Thursday, 20 February 2014

Happy Blogging! one year anniversary!

Well this isn't my usual kind of blog post, a) there is usual something about wildlife and b) its about an anniversary.
So today is a whole year since I started blogging, it was Girlsta, sunny day and I'd been planning to do it for a few weeks but never got it going so myself and Paula took a few photos round Girlsta and then we started up Blogger, getting me going and doing my first blog post.
I first had the idea when I was wanting to be able to keep a record of everything I saw when out birding.
So when I went into Fair Isle on Friday the 22nd and Tommy was able to give me a kind of run through on how everything works and that got me a bit farther ahead and I just did it from there.

Today I am going into Fair Isle till Monday since it's the long weekend and I'd like to be back on the Island, so hopefully I'll not miss anything while I'm away.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Weekend Birding 15th & 16th of February 2014

Saturday the 15th of February 2014

There has been a bit of excitement in Shetland these past two days because a Snowy Owl was seen at Enxaboe, South End, from the pictures I saw the bird looked amazing!
I have heard of an invasion of Snowy Owls in the USA and I was hoping that we might get some.
So I planned on the Friday to try and head down to see it the next day.

On Saturday I got on the ferry from Ulsta and I headed to the Mainland, on the other side Tommy was waiting and we headed south.
We took one stop at Strand to try and find the Tundra Bean Geese which we had seen a few weeks ago.
The geese weren't about but I did count 150+ Greylags.
We quickly headed into Lerwick and picked up Henry before heading to Clickimin.
On arrival we saw three Whooper Swans and a Coot! I had a look at the Whoopers to check for a colour-ringed individual but no luck so I focused my attention to the Coot.
We had a look at the Coot and Henry spotted a "second" one but with a closer look it was a Moorhen!

A good comparison between the two species and I've never noticed that Coot are twice the size of Moorhen!

We left Clickimin and then we popped into Mairi's for a minute and then we headed south, straight to Enxaboe.
On the way I spoke to Hugh Harrop to see if the bird was there but he said that no-one had seen it.
After half an hour we arrived at Enxaboe and we saw Russ Haywood, we spoke to him and he'd been looking three hours but with no luck so we left and went to look round the Pool of Virkie before going to see a Peregrine that Russ had seen at one of the Sumburgh Quarries.
The tide was too high for anything at the "Pool" so we checked round the Ness Boating Club and we saw four Shelducks! (a pretty good count I would say) so we then left for the Sumburgh Quarries.
We searched the Quarries but there was no sign of the Peregrine so we had a check at some geese that were at the Sumburgh Hotel.
It took us a few minutes but we got to the Sumburgh Hotel and I started scanning the geese for anything different.
I soon spotted a smaller, dark headed goose and I had a better look at it, a Pink-footed Goose! my first of the year!
I quickly told Tommy and Henry where it was and we all had our eyes on it, I got my camera out and tried to get a few pictures but it was raining and the bird wouldn't keep still.

The Pink-foot seemed to have something wrong with it's wing because one part of it seemed to be hanging down

It did stand still at times and it was a nice find

We headed off to Scatness to try and find some Pintail but with no luck Hillwell was our next stop.
At Hillwell we saw a single flock of 150+ Lapwings! we searched round but found nothing major so Spiggie Loch was our next destination and just before we got to the loch we had a scan through the geese flocks.
I was having a look through one flock at the Bakkasetter /Culsetter and I spotted a strange goose which I immediately thought was a Pink-foot, Tommy stopped the car and I got a  better look, a Tundra Bean Goose!!
I got my camera out and started taking some photos in case it flew off.
The photos came out okay but the one thing I was wondering was if it was a new bird or a previous one that already been spotted in the area.

The Tundra Bean did not fly away like the other Greylags so I was able to get this shot

I liked this guy because it seemed quite cute

So we headed in Bakkasetter to have a look at a bigger goose flock and instead we found two Meadow Pipits, my first of the year! (I seem to be doing very well for year ticks on weekends).
So we followed the road along the western side of the Spiggie Loch and at the turn to Littleness we spotted two Shelducks really close to the road so we tried to get a picture but there was a car behind us so we pulled into a passing place.
We waited a second but the car had stopped so I had a look at the driver and it was Paula! we got out the car and we spoke to her for a while, she'd come to look for the Snowy Owl but with no sign of it she went round looking for birds.
Soon we all headed off and at the north side of the loch we spotted a Moorhen running along a ditch so I whipped out my camera and tried to get a few pics.

