Bird & wildlife news from 2018

21 April

Weather: Calm becoming SE3 from mid-afternoon. Clear.

A Collared Dove was a surprise find on Rona while Scoters passed the north end.

Common Scoter 46, Velvet Scoter 7w, Red-throated Diver 1, Manx Shearwater 1n, Cormorant 36, Purple Sandpiper 2, Curlew 1, Sandwich Tern 1, Great Skua 1, Woodpigeon 8, Collared Dove 1, Kestrel 1f, Peregrine 1, Carrion Crow 3, Swallow 6n, Willow Warbler 1, Chiffchaff 4, Blackcap 1f, Goldcrest 4, Wren 4, Starling 1, Blackbird 3, Fieldfare 1, Robin 3, Wheatear 5, Dunnock 2, Linnet 6n, Redpoll sp 1, Goldfinch 3, Siskin 1.  Porpoise 3.

20 April

Weather: SW3-4, clear.

Sandwich Tern, Tree Pipit, Yellow Wagtail and House Martin were all first for the year.

Pink-footed Goose 8n, Sandwich Tern 4, Golden Plover 1n, Fieldfare 6, Blackbird 4, Song Thrush 1, Ring Ouzel 1, Redwing 1, Wheatear 16, Robin 3, Dunnock 2, Wren 5, Willow Warbler 3, chiffchaff 3, Blackcap 3, Goldcrest 4, Tree Pipit 1n, Meadow Pipit 58n, Yellow Wagtail 1, Goldfinch 6, Linnet 22, Common Redpoll 1, Redpoll spp 2n, Siskin 2n, Reed Bunting 1, House Martin 2n, Swallow 4n, Black-headed Gull 2, Sparrowhawk 1, Kestrel 1, Peregrine 3, Jackdaw 3, Carrion Crow 6.

 Yellow Wagtail (David Steel)

  Ring Ouzel (David Steel)
  Black Redstart (David Steel)
 Hawfinch (David Steel)

Isle of May Early Spring Summary

Noticeable highlights of the spring

  • Shoveler                     drake with Eiders off west side on 31st March, first since 2010
  • Raven                         one north over Fluke Street, 10th record and first since 2010

  • Hawfinch                    male on 31st March and 13th April (10th & 11th records)

  • Osprey                       One north on 26th March

  • ‘White’ Wagtail          two males on 11th April

  • Lapland Bunting       female on 15th April

Spring has struggled to start due to easterly winds although gradually summer migrants have been filtering thought the island with dates shown below (dates in brackets are the arrival dates from 2017) 

Chiffchaff                               22nd March                  (23rd March 2017)

Whinchat                                23rd March                  (earliest ever island record)

Ring Ouzel                             30th March                   (28th March 2017)

Blackcap                                11th April                      (1st April 2017)

Swallow                                 14th April                      (8th April 2017)

Willow Warbler                      14th April                      (8th April 2017)

Lesser Whitethroat               14th April                      (30th April 2017)

Sand Martin                           19th April                      (8th April 2017)

Sandwich Tern                      20th April                      (8th April 2017)

Tree Pipit                               20th April                      (19th April 2017)

Yellow Wagtail                       20th April                      (14th May 2017)

Year list at 20th April: 93

 Migration Summary

The coverage on the Isle of May during January-March is intermittent due to the lack of any residents on the island at that time of year, with only brief visits by island staff during this period. The Bird Observatory was manned after a delayed start (due to weather) with the work party moving out on 21st March and recording becoming more regular thereafter. 

The late winter period produced a typical light scattering of over-wintering birds with up to seven Short-eared Owls which eventually dwindled to one by 30th March. Small numbers of Thrushes, Wrens and Robins over-wintered and early spring highlights including Lapwing on 8th-9th January (only two records the previous year) whilst the first Woodcock of the year was discovered on 10th January. Single Snow Buntings were recorded on 22nd February, 28th March and 15th April whilst a Red-necked Grebe on 10th January increased to two the following day with a single still on 12th March.

