Friday, 25 July 2014

Fair Isle May Trip 2014

This long weekend was my granddad Tommy and I's yearly May visit into Fair Isle.
We had planned to head in on Friday the 23rd but due to fog we didn't get in at all but spent the day going round spots on the Mainland.
So we decided to head out on the boat the next morning!

Saturday the 24th of May 2014

Today was the day!! (We hope) today we headed down to Grutness to catch the Good Shepherd IV.
So it was 11 and there was no sign of the Shepherd so we were fine, we got out.
After a few minutes I spotted the birder who had been sitting at Tingwall yesterday (hoping for a flight as well), I went and spoke to him and he said he hadn't seen much but there was a flock of Sanderling right at the far end of the Grutness Beach.
We tried to spot them but they were to far away and they were in among seaweed.
The Good Shepherd came in with a load of people aboard, I spotted one as a Shetland birder (Dave O'kill).
I spoke to him when he got off and he had gone in for the Calandra Lark (which he dipped), he said to me that he'd be doing some Wader ringing shortly if I was interested! looking forward to it!
It was about twenty minutes later but we finally got on the boat with all of our stuff loaded and we headed off!
Around Sumburgh head there was lots of Auks and as we went out to sea the numbers started to diminish, Bonxies were plentiful and the occasional Gull as well.

Sumburgh Head

Sumburgh Head

A Happy Guy!

My hope was to see some whales! and I was lucky enough to see one that was spotted by the lasses! A Minke Whale! I caught sight of it going down and that was the last we saw of it.
A while later, Keith (the birder from the airport) spotted a shark! I rushed to his side of the boat but despite all of us watching we couldn't find it.
The rest of our time was spent scanning the seas for birds, Petrels, Shearwaters, Skuas but we couldn't find a single one!
I did manage to get two Swallows flying towards Shetland though! my strangest thing seen at sea!
When we had reached the half way point between Shetland and Fair Isle, Keith got a Storm Petrel! I tried to spot it but I just couldn't find it, under ten minutes later he found one again and so did Tommy! I got both of them! year tick and the first one's in seen in Fair Isle (Waters) this year!

Finally!! Fair Isle!

Nearly in North Haven

Our two and a half hours were nearly up! Fair Isle was getting closer and closer! we finally made it in to North Haven, greeted by Puffins, Guilliemots, a male Long-tailed Duck and the Islanders.
It felt good to be back, we got off and we went to speak to Stewart and Triona, we said our hello's before Tommy and Henry picked us up and we headed down the Isle to the shop where we stopped to have a look for any migrants.

Meadow Pipit

Our next stop was Lower Leogh for the Caspian Stonechat (He's still here!), we barely needed to look because he just popped out again!

The bird is such a cracker! still amazing that he's hanging on

Tommy (Fair Isle) and me headed out to check the bushes at the back of Lower Leogh for any warblers, I was checking through them and Tommy had something go over the wall.
He went round and he spotted it, a Spotted Flycatcher!! my first one!! I got closer and then I tried a few shots on my camera, they were pretty distant but I have the picture to keep!

Got it! Spotted Fly!

The Spotted Fly moved on and we turned our attention to the Utra Scrape, we spotted a few gulls and then I picked out a male Shoveler!!
I told Tommy and he soon had his eyes on it as well, we moved closer and the drake headed onto the bank of the pond.

They really are amazing looking birds and the beak is just massive!

The Shoveler then took off, he circled a few times and it didn't seem to be landing anytime soon so we went to explore the geo's.
We were first greeted by two Swallows and then by a small bird sitting on the rocks, a Spotted Flycatcher!!

My second ever and only five minutes apart from my first!

We headed back to the car after seeing the flycatcher and we were greeted by my granddad Tommy, he said he'd seen a yellow bird with a dark head and a brown back! he'd only seen it for a second and missed it with his camera but I guessed a Yellow Wagtail (of some sort), typically we weren't able to find it again.
The three of us headed to Haa (Henry had headed before to stick on the kettle), we went in and we had our cup.
I spotted Richard coming down from Meoness so I went out to meet him, he said that he'd seen a few things Swift (which we could see from Haa!) and Snow Buntings on Meoness.
Richard headed off to find a few more birds and We (Henry came out) went to Meoness to see the Swift and Snow Bunts.

