Saturday, 31 December 2016

The year of records 'n' rares: 2016

What a year this has been, 2016, the year of losing celebrities and the best autumn in my lifetime.
Its been a bumper year for me, so below as always I've summed up the year as best I can month by month.


The year got off to a slow start but I had soon caught up and broken my own month record.
Highlights being Mourning Dove'Black-bellied' Dipper, Rough-legged Buzzard, Lesser Scaup, Jack Snipe, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, 5 Little Auk.
I relocated Whooper Swan 'JB4' back on Clickimin again on the 24th.
At the end of the month saw me and Dave take a twitch to Whalsay for a 'putative' American Herring Gull, I've never seen such a strange looking bird.
And also during the month I got an email concerning some recoveries of birds I had rung, my first three recoveries, 2 Oystercatchers from the same area in West Mainland (to Inverness and Wales) and a Mute Swan which I refound where I ringed it in Scalloway!

Year List by months end = 79


Like always a quiet month, with funnily enough the same amount of year ticks as last year.
Birding was restricted as prelims took over a good portion of the month.
On the 26th-28th I went down for a 'residential' in Edinbrugh for my collaboration in Reroute (Scotland's Youth Biodiversity Panel) but before it started I headed out east with my friend Andrew Russel for a spot of twitching, Black-necked Grebe, Caspian Gull and Water Pipit were all on the cards but in the end we only came across the Black-necked Grebe but it was a lifer so I was happy! biggest excitement had to be when we came across a very tame young fox which had quite a liking for bread!
Only my second ever Fox, you might say I had good views!
(courtesy of Andrew 'the twitcher' Russel)

Year List by months end = 83


On the 5th I finally saw my first Killer Whales with a pod of 5 off Sumburgh Head/Compass, views were distant but I was more than ecstatic!
The 12th resulted in a trip to Unst with Robbie Brookes to see Surf Scoter (twitched successfully) but also resulted in a couple of hours spent looking for a White-tailed Eagle which finally showed itself the next day but not to me.
It was good over the coming weeks to see the migrant and breeding species return to Shetland as winter finally ended and a Wheatear at Sumburgh on the 29th was the earliest record for me of the species.
A cycle to Fetlar on the 31st was slow going but produced highlights such as Glaucous Gull, Blackcap and Tree Sparrow (last two being year ticks).

Year List by months end = 100


The 6th-11th saw a trip to Fair Isle which resulted in one of my best April birding ever with highlights being Hawfinch, Black Redstart, Great Gret Shrike, Ring Ouzel, Grey Wag, Hornemanns Arctic Redpoll, first Bonxies of the year, a Hawinch ringing tick, the islands first Shelduck for the year, finally ticking Tree Pipit, Long-eared Owl, Stonechat, self-finding Fair Isles earliest ever Common Redstart and swallow.
As always April is the time we check the Raven nest sites, defiantly one of my favourite times of the year.
The 24th was an exceptional day with Garganey and 12 Pintail seen at Scatness, only 1 more bird and we would of equalled the Shetland record!
Finally the rest of the month was spent doing Ravens.

Year List by months end = 121


The first half of the month was dominated by exams but some birding was fitted in.
Return of Terns is always good with my first Arctics on the 7th.
A first for Shetland, Rose-breasted Grosbeak was stressfully twitched between exams on the 4th in Burra.
A much relieved tick came in the form of White-billed Diver on the 5th in Basta Voe, Yell after many fruitless attempts
On a windy Saturday morning (14th), news came of a confirmed GREEN WARBLER on Unst (2nd for UK), a twitch soon ensued and I went with some Shetland veterans to successfully twitch it, after many fleeting views.
The 19th was a notable date with my first patch record of a Mouse with two on the beach at Seafield,
A volunteering stint at Fair Isle Birds Obs from 19th-27th and then extended to the 30th, a dream of mine to work there or even volunteer for a long time and definitely worth it and not just good for birds! some birdy highlights being BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS, Rustic & Ortolan Bunting, Little Egret (self-found first for the island!), several Bluethroats, Woodchat Shrike, Corncrake, Red-backed Shrike, Crane, two Nauthusius Pipitstrelles and a host of many common migrants.
Jobs though labour intensive at times, cruise ships were much rewarding as cleaning out the Obs Wader Scrape, as it produced 3 Wagtail species in one day! it was also great to see many old faces and meet many new ones. Big thanks to FIBO for having me and all the staff and visitors as well, though the 5 hour journey on the Shepherd was a bit rough!

Year List by months end = 161


As always a quiet month for birding but its when the ringing really takes off with waders dominating the month and the freedom of having no more exams until next year, not as many waders as past years but still good with even a trip to Yell but we only saw one wader chick.
Though the one bit of birding excitement was a singing Quail at Burravoe, Yell on the 19th, big thanks to Dougie Preston for the tip off as its the first time I've ever heard one!

Year List by months end = 162


Mainly dominated by a trip to China 9th-28th as part of the Confucius Hub project to learn the culture and language of China, dominated by classes and visiting areas around Tianjin and Beijing such as the Great Wall, Olympic Park, Forbidden City, Summer Palace and a mix of culture & food streets with a few lifers and birds seen such as Chinese Pond Heron, Chinese Bulbul, etc etc
The last few days of the month were spent getting back into ringing with the Divers, as July is the official start of the wonderful diver season.

