Sunday 31 May 2015

No change

Monday started cool again but improved by the afternoon so we went down to the corncrake site in the hope of getting a view but no appearance in an hour although it did call close by only once.

A car pulled up and a birder talked about the crake which he had seen briefly earlier that morning, he introduced himself as Robbie Brookes, someone who i had been following on his blog for a long time. He was out of his usual range spending most of his time up in Unst.

At Helendale mid week only a Chiffchaff sang, on Clickimin Mute swan(3) Tufted (28) Mallard (4) and several Arctic tern provided the entertainment

This weekend the weather was mixed so we made the most of our trip down to the south mainland. Resisting the urge to go and look for the Corncrake was a mistake as Dougie Preston managed superb views on Saturday morning.

We did however manage three Gt Northern Divers in summer plumage and several close up Sanderling and a few Turnstones in great summer plumage, they do look stunning at this time of year.

Starlings are all displaying and many bringing back food to young. Blackbirds seem everywhere with the white tailed male seen again at Sumburgh. A few swallows have made it to Shetland unlike many other migrants that would normally have been here had the wind direction been from the east. The weather on Friday was not spring like at all with snow falling in Yell and north mainland.

A barrier seems to have been set north of Orkney where many more migrants have been seen. Its possibly the poorest spring migration for years and even the breeding birds seem to be here in lower numbers. terns especially seem to be here in smaller numbers.

Of course there is still a few weeks for late migrants such as Marsh Warbler, the odd Egret or Heron lets hope for a few days of easterly winds very soon.

Sunday 24 May 2015

Little Egret and more

A Green Winged Teal and an Iceland gull (centre of photo) both at Spiggie

This week started well with more migrants arriving, although it was still cool for the time of the year. A reasonable number of Swallow and House Martin have been seen so lets hope some stay to breed, last year a pair of swallow nested at Cunningsburgh and i have seen birds around the area this year.

On the west side 100's of Long Tailed and Pomerine Skuas passed Watsness. It now seems a long time ago that the male Long Tailed Skua set up a territory on Burra, which it held for 3 years

Down at Grutness a nice flock of Sanderling in various plumage held a ringed bird. This multi- coloured ringed bird created a lot of discussion on facebook as to whether or not its over the top. A close in Gt Northern Diver provided some photo opportunities as did the shags.

                                                This 4 year old Sanderling was ringed in Northern Spain

News of a Little Egret at Spiggie last Sunday morning was good, so a quick trip down saw the distant Egret feeding before being disturbed by a pair of Curlew. After we left it started to rain but this didn't deter more birders, including a bird tour for getting to grips with this rare egret for Shetland. This was the second Little egret we had seen at Spiggie, the last in the 1990's

On Monday i manged to get down to Levenwick after work and easily located the two male Ring Necked Ducks which had arrived the previous day.(These had moved to Hillwell on the Tuesday) They were very, very distant hence the poor quality photos. On the same bit of water, a Red necked Phalarope was busy feeding, no doubt this is one of the birds that will be on Fetlar in the next few days. A Hoopoe also appeared on Unst the same day.

Other birds at Levenwick included:
Gt Skua, Whitethroat, House Martin, mallard, Greylag, Red Throated Diver, Curlew, Lapwing, Snipe, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, House Sparrow, Starling, Wheatear, Raven, Hoddie, Herring Gull, Rock Dove, Fulmar, Common Gull

 A pair of Shelduck displayed. while another pair protected 9 young in the south mainland, a strong hold for this species.

At Grutness a pair of White Wagtail chased away a Dunlin. Curlews flew over with lapwings and a very nervous mixed  flock of waders included Turnstone,Sanderling, Dunlin and Ringed Plover kept moving from one side of the shore to the other every few minutes.

It looks like Fair Isle is the place to be at present, with far more rare migrants than mainland Shetland, hopefully that will change soon as the period for migration normally finishes by mid June.

