Overall 2019 was a pretty average year for bird recording on the island with a total of 130 species occurring of which 78 species bred or made a serious breeding attempt.
The breeding season too was (with the odd notable exception!) pretty much in keeping with recent years. Once again the spring-early summer weather left a lot to be desired with the bright but bitterly cold April & May followed by a dismally wet & windy June. These conditions caused problems for a number of species ranging from Hen Harriers to terns & divers plus some of the smaller summer migrants.
Sadly many coastal breeding species had another dismal season with hardly a gull present on Castle Island & Oystercatcher productivity at an all time low. The lack of coastal breeders was depressingly illustrated by a visit on June 28th to the now almost barren West Cliffs, a site once alive with breeding Fulmars & gulls.
Other breeding failures included Golden Eagles which again suffered from a lack of prey species (will Rabbits ever return to Grulin & Struidh??) & Whinchats of which, for the first time on record, no breeding pairs appeared on the island. Also of concern is the continuing scarcity of breeding Snipe & the sudden current decline in the Lapwing population.
Nonetheless there were some success stories with none more so than the first successful breeding of White Tailed (Sea) Eagles on the island since the mid 1880s. Another notable island record was of Little Grebes breeding for the first time since 1963 whilst a variety of smaller species also had very productive seasons.
Migration was typically patchy with a rather disappointing spring & early summer producing only the expected passage Whooper Swans & Pink Footed Geese plus a couple of Canada Geese, a pair of Tufted Ducks, a Jack Snipe, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a lone Brambling.
Late summer – autumn proved more productive with more passage Whooper Swans & Pink Footed Geese, a couple of Barnacle Geese, the first Leach’s Petrel since 2008, two records of Knot, a couple of Jack Snipe, both Bar & Black Tailed Godwits, a Pomarine Skua, Little & Iceland Gulls & the islands second Yellow Browed Warbler.
Typically mid-summer was pretty quiet & more notable for the huge influx of Painted Lady butterflies than for birds. However a couple of Crossbills in late June was a good island record.