8th

A sunny, warm morning with a very light southerly and temperatures getting up to 16C! A bit cooler in the afternoon, with the the wind swinging SE and freshening just a tad, and then rain arriving from about 5pm.

In the morning took the hike out to Tresness (and can see why it's a favourite of Mark's). The dunes and sandy edges to the Cata Sands held 6 Wheatears, 16 Snow Buntings, 10 Twite and a Redwing, while a ringtail Hen Harrier gave a nice fly past. Tresness itself was quiet bar a Stonechat and my first (and probably last, looking at the forecast for the remainder) butterfly of the trip (predictably a Red Admiral), although the pool there held 150 Teal and 8 Grey Herons, and a Jack Snipe flew up from the margins in a small group of Snipe. 3 Black Guillemot were in Newark Bay. As I was getting back to Cata Sands a male Sparrowhawk, a good bird for the island, went over and up went a huge flock of 1500 Golden Plover (a bit of an over-reaction on their part I think), before they all settled on the edge of the sands.
I hadn't quite timed it right for the tide properly rising, but scanning the sands turned up, among others, 640 Bar-tailed Godwits, 120 Dunlins, 51 Grey Plover, 52 Ringed Plover, 31 Oystercatcher and 7 Knot.

A quickish check of the gardens in Lady produced pretty much nothing at all, so after a quick lunch I headed east. Both the house on the corner and The Gallery held 2 Blackcaps, and Salties had 2 Robins. Also at The Gallery was a Goldfinch (and possibly a second bird), a Song Thrush and a Willow Warbler. Loch Rummie hosted the usual 17 Coots.
From The Gallery I headed across the track to the dunes and beach, with the intention of continuing round to Tofts Ness. But on reaching the beach I thought, with the wind gently onshore, I ought to give the sea maybe fifteen minutes or so's attention. Soon after a dark juvenile Arctic Skua went north, bringing the trip list up to 100. Within a couple of minutes of that there was real excitement, when a surprise BALEARIC SHEARWATER passed! About a mile out, it would probably have passed the end of Start Point just metres offshore, as would the 5 Sooty Shearwaters that passed. With the tide not far off high, however, there was no way I could ever have been at Start Point (accessible only at low tide), but views were plenty good enough as it passed in reasonably leisurely fashion in the light winds, and with one of the Sooties soon following for a bit of added comparison notes. All the while there was a steady, more distant, stream of Kittiwakes, with 294 counted in my one-hour watch. Add to that a Great Skua, 2 Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver, and 12 Auk sp also heading north, plus a juvenile Arctic Tern hanging around close in, and it was an extremely enjoyable hour indeed. It did, however, mean no time for Toft's Ness, especially with the weather closing in earlier than forecast.

Cut back to the road via a field at Galilee, scanned North Loch (4 Whooper Swans, 1 Goldeneye, 68 Tufted Duck and 65 Pintail amongst others), and then did the North Loch loop anyway. Soon after a Willow Warbler at Gleat the rain arrived, and the walk back to the car from here was mostly a head-down affair whilst getting a little sodden, with the day's second Jack Snipe bolting out of roadside grass near Lochside the last meaningful entry in the notebook.

An exhausting day of nearly 13 miles' walking, but some very nice stuff seen so well worth the aches and pains!

Day list 76. Trip list 101.
 
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Steve Keen

Well-known member
October 9th

A mostly wet day; a few dry breaks but mostly some sort of rain. Consequently a lot of driving between sites, and a certain amount of being at home enjoying the birds from there, and relaxing to some extent.

That said, a few good things were seen, but a shorter post tonight with highlights only.

3+ Hen Harriers seen in various locations, including the first grey male of the trip

Around Burness: 1 Blackcap, 3 Robins, 5 Redwings, 30 Shoveler
At Roo: 1 Dunnock heard, 2 Robins, 5 Redwings, 1 Song Thrush
At Whitemill: 48 Eider, 2 Red-throated Diver, 1 Great Northern Diver
On Loch Bea: 1 drake Pochard, 3 Coots, 3 Little Grebes
Around Lady: 1 Merlin, 1 Song Thrush

Also a female Sparrowhawk over the Little Sea, and 4 other Redwings dotted about.

Hopefully back to something more comprehensive tomorrow

Day list 61. Trip list 102.
 

Steve Keen

Well-known member
10th October

A very windy day, consistently F6-7, often gusting close to F8, and with frequent very heavy showers. To cap it all, it's been coming from the west, but off an anticyclone that's badly positioned for producing anything from anywhere :ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO:
But I've come too far to not keep persevering.