Year List by months end = 163


Things really started to speed up in August in all senses for birding.
The month started off with Divers, with a few sites being tended to before the chicks fledged and then I moved on to a smaller kind of bird.
Storm Petrels then came mid month where I joined Phil Harris, Georgie Petrie and Glen Tyler on a few Storm Petrel sessions, it was good to get more experience with petrels and to rack up my ringing total a bit! A Leach's Petrel caught was also a nice year tick even if Fair Isle was catching Swinhoes on the same night!
My first real autumn birding on the 27th with Paula and Julie Redpath resulted in Wryneck and a s-f male Rosefinch at Spiggie!
The 29th was also a pretty good day for rarities as Paula and I head down to the South Mainland to twitch a Arctic Warbler at Geosetter and a Booted Warbler at Sumburgh, safe to say we managed to get both birds in the space of an hour and a half!

Year List by months end = 174


The month started off well with Wood Warbler at Mossbank on the 4th and a patch tick on my second patch of the Knab in Lerwick with 8 Mallard on the 5th!
I headed into Fair Isle again with family between the 9th-13th for our great-grandmothers funeral, one or two birds seen whilst there, Sooty & Manx Shearwaters, Lapland Bunting, Greenshank, Grasshopper Warbler, two Convulous Hawkmoths courtesy of Nick Riddiford and the Legend that is the Biking Birder, Gary Prescott.
The 13th was the day I equalled my own year list record with a Yellow-browed Warbler at Quendale.
The 29th resulted in my own personal year record of 181 being broken with a Pallid Harrier at Quendale and then a Pochard at Spiggie.
On the 30th news broke of a Brown Shrike in Aith which I twitched after school, saving me the 14 hour plus trip to Skerries for the one there!

Year List by months end = 184


The month started off good with a trip to Unst with Tommy on the 1st for Paddyfield and Blyth's Reed Warbler. Blyth's Reed (possible self-found or relocation of Norwick bird), RBFly and Water Rail were all logged bringing the yearlist to 187.
Another trip to Unst on the 8th for White's Thrush was unsuccessful but sunny weather and good views of an Osprey made up for it!
The 9th was a day that went down in history as a SIBERIAN ACCENTOR (1st for UK) was found at Mossy Hill, Scousburgh by Judd Hunt and would prove to be the start of a UK influx (I did see it).
A trip to Fair Isle with Tommy from the 10th-17th was one that will stick in my memory, with rarities appearing in the form of Pechora Pipit, two of three Pine Bunting, OBP, Red-flanked Bluetail, Dusky Warbler, Siberian Stonechat and a 'Stenigers' plus a Shore Lark (self-found and a lifer), also a supporting cast of Waxwing (Sf), Blue Tit (self-found and 13th for Island), multiple Little Bunting, Yellowhammer, multiple Yellow-broweds, Great Grey Shrike and lots of common migrants to make it an ultimate trip.
Even though I'd left Britain's most remote island there was still birds to be found with an Isabelline Wheatear at Noss, Spiggie which showed nicely along with a Mistle Thrush (which was bird no.200 for the year!) bringing the total to 201 for the year!
The next few weeks were quiet as I was away down south for a residential as part of Reroute but I still managed to get a few birds in the shape of Desert Wheatear (21st), Pied Wheatear and Rose-coloured Starling (24th) and two Striped Dolphins in Scalloway!

Year List by months end = 204


This month saw a new menace released in Shetland, myself on the roads, now being able to drive (but only on L-plates at the moment) I went further round Shetland and did a bit more twitching than usual.
My first twitch as a learner driver was a North American Killdeer at Sandwick on the 13th which was an unexpected lifer but certainly much appreciated!
The 21st also saw my second ever birdrace fundraising for Hillswick Seal Sanctuary and was a great day with the three teams and my team personally got a respectable 67 species! including highlights of Green-winged Teal, Waxwing, Merlin, Scaup and Little Grebe.

drake Green-winged Teal (top) and Eurasian Teal (bottom) at Orwick Water, Muckle Roe

Year List by months end = 207


An extremely quiet month for birding, the short period of light and other bits and pieces played a big part in limiting birding but weather wasn't really a problem as it was quite a good month.
One possible new addition to the year list was a Buzzard sp that I saw at Mossbank on the 27th, the views were great but I had no camera and have a little experience with Common and Rough-legged.
Though I managed to get a new bird on the Mid Yell School List in the shape of a 2nd winter Iceland Gull which did a flyover on the 31st.

Year List by Years end= 207/8

Another crazy year, one that will forever go down in memory of birders nationally and locally, certainly it will be one I look back on when I'm old and remembering the ' good 'ol days'.
In both personal and birding life it will be one I won't forget, every year comes with ups and down but this years pros have shot past its cons and its a year where there has been faults but I'm proud of my achievements.

Many new faces this year and but also great to catch up with some many old ones back on Fair Isle who I'm now joining as the 'regulars'.

This year has seen me break an aim of mine and that is see 200 species of bird in Shetland in one calendar, I can safely say with 207/8 by 22.55 on 31st December 2016 that I have done that and with no less than 19 additions to my Shetland List included in that, so here's my additions this year:
Tree Pipit, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, White-billed Diver, Green Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Ortolan Bunting, Little Ringed Plover, Osprey, Rustic Bunting, BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS, Sooty Shearwater, Manx Shearwater, SIBERIAN ACCENTOR, Pechora Pipit, Pine Bunting, Shore Lark, Isabelline Wheatear, Desert Wheatear and Killdeer

Of course once again, this year couldn't of been what it was without the help of so many people, the list grows more and more every year, as more people come and go. Like always I thank everyone for the help they've given me across the last year, whether just pointing me in the right direction to a bird or driving with me miles on a twitch.
Once again thanks to Dave and all the Shetland Ringers for giving me some great ringing experiences.
Certainly some of the biggest thanks goes to my granddad, throughout the year he's been there for birding trips, twitches and just general driving and has been such a big help.
Thanks to Paula for the runs to so many birds this year, certainly without it I wouldn't have broken 200.
To all those at Fair Isle in the Obs and on the island, I've had a lot of great memories and trips there this year and its certainly made the year great.
Finally to all my family and friends who helped out in smaller ways throughout the year and to all the birders from whatever corner of the country they have come.

