Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The end of the year

Well it's the end of the year and what a year its been.
The year has been beyond great and I've met so many nice people while out birding, these people have told me so many stories about the birds where they come from and I have told them some of my stories.
Of course I would love to relive this year but who knows what will be coming next year.
I have seen some many rare birds many of which were new ones for me.

From here I would like to provide a quick summary of some of the birds I have seen month to month.


At the start of 2013 I was on Fair Isle celebrating new year, on new years day Tommy, Henry, David and I did a bird count of the island where we clocked up forty-four species of bird, up on two from last years, the middle of January brought me two more birds to my list Ring-billed Gull (found by Russ Haywood) in Scalloway and Pintail in Boddam, the rest of January was quite very slow and RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch ended off the month, I saw a total of three new bird species this month.

The Ring-billed Gull at East Voe of Scalloway


The 1st started off very good when a Pine Grosbeak had been at Collafirth.
The bird had been found previously but had been mis-identified as a Crossbill, luckily the Grosbeak was relocated on the 2nd and my granddad Tommy and I went to see it on the 3rd.
I went round Strand and Clickimin quite a lot through the month and on the 21st I made my first blog post.
On the 22nd I headed into Fair Isle with my family, during my stay there I was able to see my first White-fronted Goose which had evaded me since October last year, I did a bit of rock-pooling with Henry and on my second last day we found some interesting creatures so we took them to Nick to see if he could identify them, the next day Henry and Tommy told me that we had found three first's for Fair Isle! Henry had found a sea slug and I had found a sea spider (by accident!) and the third was a worm which neither of us knew who found it.
On return from Fair Isle on the 25th I read online about a Barnacle Goose at Scalloway so I went off to see it with my stepmam.
This month I saw a total of two new bird species and a new one to my Shetland List.

My first for Fair Isle, a Sea spider (found in the rock pools at Sample on the 25th)






On the 3rd I saw a Jackdaw in Mid Yell and on the 4th I counted 211 Starlings, the tenth brought me a new Shetland bird when I found a Grey Wagtail below the Weisdale Kirk.
The 16th brought a few new birds when myself Paula and her friend Nat headed down to the South End, we were able to see a Brown Rat at Grutness, my first Blue Tit in Shetland at Virkie and one of the first Lesser Black-backed Gulls of the year at North Virkie.
I was able to find two Blue Tits in Helendale on the 23rd.
Finally for the month I headed to Melby with my Dad and Mairi on the 30th and we managed to see our first Knot of the year along with 50 Ringed Plovers.
This month I didn't see any new birds but I did add two bird species to my Shetland List.






During the start of the month I headed into Fair Isle on the 3rd, during my stay I was able to see 46 species of bird, I photographed a colour ringed Rock Pipit which is the only British Rock Pipit known to take a regular migration and I saw a Sparrowhawk which was a new bird for me.
On the 13th I saw a very nice Coot at Grutness and on the 21st I went with my Dad to Toab in the South End in search of a Coal Tit, we never saw the bird but we did see my first Sandwich Tern which was ringed.
This month I was able to add two new bird species to my list.




I saw a  Canada Goose on the (5th) shore of the Clickimin Loch and that added another specie to my Shetland list, the 5th also brought my first Red Grouse of the year.
The 11th saw three hirundine species (twenty Swallow and one of both House and Sand Martin) flying over the Clickimin Loch and I managed to find a new bird and my first of the flycatcher family, a Pied Flycatcher.
I got a call the next day (13th) about a Goldfinch down at Linkshouse in Mid Yell and luckily I saw the bird hopping on the ground.
On the 13th I headed to Skaw, Whalsay in search of a Collard Flycatcher, sadly I didn't see it but I did find a Whitethroat (a lifer!).
On the 25th I left for Fair Isle with my granddad Tommy and during our four-day stay we saw at least ten new birds each, mine were Lesser Whitethroat, Red-backed Shrike, Tree Sparrow, Lapland Bunting,
"Eastern" Subalpine Warbler, Bluethroat, "Greenland" Wheatear, Sedge Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Blyth's Reed Warbler and on this trip I saw 73 species of bird!
The month was pretty good for new birds because I saw thirteen new birds and one to my Shetland List!

My self-found tick, the male Pied Flycatcher at Helendale, Lerwick






On the 2nd I headed to Mousa and I saw most of the breeding seabirds but no Storm Petrels!
The earlier start of the month was a bit quite until the 11th when I and my granddad headed up to a pool near Ollaberry to see a Green-winged Teal (which was a lifer for both of us).
I headed down to Grutness on the 15th with my Dad and Mairi to see a Little Stint which was again a lifer for me.
The rest of the month was quiet and only breeding birds were of much note, to end it I saw two new bird species this month.




