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.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

September/October 2015

Finally an update!!
This ones been sitting with the Summer one just waiting to be uploaded for a few days now but I've finally got it all together so here's my summary of September and October! 

8th September 2015

On the 8th of September a Long-billed Dowitcher was found on Swara Shun, north of Burravoe, Yell by Pete Cosgrove. 
I headed down on the day and got reasonable views of my 242nd bird in Shetland (also a Lifer) before going down the next day with young birder, Joe Petrie, we had the bird down to 3 metres as it walked past it so it wasn't bad! now Joe has seen both Dark-eyed Junco and Long-billed Dowitcher and he hasn't even passed the 60 mark in Shetland!

Long-billed Dowitcher, just before it was scared off by several Bonxie

13th September 2015

Today had Dave, Pete and myself going down Da Ness for a run.
First place of note was Scatness/Scord with a total of 42 Ruff (39 at Scord), Peregrine, Goldeneye, juv Moorhen, 5 Black-tailed Godwits between the two, quite an impressvive sight with all the Ruff and Godwits as they were all quite close to the road.
Next came the Grutness beach in search of Curlew Sandpiper, Pete managed to scope one out resulting in a Lifer for me! no.243! also there was a Little Stint too.
Next came Hillwell and there was 14 Ruff in a field but not much else.
Otherwise everything was quite, we spotted another 4 Ruff elsewhere, a Pink-footed Goose, a 'collard' Greylag Goose and Pete had a Reed Warbler in the bushes at Quendale.
That really concluded our day so we trekked back north.

Black-tailed Godwit and Ruff

19th September 2015

Today had me finally getting my first Yellow-browed Warbler in the trees at Rena Nisbet's in Mid Yell with another two being seen/heard in several other locations within the next few days.

25th September 2015

At the end of September I headed down to Sumburgh to catch a flight to Edinburgh for a conference in Callander for young people who were passionate about biodiversity, in other words I have been picked as one of sixteen young people across Scotland who have been brought together on a panel to try and protect and halt the loss of biodiversity in Scotland so we can reach the 2020 and 2030 biodiversity targets set by the EU & Scotland.

I went down to Sumburgh with Tommy for a bit of birding beforehand, we dipped on Blyth's Reed Warbler which hadn't been showing for several hours but instead we headed to Virkie for the chance of Grey Plover, as birds had been sighted there the past few days. 
Luckily when we arrived I spotted the bird just on the beach from the 'Virkie Willows', Shetland tick! I've been waiting for one of these for ages but I've never been able to catch up with one.

Grey Plover, no.244 on my Shetland List

28th September 2015

Today I'd planned to go with Tommy on a rarity hunting spree around the North Mainland, trying to get Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Nightingale and Blyth's Reed Warbler.
As I was waiting for the 1630 ferry to the Mainland I noticed that a Grey-cheeked Thrush had been found at Ollaberry.
There was a bird in Shetland last year that I saw but the views weren't really that great so I thought we'd go for a look.
Off the ferry and straight for the first bird- Eastern Subalp, there was a single birder in Mossbank speaking to the owner of the house and he hadn't seen the bird in over two hours so we zipped straight north.
It was easy enough to find the twitch as there was 40 people assembled around one garden with scopes and etc.
I got out and joined the group but it was in dense cover and hadn't shown in about 10 minutes so I sat patiently, there was a few Shetland birders plus about 7 NGB's from England who I recognized.
It took around 20 minutes before a call went up saying that the bird had gone left but I didn't catch, neither did I spot in when it went left, again and again and again, it was some really dense bushes!
So I sat myself down among the NGB's and after a minute I noticed one was looking at me, Matthew Bruce, a regular on NGB and if I'm correct one of the originals.
I could tell he was remembering me from somewhere and then he spoke to me, 'NGB Tick' was his first words to me and true enough he was right.
An 'NGB Tick' is like twitching, you go and tick a bird but in this case you tick an NGB (Next Generation Birder), I'm probably more of a difficult one to get as I'm up in Shetland but after that I introduced myself to the whole group which consisted of - Matthew Bruce, James Shergold, Oliver Metcalf, Scott Reed & Tim Jones. all of them I've noticed once or twice on the NGB page.
But yes it was good to finally meet some of them and just have a good chat! I spoke mainly to Matthew and it was great to swap a few stories and hear about the birds he'd seen.
But back to the Grey-cheeked, it took a while before the next sighting but I finally got my eyes watching one open bit between two bits of cover and the rest of the NGB's had already left so it was just me along with the rest of the twitch, as I was watching the opening, someone shouted that it was going left and I saw it go by and like that I was gone too!
I'd spent around an hour there and had to get home so I couldn't wait around but the twitch was enjoyable. 