Finally Happy New Year! lets make 2017 just as good!

2016 Photos September-December

Seeing as I have posted little this year I thought I should share my photos at least until I get my blog posts sorted, so here's a selection of photos from September to December in backwards order that I just want to share.

Green-winged Teal (Top) and Teal (Bottom) at Muckle Roe during a bird race in November

Killdeer at The Wart, Sandwick in early November, only the third Shetland record

Isabelline Wheatear at Noss, Spiggie late October

"Stejnegeri's" Stonechat (subspecies of the Siberian), Fair Isle in October

Self found Shorelark in Fair Isle in October

The bird was a lifer and a much desired tick after dipping one several days before

One of several description species I found this year

Olive-backed Pipit, Fair Isle in October down to 15 feet

'tristis' Chiffchaff, Fair Isle in October

Self found Red-breasted Flycatcher, Fair Isle

Red-flanked Bluetail right on the top of Ward Hill, Fair Isle in October, I happily missed lunch to see this bird

Pine Bunting at Quoy, Fair Isle in October

The first of a string of records in Shetland and the UK

One of four on Fair Isle that autumn

Pechora Pipit at Fair Isle in October that stayed for roughly two weeks

Yellow-browed Warbler that I ringed in Fair Isle in October

Sheepdog in Unst October

Osprey and Raven at Norwick, Unst early October

Only my third in Shetland following birds in Fair Isle in May and September!

Sunset over the North Mainland
Brown Shrike at Aith at the end of September

Sneezewort at Loch of Voe in September

Sanderling at Virkie in September

Mid Yell black & white

Saturday, 26 November 2016

The 200 barrier

This year I set out to achieve 200 species on my year list having failed the past two years but getting my highest year list total ever.
Though this year felt good even though it got off to a poor start.

After coming off Fair Isle in the middle of October I was on a respectable 199!! I spent the last two days hunting for Mistle Thrush across the islands cliff, the peak number of 11 at one stage that didn't even help for me to see a single one!!

An Isabelline Wheatear had been found the day before I came off Fair Isle (16th) at the Loch of Spiggie, so the next day I headed straight down for that.
I arrived on site and Mark Chapman was looking for the bird but he hadn't seen it so I had a look around the surrounding fields and I spotted this large thrush in the park.
It was big and the ID hit me straight away, a large white bellied thrush with spots running down and a greyish head, Mistle Thrush!! then another thought clicked into place, I'd just broken 200 for the year!

I'd finally reached my target, and you could say I was a bit more than happy, to be honest I felt I would struggle to reach my target but here I am, already reached it!
I had a funny feeling that Mistle Thrush would be my 200th, and that I would have it on Shetland, typical that I spent days hunting for them in Fair Isle!
Though a lifer was still to come, Rob Fray rolled up and asked us if we'd had the Isabelline Wheatear to which we said no as we couldn't see it anywhere, that was because A) we were looking on the wrong side of the road!
Rob had just had it on the opposite side of the road from us so we turned our attention there, it only took a few frantic seconds but we tracked it down! a lovely pale Wheatear, much paler than our own ones, would be my 201st bird for the year and a lifer!
The bird bounded around for a bit before disappearing around a hill and that was the last we saw of it!
I was pretty pleased with that, we thanked Rob and tried our shot at a Bullfinch he'd seen up the road and a Pied Wheatear down at Scatness but with no luck, though our day had certainly been good!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

STOP PRESS: Siberian Accentor first for UK

News broke today at 1520 of a SIBERIAN ACCENTOR (first for UK) in a quarry north of Mossy Hill, Scousburgh by Judd Hunt.

This was literally the biggest thing of the Shetland Autumn, I was bouncing off the walls of the Yell Sound Ferry when I got the news.
I couldn't live with myself if i missed, today was the day or nothing as I was off to Fair Isle the next morning! But I had a trick up my sleeve.
Tommy was waiting at the other side to pick me and he was ready to head off anywhere, we had been hoping for a quiet day of birding in the North Mainland but nothing ever goes as planned on here!

I gave Tommy a quick call to brief him on the plan and when I got to the other side we headed straight down the Ness to the bird, stopping no where on the way and sights only for Siberian Accentor.

We went straight up to the top of the hill and we met Dennis Coutts, as soon as we rolled down the window he gave us the directions to it and we were off! We could see masses of people lining the quarry and I phoned Dave to give him directions as he was enroute.

I got straight out the car on arrival and ran up the south side of the quarry and plopped myself down and it was literally right there, slap bang in the middle of the quarry and feeding away!!

I watched it feed for a good few minutes before Tommy arrived and we both got to watch it feeding, virtually oblivious to the 50 people viewing it!

It disappeared for a bit and then Dave rolled up and it reappeared, I quickly ran over and got Dave onto it, he was as impressed as I was at first sight of this impressive bird!

Light was fading and We deceided it was time to go, this bird would probably be gone too with the clear night but it was well worth seeing and one magical day (No photos published as having problems doing it on the Ipad!).

Friday, 30 September 2016

Brown Shrike

News broke early afternoon of a possible BROWN SHRIKE at Whitelaw Road, Aith in the West Mainland, I was currently in school and seeing it was a Friday I'd be able to escape and head out there after school

After a few mix ups with buses I managed to get out there with Tommy and arrive on the scene at around 1645 to see a small 'flock' of twitchers gathering to see the bird.
It was quite distant when we arrived and almost needed a scope but it eventually came closer to provide better views.
The general consensus pulled towards Brown Shrike and as of writing this most people agree on its identity of being Brown Shrike.