The Kumlien's Gull is still hanging on as well, been here like five months

On the cliffs we managed to get close to the Swift with House Martins and Swallows flying around with it.
We headed back to Haa and Henry went in first, I had just made it to the edge of the garden and a strange orangy bird flew up and towards Skerryholm!
I gave chase and Richard then came around the corner and I told him about the bird, he got his eyes on it and said it was a female Whitethroat!

My first Whitethroat of the year! also an Island tick!

So Richard headed off and I headed back into Haa, I told the guys about the bird and then it was time for tea!

After Tea I headed up to Quoy to say hello before the Champions League Final, on the way I was cycling up and a Kestrel flew up from one of the parks!
I was in Quoy for a while and then I headed back down to Haa to watch the game, I have no interest what so ever in watching football but thought to myself, "Ahh might as well".
I wasn't disappointed by the game! at first it was led by Athletico for the first 50 minutes of the game but Real Madrid came in and scored one goal before 90 minutes and then scored another four thus winning.

Sunday the 25th of May 2014

For some reason I woke up at 4:30! (morning), I tried to fall back asleep but I gave up at 5 and I headed out birding.
My first exciting bird of the day was when I was looking at the Rock Doves in the Haa garden and I then saw a Collard Dove, it felt like Shetland again!
I headed out and I walked across Meoness and I was greeted by two House Martins, which were quickly joined by four more! the flock of six then headed west and I lost them over a hill.
I was walking over Meoness when I notcied a moving white blob on the ground, I stopped and I raised my "bins" to see a male Snow Bunting!! I got my camera and I spotted the other two (females or juveniles).
I carried on along Meoness and then I split back along the parks alongside the Walli Burn, there seemed to be more dead Greylags than what was alive on the island!
I had just got below the Haa part of the burn and a small bird popped up, I got the "bins" on it and it was a Reed Bunting!! and then a female Blackcap joined it!
A few pictures were taken of the birds and then I headed to Lower Leogh for the Caspian Stonechat.
The bird turned up after a few minutes and I enjoyed some good views, also the Kumlien's Gull was in the parks to the west.
I was stopped walking past Upper Leogh to check the parks and without me noticing a kitten appeared at my side.

It was a small thing with white and light brown fur, I know as being a birdwatcher that we aren't meant to be big on cats but this one was cute.

So I started walking and the kitten started to follow, I tried to send it back the way it'd come but it just kept coming back, so I let it follow me.
A birdwatcher and a cat can make a pretty good team, on my way up to the Obs I was walking along one side of a line of bushes and the kitten hopped onto the opposite on the top of a dyke, not a half bad flushing technique.
I managed to spot a Lesser Whitethroat, one Spot Fly and a House Martin on the way from Leogh to Midway! not bad.

A Whitethroat at Midway, I see why they get their name

The kitten and I kept walking to the Obs! it stayed with me the entire time and I think this was probably the farthest it had gone.
We were just getting to the road equal to the Double Dyke Trap when something burst out of the burn to the left of us, I instantly thought a Moorhen but it turned out to be a Water Rail!!! a year tick!
The bird ran up the burn and I lost sight of it.
We continued walking and we were nearly at the Obs when the trap rounds group came round the corner.
They noticed the cat and after a few minutes we just took it with us, I tried to stay away from the traps with the kitten just in case he had any ideas (I never saw him go for a bird the entire morning).
Richard went through all the traps and he managed to get a Wood Warbler and a Whitethroat in the Gully and a Blackcap in the Plantation.
We headed back to the Obs and the kitten was taken back down the Isle, I went into the ringing room to see the birds ringed.

A Willow Warbler caught in the Gully

A Whitethroat, caught with the Willow Warbler

Finally the female Blackcap which was caught in the Plantation

After the birds had been ringed I checked the Obs garden and I managed to get a few birds, one female Common Rosefinch (seen from the ringing room), the female Eastern Subalpine Warbler (year tick) and a Chiffchaff, the Havens were next and all they brought out was the Long-tailed Duck from yesterday.

