Saturday, 26 November 2016

The 200 barrier

This year I set out to achieve 200 species on my year list having failed the past two years but getting my highest year list total ever.
Though this year felt good even though it got off to a poor start.

After coming off Fair Isle in the middle of October I was on a respectable 199!! I spent the last two days hunting for Mistle Thrush across the islands cliff, the peak number of 11 at one stage that didn't even help for me to see a single one!!

An Isabelline Wheatear had been found the day before I came off Fair Isle (16th) at the Loch of Spiggie, so the next day I headed straight down for that.
I arrived on site and Mark Chapman was looking for the bird but he hadn't seen it so I had a look around the surrounding fields and I spotted this large thrush in the park.
It was big and the ID hit me straight away, a large white bellied thrush with spots running down and a greyish head, Mistle Thrush!! then another thought clicked into place, I'd just broken 200 for the year!

I'd finally reached my target, and you could say I was a bit more than happy, to be honest I felt I would struggle to reach my target but here I am, already reached it!
I had a funny feeling that Mistle Thrush would be my 200th, and that I would have it on Shetland, typical that I spent days hunting for them in Fair Isle!
Though a lifer was still to come, Rob Fray rolled up and asked us if we'd had the Isabelline Wheatear to which we said no as we couldn't see it anywhere, that was because A) we were looking on the wrong side of the road!
Rob had just had it on the opposite side of the road from us so we turned our attention there, it only took a few frantic seconds but we tracked it down! a lovely pale Wheatear, much paler than our own ones, would be my 201st bird for the year and a lifer!
The bird bounded around for a bit before disappearing around a hill and that was the last we saw of it!
I was pretty pleased with that, we thanked Rob and tried our shot at a Bullfinch he'd seen up the road and a Pied Wheatear down at Scatness but with no luck, though our day had certainly been good!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

STOP PRESS: Siberian Accentor first for UK

News broke today at 1520 of a SIBERIAN ACCENTOR (first for UK) in a quarry north of Mossy Hill, Scousburgh by Judd Hunt.

This was literally the biggest thing of the Shetland Autumn, I was bouncing off the walls of the Yell Sound Ferry when I got the news.
I couldn't live with myself if i missed, today was the day or nothing as I was off to Fair Isle the next morning! But I had a trick up my sleeve.
Tommy was waiting at the other side to pick me and he was ready to head off anywhere, we had been hoping for a quiet day of birding in the North Mainland but nothing ever goes as planned on here!

I gave Tommy a quick call to brief him on the plan and when I got to the other side we headed straight down the Ness to the bird, stopping no where on the way and sights only for Siberian Accentor.

We went straight up to the top of the hill and we met Dennis Coutts, as soon as we rolled down the window he gave us the directions to it and we were off! We could see masses of people lining the quarry and I phoned Dave to give him directions as he was enroute.

I got straight out the car on arrival and ran up the south side of the quarry and plopped myself down and it was literally right there, slap bang in the middle of the quarry and feeding away!!

I watched it feed for a good few minutes before Tommy arrived and we both got to watch it feeding, virtually oblivious to the 50 people viewing it!

It disappeared for a bit and then Dave rolled up and it reappeared, I quickly ran over and got Dave onto it, he was as impressed as I was at first sight of this impressive bird!

Light was fading and We deceided it was time to go, this bird would probably be gone too with the clear night but it was well worth seeing and one magical day (No photos published as having problems doing it on the Ipad!).

Friday, 30 September 2016

Brown Shrike

News broke early afternoon of a possible BROWN SHRIKE at Whitelaw Road, Aith in the West Mainland, I was currently in school and seeing it was a Friday I'd be able to escape and head out there after school

After a few mix ups with buses I managed to get out there with Tommy and arrive on the scene at around 1645 to see a small 'flock' of twitchers gathering to see the bird.
It was quite distant when we arrived and almost needed a scope but it eventually came closer to provide better views.
The general consensus pulled towards Brown Shrike and as of writing this most people agree on its identity of being Brown Shrike.

But I'm pleased on seeing the bird, it was good to get out for the twitch after school had ended as a bit of a release from the week and good to get that extra bird for the year list, I was going to go to Skerries for the one there but it would of been a 14-hour round trip for the bird which I wasn't too fond of!

A tad distant but still better views than the last one I saw which was 300 metres away!

Year List Record Broken

Headed down the South Mainland yesterday to see if I could clear up a few year ticks before the bad weather kicked in this weekend.

Quendale was our target destination for Great Reed Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Little Bunting but none of them were seen after half an hour and only birds of note were a Willow Warbler, Green Sandpiper and a Grey Wagtail.
30 minutes later we'd gone and come back after a visit to Hugh Harrop's, we'd been given better info to the location of the Little Bunting so we were heading off there when I spotted a few guys with scopes looking around the Loch of Hillwell.
This time of year I'll ask any birder if they've seen anything because you never know what they may have seen.
I shouted to the closest guy and he'd said they'd just had a PALLID HARRIER go by and drop down into the dunes at Quendale!!! I shot out the car and the two with the scopes pointed out to me where it landed and I was gone to find it!

Paula and I headed out to the site and I ran across the dunes to look for it, I got halfway out to where it had landed and could see it gliding away from me, it turned a few times to flash a great orange belly! it just screamed at me Pallid. It got a piece away and in the bins you could see the frosty forewings, it was great!
It dropped back into the dunes and I returned back to the car absolutely beaming, I'd just broken my own personal year list and was now on 182!

We paid a brief visit to the 20 or so twitchers who were gathering and watching it on a far away fence post, I had a brief look of the bird before asking if anything else was around to which one birder informed me of a male Pochard in among the Tufted Ducks at Spiggie! it was another year tick so we quickly raced off for it.

Arriving at Spiggie it took me only a few seconds to spot the stunning male Pochard in among the Tufteds, 183!!
With that we pretty much headed home, stopping in the Spiggie Hotel Bar for a coke or two and then we were off after a great day out.

Distant male Pochard, slap bang in the middle

Sunday, 28 August 2016

First Autumn Birding 2016

The blog has been a bit quiet in recent months due to me falling out of the routine of doing it.
But that doesn't mean I haven't been busy, I did a volunteering stint in Fair Isle in May and racked some amazing species with Black-browed Albatross being the highlight!! also I went to China for 3 weeks during the summer and it was amazing.

Now the autumn has come and its time to get out and find some migratory birds, I headed down with Paula Moss and Julie Redpath to the South Mainland yesterday (27th).
Things were pretty quiet in Sumburgh with us missing Wryneck, Tree Pipit, Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper but instead getting Ruff, Pied Flycatcher and Kestrel, it was alot less birds than had been seen in the week with over 50 Willow Warbler in Sumburgh.

Hillwell and Spiggie would be our last areas to check before we headed back north, Hillwell had the summering Common Crane and about 40 Ruff which really brightened up our afternoon!
Quendale Mill was next where Paula and I had had Greenish and Reed Warbler earlier in the week.
Sadly there wasn't the same birds there and all we could find was 2 Willow Warbler and a Green Sandpiper.

So with that we headed north to Spiggie but were quickly pulled back to Hillwell when Paul Harvey and Roger Riddington had found a Rosefinch and a Wryneck!! two much desired species for the group.

