Sunday 29 November 2015

Rufus Turtle Dove & Whoopers

Just as winter weather arrived in Shetland news of a Rufus Turtle Dove in Scalloway came through late on Wednesday. Luckily it stayed and I managed to see it on Saturday in between heavy rain.

It was easy to find being opposite where the Eastern Bonelli Warbler was found earlier this year. A small group of birders looked into a garden towards the dove which was sat in a tree, according to the other birders the bird had only just reappeared after a few hours absence.

The Rufus Turtle Dove, only the second record for Shetland soon came down to feed on the ground with 5 Collared Dove and a host of starling and sparrow.

The light was very poor, so I had to pump the ISO up to 4000 at F/5.6 only giving around a 1/60. The dove was constantly moving so I had difficulty in getting a sharp photo.

The only previous Shetland record refers to a bird seen on Fair Isle 31 October - 1 November 1974 These Doves breed in eastern and centre Asia and are rare visitors to the UK. This rare `meena' bird breeds in the western most part of the range. Only three other records refer to this species
  • 2003: first-winter, Hill of Rattar, Caithness, 5 December to at least 24 March 2004
  • 2002: juvenile to first-winter, Stromness, Orkney, 20 November to 20 December
  • 1975: juvenile to first-winter, Spurn, E Yorks, 8 November
This is the first mainland record for Shetland

Elsewhere in Shetland the Lesser Scaup is still at Loch of Benston, a couple of Bullfinch in Scalloway and the odd Kestrel and Sparrowhawk linger. Lots of Fieldfare and Redwing still around the moors but Blackbird numbers have dropped. Locally we have a couple of wintering Robin and lots of Raven displaying.

Lots of wintering Whooper swans can still be found on Spiggie with lots of Tufted, Goldeneye, Teal, Mallard and occasional Pintail, Pochard and Shoveler , Little and Slavonian Grebes

A couple of Mountain Hares have been seen dead around the Cunningsburgh area, I am just waiting for a decent day to get back onto these moors for a closer look at these white Hares.

Sunday 8 November 2015

Winter Birding

It's been a very poor week weather wise, well for us people anyway. Very low thick cloud , dense fog and some rain, although mainly still.  A lot of migrants have now passed through Shetland but we have had numerous winter visitors arrive, including a few Waxwings in the last few days.

Thousands of Fieldfare, Redwing and Blackbird dominate birding at the moment with the grassland around Spiggie holding lots of these Thrushes. They are often very nervous and hard to approach even using your car.

Lots of Geese can still be found in this area, with large numbers of Greylag and smaller numbers of Barnacle and Pinkfeet. One Lesser White Fronted is still with Pinkfeet in the area, this has been in Shetland for about a week.

Long Eared and Short eared are still present and i had a superb view of a Long Eared Owl which was disturbed by workers, it flew out of bushes and circled round coming within about 12 feet before flying off to another site.
                                                                                                 Kestrel Levenwick

Short Eared Owls seen down at Sumburgh Far and Quendale but distant views in poor weather. Robins are still around as well at a number of places, together with a few Goldcrest and ChiffChaff. As for Divers a few Gt Northern are reappearing with 3 in Scousburgh Bay, West Voe (3) and Grutness (2) and a couple of Red Throated Diver at Grutness and near Virkie.

Waders are just as visible as thrushes with large numbers of Curlew in fields often with Snipe & Geese with Golden Plover especially in Sandwick . Turnstone, Redshank, Sanderling, Oystercatcher and Purple Sandpiper along the beaches and Ringed Plover in small numbers with most already down south.

Large numbers of Whooper Swan are now present at Spiggie with 110 the other day and a further 36 at Hillwell. Wigeon , perhaps 300+ around Spiggie have been joined by Mallard, Tufted, Goldeneye and Teal with small numbers of Pintail and Shoveler.