The Good Shepherd pulled up from the sea

I cycled back to the Haa and on the way I spoke to Nick (Riddiford) at Schoolton, while we were speaking we saw five Swallows in the parks around the house.
I got back to Haa at 9:30 and everyone was starting to get ready, breakfast was served up and it was great!
Afterwards Henry and I walked over to the Skaadan, we walked over it and we found a few Ringed Plovers and a flock of six House Martins!

This female Mallard landed in the Haa garden and stayed for a few minutes

While we were walking about the Skaadan I got a text from David saying there was a Cuckoo in the parks to the east of the Island!
Henry legged it and I came behind before we went across towards Kennaby, but on the way some Redpolls caught my eye!
I got photos of this flock of eight to try and see if I could get IDs on them, not rarer northern ones were in the flock but there was at least Mealy's.
Henry and I then went back to our job of hunting for the Cuckoo! we walked past Kennaby and along the old road there.

A Spring Squil

We searched but there was no sign of the Cuckoo, Henry had followed the track and I'd gone more along the heather and I came to Da Water first.
I got my bins on the water and I had a look for any birds, I spotted a duck but then a wader took my attention.
It was something good! I saw an upturned bill, greyish brown wings and dark legs! I was thinking Greenshank so I got my camera incase the bird decided to ditch me!
I got some picks and it was a Greenshank!! it flew and then I shouted to Henry who came running towards me, the thing headed north and we lost it.

A record shot! but its my first Shetland Greenshank so I'm happy!

I called my Tommy to tell him about the bird and he said he was at the Shop so we went to meet him.
We found Tommy and we started walking towards Shirva, on the way we saw Keith who was after the male Shoveler that had flown towards Da Water, he hadn't seen anything else so we carried on to Shirva.
I headed in while Henry and Tommy hunted around outside, I spoke in for a while and I even managed to get Whitethroat and Bluethroat (year tick) from the kitchen window!
So after I'd said goodbye I went out to see what Henry and Tommy had seen, Henry had been photographing the female Bluethroat (with my camera) and his pictures were great!! 
They were a few but a large percentage were clear and I picked the best three.

It might not have the bluethroat but it's still a beauty! (Henry Hyndman)

(Henry Hyndman)

(Henry Hyndman)

From Shirva we worked our way back south to Haa but we only made it past Leogh when Tommy (Haa) drove up and we jumped in to head north for a look.
The first bird we saw was a female Pied Flycatcher at Midway!
We barely saw much at Finniquoy but North Light was practically the same besides two oranges on the cliffs!
The two Tommys and I spent about 10 minutes watching and photograpihing Fulmars whcih actaully went ok! but the photos are hardly worth putting on.
So Tommy went back to fetch his car while me and my Tommy went to look in the Kirn o Scroo (which we usually find empty).
But for once I spotted a small brown job on a rock! I got the bins on it and it actually turned out to be something good! a Spotted Fly!
We headed south to the Havens and we picked out two Spotted Flys before heading to Haa.

This sea plane did a few circles before taking off again

Just before six we headed up to Quoy for tea which Stewart & Triona had kindly invited us to.
We rolled up and some small bird flew around the corner of the house, we followed it and I managed to get a picture of it, a female Common Redstart!

So we went in for tea, which was great before we headed up to the Obs for a talk done by Stewart and a few others on the coast life (aquatic life) of Fair Isle.

Monday the 26th of May 2014

I decided that this morning I would get up again at 5 so I could cover some of south Fair Isle.
When I got out I noticed a drop in birds, there was no warblers of any kind and no Whitethroats or hirundines (Swallows and Martins).
I was cold so I cycled to the Skaadan first (in search of a Purple Sandpiper), I had a look in the geos below the Puffinn and I didn't see much but some movement caught my eye.
I raised my bins and I saw a Knot! (in winter plumage) I had heard of one yesterday but nobody knew who saw it and where it had been seen.

Here it is!

I started heading over to Meoness and I was walking up the Walli Burn when I spotted a wagtail.
I got my bins on it and it wasn't like any of the normal summer plumage wagtails, I was thinking it was a bird that still hadn't changed into its summer plumage.