We raced back and were quickly onto the Wryneck which sat down on a post for a good few minutes before flying off so next was to find the Rosefinch,
I was hunting around for the Rosefinch when Hugh Harrop came down the side of the park so I waited for him, I had a quick scan and I saw this scarlet coloured head half hidden behind a fence post, alarm bells started ringing!!
It hit me straight away that it was a male Rosefinch, everyone came down and got their views before it flew off down the burn and disappeared.

After that we had to head back north, it was a pretty successful day if I do say so seeing as I bumped my year list up to 172, equaling my October best, only 10 species off beating my yearlist record!

Saturday, 14 May 2016

GREEN WARBLER: Baltasound, Unst 14/05/16

I was out doing a Breeding Bird Survey on Mainland Shetland when a text came through of a probable GREEN WARBLER at Baltasound, Unst which had been initially Id'd as a Greenish the day before.
I phoned up Dave and he was going so I said I'd join him and we shot up for the 1355 ferry to Yell.
At Toft terminal we rendezvoused with Georgie Petrie and Pete before catching the ferry up and speaking with Andy Cook from Fetlar who was also heading up.
Ferry came in and we headed straight up before catching the next ferry to Unst and then heading straight to 'SHE' in Baltasound for the Warbler.
Several cars of birders left when we arrived but many were still around, bird has been sighted 10 minutes before we'd arrived and had dived into cover again, usually showed well every 15-20 minutes, so now the waiting came set in

We waited an hour and many people had left so it was just our group, one or two of us had spread out to check other sites and then George found the bird a couple of hundred metres away! we legged it but it would not be refound again.
10 minutes later, Pete and I headed back to the site where George had found it and we picked it up again before it shot off towards the main plantation on the east side of SHE!

We spent the next 10 minutes checking the bushes and gardens in SHE but with no luck so Pete and I went back to check the main plantation.
I went up the east side and within a minute I was greeted by a bird feeding in the trees, I quickly raised the bins and bam!! the Green Warbler!!!! I shouted out to everyone else and you could here them running towards me.

Green Warbler if accepted 2nd for UK, first for Scotland/Shetland

The bird happily fed for 20 minutes and I managed some record shots, even better was that everyone present got to see the bird and with that we headed for the 1715 ferry, eating celebratory lemon tarts from Andy Cook on the way down, we were definitely some happy birders.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Study leave and some home birding

Officially now we are on study leave for our exams, so we can either go to school or not, its really our choice, usually I end up going to school but yesterday I decided to do a bit of birding on the way since it was such a great day and birds had been popping up all over the place.

I checked the trees at the Old Mid Yell School before I headed into study and what looked like a Sylvia warbler caught my eye so I sat down and waited for it to pop back out from the undergrowth.
Within a few minutes I was enjoying views of both LesserWhitethroat and Pied Flycatcher, both year ticks and additions to the school list, which has even had Buff-bellied Pipit on it!

Other birds around Mid Yell yesterday included 3 Siskin and a singing Chiffchaff so migration is definitely happening.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

White-billed Diver after 15 attempts......

Its been a long road, over two years of searching, 3 different birds, around 15 failed twitches and a lot of man hours later I have finally managed to hunt down and see a White-billed Diver.

A White-billed Diver has been in Basta Voe, Yell for over two weeks now, originally found by Brydon Thomason (probably wintering in the area) and I dipped it two weeks ago but I decided today that I'd head up and try find it after my English exam since it had been seen yesterday.
I spent an hour walking along the south side of Basta Voe and had just given up hope by the time I'd gotten to the bottom of the Basta road.
But I decided I'd give it one last scan because I'd covered a large area before I'd done the last one, I raised my bins and after a couple of seconds I spotted this Diver and it flapped its wings and boy it was big! huge! I had a good feeling this was it and quickly set up the scope but it was too windy so I rattled off a few shots and quickly looked at them and there she was, all beautiful with its huge big bill and lighter head.
White-billed Diver! I actually shouted with joy I was so pleased, I've tried so hard to get one of these and they've always eluded me so its great to get one of the home island.

White-billed Diver in all its glory!

Number 252 for Shetland and 124 on the yearlist and my most wanted specie of the year, I got some good views in the scope before it just disappeared, and with that I left.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016


STOP PRESS: first for Shetland, 1st summer male Rose-beaked Grosbeak at Toogs, West Burra, Shetland

On Tuesday the 3rd of May 2016 I was browsing the Internet when I came across a picture on Shetland Birds & Wildlife that had just been posted by a wife called Lynn Goodlad in Burra of a bird which had appeared in her garden.
I looked at the photo and my heart sank, it was a Grosbeak and I comment just that right away without any hesitation, I had no clue what type and was quickly trying to find out as much info of its location to get ready to send out the info.
Lynn got back to me and suggested Rose-breasted Grosbeak after having looked it up and she was bang on! (after I did a quick google search to see what one actually looked like) and I quickly sent the message out to three other birds in hope they would relay the message out to the rest of Shetland.
At the time I wasn't too excited as I figured that it would get accepted as some American buntings don't but I was way wrong with this one.
Soon I got a phone call from Hugh Harrop who'd got my message about it and was currently on his way to see it and also to thank me for the call.
Worst thing was I couldn't go see it til Wednesday so I sat and waited for the next 24 hours and hoped it stayed while most of Shetland got glorious photos of this Grosbeak.

On the 4th I headed down mid afternoon with my grandad Tommy and we went off to see it, one birder was at the garden and he got us onto it straight away in the far corner of the garden!

Utter record shots but I'm glad I finally saw it!

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak now took my Shetland list up to 251 and my year list up to 123, breaking my May best year record by 1!he 36th record for the Uly K and on
The bird was also the 5th for Scotland, the 36th for the UK and the 2nd ever spring record!
It was a stunning bird but we couldn't stick around as I had revising to do for my exams the next day so we were off! amazing bird and big thanks to Lynn Goodlad for finding it and posting the photo or else it would have gone completely unnoticed!!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016


On the 31st of March 2016 (almost a month ago now!) I cycled to the island of Fetlar from Yell with my friend Jack with the intention of going to see a Tree Sparrow at Funzie (pronounced finnie) on the opposite side of the island.
We set out quite early, getting the 10 ish ferry into the island before spending our day cycling across it.
First thing I spotted coming off the ferry was a Glaucous Gull at Oddsta! (the old ferry terminal), this was a welcome surprise and also an island tick.

Glaucous Gull riding on the wind with a few Great Black-back which were out of sight

The first lamb of the year which took Jack's interest a bit more than mine

First stop was the Houbie shop for some supplies but we happened to arrive on one of the few days the shop is shut! so we just enjoyed the sunshine instead for a bit.

The view from the Houbie shop

Next it was time to head further east and we stopped at the Fetlar Hall to look in the bay, there was plenty of Tysties but few other birds in the sea, the real highlight was us finding a female Blackcap! only the second of the year and a yeartick! number 99 and one bird off the 100 midway point for my year target.
A few more stops between Houbie and Funzie but we arrived to Andy Cook's Croft to hunt for the Tree Sparrow (Andy having kindly given me details of where to find the bird), a flock of House Sparrows was checked but half flew off before I could get a definite ID but hope soon came when I raised my bins to the Tree Sparrow feeding on the ground around 40 metres away! number 100!
I couldn't manage any photos but we were soon off back across the island, in total it took an agonising 3 hours for me to cycle back home when it should of taken under half of that.
But nonetheless it was a great day and thoroughly enjoyed!

