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

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