The ‘beast from the east’ brought heavy snowfall (which is rarely seen on the island) in late February and early March, bringing with it a noticeable influx of Black Guillemots during this period. Small numbers sheltered together in the lea of the island off the west cliffs with numbers peaking at six on 3rd March. At least one then went on to linger until 13th April. Early spring wildfowl passage produced herds of Whooper Swans on northerly passage including 24 on 26th, 10 on 28th March and 2 on 1st April. Other highlights included passage of Long-tailed Duck’s with 9 on 2nd, 3 on 7th and 4 on 8th April. Single drake Velvet Scoter was noted on 1st April, two Goosander on 4th April and a Red-breasted Merganser on 11th April. However star-billing went to a drake Shoveler seen with Eiders off the west side of the island, the first live record since July 2010.

An easterly weather front in late March produced a good fall of Robins, Dunnocks and other birds associated with early spring. Woodcock numbers peaked at 6 on 30th-31st March whilst a Water Rail in the Low Trap on 28th was the first spring record since 2008 and it or another was seen on 11th April. Migrants included huge influxes of Robins with 100 on 30th, 150 on 31st and over 200 on the 1st-3rd April, with Dunnock numbers peaking at 40 on 1st April.

During this spell, northern bound thrushes were very evident with up to four Mistle Thrush present for over a week. Noticeably the island supported good numbers of Ring Ouzel with daily records from 30th March-19th April peaking with 6 on 11th-12th April. Spring eventually arrived with the arrival of summer migrants including the first Wheatear on 30th March with a peak of 4 the following day, Chiffchaffs from 22nd with a peak of 12 on 30th March, first Blackcap on 11th April, Swallow on 14th and an early Lesser Whitethroat the same day. Interestingly the island welcomed a good number of Black Redstarts including several adult males, with some birds singing although all moved on by mid-April. Other highlights included Greenfinch on 28th March and 9th April (an increasingly scarce visitor) and a flurry of Brambling with a peak of 7 on 30th March including a resplendent adult male.

To cap a good start to the season, a cracking male Hawfinch was discovered feeding on the ground near the Chapel on 31st March, with another on the cliffs at the South Horn on 13th April. These represented only the 10th and 11th island records but hot on the heels of two the previous year.

12th March

Weather: Calm, overcast but bright.

A pair of Mallard off Altarstanes were the first of the year as were Stonechat which appeared early afternoon a reached a total of eight (2m,6f), the second highest ever total but some way off the 19 in March last year.  Four Mistle Thrush was a good total while a Red-necked Grebe and two Black Guillemot remained off Altarstanes.

Passage: Gannet 10, Skylark 3,

Present:  Shelduck 1, Mallard 2, Teal 10, Red-necked Grebe 1, Cormorant 40, Oystercatcher 25, Curlew 20, Turnstone 1, Woodcock 2, Redshank 2, Black Guillemot 2 (1 ad winter, 1 1st winter), Woodpigeon 3, Kestrel 1, Peregrine 1, Wren 2, Starling 4, Blackbird 15, Fieldfare 10, Redwing 1, Song Thrush 15, Mistle Thrush 4, Robin 3, Stonechat 8, Pied Wagtail 2. Porpoise 4.

Thursday 22nd February

Weather: SW3. Clear & sunny

Passage: Snow Bunting 1, Skylark 6, Linnet 1, Pink-footed Geese 64n, Golden Plover 1s

Present: Curlew 70, Snipe 2, Kittiwake 20, Black-headed Gull 2, Redwing 1, Woodpigeon 2, Short-eared Owl 2.

Wednesday 21st February

Weather: NW-E1, clear and sunny after overnight frost

A Mistle thrush and Siskin were the first of the year.

Passage: Red-throated Diver 1s, Gannet 15, Kittiwake 3,

Present: Shelduck 1, Snipe 1, Puffin 1, Woodpigeon 1, Short-eared Owl 1, Kestrel 1, Peregrine 1, Skylark 3, Blackbird 4, Song Thrush 1, Mistle Thrush 1,

Tuesday 20th February

Weather: NW-N2. Clear and sunny, almost warm.

A few firsts for the year with Skylark, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit and Lesser Black-backed Gull

Passage: Skylark 2

Present: Teal 40, Grey Heron 2, Oystercatcher 50, Curlew 30, Turnstone 50, Purple Sandpiper 10, Redshank 3, Lesser Black-backed Gull 3, Woodpigeon 2, Short-eared Owl 6, Kestrel 1, Merlin 1, Peregrine 2, Carrion Crow 2, Wren 6, Blackbird 2, Redwing 1, Song Thrush 1, Fieldfare 1, Robin 4.