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Spring has sprung 29/03/2016

Its now officially that time when the migrants are coming, birds have arrived and in Shetland we noticed the first real migrants arriving at the start of the week.

I'd been in Aberdeen during the bank holiday and had come back to find that a few birds were creeping in.
Dave was interested in going out so we headed down 'Da Ness' on Tuesday the 29th to find any early returners in the South Mainland.

Also to explain why there is so much writing and no photos my camera died and I had no spare batteries 

First migrant I had of the day was a female Pied Wagtail at Seafield just before Dave picked me up, taking my year list up to 95.
Dave soon came and we headed down with our first stop being at Clumlie and Boddam, both though appeared pretty quiet and I was wondering if we were going to see any birds.
Virkie didn't have an early Sandwich Tern but 3 Bar-tailed Godwits or Barwits and a Knot were present on the tideline.
Next we tried to pick out the Black-throated Diver that had been wintering in Quendale Bay by scoping it from the western end of the Sumburgh Airstrip (Scord), I wasn't that hopeful as it could literally be anywhere in the Bay and it might be too far away to ID.
We spent around 10 minutes scanning for it and then I picked up this diver which looked slightly odd, not like your usual GND, I got Dave onto it and he scoped it out, it took a bit of time to ID due to the difficulty of the waves and it had a tendency to never look at us but Dave eventually decided that it was the Black-throated after he pointed out some of the features that separated it from GND.
Now that was another year tick, number 96 and only my second ever sighting with much better views!
The Loch of Gards at Scatness was next but there wasn't any American Wigeon in the duck flocks but instead to make up for that there was a very out of place Barwit on the loch's edge.

Grutness was next for the Gadwall which was still in the exact same spot as it was on Saturday and then it was up to the quarries to try and get Saturdays' Chiffchaff, driving along we both noticed this thing on a dyke and it took a minute for our brains to figure out what we were both seeing, before we both blurted out 'Wheatear!' and it dived over the wall. First one back in Shetland and year tick number 97!
Its the first time I've ever seen a Wheatear in March and its a pretty early one as well.
Finally we got to the quarry and it was a mess, it isn't a big quarry but a lot of sheep had been shut in there and it had completely messed up the ground.
Though in fairness there wasn't really anything in there anyways, a Robin was it and then the Head produced nothing in its bushes until two Woodpigeon started circling overhead, presumably migrants thinking of leaving Shetland?
It was time to head to Hillwell but for some odd reason I wanted to look at the dyke that went from the road to the farm, it was a good idea because we found the Chiffchaff feeding in the March sun, number 98, now I'm pushing close to 100.
Hillwell and Quendale had very little stuff to find after 45 minutes of searching and the only birds of note were the lingering Pink-footed Goose and Coot, quite poor for Hillwell.

Spiggie though had the lingering Brent Goose and the Little Grebe from Saturday was changing into summer plumage and we finally ended on Geosetter (the first time I've visited there since autumn last year) where two Goldcrests and a possible Water Rail were in the trees.

That concluded our day, taking me the step closer to 100 species but who knows, will I be able to get 100 before month's end?

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

A day in Unst; the first migrants

On the 12th of March I got up early and left Lerwick on the 0740 bus to head to Unst for a bit of birding with Robbie Brookes, arriving in Unst at 0945 we headed to Easting to try and spot the wintering male Surf Scoter that had been found on Unst last year.

First though we stopped in Uyeasound, getting my first 2 Red-throated Divers of the year on Easter Loch, I was pretty glad to have finally seen them as I've spent the last month hunting for them!!
On to Easting, we grabbed bins, cameras and scopes and headed out the car to go look for the Scoter down by the shore, on the way down Rob told me that the bird liked to sit in the middle of the bay before he raised his bins and pointed it out, right in the middle! I got my bins up and saw it in among 3 Shag, year tick!

With our brief sighting we walked further down towards an old ruin by the sea where we decided to get better views with Rob's scope.
It took a few minutes to get the scope set up but we were soon enjoying good views of the bird diving with the group of Shags (Scarfs).

A distant record shot but the bird is in the middle of the shot trust me

Soon we decided it was time to go and headed off to go find other birds, a quick stop in Uyeasound produced 5 Goosander on two different lochs, a pretty good count.
Next came Baltasound which was quiet apart from a single European White-fronted goose in among some Greylags.
Haroldswick was better with two European White-fronted Geese and a Comorant so we headed north to Skaw.
Skaw was dead really, but the walk was good, Lamba Ness then showed obvious signs of migration with at least 15 Skylarks around the roads that weren't there the day before and I then managed to self-find my first Lesser Black-backed Gull of the year flying over the road!! number 90 for the year, two birds from beating my previous March best, seems like I'm on a roll this year.

Now we headed back south to Norwick, another Lesser Black-backed Gull was in a Herring Gull flock but besides that it was quiet.
Things defeitnly picked up when we were waved down by a local who told us he'd had an immature Sea Eagle on Saxa Vord for the past two days, and the first time it was only 20 metres away!!! he was serious and he knew what he'd seen, many Shetlanders know a strange bird when they see one, they know whats the norm so when a Sea Eagle is only a few metres from you, you know it.
We thanked him and shot up to Saxa Vord and searched the hills, but to no avail, 2 Snow Buntings were the only birds we could find in the mist.

The bird though was seen the next day, flying over Saxa Vord and some amazing views were had, though I was two hours too late when I twitched it from Mainland.

Back to the present blog, anyways we just drove about hunting for birds and soon it was time for me to go, Rob ran me to the ferry after having me on an excellent day out and I thank him very much for that.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Some NeWs and a couple of birdies

Well the title may throw you off a bit, its not the News we all watch on the TV but the Non-Estaurine Bird Surveys or NeWs for short, a survey being done between the 1st of December 2015 and the 31st of January 2016 specialising in seeing what is around our countries coastline, with me doing counts in east/west Yell, Mossbank, Brae and Lerwick.