3rd of October 2015

This was the first weekend I'd been out in a few weeks so Dave and I went twitching out west for the likes of Mediterranean Gull, Arctic Warbler and Pechora Pipit.
First stop was Weisdale Voe for the Med Gull but it failed to show, instead a Little Gull put on appearance (year tick).

One of the few I've seen in Shetland

We headed west and many birders were at Melby looking for the Pechora but none had actually seen, neither had we by the end of the trip either!
Back east and to Cott, Weisdale for the Arctic Warbler which didn't show either and another hunt for the Med Gull wasn't successful, but that goes to show you that if you don't look you don't see so its always worth going even if you don't see the bird in the end!

4th of September 2015
I had planned to go for a meal for my birthday, well before my birthday as it was tomorrow, but anyways that got cancelled so instead I headed up to North Roe to get a few things of mine.

female Pintail on Clickimin, patch tick from the morning

On the way north the phone went off with a text, 'Swainson's Thrush in Baltasound'(!!!!), I checked the time and we'd have to go in on the 1530 but we'd make it to Unst with no bother at all so we got my stuff and headed for the ferry.
There was a few groups of birders waiting to cross over Yell sound and head to Unst, one of these groups was Phil Harris, Rebecca Nason and their daughter Ayda.
They were heading up to Unst as well, so I asked if they had a spare seat going up and they did so we headed up to Unst, luckily it saved Tommy the journey.
It was a great journey up north as I've never really had the chance to go round with Rebecca and Phil.
We arrived at the Final Checkout to see a large (by Shetland standards) group of birders situated around a rectangular group of steel boxes, where the bird obviously was, I spoke to one of the birders who said that it hadn't been seen in 20 minutes so we all took up spots and waited.
The bird eventually came out after an hour and I got a quick view of it before it dived back in and out over again.

Swainson's Thursh! No.245 for me in Shetland and a very nice Lifer

After a few minutes the bird shot out and went around the corner towards the shop with Phil, me and  many other birders in hot pursuit.
It landed under a trailer for a minute and everybody lined up.

Swainson's Twitch behind the Final Checkout, Unst

Satisfied with our views everyone headed back to the car, Rebecca wanted a quick last look so we drove to where it had been last seen and I stayed with Phil and Ayda in the car.
I was looking out the window when some movement caught my eye and I looked to see the Swainson's under a truck just a few metres away, I got Rebecca's attention and a few other birders came over to watch it now sitting on a post where it sat happily for a few minutes before flying off.

14th-24th October 2015

For this we headed to Spain for a holiday in the town of Nerja, near Malaga, southern Spain.
It was a nice town with plenty of birds (5 lifers) and beaches.
Birds during this trip were Yellow-legged Gull, Black & Common Redstarts, Spotless Starling (Lifer), Little Owl (Lifer), Stonechat, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Chiffchaff sp, Reed Warbler, Blue Rock Thrush (Lifer), Blue-crowned Parakeet (Lifer), Long-tailed Tit, Blackcap, Coal Tit, Firecrest.
Though maybe a bigger blog post will be needed for all the photos

Little Owl

Juvenile Blue Rock Thrush

25th of October 2015

I just arrived back from Spain this morning off the boat and I was straight into the twitching game, a Cattle Egret had been found up at Collafirth in the North Mainland about a week ago and it was only the 2nd ever Shetland record so I planned to twitch it with Dave.
We left Lerwick at 9.45 and headed to Gulberwick, where a White's Thrush had been found a few days before.
Sadly we did not see it and neither did anyone else that day, but we did have a flyover Jackdaw which is quite the Shetland scarcity!
Next came Collafirth, we headed straight north and searched around all the sheep and cows in the area but with no luck.
Trying to locate the bird we headed across the valley to scan back onto the hill, I managed to spot it within a few minutes, resulting in my 246th Shetland tick and my 18th edition this year!

