Saturday 24 October 2015


Common Scoter used to breed in Shetland when we first started coming up in the mid 1980's. We saw pairs on Yell at Loch of Littlesetter but they also bred in the West mainland around Walls and down at Loch of Spiggie

The decline of this breeding species started to occur in the 1980's. During the 1970's & 1980's it was consider to be more a spring visitor , returning late March into April

Since then the Common Scoter has become more an autumn and winter visitor, although I did see a male from Spiggie beach last April
These later visitors sometime appear in small flocks, the bird photographed was in West Voe of Sumburgh part of a small flock of 5 birds.

It has been suggested that the Spring birds come from a different population to those that arrive in Autumn / winter

Velvet Scoter is a smart looking bird and is considered a scare migrant in Shetland. Sullom Voe used to hold a wintering population of around 12-19 birds back in the 1970's but the Esso Bernicia oil spill killed around a large number of these visiting birds

Small numbers of spring birds could be seen throughout the 1970's. Autumn birds have now become regular but usually the odd bird. This one was photographed at Grutness where it stayed a few days, with possibly the same bird appearing in Fair Isle a day after it disappeared from Shetland mainland

Friday 16 October 2015

South Mainland

During the week the weather improved with some superb sunny still days and easterly winds.

Geese are everywhere at present, large flocks of geese flying over our house several times a day. Unlike last year when only a few Barnacle geese could be seen, this year well over 250 have been regular for several days so far. Two flocks one at Quendale in a stubble field and another over 100 at the very south end of the road from Spiggie

 Large flocks of Pinkfeet and Greylag along with over 20 whooper swan gather at the latter site.

Up at Sumburgh Head  large numbers of Goldcrest landed and a few Ring Ousel , Chaffinch, Snow Bunting, Chiffchaff and Blackcap

The showy Lapland Bunting is drawing a steady stream of admirers and is faithful to it usual site giving exceptionally close views

 Whooper Swans can be found in good number at Spiggie and Clickimin Loch in Lerwick

I finally saw the Dusky Warbler at Sanick ,giving fleeting glimpses over an hour, calling as well. This is a lifer for me and the twentieth new bird since coming to live in Shetland. Here a Yellow Browed Warbler, Blackcap(pair), Dunnock, Robin(2), Chiffchaff, Twite (6) and Fieldfare shared the same garden

Large numbers of Fieldfare, Redwing have arrived joined by a few Song Thrush.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Wind blown

What most birders hope for, arrived on Tuesday - South easterly gale force 8. This was accompanied by heavy rain which forced an influx of Goldcrest. I was up at Sumburgh quarry where 7-8 were present along with a Chiffchaff and a further 4 down at Grutness with a very wet Tree Pipit. In the bay 147 Shag took shelter from the fierce waves rolling in from the east.

A Firecrest turned up at Geosetter, but by then I was soaked and heading home as it was becoming difficult to hold the binoculars steady

On the way back a dozen or so Fieldfare and a couple of Redwing could be seen in fields around Spiggie, while a field close to Spiggie hotel held 14 Blackbirds. Another rough pasture area held Lapwing (87) Redshank (56) Turnstone (33) and a flock of around 50 Meadow Pipit  while a flock of 56 Pinkfeet flew over. An Iceland gull down at Spiggie.

A good number of yellow Browed Warblers still remain mostly in the south mainland. Surprisingly the wind failed to bring in alt of migrants. Was out again on Friday but the long stay Olive backed Pipit in Lerwick seems to have left.

Arriving at Sumburgh I found many cars parked at the hotel, telescopes trained on an area of stubble which held three Richard's Pipits but at a distance. The row of birders became impatient so three people walked in the field and put the the birds. Whether or not the pipits flew or not i don't know but the group of twitchers moved on to view another field.

Lots of Skylark, Rock Dove, Starling, Sparrow and Fieldfare started to land again as soon as the people left. I walked of to Grutness where a Velvet Scoter fed close in shore but kept flying off returning to the same area of sea after a circuit . Across the dunes around 30 Swallow fed, some coming down to rest on a wire fence giving close views. This flock is the biggest i have seen since moving here.