But I'm pleased on seeing the bird, it was good to get out for the twitch after school had ended as a bit of a release from the week and good to get that extra bird for the year list, I was going to go to Skerries for the one there but it would of been a 14-hour round trip for the bird which I wasn't too fond of!

A tad distant but still better views than the last one I saw which was 300 metres away!

Year List Record Broken

Headed down the South Mainland yesterday to see if I could clear up a few year ticks before the bad weather kicked in this weekend.

Quendale was our target destination for Great Reed Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Little Bunting but none of them were seen after half an hour and only birds of note were a Willow Warbler, Green Sandpiper and a Grey Wagtail.
30 minutes later we'd gone and come back after a visit to Hugh Harrop's, we'd been given better info to the location of the Little Bunting so we were heading off there when I spotted a few guys with scopes looking around the Loch of Hillwell.
This time of year I'll ask any birder if they've seen anything because you never know what they may have seen.
I shouted to the closest guy and he'd said they'd just had a PALLID HARRIER go by and drop down into the dunes at Quendale!!! I shot out the car and the two with the scopes pointed out to me where it landed and I was gone to find it!

Paula and I headed out to the site and I ran across the dunes to look for it, I got halfway out to where it had landed and could see it gliding away from me, it turned a few times to flash a great orange belly! it just screamed at me Pallid. It got a piece away and in the bins you could see the frosty forewings, it was great!
It dropped back into the dunes and I returned back to the car absolutely beaming, I'd just broken my own personal year list and was now on 182!

We paid a brief visit to the 20 or so twitchers who were gathering and watching it on a far away fence post, I had a brief look of the bird before asking if anything else was around to which one birder informed me of a male Pochard in among the Tufted Ducks at Spiggie! it was another year tick so we quickly raced off for it.

Arriving at Spiggie it took me only a few seconds to spot the stunning male Pochard in among the Tufteds, 183!!
With that we pretty much headed home, stopping in the Spiggie Hotel Bar for a coke or two and then we were off after a great day out.

Distant male Pochard, slap bang in the middle

Sunday, 28 August 2016

First Autumn Birding 2016

The blog has been a bit quiet in recent months due to me falling out of the routine of doing it.
But that doesn't mean I haven't been busy, I did a volunteering stint in Fair Isle in May and racked some amazing species with Black-browed Albatross being the highlight!! also I went to China for 3 weeks during the summer and it was amazing.

Now the autumn has come and its time to get out and find some migratory birds, I headed down with Paula Moss and Julie Redpath to the South Mainland yesterday (27th).
Things were pretty quiet in Sumburgh with us missing Wryneck, Tree Pipit, Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper but instead getting Ruff, Pied Flycatcher and Kestrel, it was alot less birds than had been seen in the week with over 50 Willow Warbler in Sumburgh.

Hillwell and Spiggie would be our last areas to check before we headed back north, Hillwell had the summering Common Crane and about 40 Ruff which really brightened up our afternoon!
Quendale Mill was next where Paula and I had had Greenish and Reed Warbler earlier in the week.
Sadly there wasn't the same birds there and all we could find was 2 Willow Warbler and a Green Sandpiper.

So with that we headed north to Spiggie but were quickly pulled back to Hillwell when Paul Harvey and Roger Riddington had found a Rosefinch and a Wryneck!! two much desired species for the group.

We raced back and were quickly onto the Wryneck which sat down on a post for a good few minutes before flying off so next was to find the Rosefinch,
I was hunting around for the Rosefinch when Hugh Harrop came down the side of the park so I waited for him, I had a quick scan and I saw this scarlet coloured head half hidden behind a fence post, alarm bells started ringing!!
It hit me straight away that it was a male Rosefinch, everyone came down and got their views before it flew off down the burn and disappeared.

After that we had to head back north, it was a pretty successful day if I do say so seeing as I bumped my year list up to 172, equaling my October best, only 10 species off beating my yearlist record!

Saturday, 14 May 2016

GREEN WARBLER: Baltasound, Unst 14/05/16

I was out doing a Breeding Bird Survey on Mainland Shetland when a text came through of a probable GREEN WARBLER at Baltasound, Unst which had been initially Id'd as a Greenish the day before.
I phoned up Dave and he was going so I said I'd join him and we shot up for the 1355 ferry to Yell.
At Toft terminal we rendezvoused with Georgie Petrie and Pete before catching the ferry up and speaking with Andy Cook from Fetlar who was also heading up.
Ferry came in and we headed straight up before catching the next ferry to Unst and then heading straight to 'SHE' in Baltasound for the Warbler.
Several cars of birders left when we arrived but many were still around, bird has been sighted 10 minutes before we'd arrived and had dived into cover again, usually showed well every 15-20 minutes, so now the waiting came set in

We waited an hour and many people had left so it was just our group, one or two of us had spread out to check other sites and then George found the bird a couple of hundred metres away! we legged it but it would not be refound again.
10 minutes later, Pete and I headed back to the site where George had found it and we picked it up again before it shot off towards the main plantation on the east side of SHE!

We spent the next 10 minutes checking the bushes and gardens in SHE but with no luck so Pete and I went back to check the main plantation.
I went up the east side and within a minute I was greeted by a bird feeding in the trees, I quickly raised the bins and bam!! the Green Warbler!!!! I shouted out to everyone else and you could here them running towards me.

Green Warbler if accepted 2nd for UK, first for Scotland/Shetland

The bird happily fed for 20 minutes and I managed some record shots, even better was that everyone present got to see the bird and with that we headed for the 1715 ferry, eating celebratory lemon tarts from Andy Cook on the way down, we were definitely some happy birders.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Study leave and some home birding

Officially now we are on study leave for our exams, so we can either go to school or not, its really our choice, usually I end up going to school but yesterday I decided to do a bit of birding on the way since it was such a great day and birds had been popping up all over the place.