Not a lot of "on foot" birding today in the tricky conditions, so plenty of scanning wet areas and fields of plovers from the car. Early on 7 Whooper Swans were in a field along the Cleat road, and a Peregrine overflew the road at Langamay.
As early as 0910 I'd given in to the temptation of a sheltered seawatch, on the beach at the parking area for Start Point. Not ideal conditions for an east coast seawatch, but by 1030 (minus a 15 minute hide in the car during a particularly spiteful shower) I'd seen 2 Arctic Skuas, 47 Kittiwakes, 10+ Fulmars, 3+ Black Guillemots, 4+ Red-throated and 3 Great Northern Divers. The juvenile Arctic Tern was still bravely hanging around, a ringtail Hen Harrier had given a close fly-past, scattering all the waders on the beach, and a Merlin had headed north offshore. Highlight of the watch however, was a flock of 4 Slavonian Grebes that flew in and landed on the sea directly in front of me, a decent Orkney record.

Indulged in a little garden birding, with Salties turning up 7 Redwings, a Blackcap and a Robin, and The Gallery adding a Willow Warbler, a Song Thrush, 2 Bramblings and 3 Chaffinches. Loch Rummie had the usual gang of 17 Coots, whilst North Loch managed 2 Goldeneye and 2 Whooper Swans.

After lunch and another bout of carbound birding I gave the sea another 45 minutes from the same spot (1515-1600), but only an Arctic Skua north, then south, was notable over the sea, although the Arctic Tern and 4 Slavonians were still present and correct. And that was pretty much all I could bear of being battered about so it wasn't long after this that I called it a day.

Day list 65. Trip list 103.
 

Steve Keen

Well-known member
October 11th

Thankfully a little less in the way of wind today, and far fewer showers, but with a shift to NW and a drop in temperature of about three degrees it was a raw one.

And an odd one bird-wise, with (other than raptors) not a great deal seen except, in one of the first gardens I checked out during a morning around Burness and the NW, there was a Barred Warbler!! Given the way the wind has been the last couple of days, can only assume this has either been around a while unnoticed, or else is filtering south from further north.
Early on, whilst waiting for a hefty shower to clear 3 Long-tailed Ducks scoped out in Lamaness Firth had been a nice addition to the "garden" list.
Other birds in the morning at various locations in the top left corner of the island included 2 Robins, 2 Snow Buntings, a Purple Sandpiper and a Song Thrush.
After lunch I tried the gardens of Lady Village and towards Overbister, but only saw a single Blackcap of any note, although by now the raptor sightings had amounted to 2+ Hen Harrier (including the grey male again), 2 Merlins (one of which dived after a starling before swerving away barely two metres from my face, and the other flew 5 metres from the window at home just after I got back!), 1 Peregrine and 1 Kestrel.

Finished the day at the pools on the Cleat road, which look by far the most promising for a decent wader, but the rarest to be found was the first Ruff of the trip.

Day list just 55. Trip list 105.
 

Steve Keen

Well-known member
October 12th

Last full day (although tomorrow almost is), and the best day so far. Weather was nice, mostly cloudy but with just a gentle northerly, and the birding was excellent.

With the tides right for a walk out to Start Point, headed straight out there in order to maximise the time on the island. But hadn't banked on practically stepping on a Richard's Pipit on the walk there! It exploded from under my feet with a loud shreep before dropping down in a field of long tussocky grass about 50 metres, in the meantime giving views as good as you're going to get in flight only. After finding a way into the field I went to the area it landed but after 15 minutes of wandering about I'd seen no more of it. Was conscious of the time limits so opted to leave it and headed straight for the furthest bit of Start for a seawatch, and was rewarded with the sort of seawatch that's all too common up here, but blows the mind if your normal efforts are in Hampshire! Only gave it 45 minutes (again the tides were an issue, but also wanting to do other birding), when in other circumstances I could happily have stayed hours. Counts were: 178 Fulmars, 176 Razorbills, 107 Kittiwakes, 36 Sooty Shearwaters, 35 Guillemots, 20 Black Guillemots, 4 Puffins, 2 Great Skuas, 1 Manx Shearwater and a male Long-tailed Duck!! Add to that hundreds of uncounted Gannets and 228 unidentified Auk spp, plus a Chaffinch in off and it was quite a struggle to drag myself away.

Once off the island I gave the pipit another go, to no avail. A scan of Scuthvie Bay produced 3 Red-throated and 1 Great Northern Diver, plus another four Sooty Shearwaters passing behind.

