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Caithness Bird News Index

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St John's Pool

Caithness Bird Sightings - 2006

Caithness Bird News

October 2006
13 October 2006
Pallas's warbler 1 at Freswick
Still a rare vagrant in Caithness this bird was found by visitors who had
stopped to look for the Common crane they'd just seen flying over!
Common crane 1 over Freswick (north?)
White wagtail 1 adult at Freswick Beach.
Greenshank 1 at Freswick
Ruff 2 at Canisbay

11/12 October
Great grey shrike 1 at Noss Head

11 October
Ring ouzel 1 at Noss Head
Greenland wheatear 1 at St. John's Pool

6 October
White wagtail 1 adult at Thurso Harbour. White wagtails especially adults are not recorded very often in autumn in Caithness.

1-13 October
Magpie 1 at St. John's Pool

3 October
Redwing 1 at St. John's Pool

September 2006
The Following sightings were reported by Sinclair Manson
Honey Buzzard seen Dunnet Head, Sunday 17th September 2006
Wood Lark seen Dunnet Head, Sunday 17th September 2006.
Grey Plover 2 birds Murkle, Sunday 17th September 2006

June 2006
Red-rumped Swallow This extreme rarity in Caithness (second record) was seen by most of the patrons of the Castle of Mey Arms in Mey for a short time around 2pm. It's finder was a visitor who also happens to be the Bird Recorder for Tanzania where it's a regular garden bird for him! Unfortunately no subsequent news.

Wood Sandpiper 2 at St. John's Pool

Barn Owl 1 at St. John's Pool

Marsh Harrier 1 adult type at Loch Calder

Magpie 1 over St. John's Pool and north. Migrating(?) magpies are unusual sights in Caithness but have been noted over Dunnet Head before.
Barn owl 1 at St John's Pool


The 'sandy Sanderling on Sandside' is rather sweet, as it's bill is captured in a suitably sandy state.
"Sanderling at Sandside Beach just one of the late spring migrants refuelling on its way north at this favoured site" 4 June 06 by Nigel Fairney

May 2006

Barn owl 1 at St John's Pool

Short eared owl 1 at Dunnet Sands. This species has become far less conspicuous and may have declined significantly over recent years. All records of Short-eared owls would be welcome.
Black headed gull 46 pairs nesting at St. John's Pool. If anybody has locations and estimates of black headed gull colonies in the county please forward to Stan Laybourne or Julian Smith

Pomarine skua 2 adults in Dunnet Bay
Red throated diver 18 in Dunnet Bay

Grasshopper warbler 1 at Dunnet Sands
Barn owl 1 at St John's Pool

Dunlin 1 another (probable) record of smaller 'arctica' race at Sandside
Dunlin  Possible Arctica

Rock pipit 2 of Scandinavian race 'littoralis' at Sandside Beach. Undoubtedly a subspecies overlooked in the county, but nevertheless another good find by Nigel Fairney who captured some fine portraits which illustrate clearly the features associated with 'littoralis'.
Rock Pipit

Mediterranean Gull 1 at Sandside
Whinchat 2 or 3 reported from west Caithness

Garden Warbler 1 at Noss Head
Turnstones 15 at Scrabster the majority in summer plumage
Hawfinch 1 Brough/St. John's Loch area today but apparently has been present since 15/5

Tree sparrow 1 St. John's Records of Tree sparrows have declined to virtually zero over the past 10 years from a small dwindling population breeding in a 'zone' from Castletown through Loch Scarmclate area towards and including occasionally Wick. Their decline follows national trends. Tree sparrows are regular but scarce migrants through Orkney. This is the third spring record from St. John's.

Osprey 1 over Sandside with probably the same over St. John's Pool later
Click Here for larger photo of Osprey Being mobbed by gulls

Black-tailed godwit 8 at St. John's Pool

Great Skua 15 Pentland Firth
Arctic Skua 1 pale phase over Thurso
Pink Footed Goose small flock(s) still moving through the north of county

Garganey pair on St. John's Pool. Female Garganeys are not seen that often in Caithness. Even when there's an 'influx' in spring, the pattern seems to involve mostly males.
Garganey Male                  Garganey Pair

Glaucous Gull 1st winter at Noss Head. White winged gulls have been very scarce this winter/spring.
Glaucous Gull

Tree pipit 1 at Loch Hollistan. Although they breed in the south of the county, particularly Berriedale and Langwell Straths, migrant Tree pipits are very seldom seen or heard, so this was a good find. Another report of a single at Sandside.
Tree Pipit

Greenland Wheatear 7 St. John's Loch
Greenland Wheatear

Dunlin (Calidris alpina arctica) 1 at Sandside Beach.

