Sunday 26 July 2015

Out West

On a visit out on the west side this last weekend it was good to be out in good weather. Lots of good birds to keep the interest including some young Ringed Plover, which seem late to me.

The young are very well camouflaged blending in with the landscape and difficult to see if they are not moving around. With any gulls and skuas around they need every bit of help.

We did see an otter, not very close but it did stay around for 20 mins feeding off shore.

It was interesting to see the otter swimming past Red throated divers which didn't seem too concerned

Although migrants may have been thin on the ground, Shetland always has something to offer with some great breeding birds. A couple of interesting breeding birds this year are Grey Wagtail, linnet, Chiff Chaff and Sedge warbler.

Just recently a Paddyfield warbler has turned up on Noss and a Turtle Dove at Brae, just a foretaste of a good autumn ?

Fields and roadside verges are a mass of colour at the moment, grass cutting has started and green channels have appeared. It seems that possibly a pair of Corncrake may have bred - to be confirmed, so i hope that the cutting has not affected this.

Skylarks have only just finished singing but Curlews and Oystercatcher are still noisy, passing over our house in small flocks on a regular basis

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Returning waders

With the weather being so good we went to the south mainland passing verges full of colorful wildflowers including any Northern Marsh orchids. The grass has been cut in a number of fields and these are attracting waders , gulls and flocks of starlings. The most Oystercatcher in one field has been 87 along with 7 curlew.

Down at Grutness sparrows are still taking food and nest material showing that they will be having a second brood. A pair of White wagtail flew up from the pool then were lost in a large flock of noisy Arctic terns which flew across the road.

Many young common gull seem to have formed little clubs, but also a few were found dead. Its a fierce world they are born into with the larger Herring and Gt Black Back gulls are always on patrol looking for weak birds to prey on.

Down on the beach a large flock of Sanderling (123) scurried around the shoreline, often taking off and flying around before coming back to the same spot. Although they are just moulting out of breeding plumage they don't look as good as they do in spring. A few Turnstone joined them still looking dapper, this cannot be said of the young Wheatear, which looked tatty. Their plumage blending in with the seaweed.


A few swallow can be seen, in Sandwick, Sumburgh airport, Fladdabister and Lerwick which also includes a Red Rumped Swallow. I have been down 5 times without seeing it, when it comes back has it has done for 5 days now, it stays around a couple of hours but always when we are busy.

Four Whooper swans landed on Clickimin briefly before heading west, they have successfully bred on Spiggie and Tingwall and no doubt other western lochs.

News from Fair Isle this week highlighted the problems seabirds have had over the past 30 years with Puffin numbers dropping from 20,000 to 10,000 in that time. This year they seem to be doing reasonably well as they are at sites on Shetland mainland. During the same time Bonxies have risen by 300% to over 400 pairs

If you get chance please look at my other two blogs

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Orchids saved, then bad news

During my last blog I mentioned that we are very fortunate in Shetland as the council and many individuals look after the orchids- mainly Northern Marsh. They cut round each orchid along the verges in Lerwick and even bowling green cut grass gardens have an orchid oasis.

Other places outside Shetland don't seem to be lucky unless someone takes the time to make a stand. Our friends Ron and Mavis on a regular visit to Rother valley Country Park, nr Sheffield saw something that made them take action. An industrial lawn mower was just about to cut down a large area of grass, buttercup and yes many Southern Marsh Orchid.

They stopped the lawn mower and pointed this out to the operator who told them he was under instruction to cut the area in preparation for next week's Race for Life, as this would area be a feeding station.

As they could do no more they walked on and met a friend who seem to know most of the staff in the park, as luck would have it one of the main bosses was just driving by and they managed to stop him and inform him about the orchids. As this was about 1/2 hour after the mower had been originally stopped they didn't give the orchid patch much hope of survival.

A couple of days later they walked past the orchid area to find that the cutting had stopped exactly where they told the operator about the mass of orchids. All credit to the operator and the rest of the staff for halting the operation.

It just goes to show you can make a difference , so well done Ron and Mavis.

Whether its about conservation matters or taking part in surveys to establish whether a species or area needs conserving get involved.

So far since moving to Shetland I have been involved in beach surveys counting dead birds, luckily only a couple found since May 2014.

                                                                    Herring Gull Lerwick town centre

Also i send in records of all the birds i see whether its common or rare, many only send in rarities when in fact the valuable records are in fact the common ones. Who would have thought that Sparrow and Starling or even Herring Gulls would be in a big decline. Collecting records from sensitive areas is also important just look at the threat from the proposed wind farms.

In addition to these, this year i have taken part in two breeding bird surveys both km squares being in Sandwick. You do get a lot of satisfaction from looking at an area over a long period of time, especially when you compare data.

It seems that not all people appreciate nature:

Pilot whales are the primary targets of the infamous drive hunt in the Faroe Islands, known as the grindadrĂ¡p. However, they are not the only species that is targeted.
Under the provisions of the Faroese Parliamentary Act No. 56 (the Pilot Whaling Act), whalers are permitted to catch or drive pilot whales and the following small whales (cetaceans):
1. Long-finned pilot whale, Globicephala melas
2. Northern bottlenose whale, Hyperoodon ampullatus
3. Atlantic white-sided dolphin, Lagenorhynchus acutus
4. White-beaked dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris
5. Common bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus
6. Harbour porpoise, Phocoena phocoena
On August 13 2013, in one of the largest single slaughters in recent years, a staggering 430 Atlantic white-sided dolphins were slaughtered in Hvalba, on the southern island of Suduroy.

Sea Shepherd

Very little migration at the moment, although a Red Rumped Swallow has been seen three times at the same spot in Lerwick over the past few days. Today 4 whooper swans arrived at clickimin loch but only stayed a few minutes before heading west. I did see three Swallow and a house Martin over the weekend so you can understand why several people have turned their attention to flowers and insects