Flocks of Turnstone and Sanderling joined around 80 Starling to feed among the seaweed which had been washed up in the storms. On closer inspection Wheatear, Rock Pipit, White Wagtail and Wren joined in the feast.

At Hoswick, a Barred Warbler was very mobile moving around the back of the Visitor centre and towards the hotel. Later a Great Grey Shrike was located along the stream, this may have been the Quendale bird.

At the weekend we headed south on both days, the weather was overcast but dry with a force 4 southerly wind. At Quendale the bushes help only 1 yellow Browed warbler, 3 Goldcrest, 2 Robin, Blackcap, Grey ad Pied Wagtails. instead of heading up the stream i took the road towards the beach. On the sea the first Long Tailed ducks (3) of the Autumn along with shag (22) while the beach held Curlew (33) Sanderling (6) Oystercatcher (14) and a Short Eared Owl in the dunes.

After this we headed south to Toab where an Olive Backed Pipit had been reported. This time i did manage a short view before it disappeared into a rose bush and despite an hours wait failed to show. Also in the garden, Goldcrest, Blackcap, willow Warbler & Chiffchaff while Kestrel((2) flew over.

Sunday morning news indicated a Dusky Warbler down at Sanick, but elusive. Later just as we headed out someone reported an unusually coloured egret at Spiggie. We arrived just before the rush. It seem to have a very long beak and a grey colour to its feathers, no one could put a name to it at the time. It did resemble a Little Egret, it did have yellow feet and later that day it was put down as a Little egret - still a good bird. It may be the one seen on an oil rig 50 miles to the east of Shetland yesterday and may have picked up some oil colouring, although the large beak is still puzzling.

Down at Grutness less people and lots of Goldcrest everywhere, in the grass and around buildings. Around 10-12 birds with another 10 up at Compass Hill. . It was good to meet Nat Hall and Hugh Harrop today.

Tuesday 6 October 2015

Singing the Blues

Last weekend i was busy all day Saturday so when Sunday arrived we headed down to Quendale where a Bluethroat had been reported six days earlier. Autumn migration is different to Spring migration as birds are not in such a hurry to leave an area. They have to refuel and if enough food is locally available then they may stay awhile, that was the hope anyway.

Arriving at the farm i met David Gifford who said he was just about the walk up to the quarry where the bird had been seen a few days before. A few other birders came and went, while others made their way up. At least today the cattle would not block the way. Quendale recorded a Thick Billed Warbler last week so you never know what is going to turn up.

A look in the bushes revealed three Yellow Browed Warblers, numbers are still very high for this species. A couple of ticking Robin was also very welcome - a rare breeding species in Shetland. On the way up lots of Raven, Herring and Gt BB gulls flew over, while a flock of 70 meadow pipit keep pace with us.

The Bluethroat was seen on arrival which was good and we settled down for a prolonged look. This used to be a bogey bird for me in England, missing a few by 10 mins or so, but since moving to Shetland I have had very good views in Spring and Autumn.

This bird performed very close to the admiring viewers, moving across vegetation several times before jumping up into a bush, posing for photos before headed over over our heads. It really deserved a round of applause from the small group of birders.

The bird didn't return in the hour so I set off up the track to view another place it had been seen, but no luck, others search the iris bed but nothing. I headed back to the car , greeting several small groups of birders keen to see this stunning bird- with `no sign' signalling a bit of annoyance in a few people, especially with a couple of birders who had just come down from Unst only to find that a Swainson Thrush had just been located where they had searched just a few hours before.

We headed south to Sumburgh head where two groups of birders stood, one looking out to sea the other staring at some rough grass. a scan of the area revealed a Lapland Bunting a nice bird to see, then word came across - Whales and dolphins.

A mass rush to the cliffs just in time to see a couple of Minke Whales and a couple of Porpoise in the distance while another Minke could be seen near Scatness. Things settled down so most went back to see the Lapland bunting until a shout of Dolphins

This time 5 Risso's Dolphins could be see close to the base of the cliffs moving to the west, a superb sight - everyone giving a cheer. News came to us later that at least 150 Porpoise had been seen near Mail beach in Mousa Sound, another good feeding area for cetaceans.

What a day, and even though the light was poor the wildlife certainly came out  to brighten things up.