Grasshopper warbler 2 St. John's Pool area

Dunlin (Calidris alpina arctica) 1 at Sandside Beach. Excellent find of this paler smaller (billed) race of Dunlin
Little tern 2 Dunnet Bay
Sandwich tern 30 Dunnet Bay
Spotted flycatcher 4 Achvarasdal Wood
Blackcap 3 Achvarasdal Wood

Redstart 1 at Noss Head
Lesser Whitethroat 1 at Noss Head

Common whitethroat 1 at Noss Head
also unconfirmed report of a Calandra lark there.
Goldfinches at Stirkoke

Common crane 1 over Loch Heilen
Curlew Sandpiper on the western edge of Loch Scarmclate with 10 Dunlin.
Ruddy Duck 2 also on Loch Scarmclate
Arctic Tern 20 @ Thurso Harbour

Snowy owl male near Dorrery
Smew pair on pool for third evening in front of hide at 7.15pm til dark

Greenland wheatear a small fall of migrants probably grounded in mist last
night ca. 13 round St. John's Pool - Dunnet with up to 20 in the area.
Grasshopper warbler 1 singing up the ditch from the hide back towards 'main'
Pintail male 1 still on pool at 3.30pm
Cuckoo 1 at Dunbeath

Arctic tern 2 over St John's Pool calling. First record here this year and exactly same date as 2004/2005. 20000km plus, 9 months since they left and they manage to arrive bang on cue!
Greenland Wheatear several at Forss

Green-winged teal male at St John's Pool late evening till dark

4 May
Grasshopper warbler 1 St John's Pool
'Greenland' wheatear 1 St. John's Pool
Common Sandpiper 1 St. John's Pool

3 May
Whimbrel At St. John's Pool

Northern Lapwing at St. John's Pool

2 May
Smew pair at St. John's Pool at dusk  Smew male and female

Redstart female at Wick Airport trees
Scaup 2 at Loch Heilen

April 2006


Iceland Gull 2nd Winter at Scrabster

American Wigeon 1 male Wick River. The female is a Eurasian not American Wigeon

Grasshopper warbler 1 Dunnet Dunes; 1 St. John's Loch
Iceland gull 2nd year in Scrabster Harbour; 1st year Wick Harbour
Slavonian grebe 1 Dunnet Bay; 1 Scrabster
Sedge warbler 2 Durran; 3 Dunnet dunes
Canada Goose 1 Loch Scarmclate Not a 'genuine' migrant of one of the
smaller races
Common tern 4 in Wick Harbour

American wigeon 1 male Wick River with female wigeon species as yet not positively identified
Iceland gull 2nd year in Scrabster Harbour
Whimbrel 25 St John's Pool
Peregrine 1 St John's Pool
Slavonian grebe 1 on St. John's Loch; 1 Scrabster Harbour

American Wigeon 1 male Wick river
Smew male & female on Loch Heilen. Drake smew are very scarce visitors to
Slavonian grebe 1 on St. John's Loch; 1 Scrabster
Gadwall male on St. John's pool
Black tailed Godwit 6 on St. John's pool

Whimbrel 45 at Rattar

Goosander 3 on Thurso River
Swift 1 over Thurso River
Golden plover 8-900 at Broubster

Smew male & female on Loch Heilen. Drake smew are very scarce visitors to
Slavonian grebe 1 on St. John's Loch; 1 Scrabster
Gadwall male on St. John's pool
Black tailed godwit 6 on St. John's pool
Whimbrel 45 at Rattar

Goosander 3 on Thurso River
Swift 1 over Thurso River
Golden plover 8-900 at Broubster

Black-tailed godwit 55 at Rattar may be a record count for Caithness?
Whimbrel 35 at Rattar
Wheatear 20 in Scarfskerry area

Hawfinch in Reay Hawfinches are scarce migrants in Caithness

Gadwall 5 at St John's Pool
Sand martin 45 at St John's loch
Common tern 1 at Castlehill

White-tailed Eagle & Golden eagle near Reay

Black-tailed godwit 3 at St. John's Pool
Slavonian grebe 3 on St. John's Loch
Meadow pipit 150-200 at Tister
Lesser black-backed gull 15 at Glengolly

Whimbrel 1 at Scarfskerry. Earliest date in Caithness is 18 April
Willow warbler 1 at Ham pool
Slavonian Grebe 3 St. John's Loch
Willow Warbler 1 Ham Pool
Northern Wheatear 1 Dunnet Head
Pink-footed Goose 600 St. John's Loch
Golden Plover 500 Rattar