I got a record shot and we went back across the valley and I tried to get closer for photos, which I managed and got some decent shots.
So after that we checked a few more places and failed to relocate a Green-winged Teal at Bardister before heading home.

Cattle Egret

So that's my birding for the  past two months, filled with some rares and commoner species but still pretty enjoyable.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

An update is required, I have been quite quiet recently, life has been busy and the blog is in need of a few more posts from the summer so will get around to it very soon!!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

The past few weeks- in summary

Over the past few weeks I have been out birding, though I haven't been keeping up to date with the Blog.
There's a few reasons behind that, a) technical problems with the Laptop and b) getting around to actually doing the blog post,
So here I'm going to summarize what I've been doing over the past weeks, notifying a few of the birds and trips along the way.

Over the past two and a bit weeks I've added 2 species to my Shetland list in the shape of a Hoopoe on Unst on the 22nd of May with Jim Nangle, and a Nightingale on Noss on the 24th of May when I took a trip out there to twitch it.
Another trip to Unst on the 4th of June got me a Lifer and a few year ticks with Great Reed Warber being the lifer along with a good host a birds and I also met a South birder, Sean Gauton, all is on my most recent post found here
The year list has gone up by 16 species with trips to Unst, Noss and the South Mainland, though many more year ticks have popped up that I haven't been able to go for, Greenish Warblers, Canada Goose, Rustic Bunting, Quail, Great White Egret, Rosefinch, Nightjar, White-billed Diver, Bee-eater, King Eider, Hobby and Bluethroat, most of these mixed between Unst & Fair Isle.

Ringing has been slightly slow with the waders, Raven season is over and the waders aren't exactly in full spring with some Oystercatcher chicks and a few Lapwings, more Redshanks though, seem to be around.

So yeah its been a good few weeks and hopefully tomorrow I'll be twitching White-billed Diver so wish me luck!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The Great Twitch (for a Great Reed)

On Wednesday the 3rd of June, news broke of a Great Reed Warbler in a garden at Baltasound, Unst.
At the time I was preparing to take a group of my young birders around Mid Yell for a look so I couldn't get up and twitch it, though seeing Lesser Whitethroat made the day all so better and confirming a Red-backed Shrike at West Sandwick which was part of an influx that day.

That night I was able to organise a way around Unst, so the next day I headed up twitching.
After hitchhiking up north I arrived in Baltasound,

I headed into the shop to find out where Davy Leask lived as I didn't actually know where he lived so they'rd be no chance of finding my bird!
Luckily the people at the shop did know where he lived so I set off to his house, via Halligarth.
At Halligarth I spotted a car sitting around which I picked out as Robbie Brookes' car, he started turning around as I came and this bird large ish bird landed in a bush but I waited till I'd finished speaking with Rob before I checked it out.
Rob told me that the Great Reed Warbler had been seen in Halligarth in the morning but I'd be lucky to see it as it hadn't been seen since, several Icterine Warblers, Red-backed Shrikes, Quail, Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler had also been seen around so I kept an eye out for that.
Rob drove off home and I went back to looking for the bird I'd seen fly into one of Brydon's bushes,
getting closer to the bush something big flew out and I ran back to the road.
The bird dropped down onto the ground and I waited for it to come back up, it skulkly popped into another bush and it looked big, I mean BIG, it was a light browny colour but I couldn't get an ID on it.
The large warbler thing flew into Halligarth and I followed, it was hopping around in the sycamore and the views were much better, it was the GREAT REED!! then it darted into the sycamore and another acrocephalus type thing skulked around as well.
Suddenly this car rolled up with a birder in it, he asked me if I'd seen the Great Reed Warbler, my answer was I'd just seen it! so he parked up and we started looking.
Within a couple of minutes we found the bird again in Brydon's garden, ok views were obtained before it flew off again, also a Lesser Whitethroat happened to be knocking around.

Lesser White at Halligarth

After seeing the Great Reed it flew off down the road towards an abandoned house, just as visiting birder, Ray O'Riley, appeared around the corner with his partner, looking for the bird!
So the four of us headed in the direction of the bird and it soon gave us a flyby and landed in a far away bush.