Saturday 23rd January 2016

Having already finished my surveys on Yell it was time to start my surveys in the North Mainland, with me arriving in Brae the night before to do some school assignments and prep for my morning surveys.
Come the morning, Tommy and I headed quickly off to Voe to try catch the Dippers before having to do the surveys as they are preferred to be done between the tides.
Sadly there wasn't any Dippers but some bread interested Swans near the Burn of Daal made up for that with the potential to ring them in the future.
Going north to Sullom to get in a few other birds before the tides resulted in 3 Oystercatchers outside of Brae, I've seen several since the 16th and it seems they've started to come back to Shetland after wintering south.
Into Sullom and I gave the plantation there a run through incase an peerier (smaller) birds were wintering in there.
I gave it around half an hour and couldn't find anything, I'd pretty much given up until something with a greeny backside flew out of a tree just infront of me and disappeared round the same tree, I went in pursuit and waited, looking into a patch of firs.
Luckily having some patience paid off and a Goldcrest popped out and fed briefly before disappearing deeper into the trees! an unexpected year tick but I had a good feeling about this place.
Next we headed to the Sullom Quarry to see if the Rough-legged Buzzard was still around, luckily I spotted it almost instantly on a ridge not to far away and it soon flew closer, given good views.
Now time for the surveys, Tommy dropped me at the first house in the Mavis Grind area and I began walking the coast until I reached the Moorfield Hotel in Brae, now there was definetely a few interesting bits and pieces with 9-11 Grey Herons, 5 Oystercatchers, 5 Snipe, an Otter and a Slav Grebe, though I was surprised with the lack of waders, 2 Redshanks, 7 Turnstones and no Purple Sands or Ringed Plovers.
I met Tommy at the Hotel and we filled in the forms before shooting off to Mossbank and Sellaness.
Sellaness had two Oystercatchers but nothing else so we headed over to Mossbank.
I got out and did the surveys while Tommy went to the highest point he could find to fill out a few of the forms while I walked along the coast.
It was decent for the first half of the journey with many Snipe, 61 Wigeon and a couple of Common Gulls on the beach, soon I met with Mark Chapman at leg two to carry on the counts.
Mark was a great help, being able to pick out several Comorants, 2 Great-northern Divers, Tystie and also getting me Jack Snipe!! a bird that I have finally seen in binocular view!
After doing the surveys, Tommy met us outside the Mossbank pub and we all had a cuppa before sticking Mark home and then Tommy and I jetted off to Lerwick where we ended the day.

This rather sad looking Herring Gull was near the Shetland Catch looking a bit worse for wear

A bit more excitement came the next day when I headed out for a look onto Clickimin to see if anything could start me off good on my Patch Work Challenge, Whooper Swan 'JB4' was back on Clickimin with its mate, I've seen it for the past 3 consecutive winters with 'JB4' showing a very colourful colour ring on its right leg.

Ringing Recoveries

Recently I got an email, concerning a Oystercatcher ringed in Bixter in June 2015, Dave and I tend to ring out there and in the email it was said to be Dave's as he sends in the ringing records, I decided to check it out incase it was one of my birds and comparing the ring numbers and dates it was!!
My first ringing recovery! the bird had been ringed as a chick and had gone on to winter in Inverness where it had been caught on the 29th of December! quite a speedy recovery.

Also a second recovery came through last week and this time I found it, back in the last few days of December 2015, I spotted a Mute Swan with a ring on it at Scalloway, a couple of weeks later on the 16th of January I went back and managed to get the ring number off it and got it sent to Dave who combed through his notepads and found it was the one I'd rung in February 2015!

It seems that the Mute Swan comes here to winter every year

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

A jaunt of the Isles: From Unst to Sumburgh and almost back again

Well this past weekend has certainly been a packed one, with a trip to Unst and many sites in the North, Central and South Mainland I've got a bit to write about here.

Saturday 16th of January 2016

A trip to Unst had been planned with Tommy so we caught the 0840 ferry into Unst and started a day full of birding.

The wilds of Unst, it really has a landscape that can't compare to any in Shetland

First stop was Uyeasound for some Goosander, which we ticked quite easily before heading off to Easting to try and get the Surf Scoter which was wintering there.

The Goosanders of Uyeasound

Haegrie (Grey Heron), one of 4 in Uyeasound

We arrived to a pretty cold Easting and walked out to the beach with the scopes, positioning ourselves on a hill so we could view the bay.
It was a couple of degrees below zero so we started to freeze up pretty quickly, there was a few Red-breasted Mergansers, Shags and a Great-northern Diver (year tick) but no sign of any other ducks, I took a few scans of the sea and found nothing, so after half an hour of freezing conditions we headed off to have a cuppa.
With tea and rolls digested we drove north to Baltasound with higher hopes, a first stop off near Skibhoul found us 4 Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Knot and a Mike Pennington which were all year ticks, we had a chat with Mike and he filled us in on two Chaffinches and a Brambling at the post office which I was quite excited about, so we thanked Mike and got on our way.
First look in the post office garden produced no finches of any sort, I had another place to check though and for me anyways it had a good track record.
A garden literally attached to the post office has contained a few good birds in my time, epsecially these past two years and thats where we headed, standing on the corner of the gardening we heard the twittering of a Chaffinch and the birds flew in with the Brambling and plopped themselves in a bush.
Two year ticks were nicely bagged then and I managed the odd photo before we had to head off to the ferry again and back to the mainland for some more birding.

Heading down to Yell we met Brydon Thomason waiting to head onto the ferry at Belmont as well so I had a chat with him as this was the first time I'd seen Brydon in months.
Ferry came and we headed over to Ulsta, having no time to twitch Glaucs at Cullivoe, arriving at Ulsta we also met Dougie Preston heading down to see the Dippers in Voe, it was a amazingly calm day and it seemed that all the birders were out in force!
Ferry came and it was time to head on, it was the first time I'd had a chance to bird off the ferry so Tommy and I headed up top for a look, hoping to spot any auks that may sticking around.
Brydon came and joined us and he managed to spot a Little Auk south of the ferry! though it was in a bit of tide and none of us could clap our eyes on it, its not exactly a species I'm good with catching up so was a shame to lose but Guillemot (a year tick) made up for it.

After we got off we shot off to Sellaness to try bag Little Auk and anything else that was around, a first look produced a female Goosander and a Slavonian Grebe (year tick) but no auks, a quick look at the Houb of Scatsta produced 180 Golden Plovers and some ducks but not much else so we shot off to Brae for a chippy.
With chippy grabbed we headed to Mavis Grind as our final place to try and connect with Little Auk, I took only the bins with me when we first got out and looked and the first bird I saw was a Little Auk!! Year tick! a couple of photos and then I began scanning the rest of the voe and between the two of us we picked out around 5! my highest ever total! but time was against us so we went straight to Sullom for the Rough-legged Buzzard.

peerie Rotchie (Little Auk), my first ever photos of the species and a great sight

Turning into Sullom I spotted a car which I recognised as birder Mark Chapman, so we pulled alongside Mark to see what he'd seen.
Well Mark had certainly had a few birds, with at least 11 Little Auks between Brae and Mavis Grind (including our birds) and the Rough-legged at the Sullom Quarry.

We came around the corner to the quarry and we saw a flash of a light coloured wing disappear in the far northwest corner, I thought at the time that it had just gone and thats all we'd see of it but I was wrong, it flew towards us, gracefully landing on a ridge halfway between us and its orginal position, a big mass of light brown and white feathers!
I quickly grabbed my camera and got a few distant shots before the scope came out, now I wasn't wanting to scare it off or anything so I decided we'd stay in the car, the awkward thing was we'd have to assemble the scope and then stick it out the window, tripod and all.
We were suprisgly successful and I even managed to digiscope the bird.

It may be my second bird but its the only one I've ever photographed!

Though it was soon time to go, I could of happily watched it for hours but we only had around an hour and a half of light left so we had to get moving to the Dippers in Voe.

It was oddly quite at the Kirkhouse Burn in Lower Voe, no cars we about and there was no sign of any birders which worried us, a look around the burn produced no Dipper but we didn't have time to walk all the way up it to comepltely check the area.

The Lesser Scaup at Nesting was our last biggie of the day and we found it almost instantly on the Loch of Houlland where we first saw it in November.

