Friday, 8 December 2017

Swan Count 2017

In Shetland November is a special time for us birders where we leave the comfort of our warm homes to drive around in every backroad known to man on the hunt for Swans.

On the 12th of November, my area to count would be Fetlar (though I usually help out Dave around Tingwall or Mark Chapman with the North Mainland) as Andy Cook was working.

I set out early on the 12th, aiming to make the 0725 ferry from Gutcher so I could get into the Isle early and make the most of the light, with a warm flask and some food I went off on my adventure.
On the journey across I decided to brave the freezing weather and hunt for seabirds off the ferry, after twenty minutes I had given up due to the conditions with Comorant, Gannet and Long-tailed Duck seen. Arriving on Fetlar I made my way straight east to Funzie.
At Funzie there was a good sized flock of gulls (numbering around 350) so I began picking my way through the flock for any white-wingers, after ten minutes I had my wish and I had found a 1st Winter Glaucous and an Adult, but no Swans on the Loch. A quick look up at Everland and then at Aith and Houbie produced no Swans but instead 6 Mallard, 1 Chaffinch, 2 Woodcock and good numbers of geese (several hundred). By this point I was getting to the end of my count, with only one loch left to check I headed over to the Loch of Papil.
I had just come down over the hill when I instantly picked out a handful of large white blobs on the loch, which gave the instant impression of Swans, I pulled up as close to the loch as I could and got the scope on the birds, Whoopers!!
By the time I'd finished I'd racked up around 13 birds and in that 3 different brood with 7 birds being juveniles, there was a few Tufteds and Goldeneyes on the loch as well but with the choppy conditions it was difficult to see anything else, so I was off west towards the ferry.(last years counts 0)

As I was heading to the ferry I decided to take a detour up to the Fetlar Mast as it was a place I'd never been and since it was such a high place it would [provide a great view. I only got halfway up when I decided to turn back, the pot holes were huge going up and I'd rather keep my car than try get a view. Luckily it was a good idea as when I came off the hill a white blob flew up from the side of the road, a Snow Bunting (Snaa Ful)!, it flew along the car for a few minutes before shooting off into the hill, after having given some stonking views.

Finally onto the ferry where I happened to meet Andy Cook who was heading out the isle to work, we chatted a bit about the Swan Count (with Andy adding one more juv Whooper to the list) and the good autumn we'd both had before the ferry came in and we headed off.

Arriving back on Yell I decided to take a quick run up to Cullivoe to see if there was any swans to add to the count. Cullivoe had a few swans, at least on Kirk Loch anyways where there was six Whooper Swans, two pairs of adults and one of which had a brood of two. Also on the loch was a lovely male Pochard, they can be quite a rare bird in Shetland now so its always good to see one.

Next place on the list before I headed home was Sand Water near Gutcher where Dougie Preston had found the White-winged Scoter, it contained a few Swans (just Whoopers), two parents with a brood of 4, and no White-winged Scoters or Ring-necked Ducks that had been seen in the area recently, so with that I headed off home.

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