The Wagtail

I walked across Meoness, I couldn't find any Swallows or Martins or anything to be honest so I started my cycle north along the road to Shirva and Midway.

I got to the park by Barkland (Chatham's Land) and I had a look for any plovers hanging about, there was none in sight but I did see a Snipe on a fence post (I seen quite a few Snipe flying about), for once the Snipe sat still and I decided to get a photo or two.

Mr. Snipe, the SIC sign in the background adds a bit of colour into it

The Snipe flew off and I noticed something else lurking in the park, the Greenshank!! I slowly moved into position and I got my camera out.

Better than yesterdays record shot!! I can't believe that I found the bird again!

I headed north to the Obs for the traps and on the way I stopped at Setter to look for a Black Redstart that had been seen yesterday (I still need it for my Shetland List). I was looking for it when something dropped down onto the grass next to me.
It came up again and it was a female Common Redstart (well something new).
So I had a quick look again and the Black Redstart wasn't in sight so I headed to the Obs, when I got there I spoke to a birder outside of the Obs who was also going on the traps, we were speaking when I heard a duck like sound overhead.
I looked to see a Diver! I got my eyes on it, a Red-throated! not half bad getting two diver species this morning! 
Leading the traps this morning was Ciaran, one of the guys on the traps was a film maker who was filming the trap round.

The different light and dark phases of the Artic Skuas (Skootie Alaan) make them look so amazing

So we went through the traps and we came up with nothing! we just managed to lose a Rock Dove which would of been a lucky catch.
We all headed back to the Obs and even a search in the Obs mist nets came up with nothing!!
I even had a look around the garden and nothing! (well I did see the Sub-alp), I had a look down in the Havens before I cycled north, I had lots of time as we had caught nothing in the traps.
I searched everywhere along the road on my way north and there was nothing besides Bonxies and twelve Oystercatchers.
I was cycling down the Isle and my phone bleeped, I was hoping it was David and that he had found something but instead it was Dougie (Preston) saying he'd found a Continental Comorant on Yell!!
I headed down the Isle and I went back to Haa.
We had breakfast and we took the day slowly, before heading up to North Light to look off the cliffs.

The Mast

No way better to spend a day than sitting in the sun on the northern cliffs of Fair Isle

Afterwards we headed back down the Isle and I popped into Shirva to say goodbye before I headed to Quoy and then we were off to pick up Tommy from Haa.
We said goodbye to Tommy and Henry and we went up to the plane, we got there and Deryk rolled up and said that the Glossy Ibis was coming up the east side of the island!!!!! we quickly moved and I went to the nearest highest point, which was practically a two metre mound.
Deryk and I scanned around to the east for the Ibis and Deryk got it! He said it was getting higher and higher and I managed to pick it out!
We watched it for a few minutes and I shouted to a nearby birder about the Ibis, we watched it and by the time the birder had reached us it was going over head!!! I had ran back for my camera, trying to get some photos of it in flight.

GLOSSY IBIS!!!! after seeing the January bird in Shetland I couldn't believe that I was able to get to see the Fair Isle one!

It was a great sight and I would of liked to see it actually land on the isle!

What a bird! definitely what you'd call a last minute twitch seeing as my plane came in as the bird was flying over the west side of the island!

And touchdown

So we got on the plane and we headed back to Shetland, we tried to do a bit of twitching but both birds had disappeared (Red-rumped Swallow and a Nightjar). I heard later that Fair Isle managed to pull a NIGHTJAR!! out of the Gully!! everytime! luckily Henry managed to get one of his most wanted birds on Fair Isle!!

This blog post is pretty late I have to say but it takes me a while with information full ones.

This May trip wasn't as jam packed as last years a) being we weren't in for the same length of time due to mist b) I didn't have to rush around for birds as much but it was still a great trip!

I got one new bird while I was in, ten last year in May! but this time I got more additions to my Fair Isle and Shetland List.

Lifers= Spotted Flycatcher (dipped last May)

New Birds on my Shetland and Fair Isle List= Greenshank, Glossy Ibis (FI), Collard Dove (FI), Knot (FI), Com. Whitethroat (FI).

