Friday 29 April 2016

Looking good

Twite are delightful little birds, some  people would call these Little Brown Jobs (LBJ's). However     the male has a distinctive Pink rump and a buff colour on head and neck.  In Shetland it is fairly common occurring on coastal and moorland habitats

These birds fed along the cliffs of Sumburgh and were constantly calling to each other

In Autumn and Winter, flocks of over 100 birds can be seen especially when stubble is available.

Starlings are very colourful and noisy at this time of year and are a common bird in Shetland.

Rock Doves are always nice to see with some people indicating that Shetland probably has the only genuine Rock Doves in Britain. In other areas they interbreed with feral and racing pigeons

Puffins arrived back on the cliffs of Sumburgh mid April and got to work straight away, excavating nest burrows, collecting nest material and doing a large amount of bill fencing to re establish the pairing bond.  Hopefully they will have a better breeding season.

I returned to Hoswick for another attempt at photographing the Great Grey Shrike the other day and managed to get some better photos.

It was only 5 mins before it appeared in its favourite place , from my view point, directly behind the scaffold poles. After it was disturbed by workmen it moved into a bush doing some wing and leg stretching before flying off along the coast.

It has now been present for six days and appears that it may be using some barbwire to impale its prey.

Three Common Cranes have been flying up and down the south mainland leading everyone a merry chase.

We managed to see the following in the south mainland:

Whooper swan, Gt Northern Diver, Red Throated Diver, Cormorant, Shag, Eider, Red Breasted Merganser, Long Tailed Duck, Pintail, Mallard, Tufted, Wigeon, Shelduck, Teal , Puffin, Guillemot, Razorbill, Gannet, Gt Skua, Rock Dove, Common Gull, Gt BB ,Kittiwake,  Herring Gull, BHG, Wren, Robin, Goldcrest, Pied wagtail, House Sparrow, Starling, Curlew, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Purple Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Moorhen, Sanderling, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, Gt Grey Shrike, Skylark , Meadow pipit, Rock Pipit, Chiffchaff, Blackbird, Raven, Hoddie, Greylag, Wood Pigeon, Collard Dove, Swallow, Wheatear, Grey Heron, Black Guillemot, Twite, Fulmar, Willow Warbler

58 species

Monday 25 April 2016

Pick it up and dump it.

When you live near the sea you come across many items of plastic, fishing nets and other items of rubbish. One report I have read said that 80% of plastic discarded on land ends up in the sea.

In Shetland we have da Voar Redd Up which has just taken place, this is where 100's of local people go out and collect all types of rubbish and then end up with many bags full which are collected and disposed of by the council. Its a never ending job as wind and sea continues to dump items upon our shoreline.

Only a few weeks ago 29 Sperm Whales died and ended up on a beach in Germany , the sea in the area far too shallow to support them. When the stomach contents were analysed it was found that they had a large quantity of plastic , including car parts, plastic bags and a 13 metre long fishing net.

Remember that not long ago 5 dead Sperm Whales got washed up on the east side on England.

Its not just Whales that take in plastic, Fulmars also died as a result of taking in small plastic pieces. I remember seeing an Iceland gull pecking away at a plastic sheet, spending at least 10 mins with the object.

Gannets also seem to be drawn to collecting plastic and  fishing nets for nesting material, some get nets tangled around their legs or neck and either drowned or cannot fly. Robbie Brookes in Unst has some unusual photos of Gannets flying around with plastic bags on their heads. Any seabird can be affected and ingest plastic, so pick it up and dispose of it correctly, ever little helps

So while Shetland is a reasonably tidy place as most people as aware of the power of the wind other people in cities don't seem to care less, even though fines can be given out for littering. Bins overflow attracting vermin and gulls feed on mountains of rubbish on land fill sites. This is a global problem so everyone should make an effort to dispose of waste in the correct manner.

This weekend you could be forgiven for thinking it was winter with freezing temperatures, snow and hail. If it wasn't for Skylarks , Meadow Pipits and large numbers of colourful daffodils then I wouldn't be thinking of spring migrants.

Not that many were around, only Robin, White Wagtail and Chiffchaff on my list, but others have seen Common Crane, Gt Grey Shrike, Black Redstart, Hawfinch, Chaffinch. Other lingering winter birds have included a small number of Snow Bunting, White Billed Diver and a good count of over 650 Long Tailed duck in Unst.

A couple of very long distant photos taken in gales, snow and hail of the Hoswick Gt Grey Shrike (hence the very poor quality). At least I saw it this time, the first two attempts failed. This was a 5min view in an hour and a half. Also present, a willow Warbler and wood Pigeon

Sunday 17 April 2016

Early Migrants

Spring Migration is gathering pace after a slow start in Shetland. April is a time where Winter birds leave and replaced by birds from the south.

The last couple of weeks an influx of Robins occurred mainly in the south mainland. Especially around Sumburgh.


Its always nice to see these, it has a lovely song that we don't hear often enough in Shetland. All the birds that we have seen have been silent and could be overlooked if it wasn't for their red breast.

Today I counted 9 birds after 12 last week. Joining them this week have been a couple of Swallow at Sandwick and Sumburgh Hotel  and a scattering of Wheatear, travelling all the way up from Africa.

At least Wren's are in full song, always good to hear. They flit in and out of the gaps in walls and have also been seen down on the beach where a number stay to breed.

                                                                                       Shetland Wren

Skylark and Meadow Pipit have been in song for a few weeks now and birds are still chasing each other as well as they firm up territories. Its one of the first songs we hear leaving our house, we are so lucky. It was a declining bird in Sheffield and often was associated with spring crops , so with the move to autumn crops they  became too tall to breed in. Here they can be found on the moors in good numbers.

It always amazes me that such a small bird as the Goldcrest can travel great distances without coming to harm, yesterday three turned up at Sumburgh hotel giving excellent close views, this is following one in our garden earlier in the week.

Rarer birds arriving this week include  a small number of Black Redstart and three Great Grey Shrikes, Hawfinch and a  couple of dozen Brambling.

Most of the Fieldfare and Redwing have gone , while the odd Snow bunting lingers. In West Voe Long Tailed Ducks numbers dropped to (88), Common Scoter (6) Gt Northern Divers (3) Eider (48), while waders are still in flocks: Turnstone (48) Curlew (76) Oystercatcher (26 but also in pairs)