Today's trip saw us at Kirkwall harbour at 07:30 for the 07:40 sailing to Sanday. It was good weather and a very calm crossing. This led to a bit of a first for me as I actually went down into the bowels of the ferry to the cafe and joined the rest of the team to indulge in a bacon butty and a brew. Not bad for someone that usually stays on deck where the horizon can be seen and the wind can be felt on their face!!
On arrival on Sanday we set off across the island checking known sites where Sanderling have been seen/caught in the past. There wasn't a lot about as we worked our way towards Start Point. As we got to one road junction some Lapwing chicks were seen moving about in the field next to the junction. With me and Colin keeping an eye on the chicks Dave and Brian went in to the field to recover them and bring them back to the car for ringing. Once processed Dave returned them back to the field.
We arrived at Scuthvie Bay and things looked more promising with Sanderling feeding from the water's edge right to the back of the beach. A comprehensive scan of the flock by the four of us didn't find a single colour ringed bird.
We decided to set the cannon net up and go for a catch. We caught a total of 34 birds; 1 Turnstone, 4 Ring Plover and 29 Sanderling (none of which were ringed). We then set about processing the birds. I was on ringing duties, with Dave doing the wing and foot measurements and logging all the details, Brian was doing bill measurements and weighing and Colin had the fiddly task of fitting the colour rings to the Sanderling. Brian and Dave were also doing the ageing and sexing. The Ring Plover were a new species for my ringing list.
Once all the Sanderlings had been processed each bird then had its photograph taken so that the photos could be sent off to someone who is studying Sanderling plumage.
By now it had turned 2pm and it was time for a quick bite of lunch before resuming the hunt for colour ringed birds. Dave and Brian started at the south end of Scuthvie Bay and headed North along the bay, Colin and myself went up to the North end of the Bay of Sowerdie and headed South and we all met up where the two bays join.
Between us we managed to find five of our birds with full colour ring combinations, two with incomplete combinations and two birds with metal rings only. A total of nine birds out of approximately 350 birds checked.
In addition Brian and Dave found a Sanderling with a complete blue flagged combination of colour rings. Checking the records when we got back it was confirmed that this bird was ringed at Zackenberg, Greenland last year as a breeding adult female and has been seen since near Aberdeen on numerous occassions.
24 Jul 11 Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire
30 Sep 11 Blackdog, Aberdeenshire
3 Dec 11 Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire
21 Jan 12 Blackdog, Aberdeenshire
5 Feb 12 Blackdog, Aberdeenshire
4 Apr 12 Donmouth, Aberdeen19 May 12 Sanday, Orkney
So hopefully she is now on her way back to Greenland.
This is the second record of a Greenland breeding bird in Orkney, following quickly from the one seen on North Ronaldsay recently.
So all in all a bit of a mixed day. Good that we caught and colour ringed some more birds and in some ways a bit disappointing at the lack of our birds with colour rings. However, given the number of Sanderling that have now been colour ringed in Orkney, some thing like over 200, were we just unlucky or had our birds moved on and we were looking at birds that had arrived from further South?
The sailing back to Kirkwall was again calm, but this time I stayed on deck and was rewarded with some good views of a Black Throated Diver.