On the 3rd Tommy and I saw 80+ Common Crossbills at the Plantation at the Loch of Voe, Shetland's first breeding Goldfinches at Scalloway with two of their four chicks.
On the 7th I took a trip with my Mairi and Dad to Hermaness as part of the Shetland Nature festival, while there I learnt about some wild flowers.
The next the day the 8th I went up to Unst (again) with my granddad, we went round Baltasound in search of the "grounded" Common Crane and we had a look at the rare plants on the Keen of Hamar.
On the 13th I headed with my family to the Netherlands to see Mairi's cousins, It was an amazing country and everything there was great, I saw two new birds: Egyptian Goose and Jay.
On the 23rd we left the Netherlands and headed out to the West Coast of Scotland to see Mairi's Auntie, Uncle and Granny, while out there I got to go on a boat trip round Handa Isand with Mairi's Uncle and my Dad.
While I was there Mairi's Auntie Rona got me a wildflower book which I used everyday afterwards.
During our stay we headed out to the Durness Highland Games where I competed in a couple of events.
On our return from the West Coast, I headed down to Sumburgh to try and see three lifers Gull-billed and Rosete Tern and Two-barred Crossbill.
Sadly the Roseate Tern had disappeared this morning and I had missed the Gull-billed by ten minutes! but I did get amazing views of a juvenile Two-barred Crossbill on Sumburgh Head (with thanks to Gary Bell).
This month I added three new species to my list.









On the 5th I headed into Fair Isle for a seven-day trip and during that stay I was able to see Storm, Leach's and Swinhoe's Storm Petrel (Fair Isle's Second in two weeks!) on the Petrel ringing, I got to see my first Leach's on the 6th and my first Swinhoe's on 7th!
Also during my trip in Fair Isle I was able to meet Dougie Preston (a Yell birder) right outside Schoolton!
I was able to spot my first Cuckoo flying over Dittfield on the 11th (the bird had been originally seen over the Obs in the early part of the afternoon and was trapped the next day! but I missed it).
On the 11th I headed over with my granddad to Burra in search of a Rose-cloured Starling, but we couldn't find the place so we didn't see the bird and I found out later that we were only a stone's throw away!
A rush down to Sumburgh Farm on the 25th to see a Short-toed Lark brought three new lifers (a Wood and Icternine Warbler and the Short-toed Lark) plus a Wryneck which was a new bird for the year.
So this month was pretty good for new birds because I was able to add six new bird species to my list.




The 6th of this month brought a mad dash to organize a trip into Fetlar in search of a Black-and-White Warbler and on the 7th despite extensive searching by myself and seventeen other birders we did not see this American rarity.
The middle of the month was a kinda quiet and I didn't see much.
I saw a "Western" Subalpine Warbler on my home turf in Mid Yell on the 24th which was found by Dougie the day before.
On the 28th I saw the Wester Quarff Brown Shrike which was a first for me and a Little Bunting which was another first.
The 29th brought a long sought after bird when Tommy found a Great-spotted Woodpecker in Brae and lucky enough I was able to see it, another lifer!
This month ended with three new bird species to my list




The 1st brought a new bird to my list after school when I was able to see the Hudsonian Whimbrel outside Mid Yell, the bird had been originally seen on the 30th of September.
On the 5th (my birthday) My Dad, Tommy, Henry and myself went out birding to the South End, during our trip we saw an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler which was a new bird for me, Tommy and Dad, a Thick-billed Warbler (Shetland and Britain's 5th) at Geosetter and also before we headed down to the south end, Tommy and I saw an Arctic Warbler at the Loch of Voe which was a new bird for both of us.
The next day (the 6th) I got a text from Dougie saying that he'd found a Buff-bellied Pipit on the Mid Yell football pitch (right outside my school!) and later when I was heading up to Yell I got a text from Mairi saying that there was a Red-eyed Vireo on Fair Isle! the second for Shetland! Sadly the Pipit had flown off shortly after Dougie had seen it so I didn't get to see it.
On the 12th I went birding round the Clickimin "patch" and I was able to find a stunner of a male Pochard swimming about (my first of the year), afterwards I saw a Wilson's Phalarope at Sand with Paula, the Phalarope was the first in Shetland since 1988!
On the afternoon of the 13th I got a text from Dougie saying that he'd found a Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll at the Windhouse Bod on Yell, so I went to see it on my way back from the Mainland, this time I got to see one of Dougie's birds and I got several photos of the Redpoll.
The 14th brought a trip to Unst with my granddad Tommy in search of two rarties, a Black-bellied Dipper and a Paddyfield Warbler but we couldn't find either so instead we went birding and met Brydon Thomason.
The next day (the 15th) I went birding with Mairi's Dad, Stewart and we went in search for the Wilson's Phalarope but with no luck but instead we saw a possible Minke Whale at Channerwick and a "ringed" Starling in Lerwick.
On the 16th I flew into Fair Isle with my Dad, during our (original) seven-day stay I saw many new species  such as Dusky Warbler, Dotterel, Red-throated Pipit, Richard's Pipit, Yellowhammer and Paddyfield Warbler, luckily (for me) on the 21st we got stuck in the isle due to mist and high sea so I got to stay in the isle a bit longer, that day a male Siberian Rubythroat was found by Graham and I got see it (my second!) and for Becki at the Obs this was her 4th Rubythroat!
So on the 25th I left Fair Isle but where one journey ended another started.
After getting off the plane myself, Tommy and another birder called Alan Leitch headed up to Unst in search of a Cape May Warbler (second for Britian/ the Western Palearctic) which had been found by Mike Pennington three days ago.
Luckily we did see the bird and it was a first for all of us.
On the 27th I went birding on my patch of Mid Yell, I found several Blackcaps, a dead Great-spotted Woodpecker and the long-staying Bearded Seal off the Mid Yell pier.
Finally for the month I headed into Whalsay with Tommy in search of a Isabelline Shrike which we did not see.
This month was good for new birds, I saw a total of thirteen new bird species plus one (a Bullfinch) to my Shetland List.

