18th June

After a first half of June that's been almost uniformly dire on the bird front - in fact pretty grim for most natural history - today was such an outlier of quality that it deserves a foray back into proper blog posting. Interest began early with the sound-luring/trapping of 3 more Storm Petrels at the Bill tip during the small hours; our lack of reward on this numbers front was compensated for by our activities being accompanied by a subcontinental barbecue in full swing beside us - the combination of the smells of the Orient and the sound of our petrel-lure was slightly surreal but the generosity of the barbecuers in sharing their food was welcome! It was also the sea that provided a good portion of the interest and certainly the bulk of the numbers once dawn broke, with quite a shearwater-fest off the Bill: 1500 Manx and 100 Balearic Shearwaters were very much minimums for the two main protagonists that were feeding, rafting and generally toing and froing in such quantity that more precise counts were impossible; a passing Sooty Shearwater was a nice bonus, with 34 Common Scoter, 2 Arctic Skuas, a Mediterranean Gull and a Black-headed Gull at that time and a Great Skua during the evening of additional interest. Grounded arrivals at the Bill consisted of just singles of Wheatear and Reed Warbler, whilst a lingering Hobby over Southwell was also new in. Overhead movers were unexpectedly varied and included at the Bill the year's first Green Sandpiper, along with 2 Shelducks and singles of Little Egret, Whimbrel and Curlew; hirundines looked to be going both ways: 2 departing Sand Martins passed over during the morning, whilst 2 Swallows arrived from way out to sea during the evening.

Any opportunity to boost this spring's paltry all-island Hobby total of just 13 birds should be gratefully accepted so this morning's individual lingering over Southwell was very welcome © Pete Saunders:

Whilst migrant interest has been extremely limited just lately there's been plenty of other goings on to keep us occupied. A real success story has been the continuing increase in breeding Kittiwakes at the Bill: there are plenty of active nests on the visible part of the cliffs and we're told that there are many more on the 'invisible' stretch within the QinetiQ compound fence  - if anyone's out on a boat underneath the cliffs in the next few weeks we'd really appreciate some photographs of the bits we can't see...

...amongst the visible breeders is this Brittany-ringed individual that's now incubating two eggs:

The Shags on the cliffs seem to be particularly good at hiding their nests just behind various strategic promontories but from one slightly precarious viewpoint it's possible to see that at least one pair has been successful:

Sadly, it's looking like the auks haven't had a lot of luck, with not a single bird on the visible ledges that only a week or two back had been busy with breeders - the prime suspects in their demise weren't far away on the clifftop and were looking suitably egg-filled and lethargic © Martin Cade: