Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Shetland Two Barred Crossbills- major invasion

We have had a major invasion of Two Barred Crossbills over this past month or so. The first group i saw was down at Sumburgh, then over on Burra. But on neither occasion did I seem them for more than a few seconds.



Word came out late yesterday that a party of six Two Barred Crossbills had been found in bushes beside Clickimin Loch in Lerwick. Too late for me, as they flew off soon after, but by Sunday afternoon they flew back to the same area









Its always been one of my photography rules to stay with the bird for at least 10 mins but most birds fly off well before this. However, these Two Barred Crossbills stayed in view for nearly two hours. More or less in the same few bushes.

Over the past couple of years I have been treated to great views of Parrot and Common Crossbills in Lerwick which used the same conifer tree near Quoys.

These Two Barred Crossbills decided to feed on Alder catkins, these stay on the tree all year round. They also eat the seeds of Spruce, Birch and Larch and have been seen eating caterpillars


These have the smallest beak of  all the Crossbills, the male Red coloured , the female Yellow/Green while the juvenile brown with streaked. Adults have two wide white wing stripes on each wing while juveniles have thin wing bars with white on tertials




For most of the time these birds were silent as they fed continuously, while the Burra flock were very vocal.





These are very rare, irregular migrants from Finland - Siberia with 8- 10 birds per year (Britain's Birds)ID guide. Crossbills tend to breed early in the year and often migrate August - October.





This year has been a major invasion, the largest ever in the UK



Totals for each site

4 7 19 Skerries  - 2
8 7 19 Unst (Norwick) 1
8 7 19 Unst (Baltasound) 4
9 7 19 Unst (Baltasound) 1
9 7 19 Unst (Halligarth)  3
9 7 19 Muckle Roe (Busta) 1
9 7 19 Sumburgh Head 2
10 7 19 Muckle Roe (Busta) 4
10 7 19 Whalsay - 8
10 7 19 Fair Isle - 9
11 7 19 Unst - 6
11 7 19 Yell - 4
11 7 19 Sumburgh Head 7
12 7 19 Unst - School 6
12 7 19 Unst Halligarth 7
12 7 19 Trondra (Glendale) 3
12 7 19 Bressay - 2
12 7 19 Voe - 20
12 7 19 Watsness - 6
13 7 19 Yell - 3
13 7 19 Lerwick - 2
14 7 19 Ocraquoy - 2
14 7 19 Bressay - 2
14 7 19 Hillwell - 2
14 7 19 Stromfirth- 16
15 7 19 Stromfirth - 18
15 7 19 Trondra (Glendale) - 8
15 7 19 Sullom - 1
15 7 19 Yell - 3
16 7 19 Trondra (Glendale) 6
17 7 19 Noss - 2
17 7 19 Unst - 2
17 7 19 Lerwick 2
17 7 19 Trondra brig - 2
18 7 19 Whalsay(Sodom) - 2
18 7 19 Whalsay (Symbister) 6 in addition to above
18 7 19 Unst - 3
19 7 19 Unst - 3
22 7 19 Unst -2
23 7 19 Trondra - 2
23 7 19 Yell - 8
23 7 19 Whalsay - 3
28 7 19 East shore - 1
30 7 19 Aith - 2
1 8 19 Unst - 2
2 8 19 Weisdale- 3
5 8 19 Unst 3
6 8 19 Unst 1
8 8 19 Hoswick - 1
10 8 19 Unst - 1
10 8 19 Clickimin - 9
11 8 19 Clickimin - 6
11 8 19 Fetlar - 1
11 8 19 Scatness - 1
11 8 19 Gairdins o sands 1
12 8 19 Clickimin 7
12 8 19 Stromfirth 7
12 8 19 Catfirth 5
13 8 19 Clickimin 4






So well over 185 individuals have been seen in Shetland so far this year up to the 13August . This species has only been recorded in the last 20 years and there has only been four other years when numbers have reached double figures, the last largest influx was 43 in 2008 (Nature in Shetland). Up to this year the total birds recorded in Shetland was 156


Shetland remains the best place to see this species










#Two Barred Crossbills, #Crossbill invasion, #Crossbills Shetland, #Shetland Crossbills, #Unst Crossbills, #Sumburgh Crossbills




Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Shetland Orcas

Shetland must be the number one spot for seeing Orcas. With two/ three pods around Shetland for around 9 months of the year there is plenty of opportunities to catch up with these great mammals

 This film crew filming Orcas from just above Toft

 I received a report of a pod of Orca moving south from Yell and was able to get to Mossbank just in time to see them , yesterday

 Now Orcas don't like large or fast moving boats and in this case the Yell ferries. They went across the front of the pod forcing them to move north.

 They seem to catch a seal off the southern tip island of Bigga before the ferries passed in front of them and they made their way up the eastern side of the island in about 1/2 hour

 They reappeared and again moved south keeping to the coast line of Bigga and moved very quickly to avoid another encounter with the ferries.

 Just before they came into view again a pod of 7 porpoise moved south quickly, possibly sensing Orcas, as they are a food item of these Killer Whales.


The pod moved quickly through the sound. These photos taken at a great distance from Mossbank




This is pod 19s with Mousa & co, often seen moving between Iceland, Shetland and Orkney from May through out the summer















This pod was seen in Orkney and didn't have a young one at that time so it seems that a little orca was born about 4 weeks and is doing well to keep up with the adults. Adult males coming into maturity around 13 years old while females between 6- 10 years old

The young can be born at any time of year with females mating several times of year. The young orcas are fed by the female for around 18 months

It is thought that Orcas  can live up to 35 years. They appear to becoming a regular feature of the Shetland Wildlife







Another seal is hunted down





Some folk spend several hours chasing the Orcas but on this occasion the pod disappeared after been seen at Lunning sound. This is a difficult section of coastline to observe


The young orca seen on the far left

It seems that seeing Orcas are on most peoples bucket list, whether resident or visitor.

#orcas, #shetland orcas, #shetland killer whales