This peerie guy would not sit still and this was the only shot I got

This Corbie was sitting crouched on the edge of a roof at Spiggie

We started heading north along the road to Bigton and at the turn into Rerwick we saw a flock of Greylags and I noticed something strange about some of the closest two, they had neck collars!
We all tried to read the numbers but we weren't close enough so I tried taking some pictures with my camera.
Surprisingly it actual worked and the numbers came out quite well.

The left bird reads "SSO" and the right "DNG", both I've been told are probably local birds

The bird with the collar "SSO" 

And that was our final stop before we headed tae Lerwick and that ended our day.

Sunday the 16th of February 2014

So today was kinda slow, it was about  10ish when I left the house (a bit late for me) because Dad, Mairi and myself were going to Bananmin Beach (Burra) for a look, on the way we saw eight Shalders on Tronda.

The Banamin Beach

We got there and we started walking across the beach, halfway across it started bucketing it down with rain so we got ran to the other side of the beach.
The rain last about ten minutes and then we walked back across the beach, back into the car and back to Lerwick.

Two Eiders I photographed on the way

On the way I spotted a Great-northern Diver at the Burra Brig, it was really close to the road so I got some photos.

I was able to capture the G-northern with it's wings open!

Side on view

So we got into Lerwick and I soon headed out to Clickimin, when I got there I saw some Greylags and a few ducks.
I tried to photograph the Greylags but they flew off, I then saw Graham Ball (a local birder) walking into Helendale, it then started to rain and so I ran into Helendale.
I caught up to Graham and I spoke to him, so we went to the Loch and we tried the Gadwall that I saw last week but with no luck.
So we stayed round the loch for a while and Graham spotted seven thrushes, Redwings (year ticks!) so after that we headed to Seafield where we didn't see anything but I did get to hear some of his great birding tales.
We ended up travelling to the Tingwall and Asta Lochs, there was nothing on Asta but on the banks of the Tingwall Loch then there was tons of Waders! I managed to count 64 Shalders with over 40 Redshanks!
I was quite amazed by the number of Shalders during this period of time and I'm thinking it might be my biggest ever flock!
Actually in the loch was a beautiful adult Comorant, we watched it dive and then come up before taking off and flying near to the car, what an amazing sight it was!
We continued north to the Strand Loch and we checked the Goose flocks for anything different, at the end of a park at Gott, I saw five geese which I though were the five Tundra Bean Geese I had seen a few weeks ago, and they were!
After checking the rest of the geese we backtracked past the Asta and Tingwall Lochs before checking the East Voe of Scalloway and then back into Lerwick, ending our day.

So this weekend was quite good even though I never saw the Snowy Owl (but no-one saw it again after Friday!) but I did hear that it was in Ireland near Bigton so who knows where it could be.
Other than missing the Snowy Owl I did get a few more year ticks which was a bonus, thanks to Tommy and Graham for taking me around and thanks to Graham for the stories!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Weekend Birding: Divers, Ducks and years ticks