Lesser Scaup on Loch of Houlland, the bird was also on Benston as well

Loch of Benston was slightly frozen and had few birds so we quickly headed to Strand and the Loch of Tingwall iin the last of the light.
The loch at Strand was frozen over so there was no chance at any ducks or swans so onwards for some geese, a couple of flocks of Greylags were near the farm and I gave them a quick scan to find myself 8 Euro White-fronts!! not a bad find!
Light was really fading fast so Tingwall was our next stop, towards the north side it was pretty frozen and my hopes started to dwindle but as soon as we came to the south end it was full of ducks, Tommy managed to pick out two Little Grebes and two Coot, both year ticks! before I found some Rook at Asta (also a year tick), that was going pretty good and we'd just hit 18 year ticks for the day but I had one last trick up my sleeve.

In fading light we could still photography these tiny beauties of Little Grebes

Two Mute Swans have been knocking around Scalloway this winter and that was a bird I was still needing, the place I'd always seen them was the Burn Beach near Scalloway's version of 'The Street', I saw them as soon as we appeared and I rushed out to try and get a ring number off the adult (as the last time I came I noticed a shiny ring on its leg).
Tommy came over with some bread which encouraged them in and the adult bird came out the water and displayed its ring quite nice to allow me to get the whole sequence off it.

Allowing pretty close views I was able to photograph the foot in pretty good detail!

Pretty much by this time it was too dark to go anywhere else and we'd just about exhausted all the birds we could find for the time being, though a trip down the south end tomorrow seemed quite promising.

Sunday 17th of Janurary 2016

Today was time to catch up with a few more birds down the South Mainland to add to the ever growing year list.
Tommy and I headed down the South Mainland with a first stop off at the Burn of Swinister in Hoswick, Sandwick to try and find a wintering Yellowhammer which had been seen a day or two ago.
Combing the burn and a nearby Hostel picked up Twite, Skylark and Carrion Crow, all new ones for the year but no sign of the Yellowhammer so we headed farther south.

Carrion Crow at Swinister, it was in among a flock of Hoodies and 4 migrant Rooks

Boddam didn't really have anything of note and the goose flocks at Fleck appeared to be all Greylags so next was the Pool of Virkie.

Boddam Voe looking amazing in the winter light

Now things started to pick up, with Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwits (year) Shalder (year), Knot and Grey Plover! (year) all at the Pool it seemed the year list was going up fast with my total reaching 70 (3 birds off my previous January best).

Grey Plover, only my third record ever, with the first in Northumberland 2013 and 1 last year

Comorant on some lights at the Ness Boating Club

Time though was catching up on us and a quick trip to Grutness got us Sanderling and then off to Hillwell/Ringasta which chucked a whole pile of birds into the mix with Moorhen (year), lots of Whooper Swans, 3 Barnacle Geese (year), hundreds of Greylags, 6 Pink-footed Geese (year and two were colour-ringed) and some Euro Whitefronts.
Pretty much from here we ended the day at Spiggie where we met Hugh Harrop scoping out a Taiga Bean Goose!, Hugh happily put us on to it and after a few photos we headed off due to me having to get north to the ferry.

A large number of Gulls on the ice at Spiggie

Taiga Bean Goose, first time I've seen one of these in two years, thanks Hugh!!

We ended the day pretty well with me breaking my all time January year list of 73 by one bird! only halfway through the month and I've still got a few weekends of birding to go so who knows what the total will be by the months end.


Tuesday, 12 January 2016

New Year Update

Well folks we are now well into the New Year as I write this on the 12th of January, the first few days birdwise were quite rocky with only 6 species seen on New Years Day and another in the following days, it wasn't a good start for trying to beat my 200 bird target for the year but no matter!

On the 4th had me doing Non-Estuarine Waterbird Surveys around Mid Yell and that got me up to 23 species of bird with one of the oddest being a Goldfinch, a very impressive bird for Yell/Shetland in winter! quite difficult to get sometimes as well, but House Sparrow eluded the list!
The 5th had me out at Vaster doing surveys as well and that got me onto some much needed seabirds and the list rocketed up to 37 with two raptors found in the shape of Peregrine and Merlin.

Peregrine being mobbed my Crows

It was quiet until the 9th with school taking up any more birding days until the weekend which brought some other good species, the Mourning Dove was still present at Murrayston, Lerwick on the south-west corner of my Clickimin patch, would be a shame not to get in on the list! and Sparrowhawk was mobbing crows over Helendale.
Sadly the Sea Kale at Seafield was covered by people cleaning up the car park at Fjara Cafe and now it has 2 foot of gravel and stones on top of it, maybe once again, leading to its extinction in Shetland before its had a chance to even colonise.

But as a write this I'm now on a total of 45 species and hope to be getting a few more this upcoming weekend, with Surf Scoter on Unst along with a few others goodies and Black-bellied Dipper, Rough-legged Buzzard, Green-winged Teal and Lesser Scaup all hanging on in the North Mainland it seems like its to be a good year!

Thursday, 31 December 2015

End of the year: the 3rd year

Well once again, the year is over, 2015 has ended, and what a year it has been, with odd birds appearing late in the year, seabirds having an ok year but still not that good, my list of ringed birds ever going up with Gannet, Merlin & Mute Swan all a good host of species ringed! but yes as a whole the year has had its ups and downs as many people have but it's been enjoyable nonetheless.

But for now I'll just head onto the monthly summary


The first 5 days of the year were spent on Fair Isle with a total of 36 species being found on New Year's Day (less than what we've had the past two years).

The 5th resulted in me getting Pomarine Skua added to the list, with a bird at Ulsta on my way home from Fair Isle!

Generally the rest of the month was spent year listing as I'd falled into the habit once again

On the 24th I twitched Surf Scoter on Unst, another addition to my Shetland List.

By the end of the month I had gotten 2 Lifers and the year list sat at 71


Generally a more quiet month where few birds are seen, but still the American Wigeon from 2014 was still hanging around at Sandness.

I also managed to ring my first Mute Swan in Scalloway during a very snowy day.

Two Greenfinches that turned up in Brae during February

There was no additions at the end of the month and the year list stood at 76


Things started to pick up more this month with a 'Black-bellied' Dipper which roamed between to burns in Voe was my first in Shetland but was seen only briefly on the 7th.

A few migrants here and there but still quiet, though a Solar Eclipse on the 20th was worth the sight if the cloud was obscuring it, as most of the country found out the cloud was in the way.

One Shetland tick for March and with the year list at 90


Birds have started showing up in better numbers now, with a trip down the south end with Paul Harvey in the middle of the month bringing up Green-winged Teal, Sandwich Tern, Iceland Gull, Shoveler & Pintail.

Black Kite was the only Lifer/addition this month with one bird at Exnaboe on the 26th which resulted in a mad dash both up and down to see it!

Ended the month on 1 Lifer and 105 on the year list


May was to be more of a bumper month for ticks with Dark-eyed Junco at Toab (11th), Corncrake, Little Egret & Garganey in the South Mainland (17th), Hoopoe at Clibberswick, Unst (22nd) and Nightingale on Noss (24th).

Corbie (Raven) ringing was also in full swing this month and out of the 56 ringed in Shetland this year I ringed 28!