Great Skua 1 Thurso Bay
House Martin several Thurso
Sand Martin 2 St. John's Pool
Slavonian Grebe 3 St. John's Loch
Long-tailed Duck 1 St. John's Loch
Northern Shoveler 1m St. John's Pool

Swallow 1 Thurso River
Slavonian Grebe 3 St. John's Loch
St. John's Loch All 3 in breeding plumage and good views at 06.00 from The John Corbett Memorial Hide
Sand Martin 2 St. John's Pool
Sandwich Tern 2 St. John's Pool
Common scoter 15 Dunnet Bay
Great Northern Diver 10 Dunnet Bay
Kittiwake 300 Dunnet Bay
Pink-footed Goose 700+ St. John's Loch

Ring-necked duck at Brawlbin/Loch Calder
Swallow 1 at Duncansby
Great skua 1 at Duncansby

Sand martins Scrabster. First record received this spring
A Few Sightings
A little auk at Dwarick harbour 10th 11th April. also 3 puffins close in there. Thursday 13th a steady flow of gannets feeding off Dunnet head east mixed with them a minke whale. Mostly adults but the odd immature moving north.

4 April 06
Latest Birds Spotted
Thanks for the following contributions emailed to
birds@artsmith-caithness.co.uk :
Sandwich tern 28/3 in Thurso Bay
Osprey 2/4
St. John's Pool 4/4
Small numbers of siskins, pied wagtails, meadow pipits and goldfinches as
well as flocks of singing redwings (up to 70) heading north over the last
few days.
Other birds of note from 3rd / 4th April:
Hen harrier, male shoveler and pintail, 12 snipe, sparrowhawks.

4 April 06
Snow Bunting Spotted By Beverly Chalmers
A snow bunting was spotted by Beverly Chalmers on 2 April 2006. 
the Snow Bunting was seen at Hopefield, Hill of Forss, there was a flock of 25 feeding at the sheeps troughs, there were also 2 herons and recently yellowhammers in the vicinity.
An article on Snow Buntings in Caithness was written by local bird expert Hugh Clark and published in the Caithness Field Club Bulletin in 1992.


Wheatear (2 males) Dwarwick Pier. First record received this spring Barnacle goose St. John's Loch

March 2006

30 March 06
Signs Of Spring 2006 On And Around St John's Pool
Mistle thrush early migrant on 20/3;
Shoveler single male from 20 - 29/3; 4 males on 29/3;
Little grebe first arrival on 15/3, with a pair from 21/3 onwards;
Coot First of the year on 26/3 with 3 present on the Loch; 4 on 27/3;
still 2 present;
Red throated diver single on the Loch from early march with 2 on 27/3
Redwings singing spring migrants/late winter visitors on 27/3;
Moorhen first returning bird on 28/3 with a pair from 28/3;
Siskin first spring migrant 29/3;
Barnacle goose single in fields at lochside with Greylag/pinkfeet goose
flocks on 29 - 30/3;
Pink footed goose - 300+ from 29 - 30/3;
Greylag goose 800+ 29 and 30/3;
Also Lapwings and Oystercatchers, Black-headed and Common gulls setting up territories on the pool;
Wigeons up to 50 daily; Snipe flock down to 10;
Buzzards if you want to see them catching frogs there are still a few more opportunities but frequency is reducing. Getting into the hide very early in the morning before they see you is probably the best ;
Just waiting for first Wheatears and Sand martins 'fresh in' from Africa so keep a lookout

Winter birdwatching 05/06 in Caithness has been generally quiet with no big surprises (to date) and very little in the way of unusual visitors or large influxes of commoner species. Snow buntings have however been seen in flocks of 50-100 around the county throughout the period and a few flocks of 50-70 Yellowhammers have wintered in Brough and Loch Scarmclate areas.

Shovelers are extremely rare wintering ducks in Caithness but a small flock of up to 5 have been seen on Loch of Mey and St. John's Loch up to end of February.

American wigeon male
Last seen on 13/3/06 at it's almost permanent location on Wick River just upstream from Somerfield's carpark. This is its second full winter at this site although it was first seen in summer 2005.

Ring-necked duck male
This American vagrant (and only the 2nd county record) returning to Caithness for it's second year was last seen in mid-February on Loch Hempriggs, south of Wick. It has not been seen at its regular site, Loch Sarclet, for some time due to disturbance but may well be still around.

Greenland White-fronted geese
Around 185 regularly in Loch of Mey area

Goosander male
Loch of Wester 13/3/06

2 males and a female at St. John's Pool on 13/3/06

Building Platforms for Wading Birds 11 March 2006