Saturday the 8th of February 2014

So today I headed off Yell and onto the Mainland to see my Dad, when I got into Lerwick we headed out birding to the Shetland Catch.
We were looking for a Eider that had the characteristics of a "Northern" Eider, we searched the sea and we spotted a flock of Eiders, I tried to get my scope on them but it was hard to see as they were in the rough sea and there were going farther out.
While I was looking at these Eiders I spotted a small duck pop up, a Long-tailed Duck! I then turned back to the Eiders but it was so hard to see any sign of the possible "Northern" Dunter so I got out my camera and tried to get a few photos but they were just that bit far away.
So we were about to leave when we started to notice some difference with some Herring Gulls, some had darker backs than the other ones, I was thinking that this was the northern kind of Herring Gull "argentatus" whereas the ones here are of the race "argenteus".
We left and headed off to Nesbister, Whiteness to try and see a Black-throated Diver which was found by Paul Harvey on Friday.
We arrived Nesbister and there was nothing in the voe besides a bathing gull so we went along the voe.
We headed in as far as we could and we saw a Robin and six Mergansers but no diver! so we started to head back along the road, we were over halfway along the voe when I spotted something dive in the water and I told Dad to stop!
We waited a couple of minutes until a bird came up in the middle of the voe and I got my scope on it but too late! it went down again!
It did the same again and on the fourth time I was ready and I saw it through my scope, the Black-throated Diver!! my first new bird of the year! and a very nice bird.
It was to far away for photos so we headed off to Girlsta.
Later on I headed to a Shetland Bird Club meeting at Isleburgh with Tommy, the first part was the Annual General Meeting and the next part was a talk by Larry Dalziel on "A Circumnavigation of Spitsbergen".
I really enjoyed the talk and it was amazing to hear about the birds, mammals and plants up in the far north.

Sunday the 9th of February 2014

So this morning I checked Clickimin for a colour-ringed Whooper Swan, on arrival I saw no sign of any swans.
Instead the wintering Greylag flock round the loch had grown to twenty-six and there was Twelve Redshanks, seven Black-headed Gulls and thirteen Herring Gulls.
I was standing and looking at the gulls when I saw a massive bird fly off the side of the loch, I watched it for a second and it was a Haegrie! (Grey Heron) the first I'd seen on Clickimin.
So the Haegrie flew and landed next to the broch out of decent picture range! so I turned my attention to the ducks on the loch.
A man was walking round the broch and he flushed the Haegrie closer to me so I got some pictures.

The Haegrie, (as we call them in Shetland)
On the side of the loch

Four Mallards started swimming round the side of the loch and they caught my eye, I was thinking that they were all Mallards but I had a second look and one of them was noticeably smaller than the other three.
I had a look at the smaller duck and I though straight away it was a female Gadwall.
I went with my suspicions and I was sure that it was a female Gadwall, I took some photos to get a record of my first for the year.

My first Gadwall of the year, happily paddling in the loch

 The Greylags were scared up by the Haegrie so I got a photo of them before they landed

I decided to try and move closer to the Gadwall so I hopped over a fence and moved behind a dyke, I popped my head and camera over and the four ducks we only a few metres away.
I got my camera ready and I started taking pictures of the Gadwall.

 The light wasn't very good at all but I'm still glad I was able to get some pictures of the duck

 A comparison of Gadwall and Mallards

She didn't seem to scared of me, probably because she hadn't noticed me

Gadwall and wall

The Gadwall got a piece away and I turned my attention to some Black-headed Gulls bathing themselves on the edge of the loch.

Five of Seven Black-headed Gulls that were at the Loch this morning

I had a quick look into Helendale but the only thing there was a Wren so I left the loch and headed home.

I photographed this Greylag on my way back to the house

So I headed back to the house and I stayed in a few minutes before heading out to Seafield.
I was walking round Seafield for a while and I wasn't able to find any Little Gulls which had been seen in Breiwick.

Here the sea kept coming up and crashing onto the road

I continued walking to Pullar's Loch and I saw a Goldeneye there, a minute later the four feral geese started swimming towards me, one of the whitish ones came really close and I started taking pictures of it.

This beauty came so close that I could get a good shot of it's eye

I stayed round Pullar's Loch for about 20 minutes and then I started walking home, on the way I stopped at a small car park near Tescos.
I was walking along when a dead thing caught my eye, I had a closer look and it was a poor Common Guillemot.

