Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Shetland - Pallas's and Booted Warblers

With easterly winds at last birds started to turn up at the weekend , rare and common migrants. Our first stop was down at Grutness where a Pallas's Warbler had been found.

I walked up to the wall and the bird showed immediately flitting between the sycamores. The bird performed well for an hour for just six birders. Anywhere else there would have been a hundred or so people on site.

Pallas's Warbler

A Chiffchaff and Robin were also seen in the garden

Up at the Quarry a good number of common migrants, Redstart, Goldcrest (6) Chaffinch(12) Blackcap(2), Robin (2) Twite(12) , Blackbird(5)Wren (2) and lots of Fulmar, sparrow and Starling.

Opposite, in the field Barnacle Geese (65) were very noisy and these increased to 110 the next day.

Barnacle Geese

A flock of Chaffinch arrived and started to feed allowing a close approach


I tried without luck for the Booted Warbler down at West Voe but it didn't show on Saturday but was later seen in a different spot. The following day i located the Booted warbler in the garden but then it flew down onto the tide line and started to feed on flies , darting among the seaweed

 I spent about an hour with the warbler before it flew off again into the garden area and didn't reappear in the 1/2 hour i waited.

Booted Warbler on the beach

 The garden held the usual, Redwing, Brambling, Chaffinch, Wren, Sparrow and Starling.

The Pallas's Warbler showed well at Grutness  and although i didn't see it a White Rumped Sandpiper flew from the pool across the beach. I went to the quarry where a Long Eared Owl was reported but no one could find it.

Common Migrants were not as numerous as yesterday but the Redstart showed again.


News came in that a River Warbler had turned up at Wester Quarff so most of the birders left. We returned to Sandwick where a large flock of Greylag and Pinkfoot fed up near the Wart, lots of Golden Plover , Curlew, Turnstone, Lapwing, Redshank and Ringed Plover

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Sunday, 14 October 2018

Birders with patience and time

Birders have to have a lot of patience and time. The other day i spent 3 hours looking for the Lunna Melodious Warbler. Gazing into lines of Sycamore bushes may not be most peoples idea of fun but it can be worth while especially if you know a bird is present

I met Simon Colenutt who was up from Hampshire and had been on site for about 45 mins before i arrived and had no sign of the warbler. After splitting up we had to shelter as a heavy rain shower moved in before starting the search again.

Simon called to say he had a brief view down near the entrance to the Kirk so i head down to find it had disappeared again and despite an extensive search we could not find the bird again. We packed up, i headed down to the pier and Simon back to his car where he met a couple of non birders who described the warbler and confirmed its ID when shown a photo. They had it in the Kirk grounds, along the wall then on the grass, typically we couldn't re-find the warbler. That's how things go and made worse when Simon found the bird again about 1/2 hour after i left Lunna.

A second visit was just as unproductive and no Melodious warbler seen in 2.5 hours, but at least the sycamore bushes looked good. Another birder turned up and spent about the same time but the bird must have gone with no sighting.

The Citrine Wagtail could have been a similar tail, with a quick ferry journey across to Gardie on Bressay in the rain

The Wagtail had been present for about 10 days and according to reports favoured the gardens. I check these out first and apart from a dozen Blackbirds no wagtail was found. I walked back to the drive in the rain and started to scan the field and there it was, briefly perching on a broken branch before shooting off up the field and out of sight

After an absence of over an hour checking the gardens on a regular basis i went up to the top of the drive and looked over the small pool which held Redshank (63) Snipe (12) Turnstone (18) Ringed Plover(6) common Gull (12) and many Starling.

Just as i was leaving the Wagtail flew up from the field and perched on wires for a couple of photos then flew down towards the hedge, distant views but worth the trip

Again another couple of photos before it flew north and over the gardens but despite a long search could not be found. With no other birders around to help i headed back to the ferry seeing a Slavonian Grebe just as i was called onto the ferry.

