Monday 24 November 2014

LT Ducks

With the weather mixed this weeks opportunities to get out have been limited. Midweek managed to get to Geosetter hoping to find the Red Flanked Bluetail but no luck again as it appeared to have left the area. Only Goldcrest (3), Robin (1), Blackbird (11) Field fare (24) Twite (16) Curlew (38) could be found before the light started to fade. In Shetland the light goes quickly and at  present is really no good for photography after 2.30 pm, unless the sun is directly on the area.

During the rest of the week lots of Fieldfare ad Redwing showed , while the ever present Fulmars glided past the car. A Robin continues to visit our garden and it was good to see a flock of nearly 100 Fieldfare landed in the field opposite our house. Curlews are also visiting the field with the odd Redshank especially early in the morning but are soon driven off by the Herring Gulls.

Although Saturday was wet and very windy, Sunday proved far better with still sunny weather all day. A Black Redstart was a nice find at the end of the garden  and on our way a Peregrine flew past chasing a Rock Dove.

Down in the south mainland it was quiet, not on the bird front but the lack of people. Only one plane at Sumburgh and two beaches to ourselves. Lots of Turnstone present , at Grutness (16), West Voe of Sumburgh ( 28) with Purple sandpiper (6) at the latter site. The waders finding food among the mass of seaweed that had been washed up. A few Rock Dove acted like flycatchers, darting after small flies. A Large flock of Starling were busy feeding only just jumping out of the way of waves crashing on the beach. One lone Snow Bunting was again found around the same spot as last time , spending most of its time just on the edge of the dunes.

A Red Throated Diver came into Grutness bay, a late one as it is the first i have seen in over a month most moving south, but this one must have been tempted to stay by the mild weather. Even in winter plumage they look smart birds.

One bird that is always an attraction is the Long Tailed Duck and more have appeared at numerous sites in the past few weeks. At Grutness 5 males, West Voe 4 males and 1 female and in Quendale bay 12 again including 10 males. In Lerwick the other day 6 Long Tailed Ducks could be seen close to the Mareel. A small party of Red Breasted Mergansers came close in at West Voe.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Shetland Adult Education classes available

I will be running the following Adult education classes in Lerwick (9.30- 12.30) and Sandwick School (1.45- 4.45).    

Introduction to Nature - starts 19 January for 6 weeks, course code (AL115 Lerwick only).          

Digital Photography for Beginners starts 2 March for 6 weeks, Course codes (AL116 Lerwick, AL119 Sandwick)                  

Intermediate Digital Photography starts 27 April for 6 weeks, course codes (AL117 Lerwick and AL120 Sandwick) .        

Places are limited so please book early, phone Shetland Adult Education on 01595 743888      

Tuesday 11 November 2014


After the recent strong gales we hoped that something unusual would turn up and although we didn't find any rare birds a Grey Cheeked Thrush turned up in the afternoon at Rerwick, Red Flanked Bluetail's at Geosetter and Voe and a Grey Phalarope and Pied Wheatear in Unst.

Saturday was superb weather and after a few days in we couldn't wait to get out. Heading down to the South Mainland we thought that large numbers off thrush may have arrived in the strong easterly winds but few could be found.

At West Voe of Sumburgh the waves crashed high up the shore where a large amount of seaweed was present, this attracted Purple Sandpiper (7) Turnstone (56) Redshank (16) and numerous starling. Further along the two Snow Bunting were still present but now into the dunes where they would disappear frequently.

On the sea four Long Tailed Duck showed, two very close in which provided good photo opportunities. A  large raft of Fulmar made up the bulk of the other birds along with several Shag and a few Herring Gulls.

Onto Spiggie where Whooper swan(16) became very vocal but remained on the loch, these were joined by Mute Swan(2) and Goldeneye (18) staying very close to the swans. Wigeon (35) Teal 6) Mallard (12) Slavonian and Little Grebe (1 each) stayed close to the shoreline. Flocks of Lapwing, Curlew and Greylag kept flying up, maybe due to a bird of prey but we didn't see one.

On the beach a flock of Turnstone (28) took flight but Common Seal (12) came up close to pose for photos. Many Fulmar skimmed across the bay and several Gannet plunged into the sea, while Ravens and Hoddies kept flying down to feed near Sheep.

On Sunday we caught up with the Grey Cheeked thrush which was very confiding, although the sun was bang in front of us. Later we moved round so the sun was at our backs and managed better photos. Only three of us watching this North American bird, breeding in Alaska and Canada and which usually winters in central and south America. A far cry from when the Rubythroat or Yellow Browed warbler was found attracting scores of twitchers.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Another new bird

With the weather starting off dry and sunny on Monday we headed north to Voe in the hope we would see the Rose Coloured Starling that has been present for around 16 consecutive days. Arriving at the location we could see a number of common starlings visiting the fat balls along with sparrows.

After a wait of about 1/2 hour the RC starling appeared on one of the out houses. It didn't stay long before flying off, during the wait for it to reappear a  Brambling started to come to the feeders and a Sparrow with a partial white forehead head.

The Rose coloured Staling was my 14th  new bird since moving to Shetland in April.

Again the RC Starling re appeared again on the shed at the far side of the garden but it didn't make any attempt to come down to the feeder, where several people had managed good photos. It flew off again and after an hour we gave up and moved to our next location at Kirkabister.

Passing along Vidlin Voe the light was superb, with the sunlight hitting Lunna on the opposite shore. After passing several houses we parked up and set off up the hill on foot. Conditions were very wet underfoot but apart from sheep and a flock of Greylag little else was seen. Further up the hill a couple of snipe flew up and this drew my attention to three birds down on the Voe which  turned out to be two Gt Northern divers and a Slavonian Grebe, now in winter plumage.

A lock at the top held three wigeon, then a flock of 150 Golden Plover flew over. Thrushes started to appear on the hill, mostly Fieldfare mixed in with a few Redwing. Back down around the cottages Blackbird, Starling and Robin (4) could all be seen on pasture rather than in the bushes.The starlings always ready to jump up to ride on a sheep and to gain a better views.

The weather changed to cold wet and windy day for our next trip to Geosetter. The previous day a Red Flanked Bluetail had been caught and ringed and provided good views but when we went the following day it was not present. We did see Goldcrest (2) Robin, Twite (4) Blackbird (11) Redwing (6) Raven Hoodie and a couple of fly past snipe.

If you want to see landscape photos of the Kirkabister area please visit my blog at:  - at the weekend