Lifers 2 Shetland Ticks 4 Year List 133


A Great Reed Warbler on Unst was the only addition before thing started to quieten down, also in Unst- Wood Sandpiper, Short-eared Owl, Red-backed Shrike, Icterine Warbler & Spotted Flycatcher.

Only 1 Lifer this month and 142 on the year list


A trip to Italy with the Yell Youth Club was amazing with quite a few nice birds on the side during activities. Just a couple of the birds I saw were Alpine Swift (Lifer), Serin, Black & Common Redstart, 'Italian' Sparrow, Little Bittern (Lifer) & Black Kite.

A bit of Diver ringing was done as well with 5 Red-throats done while out.

No Shetland additions this month but 2 lifers abroad, the year list is at 148


At the start of the month we visited Edinburgh to see my sister in the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, I haven't stuck it in the 'Summer Summary' but I did get 2 Lifers- Treecreeper & Stock Dove and a Scotland tick in the form of Nuthatch.

Two additions, both warblers, with me confirming Booted Warbler at Sumburgh Farm (22nd) and a Melodious Warbler at Norwick, Unst (26th)

Lifers 2 Year 154


Long-billed Dowitcher at Burravoe (8th) was my first 'Yell rarity' of the year and Curlew Sandpiper at Grutness (13th) and Grey Plover at Virkie (26th) were both very welcome and sought after additions.

Long-billed Dowitcher on Yell

Another good bird this month was a 1 day Grey-cheeked Thrush at Ollaberry, but one of the more exciting things was that a met a host of NGBer's who were up for a week of autumn birding.

 Lifers 2 Shetland Tick 1 Year List 161


Swainson's Thrush, Unst (4th) and Cattle Egret, Collafirth (25th) were both lucky additions as both disappeared the next day! the latter having been around for at least a week while I heard the news in Spain! very glad I didn't miss it as the last bird was in '99.

Little Gull is also a bird of note because it is a bird I have so rarely seen before, with this bird spending some time around Weisdale but showing well on the 3rd.

Spain was very good, spending a week in the town of Nerja, Malaga in the south during the first full week of the holidays, was very good for birding and generally hot, I picked up around 5 Lifers, Little Owl, Blue Rock Thrush, Blue-crowned Parakeet, Spotless Starling & Dartford Warbler. also there was a good supporting cast of Crag Martin, Cattle Egrets, Sardinian Warbler, Reed Warbler, Yellow-legged Gull, Gannet & Common Sandpiper.

 Lifer 1 Shetland Tick 1 Year 166


The month started off with the Annual Swan Count on the 8th, sadly though it wasn't as good as expected in the Central Mainland with many lochs without Swans when they have had ones wintering in the past.

Next came a Lesser Scaup to Nesting in the middle of the month but I dipped on my first try and managed to catch up with it on the 21st at the Loch of Houlland.

The bird of the year was found by Liz & Jim Watt in Scalloway on the 25th, Oriental Turtle Dove, 2nd Shetland Record and a bird many people wanted to see, it was a Wednesday it was found so I did manage to catch up with it 3 days later on the 28th.

2 Lifers and the year list stands at 173

December 176

A month where things now quieten down for the year but this being Shetland that was not the case, Little Auk was a year tick in Yell Sound on the 19th but the real star appeared on Boxing Day.
Now I haven't done a blog post for it so I'll just do it here.

On Boxing Day I had gone down to my step-grandparents in Mid Yell for 'denner', I was checking Nature in Shetland and I came across a photo by Austin Taylor of a dove in his garden, I looked at the picture and it hit me! MOURNING DOVE! I knew it straight away after seeing the photos from the Outer Hebrides bird a few years ago, news quickly got around and I helped spread it round too, a few people got onto it before dark on the day but many (including myself) had to catch up with it the next day.
I got up early and left my Dad's house in Lerwick (having arrived last night) and walked across the road to Austin Taylors at Murrayston, which is the south-east corner of my Clickimin patch! Dennis Coutts was already there and he pointed it out to me as it sat in a tree! yes! got it! I had just bagged the bird of the year, which was also a 1st for Shetland, 5th for Britain and a Lifer for me!

This North American beauty, is peerier than our Collard Doves and not a bad patch tick!

I was around from 9 til 12 and many birders came to see it in that time, a good percentage of the Shetland birding population visited and weren't disappointed!

The link to the Rare Bird Alert: Finders in the Field article by Austin Taylor

Mourning Dove was the only Lifer this month and the final tally for the year list is 176, only 6 birds short of beating 2014's total of 181, I'm hoping to surpass 200 next year.

On another note I made a challenge with Tommy Hydnman on Fair Isle to try and get 16 new species of bird to my Shetland List in exchange for a painting/drawing of my favourite bird from the past year, well I'm happy to say that I bet it back in September and I've now rocked up to 21 additions this year!!! only 7 birds off my total of 28 additions the year before!

Well here's the list anyway of all the species I've managed to add this year, certainly an odd bunch! Pomarine Skua, Surf Scoter, Dipper, Black Kite, Dark-eyed Junco, Corncrake, Little Egret, Garganey, Hoopoe, Nightingale, Great Reed Warbler, Booted Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Long-billed Dowitcher, Curlew Sandpiper, Grey Plover, Swainson's Thrush, Cattle Egret, Lesser Scaup, Oriental Turtle Dove & Mourning Dove.

Well its certainly been a great year, I couldn't of asked for more really, I have met some great people in the past twelve months and made some good friends, I have a lot of people to thank and the list is huge but I'm just gonna sum it down here.

It really wouldn't of been a good year without all the people who've helped me along the way, family have played a big part with putting up with me disappearing to go chase a rarity or for running me to a bird.  The Shetland birding community have definitely contributed a lot this year, with many ringers taking me out to ring a whole variety of birds, whether Ravens, Divers or Waders, I'd just like to thank them.
To all the birders who've taken me out birding and to the ones who have giving me a lift to a twitch, taken me to a bird or just given me details concerning birds or places to visit, you all get my thanks.

I may not have spent that much time on Fair Isle this year but still the time I did spend there was great, as always the Bird Obs was very helpful and I thank them for helping me during ringing sessions, giving me advice and keeping me informed with any birds even though I don't stay at the Obs, and the Islanders need a mention as always they encourage me and always help if they can.

And to Dave, who has put up with me on many outings, twitches and ringing sessions, putting in many hours to teach me and take me around Shetland, I have truly enjoyed it and I'm extremely grateful for everything he's done for me, thank you.

Now I'd like to wish everyone who reads this a Happy New Year and I hope 2016 is just a fantastic as the past year!