I checked the trees at the Old Mid Yell School before I headed into study and what looked like a Sylvia warbler caught my eye so I sat down and waited for it to pop back out from the undergrowth.
Within a few minutes I was enjoying views of both LesserWhitethroat and Pied Flycatcher, both year ticks and additions to the school list, which has even had Buff-bellied Pipit on it!

Other birds around Mid Yell yesterday included 3 Siskin and a singing Chiffchaff so migration is definitely happening.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

White-billed Diver after 15 attempts......

Its been a long road, over two years of searching, 3 different birds, around 15 failed twitches and a lot of man hours later I have finally managed to hunt down and see a White-billed Diver.

A White-billed Diver has been in Basta Voe, Yell for over two weeks now, originally found by Brydon Thomason (probably wintering in the area) and I dipped it two weeks ago but I decided today that I'd head up and try find it after my English exam since it had been seen yesterday.
I spent an hour walking along the south side of Basta Voe and had just given up hope by the time I'd gotten to the bottom of the Basta road.
But I decided I'd give it one last scan because I'd covered a large area before I'd done the last one, I raised my bins and after a couple of seconds I spotted this Diver and it flapped its wings and boy it was big! huge! I had a good feeling this was it and quickly set up the scope but it was too windy so I rattled off a few shots and quickly looked at them and there she was, all beautiful with its huge big bill and lighter head.
White-billed Diver! I actually shouted with joy I was so pleased, I've tried so hard to get one of these and they've always eluded me so its great to get one of the home island.

White-billed Diver in all its glory!

Number 252 for Shetland and 124 on the yearlist and my most wanted specie of the year, I got some good views in the scope before it just disappeared, and with that I left.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016


STOP PRESS: first for Shetland, 1st summer male Rose-beaked Grosbeak at Toogs, West Burra, Shetland

On Tuesday the 3rd of May 2016 I was browsing the Internet when I came across a picture on Shetland Birds & Wildlife that had just been posted by a wife called Lynn Goodlad in Burra of a bird which had appeared in her garden.
I looked at the photo and my heart sank, it was a Grosbeak and I comment just that right away without any hesitation, I had no clue what type and was quickly trying to find out as much info of its location to get ready to send out the info.
Lynn got back to me and suggested Rose-breasted Grosbeak after having looked it up and she was bang on! (after I did a quick google search to see what one actually looked like) and I quickly sent the message out to three other birds in hope they would relay the message out to the rest of Shetland.
At the time I wasn't too excited as I figured that it would get accepted as some American buntings don't but I was way wrong with this one.
Soon I got a phone call from Hugh Harrop who'd got my message about it and was currently on his way to see it and also to thank me for the call.
Worst thing was I couldn't go see it til Wednesday so I sat and waited for the next 24 hours and hoped it stayed while most of Shetland got glorious photos of this Grosbeak.

On the 4th I headed down mid afternoon with my grandad Tommy and we went off to see it, one birder was at the garden and he got us onto it straight away in the far corner of the garden!

Utter record shots but I'm glad I finally saw it!

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak now took my Shetland list up to 251 and my year list up to 123, breaking my May best year record by 1!he 36th record for the Uly K and on
The bird was also the 5th for Scotland, the 36th for the UK and the 2nd ever spring record!
It was a stunning bird but we couldn't stick around as I had revising to do for my exams the next day so we were off! amazing bird and big thanks to Lynn Goodlad for finding it and posting the photo or else it would have gone completely unnoticed!!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016


On the 31st of March 2016 (almost a month ago now!) I cycled to the island of Fetlar from Yell with my friend Jack with the intention of going to see a Tree Sparrow at Funzie (pronounced finnie) on the opposite side of the island.
We set out quite early, getting the 10 ish ferry into the island before spending our day cycling across it.
First thing I spotted coming off the ferry was a Glaucous Gull at Oddsta! (the old ferry terminal), this was a welcome surprise and also an island tick.

Glaucous Gull riding on the wind with a few Great Black-back which were out of sight

The first lamb of the year which took Jack's interest a bit more than mine

First stop was the Houbie shop for some supplies but we happened to arrive on one of the few days the shop is shut! so we just enjoyed the sunshine instead for a bit.

The view from the Houbie shop

Next it was time to head further east and we stopped at the Fetlar Hall to look in the bay, there was plenty of Tysties but few other birds in the sea, the real highlight was us finding a female Blackcap! only the second of the year and a yeartick! number 99 and one bird off the 100 midway point for my year target.
A few more stops between Houbie and Funzie but we arrived to Andy Cook's Croft to hunt for the Tree Sparrow (Andy having kindly given me details of where to find the bird), a flock of House Sparrows was checked but half flew off before I could get a definite ID but hope soon came when I raised my bins to the Tree Sparrow feeding on the ground around 40 metres away! number 100!
I couldn't manage any photos but we were soon off back across the island, in total it took an agonising 3 hours for me to cycle back home when it should of taken under half of that.
But nonetheless it was a great day and thoroughly enjoyed!

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Spring has sprung 29/03/2016

Its now officially that time when the migrants are coming, birds have arrived and in Shetland we noticed the first real migrants arriving at the start of the week.

I'd been in Aberdeen during the bank holiday and had come back to find that a few birds were creeping in.
Dave was interested in going out so we headed down 'Da Ness' on Tuesday the 29th to find any early returners in the South Mainland.