This weekend I managed to catch up with the corncrake in the south mainland, it called 13 times in 90 mins but didn't show despite being very close to the front of some very thick grass. Later in the day we went back but this time it didn't call in a 60 min period. Many have seen this very showy bird but this is the third time we have been without success. A party of six swallow was nice to see along with sedge warbler and a few chiff- chaff, but little else yesterday

Monday 18 May 2015

slow, slow, quick , quick

Last weekend had a mixed bag of weather which has resulted in a slow start to the migration season. Common migrants such as Willow warbler, Chiff chaff, Swallow, Robin and Blackcap seem reasonably plentiful.

Arctic Terns and Skuas are here in small numbers but wide spread, but so far this year has been poor compared to the same time last year.

A number of Gt Northern Divers in both winter and summer plumage was seen in the south mainland together with a small number of Long Tailed Duck in the first week of May. It was cool with rain on a number of days keeping migrants down, that was until the following week.

Week commencing the 10 May came with lots of migrants arriving, Redstarts, Wood Warbler, Long Eared Owl, Common Crane (2) and on the 11 May a Dark eyed Junco down at Toab. I didn't get this news straight away as I was delivering a photography course in Lerwick and then needed to go shopping. When I checked my messages around 2 pm the bird had already been present three hours or more, but it seemed settled and even sang.

Just as we arrived at Toab the heavens opened and it started to rain heavy, so much so we gave up after an hour. Other birders arrived after six and although it was raining it was no where near as hard and they managed some brief views and photos.

The next day the weather looked more promising so again we headed south. On arriving I met up with a birder from Fife who had travelled up on the over night ferry hoping to get a glimpse. We looked in the garden and surrounding area but the bird had gone and we gave up after an hour and a half. The first two House Martin, Swallow, Willow Warbler and a singing Sedge warbler the best of the birds. Two late English birders from London didn't seem pleased with the news and after a bit of swearing jumped into a hired car and shot north to the Crane site at Levenwick where again we all dipped.

A Kestrel at Quarff hovered near the main road, while Henry's Loch held coot and Tufted (4). Stopping at Clickimin two mute swans (both juv's) fed close to the north side of the loch, over 40 Tufted in two flocks were the only duck present. It was good to see over thirty Arctic Terns on the small islands and although nothing special was present at Helendale a House Martin flew over.

Over the last few months birds have been in song, but one bird has not been heard very often and that's the wren. It doesn't seem to have been a very bad winter so i don't know why they should be in such small numbers - Do you have many Wrens in your part of Shetland, please let me know !

Thursday 7 May 2015

Skylark singing

Spring is my favourite season, although i have enjoyed winter, its now time for some new birds to arrive in Shetland after a long journey from Africa. It will be interesting to see if any new species are added to the breeding list normally around 70 species in any one year.

From our door we can hear Skylarks singing, something that would have been impossible from our Sheffield home.This species has been declining in England for many years and the farmland bird survey (lowland farms) that I ran in Sheffield indicated that they could only be found in areas where spring crops had been planted. Many farms had turned to autumn crops and as soon as this happened the skylarks disappeared the same can be said for Lapwing.

In Shetland the habitat is less affected by crops and is mostly moorland or rough grass with damp areas which is attractive to Skylarks and Lapwing. I have just started a breeding bird survey so it will be interesting to see how many pairs will be found on what is mainly rough grassland with some sheep.

Shetland holds 1%  of the UK Lapwing and Skylarks population, but both are in decline. Lapwing by 48.6% in Shetland and Skylarks possible by 25% in Scotland between 2010 - 2011, Scotland has been a UK strong hold for Skylark for many years.

Since we have been visiting Shetland there has been an increase in the number of cattle which is more beneficial for wildlife as they graze grass less than sheep.

Regarding the Viking wind farm a survey

Survey's 2003- 2010 revealed that possibly 12% of Lapwing population ( 1740) , 10% of the skylark population ( 28,000 approx) and 10% of the Meadow Pipit (10,000 approx) will be affected by the development.

The weather this last few days has been more like winter with strong gale force winds, rain and hail, with some fog. Despite this there has been a fall of Redstart, Robin, Ring Ousel, Hawfinch, Willow Warbler and even a Waxwing in Lerwick