PS: I may not have beaten my previous year list record but I certainly had some great birds along the way, now here's a list below, in order.
  1. Greylag Goose
  2. Mallard
  3. Blackbird
  4. Herring Gull
  5. Starling
  6. House Sparrow
  7. Hooded Crow
  8. Redwing
  9. Fieldfare
  10. Rock Dove
  11. Great Black-backed Gull
  12. Fulmar
  13. Common Gull
  14. Redshank
  15. Turnstone
  16. Eider
  17. Shag
  18. Rock Pipit
  19. Robin
  20. Wren
  21. Snipe
  22. Iceland Gull
  23. Purple Sandpiper
  24. Snow Bunting
  25. Gannet
  26. Grey Heron
  27. Tundra Bean Goose
  28. Sparrowhawk
  29. Black Guillemot
  30. Raven
  31. Barnacle Goose
  32. Merlin
  33. Common Guillemot
  34. Woodcock
  35. Teal
  36. Great-northern Diver
  37. Curlew
  38. Wigeon
  39. Skylark
  40. Water Rail
  41. Buzzard
  42. Whooper Swan
  43. Mute Swan
  44. Kittiwake
  45. Pomarine Skua
  46. Goosander
  47. Red-breasted Merganser
  48. Comorant
  49. Goldeneye
  50. Tufted Duck 
  51. Rook
  52. Collard Dove
  53. Gadwall
  54. Black-headed Gull
  55. Ringed Plover
  56. Moorhen
  57. Chaffinch
  58. Blue Tit
  59. Goldfinch
  60. Oystercatcher
  61. Twite
  62. Lapwing
  63. Golden Plover
  64. Glaucous Gull
  65. Long-tailed Duck
  66. Great Tit
  67. Brambling
  68. Meadow Pipit
  69. Surf Scoter
  70. Black Redstart
  71. Song Thrush
  72. European White-fronted Goose
  73. Woodpigeon 
  74. Slavonian Grebe
  75. Red Grouse
  76. American Wigeon
  77. Jackdaw
  78. Greenfinch
  79. 'Black-bellied' Dipper
  80. Red-throated Diver
  81. Shelduck
  82. Dunlin
  83. Sanderling
  84. Stonechat
  85. Coot
  86. White Wagtail
  87. Goldcrest
  88. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  89. Chiffchaff
  90. Reed Bunting
  91. Peregrine
  92. Puffin
  93. Razorbill
  94. Bonxie
  95. Wheatear
  96. Green-winged Teal
  97. Swallow
  98. Sandwich Tern
  99. Bar-tailed Godwit
  100. Shoveler
  101. Pintail
  102. Mealy Redpoll
  103. Willow Warbler
  104. Hawfinch
  105. Black Kite
  106. Whimbrel
  107. Black-tailed Godwit
  108. Common Tern
  109. Brent Goose
  110. Pied Flycatcher
  111. Linnet
  112. Blackcap
  113. House Martin
  114. Arctic Tern 
  115. Arctic Skua
  116. Knot
  117. Cuckoo
  118. Dark-eyed Junco
  119. Sedge Warbler
  120. Crane
  121. Carrion Crow
  122. Corncrake
  123. Little Egret
  124. Garganey
  125. Ring-necked Duck
  126. Siskin
  127. Scaup
  128. Hoopoe
  129. Yellow Wagtail
  130. Tree Sparrow
  131. Nightingale
  132. Greenshank
  133. Red-necked Phalarope
  134. Lesser Whitethroat
  135. Great Reed Warbler
  136. Red-backed Shrike
  137. Spotted Flycatcher
  138. Icterine Warbler
  139. Garden Warbler
  140. Short-eared Owl
  141. Wood Sandpiper
  142. Reed Warbler
  143. Common Sandpiper
  144. Swift
  145. Common Crossbill
  146. Storm Petrel
  147. Green Sandpiper
  148. Leach's Petrel
  149. Common Rosefinch
  150. Ruff
  151. Booted Warbler
  152. Whinchat
  153. Kestrel
  154. Grey Wagtail
  155. Marsh Harrier
  156. Melodious Warbler
  157. Long-billed Dowitcher
  158. Curlew Sandpiper
  159. Little Stint
  160. Pink-footed Goose
  161. Yellow-browed Warbler
  162. Grey Plover
  163. Grey-cheeked Thrush
  164. Little Gull
  165. Swainson's Thrush
  166. Velvet Scoter
  167. Siberian Stonechat
  168. Cattle Egret
  169. Pochard
  170. Waxwing
  171. Common Scoter
  172. Little Grebe
  173. Lesser Scaup
  174. Oriental (Rufous) Turtle Dove
  175. Little Auk
  176. Mourning Dove

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The Summer of 2015 - with birds and without

Its been maybe a month, two since my last proper post, I haven't found the time and I've just plain out forgotten about it so I'm gonna try make an effort to do it again.

This summer has been a pretty amazing experience, I've met a few interesting people along the way, the birds have been good when I've actually been birding and life in general has been pretty fab.

In Augsut/September I have managed around 4 Lifers- Booted Warbler (Sumburgh), Melodious Warbler (Unst), Long-billed Dowitcher (Yell) and Curlew Sandpiper (Grutness).
This brings my total additions to my Shetland List, this year anyways, up to 15 and one bird away from winning my bet with Tommy Hyndman.
The year list stands at 157 and has been quite slow in rising as I haven't really spent that much time birding in August, most weekends now are spent with my friends so the birds have been pushed to the side a bit.

2nd-12th of July 2015

The start of the holidays resulted in some of the school going down to Italy for an adventure holiday in the Alps.

Generally birding was to what I could manage inbetween activities but there was some goodies involved.

Species seen on this trip were- Serin, Black Redstart, Common Redstart, 'Italian' Sparrow, Blackbird, Blackcap, Buzzard, Great Tit, Swift, Raven, House Martin, Sand Martin, Black Kite, Alpine Swift (Lifer),  Dipper, Comorant, Mallard, Grey Heron, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, acro sp & Little Bittern (Lifer).
Bats of an unknown specie were seen nightly over the camp and a Toad put in an appearance one night.

The first morning was spent getting used to the camp and its surroundings, located in the Aosta Valley, high up in north-west Italy.
Serin, Black & Common Redstart, 'Italian' Sparrow & Blackbird were the few birds seen on the first day.
Most of the days just showed the similiar stuff but Blackcap, Buzzard, Great Tit, Swift, Raven, House Martin, Sand MArtin and Black Kite were seen around the compound in the coming days.
Bats were seen nightly, going over very briefly, also a Toad made an appearance one night, Lifer!!

A day spent in the mountains doing rock climbling, gorge scrambling & 'squeezing' manged a few bits and peices, breeding Black Redstarts, my first Alpine Swift, Swallow, Swift, Sand Martin and several imposiible to see birds which were singing around.

Insects and flowers were really varying, quite a few reminded me of Shetland ones.

14th July 2015

A trip to Mousa to see Storm Petrels was quite good, we got to see Mark Bolton ringing them, also I had a look at the islands Flora, where I could find it at least, there was only one or two sites with Spear Thistle on the entire island.

18th-23rd of July 2015

This was spent on the usual visit to Fair Isle but I only stayed on for five days.
There was no big rarities but a acro sp in the Walli burn could of been if it was re-found, some of my time was done ringing with Bonxie, Arctic Skua, Gannet (!!), Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher all birds done while I was in.
I met a young Spanish boy who'd come on the JHMF and had been staying at the Obs for a while and the both of us went birding occasionally, best thing was we'd found a pair of Oystercatchers (with chicks) and another two pairs of Ringed Plovers (with chicks).

22nd August 2015

The Booted Warbler was at Sumburgh Farm on the 22nd of August and it was put out as a 'probable' by Russ Haywood, I headed down for it with Dave and we got onto it within ten minutes of being there, I saw the bird on and off for around and hour and then we left, now I didn't know that I was the only one to actually photograph it, so when I stuck the photos online the next day saying I'd photographed a few people were surprised, though I'm quite chuffed to of confirmed it!