Also to explain why there is so much writing and no photos my camera died and I had no spare batteries 

First migrant I had of the day was a female Pied Wagtail at Seafield just before Dave picked me up, taking my year list up to 95.
Dave soon came and we headed down with our first stop being at Clumlie and Boddam, both though appeared pretty quiet and I was wondering if we were going to see any birds.
Virkie didn't have an early Sandwich Tern but 3 Bar-tailed Godwits or Barwits and a Knot were present on the tideline.
Next we tried to pick out the Black-throated Diver that had been wintering in Quendale Bay by scoping it from the western end of the Sumburgh Airstrip (Scord), I wasn't that hopeful as it could literally be anywhere in the Bay and it might be too far away to ID.
We spent around 10 minutes scanning for it and then I picked up this diver which looked slightly odd, not like your usual GND, I got Dave onto it and he scoped it out, it took a bit of time to ID due to the difficulty of the waves and it had a tendency to never look at us but Dave eventually decided that it was the Black-throated after he pointed out some of the features that separated it from GND.
Now that was another year tick, number 96 and only my second ever sighting with much better views!
The Loch of Gards at Scatness was next but there wasn't any American Wigeon in the duck flocks but instead to make up for that there was a very out of place Barwit on the loch's edge.

Grutness was next for the Gadwall which was still in the exact same spot as it was on Saturday and then it was up to the quarries to try and get Saturdays' Chiffchaff, driving along we both noticed this thing on a dyke and it took a minute for our brains to figure out what we were both seeing, before we both blurted out 'Wheatear!' and it dived over the wall. First one back in Shetland and year tick number 97!
Its the first time I've ever seen a Wheatear in March and its a pretty early one as well.
Finally we got to the quarry and it was a mess, it isn't a big quarry but a lot of sheep had been shut in there and it had completely messed up the ground.
Though in fairness there wasn't really anything in there anyways, a Robin was it and then the Head produced nothing in its bushes until two Woodpigeon started circling overhead, presumably migrants thinking of leaving Shetland?
It was time to head to Hillwell but for some odd reason I wanted to look at the dyke that went from the road to the farm, it was a good idea because we found the Chiffchaff feeding in the March sun, number 98, now I'm pushing close to 100.
Hillwell and Quendale had very little stuff to find after 45 minutes of searching and the only birds of note were the lingering Pink-footed Goose and Coot, quite poor for Hillwell.

Spiggie though had the lingering Brent Goose and the Little Grebe from Saturday was changing into summer plumage and we finally ended on Geosetter (the first time I've visited there since autumn last year) where two Goldcrests and a possible Water Rail were in the trees.

That concluded our day, taking me the step closer to 100 species but who knows, will I be able to get 100 before month's end?

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

A day in Unst; the first migrants

On the 12th of March I got up early and left Lerwick on the 0740 bus to head to Unst for a bit of birding with Robbie Brookes, arriving in Unst at 0945 we headed to Easting to try and spot the wintering male Surf Scoter that had been found on Unst last year.

First though we stopped in Uyeasound, getting my first 2 Red-throated Divers of the year on Easter Loch, I was pretty glad to have finally seen them as I've spent the last month hunting for them!!
On to Easting, we grabbed bins, cameras and scopes and headed out the car to go look for the Scoter down by the shore, on the way down Rob told me that the bird liked to sit in the middle of the bay before he raised his bins and pointed it out, right in the middle! I got my bins up and saw it in among 3 Shag, year tick!

With our brief sighting we walked further down towards an old ruin by the sea where we decided to get better views with Rob's scope.
It took a few minutes to get the scope set up but we were soon enjoying good views of the bird diving with the group of Shags (Scarfs).

A distant record shot but the bird is in the middle of the shot trust me

Soon we decided it was time to go and headed off to go find other birds, a quick stop in Uyeasound produced 5 Goosander on two different lochs, a pretty good count.
Next came Baltasound which was quiet apart from a single European White-fronted goose in among some Greylags.
Haroldswick was better with two European White-fronted Geese and a Comorant so we headed north to Skaw.
Skaw was dead really, but the walk was good, Lamba Ness then showed obvious signs of migration with at least 15 Skylarks around the roads that weren't there the day before and I then managed to self-find my first Lesser Black-backed Gull of the year flying over the road!! number 90 for the year, two birds from beating my previous March best, seems like I'm on a roll this year.

Now we headed back south to Norwick, another Lesser Black-backed Gull was in a Herring Gull flock but besides that it was quiet.
Things defeitnly picked up when we were waved down by a local who told us he'd had an immature Sea Eagle on Saxa Vord for the past two days, and the first time it was only 20 metres away!!! he was serious and he knew what he'd seen, many Shetlanders know a strange bird when they see one, they know whats the norm so when a Sea Eagle is only a few metres from you, you know it.
We thanked him and shot up to Saxa Vord and searched the hills, but to no avail, 2 Snow Buntings were the only birds we could find in the mist.

The bird though was seen the next day, flying over Saxa Vord and some amazing views were had, though I was two hours too late when I twitched it from Mainland.

Back to the present blog, anyways we just drove about hunting for birds and soon it was time for me to go, Rob ran me to the ferry after having me on an excellent day out and I thank him very much for that.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Some NeWs and a couple of birdies

Well the title may throw you off a bit, its not the News we all watch on the TV but the Non-Estaurine Bird Surveys or NeWs for short, a survey being done between the 1st of December 2015 and the 31st of January 2016 specialising in seeing what is around our countries coastline, with me doing counts in east/west Yell, Mossbank, Brae and Lerwick.

