Saturday, 27 December 2014

December birding

After a week of gales, hail and thunderstorms it was good to get out for a few hours around Christmas We headed down to Sandsayre, just over the hill from where we live, no one else around which was not surprising as it was very cold and windy.

In the gardens sparrow, wren, starling and blackbirds feed, while rock doves came in occasionally. Down on the beach the tide was out and plenty of seaweed had been deposited providing feeding opportunities for Purple Sandpiper (8) Redshank (2) and a couple of Turnstone.  A small flock of starling could hardly be see among the stones and seaweed, also the odd Rock Pipit ran for cover as waves hit the beach. A Black Redstart popped up along the jetty, but trying to photograph it proved too difficult in the strong winds.

Out to sea a flock of 16 Long Tailed Duck proved too tempting and I spent a long time looking at these super ducks before my eyes drifted onto two smart looking male Goldeneye close in.  Also a couple of common seals came close up to see what I was doing.

Further out several gannets crashed into the sea and 18 Shag took off and headed north. The odd Kittiwake passed by and GT Black Back gulls flew in and rested on the rocks.

Around Sand Lodge, more Blackbirds (12) and around 100 Starling fed around the sheep. In the grassy fields Snipe (4) came out of no where and disturbed 12 Redshank who also flew away calling.

In Lerwick just before Christmas we decided to see whether any white winged gulls could be seen at the Shetland catch. Arrived in sunshine but retreated to car to shelter from heavy hail shower after 10 mins. This passed over quickly so for the second time ventured around the catch where many Gt BB gulls adults and juv could be seen along the sea defenses. The wind made if difficult to keep the bins steady but Herring and Black headed joined others on the roadway. After another 15 mins a Glaucous Gull flew over but didn't stay around flying back towards Bressay.

In the bay Long tailed duck (5) , Eider (46) Shag (5) and several Grey seals made it a busy place. Raven (12+ ) Hoddie (8+) Turnstone, Starling and a fly over Redshank rounded off the day before another heavy shower came in.
On Christmas eve back at the Shetland catch where Glaucous (2) seen moving over towards Bressay, also a Iceland Gull among other gulls put up by passing ship. A flock of 28 Twite fed on weeds in the car park.

On Boxing day it was sunny and still, even though a slight covering of snow and ice made travelling difficult, we headed down to Sandsayre where i completed the beach survey. I am met Jim Nicholson who was down hoping to photograph the Black Redstart. By this time I had the 800 mm lens and had seen one of the Black Redstart stood on one of the boats. It quickly flew onto the beach where it was lost in the seaweed. Jim was viewing from the jetty and I was outside the Boat house so we could cover the beach. Several times we saw birds, so at least two Black Redstart's present at opposite ends on one occasion. I also noticed a small bird perched on a fence, it flew down onto the beach and I manged a couple of photos, this time it was a Stonechat, uncommon at this time of year.

Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Rock Pipit, Starling and Wren also fed among the seaweed. A couple of Ringed Plover flew in and landed on the jetty, again they usually move south for the winter. Robin jumped up onto a post in the gardens and several Blackbird fed on the shorter grass

Today I was back down at Sandsayre where both Black Redstart's showed better than the other day. These birds spent a lot of time around the boats and sheds but as soon as they moved onto the beach they proved difficult to spot. The Stonechat showed only once.

A Grey Heron spent the morning around the rocks, flying off as soon as the GBB and Herring gulls swooped down on it.

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