A lot of birders have headed north to Fetlar with the male Snowy Owl showing well while others have been in the south mainland where a Corn Bunting (rare in Shetland) and a Red Breasted Flycatcher were the main attractions

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Shetland getting better for migration

The number of birders have increased dramatically as it usually does at the beginning of October- normally the peak week for migration in Shetland. If you are on holiday you would have time to get around to see the birds, many were well spaced out between the islands, not so good when work gets in the way

The wind though has been a big problem with Force 6 most of the time with some heavy rain as well, not the best for photography. Ok if these had been easterly winds, but they have been coming across from the west or north

Northern Wheatear

Onto the birds- well this Autumn has been very poor compared to the past few years. But with the increase in birders the coverage has gone up and more good birds have been found. Despite the Yellow Breasted Bunting on Whalsay the places to be have been Foula and Unst, both time consuming trips.


On Foula, American White Crowned and White Throated Sparrows, Buff Bellied Pipit , Blythe Reed Warbler and a Turtle Dove. On Unst River Warbler, Bairds Sandpiper, American Golden Plover, Buff Breasted Sandpiper , Citrine Wagtail and Pechora Pipit - so not bad if you managed to the islands.

Grey Heron

In the south mainland the Pied Billed Grebe turned up in the same spot it was found earlier in the year, (see earlier blogs for photos in Spring) most people assumed it had been elsewhere in the summer, perhaps Iceland. It gave good views and attracted a ` lot of birders' Lol, may be 30 when i was present. A Slav Grebe was also present with Goldeneye, Tufted and Wigeon. Also on Spiggie Whooper Swan (28) Mute (6)

The Marsh Warbler however proved more difficult and despite seeing it about a dozen times in two hours it would just not rest more than a second. Again the vegetation seemed more dense that at the same point last year and it was a Force 6 wind .

 Whooper Swan

Meadow Pipit

There have been two Little Egrets, one out at Tingwall and the other which i saw was down at Cunningsburgh opposite the marina and gave good views despite the strong winds.

Little Egret

Redwing are still arriving in small numbers and geese have increased as have Golden Plover with three hundred in four flocks in the south mainland.

Golden Plover

Grutness was quiet with only a few birders present looking at a flock of Long tailed Duck (6), a Little Gull was picked out in a large flock of gulls resting just off the point with Black Guillemot(8) and an Arctic Skua put in a very short appearance, Gannets crashed into the sea and a flock of Shag rested on rocks near the cairn. I talked to a birder who had been up to the Quarry where he said the Marsh Warbler was still present but keeping well into the vegetation giving only brief views in 1.5 hours. Getting back to the pier a Red Throated diver showed briefly before flying off as the Good Shepherd arrived from Fair isle with 150 sheep aboard

I took a trip up Quendale in good weather.  Around the bridge at least 50 house sparrow and 20+ Starlings showed in the bushes with one Wren. Nothing was flushed from the burn but at the dam a few birds started to show. First two Swallow flew down the valley, a Kestrel was seen across the field and about 30 Skylark took off from the bare field. This also held 12 Blackbird and another 6 could be seen on the wall opposite. A small party of 5 Redwing flew in and started to work the field. Meadow pipit, Twite, Rock Dove, Raven, Hoddie, BH Gull, Common Gull all flew over.

 Pied Wagtail


Close by on Hillwell a flock of Tufted (22) Mallard(12) Gadwall, Wigeon (28), Swallow(2) Lapwing (6) Coot, Moorhen (4) Grey Heron all showed well. I continued to walk over to Brake but little showed, only Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Rock Dove (30) feeding in a crop, Northern Wheatear (4) along the fence. A skein of 80 geese flew over, mostly Greylag but did include 4 Pintfeet


The other week i did see 50+ Swallow, House Martin and a Hobby (rare in Shetland) down at Quendale and a few Goosander over at East Voe Scalloway

Lots of House Sparrow at Quendale

Last few days
Pied Billed Grebe, Marsh Warbler, Little Egret, Red Breasted Merganser, Eider, Mallard, Teal, Grey Heron, House Sparrow, Starling, Blackbird, Wren, Northern Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Skylark, Hoodie, Raven, Greylag, Pinkfeet, BH Gull, Gt BB, Herring Gull, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Gt Northern Diver Shag, Gannet, Golden Plover, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Dunlin, Black Tailed Godwit, Curlew, Turnstone, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Purple Sandpiper, Knot, Redwing, Pied Wagtail, Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Gadwall, Wigeon, Coot, Moorhen, Swallow, Kestrel, Little Gull, Red Throated Diver, Long Tailed Duck, Twite, Arctic Skua, Common gull, Rock Dove, Black Guillemot, Slav Grebe, Goldeneye

60 species