The Fair Isle male Siberian Rubythroat on the 22nd








The month started off with me, Henry and Tommy heading up to Baltasound on the 2nd to see the Cape May Warbler (again), we were lucky enough to see it and also a Grey Wagtail at Haroldswick.
On the 9th I saw a "Lecustic" Shag at Toft and a Black-throated Thrush (a very unexpected lifer) at Sound, Lerwick which had been originally found at Gulberwick an hour before.
The next day some of us went to Kergord as part of the Wildlife Explorers and Henry and myself were able to find lots of Goldcrests and a Woodcock.
On the 16th Henry and I went birding round Clickimin/Helendale, we saw an Iceland Gull, several Goldcrests and an "Eastern" Chiffchaff we also met a birder from the South End.
The 17th brought a very nice Little Grebe to my eyes when I saw one out at Seafield the bird had been seen by several people before I finally found it.
For birding the rest of the month was very slow with Clickimin with the only birds of note.
This month I was able to add one new bird specie to my list.






Right at the start of this month (the 1st) I went round some of the streets in the west of Lerwick, I didn't find anything special but I did see a few Robins.
Birding was pretty quiet for most of the month but I did have a new high count of House Sparrows in my Mid Yell garden and the record now stands at forty-five thanks to the cold weather and also I saw the "ringed" Starling on the street again but I couldn't see/photograph the numbers on the ring.
The 15th did shine some light on things when I saw two Iceland Gulls in Lerwick.
On the 21st I did a bird watching trip round all the streets in Scalloway and I did come up with an unexpected Great-spotted Woodpecker in the same area as a Lesser-spotted was found last year.
The 25th was of course Christmas and I got a new camera! it had a really good zoom and the pictures are better so expect some better ones to be along the way.
On the 30th I went birding with Tommy to the North Mainland in search of a male Green-winged Teal at the Loch of Flugarth, we were easily able to spot the bird with it's distinctive vertical breast stripe also up north we were able to see three otters! also in Lerwick I saw a colour-ringed Whooper Swan.
Today the final day of 2013 I went birding round Clickimin and Seafield, on Clickimin this morning I saw a juvenile Mute Swan and two Black-headed Gulls (I did see more birds but nothing but the "usual") and at Seafield I saw fifteen Shalders (Oystercatchers), a Purple Sandpiper and some Common Gulls.
This month ended with no new birds at all for any of my lists.



This year had been absolutely amazing I cannot begin to thanked everyone who has helped me this year.
Amazingly I have seen a total of 50 new birds this year!! (halfway through the year I was secretly aiming for this total) I know the total will never be as high as that again but I'm just really happy that I've seen these birds common, scarce or rare.
So here is all the new birds I have seen this year Ring-billed Gull, Pintail, Pine Grosbeak, White-fronted Goose, Sparrowhawk, Sandwich Tern, Pied Flycatcher, Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Red-backed Shrike, Tree Sparrow, Lapland Bunting, "Eastern" Subalpine Warbler, Bluethroat, "Greenland" Wheatear, Sedge Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Green-winged Teal, Red-necked Phalarope, Little Stint, Egyptian Goose, Jay, Two-barred Crossbill, Leach Storm Petrel, Swinhoe's Storm Petrel, Cuckoo, Wood Warbler, Icterine Warbler, Short-toed Lark, Brown Shrike, Little Bunting, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Arctic Warbler, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Thick-billed Warbler, Wilson's Phalarope, Dusky Warbler, Dotterel, Red-throated Pipit, Richard's Pipit, Yellowhammer, Paddyfield Warbler, Cape May Warbler and Black-throated Thrush.

