Autumn birds featured waders and warblers. 2 grey plover on Westray (9/8) began our migration season, with a juvenile ruff at home being a first for Gerraquoy on 10/8. Many ruff were present in Orkney over the next few weeks.
Twite flocks began to build with 40+ at Hoxa on 25/8, where at least 15 harbour porpoises were also seen.
Sandwich terns became present again with the first on 25/8.
A fall in mid September saw lots of ‘common’ migrants (robins, blackcaps, willow warblers) but also a yellow-browed warbler, grasshopper warbler and lesser whitethroats locally on 19/9.
A little stint was found in a large wader flock (mostly golden plover & lapwings but also many ruff) also locally on 21/9. 4+ harbour porpoises were present in Hoy Sound on 24/9, and a further 6+ from Hoxa on 1/10.
Great views of a water rail at The Loons hide on 30/9.
A rare N American vagrant, a Bonaparte’s gull, was seen over Kirk Sound, Holm on 7/10.
On 12/10 an adult, presumed male, injured, ill or simply disorientated sperm whale was present off Kirkwall harbour, giving rare and good views to many locals.
Sperm whale strandings occur every few years (we’ve seen two) but to see a live animal is most unusual.
A great start, with 14 Lapland buntings on the Brough of Birsay (3/9), followed by our 1st fieldfare at home on 6/9. 7/9 was a bit of a red-letter day with a pair of common cranes at Warebeth; 4 curlew sandpipers in stunning light at the Loch of Skaill; and 4 Lapland buntings on the Brough of Birsay.
The purple patch continued on 9/9 in classic ‘fall’ conditions with a wryneck and a stunning male red-breasted flycatcher, both nearby on South Ronaldsay.
Migrants everywhere – garden warblers, willow warblers, pied & spotted flycatchers, and redstarts.
We enjoyed a juvenile red-backed shrike at Burwick on 11/9, saw more Lapland buntings at Hoxa on 12/9, and saw the cranes again on the shores of the Loch of Stenness on 13/9.
Other interesting birds included a greenshank and a juvenile black-throated diver on 13/9; & a family of snow geese in with greylags on 16/9 in Deerness. On 20/9 the greenshank was still present, along with 2 little stints; and the 1st common scoter of the winter was seen in the Bay of Skaill.
The month ended with a flourish, with a pectoral sandpiper in the heart of Kirkwall in the Peerie Sea (22/9); whilst closer to home, literally yards away we finished the month with another red-breasted flycatcher (that’s 2 in one season!) and a yellow-browed warbler on 30/9.