Friday 16th February

Pink-footed Geese 40s, Kestrel 1, Grey Heron 1

Thursday 1st February

Weather: W-NW5. Bright but overcast

Present:  Grey Heron 1, Gannet 1, Sparrowhawk 1, Kestrel 1, Kittiwake 12, Black-headed Gull 1 Fieldfare 1, Redwing 1, Blackbird 3, Robin 3.

 Immature female Sparrowhawk (Mark Newell)

Wednesday 31st January

Weather: Clear, cold and sunny. W5-7

Little change with the wind making conditions tricky.

Present: Purple Sandpiper 1, Redshank 4, Woodpigeon 1, Short-eared Owl 1, Kestrel 1, Carrion Crow 2, Wren 4, Blackbird 2, Redwing 1, Robin 4.

Tuesday 30th January

Weather: Bright, W4 inc 6.

A Shelduck on Rona was an early record while a Woodpigeon was the first of the year.

Passage: Pink-footed Geese 4w

Present: Shelduck 1, Teal 30, Eider 32, Turnstone 15, Purple Sandpiper 6, Redshank 2, Kittiwake 1, Woodpigeon 1, Short-eared Owl 4, Kestrel 1, Merlin 1, Peregrine 1, Carrion Crow 2, Wren 4, Blackbird 3, Fieldfare 1, Redwing 2, Robin 4.

Monday 29th January

Weather: Clear, SW3 inc 5 from late morning.

A flock of Pink-footed Geese were the first of the year as was a Merlin and a Song Thrush which was consumed by a Sparrowhawk. Four Short-eared Owls remain.

Passage: Pink-footed Geese 145N

Present: Teal 30, Eider 20, Grey Heron 1, Sparrowhawk 1, Short-eared Owl 4, Kestrel 1, Merlin 1, Peregrine 1, Wren 3, Blackbird 4, Fieldfare 3, Redwing 8, Song Thrush 1, Robin 3.

Thursday 11th January

Weather: Overcast & light rain first thing, then clearing. W1.

Two Red-necked Grebes were together off Colm’s Hole.  Two Red-throated Divers flew past making it onto the year list.  Kestrel, Peregrine and Sparrowhawk all seen.  Coverage on the isle will now cease for about 10 days.

Wednesday 10th January

Weather: W1, overcast with occasional light drizzle. Poor visibility

A Red-necked Grebe off the Low Light was a significant record and follows one lingering last winter.  A Woodcock was the first of the year as was an immature Gannet, otherwise little change.

Present: Grey Heron 2, Red-necked Grebe 1, Gannet 1, Razorbill 12, Short-eared Owl 7, Carrion Crow 2, Blackbird 4, Fieldfare 6, Redwing 1, Robin 2, Wren 2, Rock Pipit 10.

 Short-eared Owl (Calum Scott)

Tuesday 9th January

Weather: Overcast, several degrees above freezing. SE5

Presumably yesterday’s flyover Lapwing was seen a couple times while a Starling was new. Otherwise a similar selection of birds.

Present: Grey Heron 2, Peregrine 1, Razorbill 2, Short-eared Owl 5, Carrion Crow 2, Blackbird 6, Fieldfare 9, Redwing 4, Robin 4, Wren 3, Rock Pipit 10, Starling 1.

Monday 8th January

Weather: clear and cold with all pools frozen.  SE2 increasing SE5

First day of human presence on the Isle of May in 2018.  The rarest bird in island terms was a Lapwing which flew in from the north, especially given there were only two sightings in 2017.  An increase in thrushes from the end of last year while seven Short-eared Owls were still present.  Two Puffins, an adult and a 1st winter were offshore.

Passage: Lapwing 1s

Present: Teal 22, Eider 15, Grey Heron 5, Sparrowhawk 1, Razorbill 4, Puffin 2, Short-eared Owl 7, Kestrel 1, Carrion Crow 2, Blackbird 6, Fieldfare 9, Redwing 4, Robin 4, Wren 3, Rock Pipit 10.

 First bird caught in 2018, a Robin ringed last autumn.

Alan Lauder,
Jan 20, 2014, 5:49 AM
Mark Newell,
Jan 31, 2015, 4:56 AM
Mark Newell,
Jan 16, 2016, 12:01 PM
Mark Newell,
Jan 14, 2017, 1:33 PM
Mark Newell,
Jan 8, 2018, 12:57 PM