Saturday 23rd January 2016

Having already finished my surveys on Yell it was time to start my surveys in the North Mainland, with me arriving in Brae the night before to do some school assignments and prep for my morning surveys.
Come the morning, Tommy and I headed quickly off to Voe to try catch the Dippers before having to do the surveys as they are preferred to be done between the tides.
Sadly there wasn't any Dippers but some bread interested Swans near the Burn of Daal made up for that with the potential to ring them in the future.
Going north to Sullom to get in a few other birds before the tides resulted in 3 Oystercatchers outside of Brae, I've seen several since the 16th and it seems they've started to come back to Shetland after wintering south.
Into Sullom and I gave the plantation there a run through incase an peerier (smaller) birds were wintering in there.
I gave it around half an hour and couldn't find anything, I'd pretty much given up until something with a greeny backside flew out of a tree just infront of me and disappeared round the same tree, I went in pursuit and waited, looking into a patch of firs.
Luckily having some patience paid off and a Goldcrest popped out and fed briefly before disappearing deeper into the trees! an unexpected year tick but I had a good feeling about this place.
Next we headed to the Sullom Quarry to see if the Rough-legged Buzzard was still around, luckily I spotted it almost instantly on a ridge not to far away and it soon flew closer, given good views.
Now time for the surveys, Tommy dropped me at the first house in the Mavis Grind area and I began walking the coast until I reached the Moorfield Hotel in Brae, now there was definetely a few interesting bits and pieces with 9-11 Grey Herons, 5 Oystercatchers, 5 Snipe, an Otter and a Slav Grebe, though I was surprised with the lack of waders, 2 Redshanks, 7 Turnstones and no Purple Sands or Ringed Plovers.
I met Tommy at the Hotel and we filled in the forms before shooting off to Mossbank and Sellaness.
Sellaness had two Oystercatchers but nothing else so we headed over to Mossbank.
I got out and did the surveys while Tommy went to the highest point he could find to fill out a few of the forms while I walked along the coast.
It was decent for the first half of the journey with many Snipe, 61 Wigeon and a couple of Common Gulls on the beach, soon I met with Mark Chapman at leg two to carry on the counts.
Mark was a great help, being able to pick out several Comorants, 2 Great-northern Divers, Tystie and also getting me Jack Snipe!! a bird that I have finally seen in binocular view!
After doing the surveys, Tommy met us outside the Mossbank pub and we all had a cuppa before sticking Mark home and then Tommy and I jetted off to Lerwick where we ended the day.

This rather sad looking Herring Gull was near the Shetland Catch looking a bit worse for wear

A bit more excitement came the next day when I headed out for a look onto Clickimin to see if anything could start me off good on my Patch Work Challenge, Whooper Swan 'JB4' was back on Clickimin with its mate, I've seen it for the past 3 consecutive winters with 'JB4' showing a very colourful colour ring on its right leg.

Ringing Recoveries

Recently I got an email, concerning a Oystercatcher ringed in Bixter in June 2015, Dave and I tend to ring out there and in the email it was said to be Dave's as he sends in the ringing records, I decided to check it out incase it was one of my birds and comparing the ring numbers and dates it was!!
My first ringing recovery! the bird had been ringed as a chick and had gone on to winter in Inverness where it had been caught on the 29th of December! quite a speedy recovery.

Also a second recovery came through last week and this time I found it, back in the last few days of December 2015, I spotted a Mute Swan with a ring on it at Scalloway, a couple of weeks later on the 16th of January I went back and managed to get the ring number off it and got it sent to Dave who combed through his notepads and found it was the one I'd rung in February 2015!

It seems that the Mute Swan comes here to winter every year

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

A jaunt of the Isles: From Unst to Sumburgh and almost back again

Well this past weekend has certainly been a packed one, with a trip to Unst and many sites in the North, Central and South Mainland I've got a bit to write about here.

Saturday 16th of January 2016

A trip to Unst had been planned with Tommy so we caught the 0840 ferry into Unst and started a day full of birding.

The wilds of Unst, it really has a landscape that can't compare to any in Shetland

First stop was Uyeasound for some Goosander, which we ticked quite easily before heading off to Easting to try and get the Surf Scoter which was wintering there.

The Goosanders of Uyeasound

Haegrie (Grey Heron), one of 4 in Uyeasound

We arrived to a pretty cold Easting and walked out to the beach with the scopes, positioning ourselves on a hill so we could view the bay.
It was a couple of degrees below zero so we started to freeze up pretty quickly, there was a few Red-breasted Mergansers, Shags and a Great-northern Diver (year tick) but no sign of any other ducks, I took a few scans of the sea and found nothing, so after half an hour of freezing conditions we headed off to have a cuppa.
With tea and rolls digested we drove north to Baltasound with higher hopes, a first stop off near Skibhoul found us 4 Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Knot and a Mike Pennington which were all year ticks, we had a chat with Mike and he filled us in on two Chaffinches and a Brambling at the post office which I was quite excited about, so we thanked Mike and got on our way.
First look in the post office garden produced no finches of any sort, I had another place to check though and for me anyways it had a good track record.
A garden literally attached to the post office has contained a few good birds in my time, epsecially these past two years and thats where we headed, standing on the corner of the gardening we heard the twittering of a Chaffinch and the birds flew in with the Brambling and plopped themselves in a bush.
Two year ticks were nicely bagged then and I managed the odd photo before we had to head off to the ferry again and back to the mainland for some more birding.

Heading down to Yell we met Brydon Thomason waiting to head onto the ferry at Belmont as well so I had a chat with him as this was the first time I'd seen Brydon in months.
Ferry came and we headed over to Ulsta, having no time to twitch Glaucs at Cullivoe, arriving at Ulsta we also met Dougie Preston heading down to see the Dippers in Voe, it was a amazingly calm day and it seemed that all the birders were out in force!
Ferry came and it was time to head on, it was the first time I'd had a chance to bird off the ferry so Tommy and I headed up top for a look, hoping to spot any auks that may sticking around.
Brydon came and joined us and he managed to spot a Little Auk south of the ferry! though it was in a bit of tide and none of us could clap our eyes on it, its not exactly a species I'm good with catching up so was a shame to lose but Guillemot (a year tick) made up for it.