Booted Warbler at Sumburgh Farm

23rd September 2015
Dave and I had a run around the Central Mainland totaling up no fewer than 15 Goosander (an impressive count for August), 2 Pied Flys, a Whinchat and a Grey Wagtail (as seen below).

Grey Wagtail at Kergord

Also on my way back north I picked up a Marsh Harrier at Toft which showed breifly before going south, I beleive this to be the bird which was seen in Vidlin earlier this week and at Graven two weeks after my sighting.

Marsh Harrier at Toft

26th August 2015
A Melodious Warbler popped up at Norwick, Unst on the 25th and I went with Rob Brookes the next day, getting almost immediate views before we checked the rest of the Vaylie garden and then headed back to the Ferry.

      Melodious Warbler at Norwick, Unst

Pied Flycatcher at Norwick, also Red-backed Shrike was present but wouldn't pose for photos

That was the Summer, an exciting one and certainly one I'll remember for a while, with some great birds and memories.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Oriental Turtle Dove, Lesser Scaup and birding

Having not completed a blog post for a few weeks I'm gonna add the past two weeks together.

21st November 2015
After dipping on the Lesser Scaup on the 15th I decided to give it another go on the 21st.
First stop with Tommy was the Loch of Benston where the bird had moved to after being found on its original site of the Loch of Houlland.
After scanning through the duck flocks I couldn't spot anything bar Tufties and Wigeon, most birds where a good piece off, so if the Scaup was there I certainly couldn't ID it.

Pig at the Loch of Benston

Next came the Loch of Houlland and a car was already pulled up looking at the Tufties and what we hoped was the Lesser Scaup too.
We rolled up to see Jim Nicolson watching the Scaup and he pointed it out to us before I rattled off a few photos, at the distance they weren't the best but at least they were identifiable.
Sadly we didn't have time to stick around so we thanked Jim and headed off to Lerwick, very much a tick and dash.

Lesser Scaup (Centre) at Loch of Houlland, no.247 in Shetland

22nd November 2015

Today I headed down the South Mainland with Dave & Pete to see if we could locate any migrants.
First stop was Sandwick and the only bird of note was a Carrion Crow feeding with the pigs.
Next along came Clumlie, a flock of 4 Mipits was odd for this time of year and were presumed to be wintering, a Greylag with a neck collar 'DTC' was another bird of note, originally being ringed in Clumlie.

Greylag 'DTC' at Clumlie, ringed this year as one of the four birds that were ringed as part of the yearly round up

There wasn't many birds between Grutness and Virkie bar a Shalder, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, a Robin and 5 Sanderling.
Scatness was a bit more exciting with 3 Shelduck and so was Hillwell with a Coot, a female Common Scoter, 2 Robin and 17 Whooper Swans.
Surprisingly all the reeds were frozen underwater, yet there wasn't any Little Grebes.
Good numbers of geese were around Quendale with a couple of hundred Greylags and at least 45 Pink-feet, no sign of the rather elusive Lesser White-fronted Goose though.

Spiggie was next, hundreds of geese surronded the west side of the loch and I'm pretty sure we saw over 1000 over the course of the day.
There was a few wildfowl of note, a flock of 151 Wigeon, 34 Whoopers, 9 Mutes, 4 Barnacle Geese and 17 Pink-feet.
That was pretty much the only birds of note we saw for the day before we headed back north.

Looking across the Pool of Virkie to Sumburgh Head

28th November 2015

On Wednesday the 25th, a Oriental Turtle Dove was photographed in Scalloway by Liz & Jim Watt, I saw the photo before the bird was properly identified and I was actually too scared to comment, as I feared it would be the rarer of our two Turtle Doves.
This was an Oriental (or Rufous, depends which one you choose), bird of the year for Shetland, the last bird having been seen in Fair Isle in 1974.
November is generally a time when any Turtle should be well scrutinized, as it could be from very far east.
As the news was only put out on Wednesday night, no birders could make it so many were there for first light the next day, all having ticked it and getting some amazing photos.
Now I couldn't actually go til at least Saturday which meant I had three agonizing days of waiting for the bird to either stay or depart.

Having been seen the day before I headed on Saturday the 28th and I prayed it was still there, I arrived on the scene of Ladysmith Rd, Scalloway to see to photographers pointing their rather large cameras at what was obviously the bird feeding on the deck, we crouched closer and there it was feeding away!
I got a few record shots and we inched closer, the light wasn't the best as it was only 9 but it was good enough for views, sadly we had to get going but I was happy with my views, maybe not as much with the photos.

The best shot I had, really but not a bad 248th addition to my list

Silhoutted against the morning sky

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Shetland Swan Count 2015

8th of November 2015, the annual Swan count across Shetland with people looking across as many islands and lochs as possible.
For this Dave and I were doing the lochs around the Central Mainland (excluding Lerwick).

Beforehand I did some birding round Clickimin and a local of Westerloch pointed out something in a push, it took me ages to spot it but it turned out to be a Waxwing! year tick! I happened to be on the opposite side of the road from the man and another one was walking equal with me at the same time, also seeing it, he was John Laurie Irvine from Whalsay who was in Lerwick while he waited for his boat to offload its fish.
Anyways we both got some shots, mine were decent enough so I was happy just watching it munch away on the berries as I haven't seen one for ages.
Soon though it flew off and I spoke with John before we followed it and found a second! more photos and they both flew off a bit, and this happened for a while before Dave showed up to pick me up, by the end there was at least 2 Waxwings but there could of been more.


First stop was just outside Lerwick where 3 Whooper Swans were on a loch and then to East Voe of Scalloway but there was no Swans and then onto Asta/Tingwall, Dave did his duck counts while we were at it and there was plenty of ducks on Tingwall including Long-tailed Duck and 3 Slavonian Grebes plus 2 Mutes.
Strand had no Mutes and neither did Laxfirth Voe but 3 Whoopers were on the Black Loch, but the breeding pair from Vaster Loch weren't present.
Next we headed into Weisdale/Stromfirth and managed 2 Mutes and 9 Goosander! not bad, now onto Kergord.
Dave and I had a walk through the trees in Kergord and managed a Chiffchaff but nothing else, very quiet, we started to leave and I spotted something by the road, a juvenile Kittiwake!!!! I got Dave to pull over and I got out to have a look, surprisingly the bird was still but hardly, it barely acknowledged I was there and Dave also spotted a large female Sparrowhawk do a flyby.

Heading to Upper Kergord we had an odd record of a perfectly healthy looking adult Whooper in a field, no water nearby, just it deciding to chill in some random field.
Upper Kergord hosted two very nice Siberian Chiffchaffs and then it was up to Brae for the Black-throated Diver that had been knocking around.
Heading up we had one Rook outside of Brae which was presumed to be a migrant as the local birds rarely leave the Tingwall/Weisdale Valley.
We got to Brae and started scanning the voe for this diver, now we didn't see it in the end, only diver we saw was a slightly darker necked Red throated but I did get my first Common Scoters of the year and there was a record count of 45 Red-breasted Mergansers together! so it wasn't bad, we got cold and there was no sign of the bird so we headed off home.