February is a good month for increases in the number of winter birds visiting Shetland. At the catch the last few days have seen the number of Glaucous gulls increase to 4 with the same number of Iceland gulls and the Kumlien's gull an occasional visitor.
Besides the gulls which i am sure most people are not interested in, don't know why because I find them very exciting as rare gulls are not classed as every day birds. I do agree its a minefield trying to identify gulls and ageing them that's what puts people off.
Away from gulls for a change, February is also good for ducks, at this time of year they look smart in breeding plumage and they are also displaying. Around Shetland its easy to catch up with displaying Eider duck and good numbers of males gather to attract a female, a bit of fighting goes on and males are continually calling.
Long Tailed Ducks look smart at this time and in most areas small groups can be seen one minute and gone the next as the dive for food. They sometimes feed close in shore and the south mainland provides a number of good photo opportunities.
Recently a few Gadwall have been seen around Lerwick while rare ducks such as American Wigeon and Green Winged Teal have been seen on the west side.
Its a time when Fulmars return to their nest ledges and many are gliding past while travelling from Sandwick to Lerwick. Guillemots have also returned to stacks down at Sumburgh so hopefully it wont be long until Puffins return. Everyone will hope for another bumper breeding season to follow on from the last.
I have been conducting a beach survey down at Sandsayre since last July. Its been good news so far in that one one dead Fulmar has been picked up dead which means the auks & other seabirds must be finding enough food out at sea and they must be in good condition.
The survey is important in monitoring whether any oiled birds are washed up on beaches around Shetland, this is in conjunction with the Shetland Oil Terminal Environmental Advisory Group (SOTEAG) which has been carrying out these surveys since 1978.
Thanks for all the people that have booked on the Photography courses I will be running for the Shetland Adult Education, these will commence in Lerwick from the 2 March 2015, looking forward to seeing you all soon. Even one person travelling down from the north side of Unst for the beginners Digital Photography course.
From September in addition to running the beginners and intermediate digital photography courses I will also be delivering wildlife / nature courses to help people understand more about the natural world in the UK but especially Shetland. Keep an eye out for these which will be advertised here and elsewhere in Shetland from about July