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.