Total Species= 68 (five down on last year)

Storm Petrel
Common Guillemot
Arctic Skua
Long-tailed Duck
Meadow Pipit
Greylag Goose
Pink-footed Goose
Pied Wagtail
Spotted Flycatcher
Caspian Stonechat
Kumlien's (Iceland) Gull 
House Martin
Common Whitethroat
Rock Dove
House Sparrow
Hooded Crow
Great Black-backed Gull
Collard Dove
Black-headed Gull
Black Guillemot
Ringed Plover
Snow Bunting
Rock Pipit
Reed Bunting
Common Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Whitethroat
Carrion Crow
Water Rail
Willow Warbler
Eastern Subalpine Warbler
Common Rosefinch
Arctic Tern
Common Redpoll
Great Northern Diver
Common Redstart
Red-throated Diver
Glossy Ibis

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Noss Open Day 5/07/2014

So Saturday the 5th of July was the Noss Open Day! where people came to Noss to see all its wildlife and the events that were going on!
This year instead of just going to the Island I helped with some of the events, in other words I volunteered to help out.

I headed into Noss after 11 with a few others and we got a timetable and a name tag, my job for the day was to help out with a guided walk at 1-2 so I went to explore around a bit before the walk.
I first headed into the Pony Pund and I started looking about for flowers, birds weren't really in that big numbers so these were the best thing after.
I was looking in between nettles when I spotted something dark on a leaf of one, I went closer and it was a tiny moth, my camera came out and I tried for a photo so someone might be able to identify it.
Several photos and minutes later I had got my shots and went off to find someone to ID my moth.
I found Glen Tyler and I showed him the photo of my moth, right away he told me it was a Nettle Tap, a micro moth, given its name because it's always on nettles and it looks like an old tap.

My Nettle Tap

Also this Platycheirus manicatus Fly I found on a nettle and it managed to contain its desire to fly off for a while!

So the rest of my time was spent jotting down bird and plant species while trying to stay out of the rain, hard to do when most of the things are in the rain!
One thing that caught a few people's eyes was a large flock of Terns (Tirricks) that flew up, there was an estimated count of about 80 and I got my camera up for a later count.
Terns out (see what I did there), there was over 130 Arctic Terns, way more than I expected!!

Arctic Terns, at least 133!!

It was just before two and people were turning up for the guided walk, Craig (one of the wardens on Noss) had his scope on a pair of Arctic Terns (Tirricks) and with them was a single chick!! He let me have a look and it was my first one!
The group had assembled and a few of them had a look at the baby Tern, there was three of us leading this walk; Craig, Chris (from the Bressay History group) and myself.
Chris started the walk off by talking a bit about the ancient chapel outside of the Pony Pund and then we headed off towards Papil Geo.
Throughout the walk I said a bit about the birds and the wild flowers, my knowledge came in handy while we were out.
We even managed to get a few birds while out, like a Blackbird and some good views of two Snipe! and a bit of Noss' history was revealed to us by Chris.
Finally we came back to the Pund with the group and I took everyone to see the Nettle Tap.
The micro moth was still sat on its same leaf and that ended everyones walk!

The Pony Pund, Bressay and our guided walk group

I still had a while on the island so I spent them soaking and writing stuff in my notebook.
Not really how I thought to spend my afternoon but you can't control the weather! my day was spent well, I enjoyed my time on Noss and I left around 3:15 before heading on a bus to Yell!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Pectoral Sandpiper Haroldswick 07/07/2014

So today I managed to catch up with the Pectoral Sandpiper at Haroldswick after I "dipped" it by a minute yesterday!
I cycled up to Haroldswick from Baltasound and luckily there was a couple there looking at the bird and I saw it almost immdeiately after speaking to them.
The bird tended to "hock" about in the mud after insects and bugs, giving the rare opportunity for a non-blurred photo!

My best shot of this Atlantic travel

 A first for me and my new bird in Unst in two weeks!

A more silhouetted photo of the Sandpiper

A short video I took of the Sandpiper (no edits)

So the Pectoral Sandpiper was my 213th bird in Shetland and one to my ever growing list! it was pretty good to catch up with it and a tour group I told from Orkney managed to see the bird as well!