As you can see, Great Reed Warblers in flight aren't exactly the best for taking photos of

Sean and I decided we'd stick together and find the birds as he didn't know the sites and I didn't have any mode of transportation.
We spent another hour at Halligarth and it was well worth the wait, by the end of it we'd tallied up a male & female Red-backed Shrike, singing Icterine Warbler, flycatching Spotted Flycatcher, Blackcap, two Swallows and singing Chiffchaff!

Female Red-backed Shrike, Unst tick along with most of the birds seen at Halligarth!

Icterine Warbler

Spotted Flycatcher

Next came the Haroldswick Pools, Ray O'Riley had told us of a Wood Sandpiper he'd found there so we decided to check it out.
It didn't take long before we found the Wood Sand but there was a good deal of things around, a Sedge Warbler was singing in the bushes, a Short-eared Owl was being mobbed by a flock of Starlings, two Garden Warblers were sitting out in the open and a Reed Warbler was skulking in the bushes!
Another good deal of time was spent watching the birds and I even managed some recordings of the Sedge Warbler song!

Hiding Sedge Warbler

Short-eared Owl

Also a male Red-backed Shrike which I forgot to mention!

Wood Sand on the Pool

And one of the Garden Warblers 

Next came Vaylie, Norwick and something odd was calling in the trees, I couldn't quite put my finger on it but I was thinking Twite.
Soon we located this odd bird, a Brambling! it was calling away in the top of a tree before it flew off.
Time was catching up with us so we headed south, meeting Hugh Harrop at Haroldswick who'd just been on Fetlar and then onto Baltasound where we tried for Quail outside of Brydon's.
Brydon spotted us and he gave us a wave over, he was just checking to make sure we'd got the Great Reed, we had a peerie chat and a cup of tea and then it was time to head to the ferry after an excellent days birding.

Finally leaving Unst after a truly great day

And a sunset to end it off

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

East meets west! Ducks, Crakes & Egrets

For this weekend I intended to spend it on Yell for my siblings birthday party, but due to a sickness going round we had to cancel and I still stayed in Yell.
On the morning of the 17th of May, I headed out to find nesting birds and maybe a few migrants, Blackbird nests were logged and even a migrant Redpoll but nothing else, then news broke of a Little Egret at Spiggie in the South.
I'd said to myself if anything turned up on Sunday then I'd go for it so I did, within the next two hours I'd journeyed down to the Mainland and with the help of Paula we went down for it.

Hugh Harrop and one of his tour groups had found a singing male Corncrake down at Boddam the day before, nowadays this species is quite difficult to find in Shetland since they've stopped breeding but this bird was said to be quite easy to see so we decided to head to it first as I have never seen one,
We rolled up to Boddam, parked up and waited (after being told where to park by Roger Riddington), 40 minutes passed, we'd heard it call many times, this weird insect like noise and then Paula spotted it but it disappeared again.
My hopes slowly started to dwindle but it called again and then Paula spotted it again, skulking through the grass away from us! I got good views and a photo before it wandered off.

Well its a record shot!

The rain came back on and the bird seemed unlikely to come out again so we headed off to Spiggie for the Little Egret.
We arrived to Spiggie and from a distance we could see Jim Nicolson parked up (most likely photographing the Egret).
Suddenly Paula spotted this white bird fly up from the marsh and up comes the Egret! it flew overhead and then lands on the cliffs! Certainly an easier Shetland tick than the Corncrake!
No.234 on my Shetland List so I'm not doing to bad.
I got a few photos of the Egret before Jim rolled up and we spoke for half an hour before heading off to Hillwell for a Garganey.

Flight shot

The bird seemed to like sitting on the cliffs

Not the typical spot for a Little Egret

Arriving at Hillwell I whipped out the scope and started scanning the Loch, first of all I noticed a large number of Swallows, 2 Knot and a pair of Shoveler.
One male Pintail was picked up among the reeds and then a pair flew in! I tried to get Paula onto them (who was using binoculars) and in the process I spotted my first Garganey in Shetland! a splendid male which very quickly disappeared into the reeds.
It was around 3 o'clock by this time and we were needing to head back north so we headed off.

