Friday, 13 October 2017

Red Flanked Bluetail

Before I even visited Shetland I had heard that a mythical bird, the Red Flanked Bluetail had been seen in the isles . For me this is one bird  I always wanted to see and I did see one at Sumburgh head in the fog back in 2014.

Then I got lucky with a chance to see another right up at the top end of the mainland at North Roe. It took us about an hour and 10  mins from Sandwick but on the way up the sun started to peek out and there was no wind after 5 days of gales.

The long winding road to North Roe was interesting, this was the first time we had ventured up to this spot. We pass a house with an aircraft in the garden (more at and lots of interesting views.

Parking up I noticed that Gary Buchan was present along with another birder who said the bird had put in an appearance about 20 mins ago. Leaving Gary and me to look for the bird, the others left to try and find the Arctic Redpoll over at Ollaberry .

After about 5 mins I saw the bird near the house and then relocated it round the back in the paddock which allowed us to take a couple of photos. It then disappeared and was found in the small garden, twice it came onto the fence and on one occasion caught a Bluebottle.

I saw it several times again over an hour but now the bird was disappearing for longer spells, spending more time under the bushes.

It was a superb bird and looked far brighter than the Sumburgh bird and more confiding, a  worth while trip

The Red Flanked Bluetail is still there today and has been present since the 5 October.

Other birds this week included a Thrush Nightingale (Voe) Blyth Reed Warbler (Sandwick) 2 Cranes (at Brow) and a scattering of Arctic Redpoll

On the way back a Merlin shot over the road chasing a small bird and several flocks of geese could be seen in the distance.

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Saturday, 7 October 2017

Parrot Crossbill

Its been about 30 years since I saw a flock of Parrot Crossbill so the chance of seeing some in Shetland was very attractive.

About a dozen Parrot Crossbills had turned up and had formed 4 parties spread north to south.
In Lerwick two small parties fairly close together had attracted a number of birders.

For photography they couldn't have arrived at a worse time with 5 days of gales and heavy rain. I caught up with a party at Sound in Lerwick, well two of them

The first visit produced none so I went down to Helendale where the others had been seen. Other than a Hawfinch on the road no Crossbills showed.

Arriving back at Sound around 10 birders had gathered, a large number for Shetland. One instantly showed but the light was bad and the rain and wind made it difficult for photography

I moved round the far side to a sheltered spot and lucky enough both Crossbills came low down in the conifer and started to feed on cones which they had snipped off higher up.

Eventually they came onto the grass and started to move closer to give us all superb views. They were totally unconcerned with all the lenses pointed at them. The rain came and went but the wind was still very strong.

Parrot Crossbill are big birds, the beak structure and call the best way to identify them. They are an irruptive bird arriving from Northern Europe and Western Russia. A small population can also be found at Abernethy Forest in Speyside

Adult males tend to be Red/ orange and one of the birds was an adult the other a juvenile bird.

Other notable birds in Shetland include a few Rustic Bunting, Red flanked Blue tail, Bluethroat, Siberian Rubythroat and an American Buff Bellied Pipit . A number of the birders have or are due to leave Shetland so it should get quieter , but this could also lead to less records being received

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Run continues

With easterly winds continuing more scarce birds arrived. A Blyth Reed Warbler turned up at Sumburgh farm then moved into the quarry while close by a Gt Grey Shrike and Little Bunting showed again close by at Grutness.

The Little Bunting was again seen in the paddock and in the garden at Grutness. Also in the garden Willow Warbler (2) Chiffchaff (2) Goldcrest, Lesser Whitethroat, Robin(2) Blackcap (2) Song Thrush and Pied Wagtail.

                                                                                 Red Breasted Flycatcher

At Melby and Cunningsburgh a Rustic Bunting and Red Throated Pipit on Unst & Foula as well as  a Mega on Fetlar - an Upland Sandpiper. This will cause the birders a lot of heart ache turning up late on Saturday with a forecast of gales and heavy rain for a couple of days. catching three ferries is not going to be easy if it stays, most will be booked up very quickly

                                                                                                        Chiff Chaff

The Reed Warbler was doing its impersonation of a Blyth Reed Warbler at Sumburgh Farm after leading people a stray a few days ago posing as a Marsh Warbler

                                                                                              Lesser Whitethroat

Lots of common migrants around as well we caught up with a couple of Redstart in the first quarry, lot of Twite here as well.


At Sumburgh Head it was quiet, the Black Redstart seemed to have disappeared.  Down in the Rosebushes a brief glimpse of a Grasshopper Warbler , Blackcap, Chaffinch and Robin(9) Song Thrush was a change from a few days ago

Three Kestrel suddenly arrived from the east and circled around before heading inland.

Back at home a Fieldfare was in the garden and a flock of  Turnstone flew over.

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Saturday, 30 September 2017

More scare birds

As the month comes to an end the quality of birds has become better. Possibly 6 Little Bunting are now in the South Mainland and I finally got good view of one at Grutness which kept moving between a paddock and the garden.

I managed to get a few record photos, shooting into the light but better than nothing.

The Red breasted Flycatcher (possibly two) at the large quarry was very confining down to just a couple of feet away. A Spotted Flycatcher , Blackcap , Goldcrest, Siskin, Fieldfare and Robin join the RBF.

Up at Sumburgh head a flock of 47 Ruff were found feeding on a wet area but frequently flying up onto the moorland. A male Kestrel flew over and a reported Marsh Warbler turned out to be a Reed Warbler still scarce in Shetland.

A lot of people came and debated what it was

The Lapland Bunting must have been a fly over as none seem to have a clue where it was. There was now a Robin and a second Chaffinch joining the Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap & Goldcrest

A Peregrine was good to see near Bigton and two Grey Heron 10 miles apart seemed new in as well

 Other interesting birds are bluethroat, Black Throated Diver & Gt Grey Shrike