It was gardens next; Salties held 1 Greenfinch, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Blackcap, 1 Robin and a Redwing. The Gallery had 1 Common Redpoll, 1 Willow Warbler (a rather grey bird) and 3 Redwings. Loch Rummie's Coots were down to 16, and the loch also held a Moorhen and 2 Little Grebes. North Loch had 3 Pink-footed Geese, 4 Whooper Swans, 1 Slavonian Grebe, 1 Goldeneye and 57 Pintail.
Rather than continuing round the road I opted to take advantage of the nice weather to take the route round Tofts Ness, the NW-most bit of the island. The Arctic Tern was still hanging around, both Merlin and Peregrine whizzed past, a Hen Harrier was more leisurely but with the same panic ensuing, and the sea held a few auks, divers and mergansers.

The garden at Meur hasn't had anything for me previously but this afternoon held a nice blythi-type Lesser Whitethroat and a similarly posing Blackcap. Three Twite flew over calling a little way south of there.
Back round at The Gallery a second Lesser Whitethroat showed well, a darker bird this time, and a single Brambling was also seen.

Finally got back to Lady Village just before 4, and then, after seeing nothing in the gardens there, headed out along the Cleat road for the last couple of hours of the day. A calling Lapland Bunting overhead was an overdue trip tick, and a Short-eared Owl hunted by the road.

Finally got home after 6, and was in the happy position to not have to worry about the Barred Warbler that was found in the village at about that time.

Day list 81. Trip list 110.
 

Steve Keen

Well-known member
13th October

Last day, a cloudy one with a stiff F5-6 easterly throughout and occasional rain

Plan for today was to head to Start Point, do a seawatch, then after packing up my digs just poke around a few favourite gardens in the hope of something vaguely interesting.
When I arrived at the crossing to Start the tide wasn't yet low enough so I had a 25-minute seawatch from Neuks whilst waiting for it to drop. Despite being that little bit further from the action I still picked up 11 Sooty Shearwaters, 1 Puffin, 1 Great Skua, 1 Red-throated Diver and reasonable numbers of auks, Fulmars, Gannets and Kittiwakes. Whilst here a female Merlin flew past clutching what was probably a Starling.
Once on the island I was in for a hell of a shock - sat on the nearest dyke, along with a load of Starlings was a smaller bird. Binocular views confirmed it as a redpoll, and as I crept nearer it became increasingly clear it was an exilipes ARCTIC REDPOLL!!! Watched it through the scope at a range of about 50 metres, during which it very obligingly posed from front, back and side whilst I scribbled a load of barely-legible notes. Then, once I was sure I had everything written down I slowly reached for the camera, at which point up went the starlings and with them the redpoll. šŸ˜–šŸ˜¬ It flew up at first, right above my head calling, but struggled in the wind and so dropped down right to beach level barely 5 metres away, and then proceeded east very low to the beach like a Snow Bunting. I watched it until it was out of sight, all the while its pure white rump practically glowing against the dark background of kelp and sandstone :):)

There seemed little point following it, the nearest decent garden being a couple of km away, and of course with no way of knowing where it went. So resumed the seawatch plan, seeing 7 Redwings whilst on the way and 10 Snow Buntings trilling around whilst there. In the end I only had an hour, and numbers were lower than the earlier watch had suggested, but a northbound movement of 29 Sooty Shearwaters, 6 Puffins, 2 Manx Shearwaters, 135 Fulmars (plus 26 south), 90 Gannets (& 18 south), 21 Kittiwakes (7 south), and about 250 mostly unidentifiable auks, was not to be sniffed at. Also the excitement of a fairly distant breaching Risso's Dolphin.

Back at base I had a hurried early lunch, packed up, said my thanks and goodbyes and then did a minor tour of my favourite Burness spots. A very brief probable Mistle Thrush couldn't be nailed down, and a Grey Plover got me briefly excited in a flock of Goldies, but not a lot was seen otherwise.
After visiting the Heritage Centre I slowly made my way to the ferry terminal, including popping in for the first time to Stove. Actually glad I didn't visit earlier, because it's an excellent-looking site that I probably would've wasted a lot of time and petrol on!

And so I was off, after an excellent 12 days during which I drove over 300 miles, and walked more than 100. Didn't get the fall I had hoped for, but certainly quality made up for quantity.

The ferry back to Kirkwall, where I've enjoyed yet another excellent meal in the St Ola Hotel, was quite birdy, including 11 Long-tailed Ducks (all males), 2 Red-throated and 1 Great Northern Diver, 24 Eider and no doubt the last Black Guillemot of the year.

Day list 64. Trip list 111 (pending acceptances)
 
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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

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