We were heading through Cunningsburgh and I got a call from Hugh Harrop (I assumed it was about the Garganey) so I picked up.
He asked where we were and I said Cunningsburgh and he told us to quickly turn around and get to South Punds, Levenwick, he'd just found two drake Ring-necked Ducks!
After a slight rearrangement of plans we doubled back south and were enjoying these North American beauties within 10 minutes!

It may be distant but you can make out the white line on the bills if you zoom in

Next came the actual trip north, I ended in Brae and found myself a year tick of 3 Siskins in the Plantation between the school and "Toy Town", so not a bad end to the day!
But big thanks to Paula for taking me around, I would of never seen them without her help!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The Patch, some Migrants and the Odd bit of Ringing

The weekend of the 24th was pretty good in my terms.
First of all the 25th started with a bang, two patch ticks of Willow Warbler and Common 'Mealy' Redpoll turned up on Clickimin, in the same tree! so I was delighted about that.

Male Gadwall, one of only a pair that are on Clickimin now, first Shetland breeding record?

Mealy? Lesser? Its a Redpoll anyway

Stretching Willow Warbler

The head colour looks quite subdued but you can still see the red

Bressay in the background, quite an odd sight

Later on in the day I headed out with Paula and a trip to Ladysmith Road got me a Hawfinch (year tick along with the above birds), a Goldfinch and a Goldfinch x Greenfinch Hybrid! a really odd but fascinating bird and probably the first one in Shetland, of course credit goes to the finder Jim Watt who lives in the house where the bird was seen.

The beast itself, captive escape? wild hybrid? who knows but it is odd

I also had time to go out on the patch and the snow was rising as steam off the hills

Seal at Seafield

Sleepy Seal

And this beauty! patch year tick of a Razorbill, quite the treat also around was a White Wagtail (patch year) and 18 Tysties

Also the old Sea Kale is growing more everyday

Water droplet upon the leaf

Closer up shot of the droplet

Purple Sandpiper "KKU" ringed in Svalbard

This guy was found by Kevin Bryant and has been around for a few days

The next day the 26th I headed out with Dave for some Raven ringing, my first shot at ringing Ravens after I went twitching for a Cretzschmar's Bunting last year (and dipped) instead of ringing.
It was a truly amazing experience, the chicks were so fat and the bellys huge so I found it difficult to hold them/pick them up.
We were doing one nest and this pair kept squawking until one flew down and landed just a foot short of where I was, I've never been that close to an adult Raven and even Dave was amazed!
A total of 7 chicks were ringed and hopefully we are to do some the next weekend.

Though my story is not done, after Dave dropped me in Brae just before 4, I got ready for tea, then he texted with news of a BLACK KITE at Exnaboe, now going from Brae to Sumburgh to see a bird of prey which may fly off and roam the Shetland cpountryside is quite risky, though I like my risks....
I ended up phoning one of the finders Roger Riddington (The other finders were Rob Fray & Gary Bell) to see if the bird was still around, he said it was happily sitting on a fence post and looked like it would sit around, I asked him to keep me posted and we shot off!

The Deep Blue (not really the right name for a red ship)

An hour later we arrived to see Jim Nicolson & Roger at the site at North Town, Exnaboe looking at a plowed park.
I got out, got directions and raised the bins to the Kite sitting on the ground a few hundred metres away! Black Kite! Shetland tick/lifer no.232 and also no.105 on the year list! I rattled off a few record shots and we spent a minute or two admiring the bird.
I don't really see myself as a twitch and go kinda person but I have to be at times, such as needing to catch a ferry and so on, so we left and thanked Roger for helping out.

Record shot or what? still good to have a memory of it- Black Kite

I don't really see myself as a twitch and go kinda person but I have to be at times, such as needing to catch a ferry and so on, so we left and thanked Roger for helping out.

We headed off and I spotted some Curlew ish sized birds in the park below Paul's so we checked them out, I very happily raised by bins to not 1 but 4 Whimbrel! year ticks! (106) I was actually more excited to find these 4 Whimbrel than the Kite! it did round off a great day so we headed north and that conludes this blog post.

In the field I have difficulty sometimes separating them from Curlew but its from lack of experience

Its good to get them again, hopefully more birds will return in the next week