The poor thing had probably been killed by all the bad weather that's been hitting Shetland, sheep have died from it as well

So I walked further round the car park hoping not to find any more dead birds and luckily I saw an "alive" Razorbill in the sea, my first of the year!
I started heading back to the hoose and I had just reached the Sound Service Station when I saw a sliver car go by with a man I recognised, I immediately remember the face and placed it to a local birder called Graham Ball, he noticed me and he pulled into the Service Station and then alongside me.
He asked me if I wanted to come to see the Black-throated Diver at Nesbister, I said that I had to get back to my house so I told him exactly where I'd seen it yesterday.
We spoke for a few minutes and I told him that I'd found a Gadwall on Clickimin earlier today, then he told me that he'd just seen a Pochard, Coot and a Little Grebe on Clickimin!! three year ticks for me and the Gadwall was a year tick for him, so we both headed straight there.
We got to the loch and we scanned the loch for the birds, I saw the Coot after a few minutes and then Graham spotted the Pochard!
The three Mallards that were hanging around with the Gadwall showed up but there was no sign of the Gadwall, we scanned the loch for the Gadwall and Little Grebe but neither showed themselves so Graham stuck me to Nederdale and then he headed off to find the Black-throated Diver.

The very nice adult Coot

So Dad and I stayed in the hoose for a while and then we headed out to Girlsta, on the way we went by Strand to see if we could find the five Tundra Bean Geese which had been hanging round there.
We saw a flock of Geese at the far end of a park but we found it quite hard to ID all of them, we knew some of them were Greylags but two of them might of been the Bean Geese.
We left the Strand Loch and we headed along Laxfirth, we were driving along the side of the road and Dad spotted a Mute Swan right next to the road, we pulled alongside it and I got some photos.

A very nice Mute Swan but I was wondering why it was so close to the road

We drove around the Central Mainland for a while and then we came across a Mountain Hare.
I walked up to it and I got some great photos of it.

Hare enjoying what dry weather it can

I was watching it and it's ears kept getting farther and farther apart

I got that bit closer and it was sitting perfectly so I got a good shot of it's face and body

A black and white shot of the Hare

We left the Hare and we drove around until we got to Girlsta, we headed to Paula's House and we spoke in a while, I then had a try to photograph the Collard Doves in her garden.

This one sat for at least a minute and it let me get some great shots

This is my favorite one with the red eye and it's upright posture

At around three o'clock I was heading back up to Yell when I got a text from Dougie saying that he'd found two Taiga Bean Geese at Aywick in Yell! when I got back onto Yell I had a look but sadly there was no sign (always next time!)

So this weekend alone I was able to add a new specie to my ever growing bird list (Black-throated Diver) and four new species to my year list (Gadwall, Razorbill, Coot and Pochard).

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Wind, Waves and Birds

Saturday the 1st of February

So after all this terrible strong winds and rain, the weather seemed to let up for a while this morning and my Stepdad, my younger brother Riley and myself headed out to look at the waves.
Our first stop was Vatster (just south of Mid Yell) and when we got there, we could see how the waves had eroded away some of the beach.

I like the markings below this sheep's eyes, make's it look like it's ready for a battle

 Starling on the back of a sheep

On the bird side of things, I spotted fifteen Turnstones and three Ringed Plovers.
We left Vaster and went to Aywick, the sea there was white and among the the waves were lots of gulls.
While we were watching the waves I spotted four geese flyover but I couldn't get a positive ID on them.

The sea at Aywick

We checked a few other places along the way and then we got into Burravoe, as we were nearing the western end of the Loch of Littlesetter (pronounced Littlester) we saw a light grey goose, I immediately knew it was a Barnacle Goose and we pulled up alongside it so I could get a few photos.

It was a nice bird and my first of the year

A black and white shot of my Barnie

The Barnacle Goose wandered to the far side of the park so we left it and headed off to look for some Bean  Geese and a White-fronted Goose which Dougie Preston had found earlier in the week.
We got to the Hamnavoe Kirk and we saw the six Tundra Bean Geese with the European White-fronted Goose and some Greylags (including one domesticated male) right next to the road in a muddy park, I got my camera out but the birds had already took off so I tried to get a flight shot.

Greylag, Tundra Bean, European White-fronted and a massive domesticated Greylag Goose in flight

We headed off to find some more Geese and we found twenty more Greylags and my first Golden Plover of the year.

The view of Ulsta and the Mainland

So the day ended with three more birds to my Yell list (Barnacle, European White-fronted and Tundra Bean Goose) and three more birds to my year list (Barnacle and European White-fronted Goose and Golden Plover).