My year list stands at 175 birds and that is more than my life list from last year! my life list stands at 201 and who would of believed that I would of seen some many birds.

Finally I would like to wish everyone a happy new year and I hope it is a good one! till next year everyone!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Scouring Scalloway (21st of December 2013)

So this is probably my last blog post up to Christmas and until then I wish everybody a Happy Christmas.

This weekend I went with my Dad to Scalloway, while I was there I had a look round the streets (most of them!) for birds.

I started off at 11.55 and I headed to Ladysmith road, I had a look for some Goldfinches which had been seen in a garden a few weeks ago, but alas there was no Goldfinches and instead I got to watch a young Blackbird with a worm.

The young Blackbird was happily eating while I took some photos of it a mere three or four metres away

I watched the Blackbird, a few Starlings and twenty House Sparrows feeding in the garden for five minutes before a walker-by scared them all off, it was time for me to head off anyway so I went to have a look round the next street.

In the next street I found a garden with some feeders that were covered in Starlings some of them were feeding on the ground.

This individuals colours seemed so bright, in this picture you can see a kind of lilac collar on the bird.

And on this one the Starling has a kind of greeny yellow collar

I left the Starlings and I explored several streets before coming to one called "The Creek" I went down it and then I turned back around to head into another street when I saw a Hooded Crow alight itself into a large tree to my right, the Crow had got itself a piece of bread which had been chucked out, I got out my camera and got a few photos of the bird.

 The crows are disliked by some people, I like them because they are a bit of a challenge to get close to

From "The Creek" I followed the streets north until I came to a place called "Sycamore Avenue" I followed the street and I came to the edge of a park (field) and I saw a few Blackbirds feeding, I got my "bins" on the closest one and watched it for a while, I noticed something fly across the road from where I was standing and this bird was black and white, a Woodpecker!! I immediately got my camera out and I tried to get a photo of the Great-spotted Woodpecker but it was always behind a branch (Scotland's first Lesser-spotted Woodpecker was found (by Rob Fray) in Sycamore Avenue/the Scalloway Health Centre last year, I sadly missed the bird by three days as I was in Fair Isle, the day I left the isle I missed a Siberian Rubythroat! but had luckily seen one the year before).

This is probably my best shot of the "pecker" (which was a juvenile or a female) but for me it was a great find, only my 4th ever sighting of the species, my first was this year in Brae which was found by my grandad Tommy!

I "woody" stayed around for a few minutes, calling most of the time too! but all birds go and this one flew over a house and disappeared, I had a look around for it but there was no sign so I moved off in search of the avian-flyers.
I found myself looking over a park (field) next to the Scalloway Health Centre and I managed to see at least twenty Curlews or Whaps as we call them, I had a better look at the flock and I counted sixty bird! I can't believe I'd missed that many! the Whaps in the park flew up onto a hill and joined ten or twenty more.
I decided to have a closer look and I was able to count 74 Whaps they blended in very well with the hillside so there was probably 80 birds.
I started heading south towards the shop because I was starting to feel hungry and after I got a bag of crisps I went and had a quick look round some large trees (by Shetland Standards anyway), surprisingly I didn't see any birds but I didn't check the entire place.
The area round the Leisure Centre was my next destination and it was a good one! I saw 7 Greylag Geese, 28 Lapwings and 40+ Starlings!
I doubled back and went along the road to the Scalloway Castle and in the parks below were Twenty Herring Gulls, four Great Black-Backed Gulls and two Rooks.

I managed to get a picture of one of the Rooks in flight

I walked down the road to the pier and I sat myself down, I had a quick scan of the sea and I saw three Dunters and two very nice Red-breasted Mergansers.
A few minutes later I got a call from Dad saying that he was ready to pick me up.
By this time it was three o'clock so I had spent three hours checking through most of the streets in Scalloway!

Here is a picture of the Scalloway Castle, taken from my sitting spot beside a lamp post

Dad then came to pick me up and we headed home, on the way I tallied up all the birds I had seen during my three hour period of birdwatching.

Starling 200+

Blackbird 14

Herring Gull 53+

Hooded Crow (Cra) 13

House Sparrow 54

Collard Dove
(a very, very low count compared to what I normally see in Scalloway)

Great-spotted Woodpecker 1

Curlew (Whap) 80+

Rock Dove 2

Greylag Goose 7

Raven (Corbie) 1 or 2

Lapwing 28

Great Black-backed Gull (Swaabie) 7

Rook 2 possibly 3

Eider (Dunter) 3

Red-breasted Merganser (Herald Deuk) 2

Common Gull (Peerie Maa) 1