One of the birds I wanted to photograph before we made the journey north was the Long Tailed Duck. I had a few chances with inland birds with the last one, a female at Anglers Country Park in Wakefield only three months before we left the area.
On two attempts i arrived only to find the bird in the middle of the large lake, and even waiting around for a few hours only produced small images. About 10 years before I had close views of a Drake at Thybergh Res but didn't have the equipment I have now, and it was in the days of film. Other birds have been seen around the east coast especially Bridlington and at Filey also down in Norfolk but all at a distance.
Back in the early days of visiting Shetland it was always a common event to see Long Tailed ducks in Spring but things have changed and they are a lot more uncommon at this time a year. We saw a male in Unst last June, near the fish farm but again at a distance.
We arrived in April and managed to find plenty of Long Tailed Ducks in the south mainland, again at a distance but things started to change in October when we were coming back from Unst a large flock flew past the ferry. Then birds started to appear in the south mainland until eventually two drakes came in close to the shore at West Voe of Sumburgh and I was in the right place at the right time with the right light and virtually no wind to cause vibration.
Both birds stayed close in for around 5 mins giving some great opportunities before they flew further out but soon came back in but further down the beach. They seem to enjoy to riding the waves but really it was the feeding conditions that improved as the waves ripped up seaweed and dislodged crabs and other goodies. They rode the waves for another 10 mins and continued to dive close in.
Males look superb at this time of year supporting a long forked tail while the plumage is a mix of black and white. now just need to find a couple of obliging female ducks. in Shetland they are known as Calloos - the name given from the call they make. Its just great to have winter birds in such good numbers all I need now is a male King Eider close up to make my day !!!
On Saturday I completed my Beach survey despite the dark wet , windy conditions and found no dead birds down at Sandsayre which is good news. The other thing here was there was far less seaweed than normal despite gales hitting this coast fro the east.
An Iceland Gull mixed in with the larger GTBB and Herring gulls , while further out a nice flock of 88 Eider duck rode the waves and a couple of Long tailed Ducks showed well. A single Gannet passed by, keep low over the sea. On the beach a reduced number of Turnstone and Purple Sandpiper foraged among the seaweed.
Around the huts two Robins and 6 Blackbirds sat resting suggesting that they may be new migrants.
This week I found out that one of my Puffin photos had been used in the Seabird Journal, this edition was on aging Puffin very interesting if you can get hold of a copy