After we got off we shot off to Sellaness to try bag Little Auk and anything else that was around, a first look produced a female Goosander and a Slavonian Grebe (year tick) but no auks, a quick look at the Houb of Scatsta produced 180 Golden Plovers and some ducks but not much else so we shot off to Brae for a chippy.
With chippy grabbed we headed to Mavis Grind as our final place to try and connect with Little Auk, I took only the bins with me when we first got out and looked and the first bird I saw was a Little Auk!! Year tick! a couple of photos and then I began scanning the rest of the voe and between the two of us we picked out around 5! my highest ever total! but time was against us so we went straight to Sullom for the Rough-legged Buzzard.

peerie Rotchie (Little Auk), my first ever photos of the species and a great sight

Turning into Sullom I spotted a car which I recognised as birder Mark Chapman, so we pulled alongside Mark to see what he'd seen.
Well Mark had certainly had a few birds, with at least 11 Little Auks between Brae and Mavis Grind (including our birds) and the Rough-legged at the Sullom Quarry.

We came around the corner to the quarry and we saw a flash of a light coloured wing disappear in the far northwest corner, I thought at the time that it had just gone and thats all we'd see of it but I was wrong, it flew towards us, gracefully landing on a ridge halfway between us and its orginal position, a big mass of light brown and white feathers!
I quickly grabbed my camera and got a few distant shots before the scope came out, now I wasn't wanting to scare it off or anything so I decided we'd stay in the car, the awkward thing was we'd have to assemble the scope and then stick it out the window, tripod and all.
We were suprisgly successful and I even managed to digiscope the bird.

It may be my second bird but its the only one I've ever photographed!

Though it was soon time to go, I could of happily watched it for hours but we only had around an hour and a half of light left so we had to get moving to the Dippers in Voe.

It was oddly quite at the Kirkhouse Burn in Lower Voe, no cars we about and there was no sign of any birders which worried us, a look around the burn produced no Dipper but we didn't have time to walk all the way up it to comepltely check the area.

The Lesser Scaup at Nesting was our last biggie of the day and we found it almost instantly on the Loch of Houlland where we first saw it in November.

Lesser Scaup on Loch of Houlland, the bird was also on Benston as well

Loch of Benston was slightly frozen and had few birds so we quickly headed to Strand and the Loch of Tingwall iin the last of the light.
The loch at Strand was frozen over so there was no chance at any ducks or swans so onwards for some geese, a couple of flocks of Greylags were near the farm and I gave them a quick scan to find myself 8 Euro White-fronts!! not a bad find!
Light was really fading fast so Tingwall was our next stop, towards the north side it was pretty frozen and my hopes started to dwindle but as soon as we came to the south end it was full of ducks, Tommy managed to pick out two Little Grebes and two Coot, both year ticks! before I found some Rook at Asta (also a year tick), that was going pretty good and we'd just hit 18 year ticks for the day but I had one last trick up my sleeve.

In fading light we could still photography these tiny beauties of Little Grebes

Two Mute Swans have been knocking around Scalloway this winter and that was a bird I was still needing, the place I'd always seen them was the Burn Beach near Scalloway's version of 'The Street', I saw them as soon as we appeared and I rushed out to try and get a ring number off the adult (as the last time I came I noticed a shiny ring on its leg).
Tommy came over with some bread which encouraged them in and the adult bird came out the water and displayed its ring quite nice to allow me to get the whole sequence off it.

Allowing pretty close views I was able to photograph the foot in pretty good detail!

Pretty much by this time it was too dark to go anywhere else and we'd just about exhausted all the birds we could find for the time being, though a trip down the south end tomorrow seemed quite promising.

Sunday 17th of Janurary 2016

Today was time to catch up with a few more birds down the South Mainland to add to the ever growing year list.
Tommy and I headed down the South Mainland with a first stop off at the Burn of Swinister in Hoswick, Sandwick to try and find a wintering Yellowhammer which had been seen a day or two ago.
Combing the burn and a nearby Hostel picked up Twite, Skylark and Carrion Crow, all new ones for the year but no sign of the Yellowhammer so we headed farther south.

Carrion Crow at Swinister, it was in among a flock of Hoodies and 4 migrant Rooks

Boddam didn't really have anything of note and the goose flocks at Fleck appeared to be all Greylags so next was the Pool of Virkie.

Boddam Voe looking amazing in the winter light

Now things started to pick up, with Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwits (year) Shalder (year), Knot and Grey Plover! (year) all at the Pool it seemed the year list was going up fast with my total reaching 70 (3 birds off my previous January best).

Grey Plover, only my third record ever, with the first in Northumberland 2013 and 1 last year

Comorant on some lights at the Ness Boating Club

Time though was catching up on us and a quick trip to Grutness got us Sanderling and then off to Hillwell/Ringasta which chucked a whole pile of birds into the mix with Moorhen (year), lots of Whooper Swans, 3 Barnacle Geese (year), hundreds of Greylags, 6 Pink-footed Geese (year and two were colour-ringed) and some Euro Whitefronts.
Pretty much from here we ended the day at Spiggie where we met Hugh Harrop scoping out a Taiga Bean Goose!, Hugh happily put us on to it and after a few photos we headed off due to me having to get north to the ferry.

A large number of Gulls on the ice at Spiggie

Taiga Bean Goose, first time I've seen one of these in two years, thanks Hugh!!

We ended the day pretty well with me breaking my all time January year list of 73 by one bird! only halfway through the month and I've still got a few weekends of birding to go so who knows what the total will be by the months end.