It was good to see 2 Iceland gulls down at Hillwell, then another at Grutness and Sandsayre a few days after. Late January through February is the best time to see white winged Gulls, especially down in Lerwick Harbour

Humpback Whales have been seen, with Muckle Roe (3) and another down at Virkie / Grutness area. Missed both of these, but this time of year seems to be the best time to find these whales, especially when its calm. A few Killer whales had been seen from a boat around Foula as well this week

Newspaper reports have been indicating that more action must be taken to reduce marine litter. Representatives from 11 countries have been meeting in Shetland to discuss the best way to implement an action plan, Even with Da Voar Redd Up, the amount of plastics washed up on Shetland beaches is very disturbing, with wildlife especially vulnerable. Lots of birds pick up and eat plastic and then die as a result.

Not good news for Puffins with the RSPB adding this species and Turtle dove to the List of endangered species.  Although Puffins are longed lived the success rate in the past 20 years has been low and monitoring at Fair Isle indicates a drop in number from 20,000 birds in 1986 to 10,000 today.

Young birds are not returning to the original breeding grounds, sandeels are reducing possibly down to warming of the oceans across their range and weaker birds may be dying at sea in winter.

                                                                                                  Grey Heron Spiggie

One good piece of news is that Shetland's Red Necked Phalaropes males have increase from 40 in 1996 to 60 in 2015, with the stronghold being in Fetlar. Another 10 birds have been fitted with small radio transmitters  after one bird was tracked on a 16,000 mile journey to the Pacific Ocean and wintered down in an area between the Galapagos islands and Peru. Scandinavian birds winter down in the Arabian Sea.This is the first time a European bird had tracked travelling such a  distance. Well done to the RSPB

Sunday 1 November 2015


With South Easterly winds, rain and fog over the last few days the expectation of good birds was high as we moved through the weekend.

At Spiggie a large number of swan and duck gathered at the north end, inc an impressive Whooper (72) Mute Swan (5). Wigeon (78) Teal (14) Mallard(56)

One thing was evident, common migrants had arrived in good number. Along the road at Brake near Hillwell i counted 56 Blackbirds in about 1/4 mile stretch. Lots of Redwing and Fieldfare as well feeding in the fields.

On Hillwell, 26 Whooper and Spiggie held 72 Whooper with 5 Mute swan. Lots of Geese still about but the Barnacle geese seem to have gone.

Up at Sumburgh Head an elusive Black Redstart appeared and disappeared over the wall several times. A few Brambling and a couple of Chaffinch fed near the lighthouse, and around 60 blackbird could be seen, most very dark looking with dark beaks,

                                                                                       Common Seals at Spiggie

At the Farm, 4 Short Eared Owls provided the entertainment, talking to other people others were seen at Exnaboe(3) with Quendale and Geosetter one each. On Fair Isle 7 Shorties appeared with several on oil rigs to the east.

Down at West Voe at least 50 Long Tailed duck could be seen just off shore but the high waves made them difficult to count.

The Med gull at Boddam had disappeared but there was plenty to see with a female Pintail, Teal(20) Mallard (50) Turnstone (34), Snipe (16) Redshank (8) Purple Sandpiper (3) Starling (300) Rock Pipit (20+) Rock Dove (23) BH Common, Herring Gull and Kittiwake.

Quendale held a Long Eared Owl in dense vegetation, 2-3 Robin, Blackcap, Wood Pigeon (2) Goldcrest, Blackbird (40+) Redwing , Fieldfare, Ravens displaying, Lots of Curlew, Rock Dove and large gulls

Sunday was a bit dull but the wind had dropped. As we had not been to Geosetter for a while we headed south west and in 10 mins we arrived. As with other sites a large number of blackbird showed, 26 in all throughout the stretch. three Robin's sang, always nice to hear but the best waited until the end when a Great Grey Shrike appeared right above the waterfall, it flew further up stream up showed again twice. A small flock of Curlew and Greylag flew over then around 50 Fieldfare and a few Redwing headed south.

On the way back a Merlin flew over the road chasing a small bird and back home a migrant wood pigeon took off from the field in front of our house.