Sunday 24 July 2016


Had a trip north this weekend, to Toft ferry terminal. You may think that this would not be a good place for wildlife as it can be very busy.

Well the otters who have a holt under the pier don't seem to mind. It is possible the best place to see otters close up. On this visit I was watching a Red Throated Diver which had come close in the bay, it then suddenly flew off in a bit of a panic.

An Otter suddenly appeared very close to the shore, about 15 feet away and started to dive for food. After a few minutes a crowd had gathered and it at first it didn't seem bothered, but as soon as some noisy children came for a look it dived and disappeared. I have had several otter encounters here including  one memorable one where two otters came up onto the road and walked down beside a line of cars towards us, then when about 6 feet away split up and went back into the sea

A good number of terns seem to catching large sand eels which they brought back to young birds on the beach and jetty, it looks like a good year for all seabirds, certainly excellent news lets hope next year and the following years are good as well

Apart from a few Herring and the odd Gt Black Backed gull it was virtually easy going for the terns, only one Gt Skua passed chasing a Herring Gull. It may be that with many birds bringing in food the Skuas may not be travelling far from their nest sites .

Only one Kittiwake was seen and it spent the whole time resting on the jetty, with numbers so low in Shetland it will take them time to recover

A young Rock pipit made an appearance as did Sparrow, Starling, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Wheatear,  Hoddie, Raven, Snipe, Curlew, Gannet, Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail, Black guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Common Guillemot and Shag.

An enjoyable few hours before we went to see friends close by. They had seen the pod of Killer Whales in Mossbank which have been seen close up over the past few days, a lot of people seeing these either at Sumburgh or near Tesco in Lerwick, as usual we missed them.

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Saturday 16 July 2016

Small numbers of young

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Recently news came out from Noss that only 146 pairs of Kittiwakes are nesting this year down from 179 pairs last year but 20,000 pairs in 1970. This is different to the Farne Islands and Isle of May where they are increasing.

With a large shoal of Sand eels found in Bressay sound last week it was also good to see that a good number of Arctic Terns are bringing in sand eels for their young, I counted 11 young terns from the road at Grutness, although numbers of adult birds are well down on previous years. Also here Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher (2 pairs ) with one young each and several Common Gull young.

In the bay three eider broods of only one young, which is very poor but many young seem to be taken either by Skuas or gulls. On the cliffs at Compass Head a good number of Fulmar and around 50 Guillemot, a dozen Black Guillemot and a hand full of Puffin.

It was sad to see three dead Gannet at Grutness and the back of the tern colony, these usually do well on Noss. Locally my beach survey at Sandsayre resulted in no dead birds. Also in Sandwick a flock of 38 Lapwing was possibly a post breeding flock, as was a flock of 78 Curlew near Aith. The field beside our house the grass has been cut and is now attracting around 100 Starling, Curlew (4) Oystercatcher (28) Rock Dove (6) Herring gull (6) Common Gull (6) Herring Gull (12)Sparrow and Blackbird

We did see young Common Sandpipers out in the west mainland, these birds are not common with only a handful of breeding sites.

Oystercatcher are still looking after young, this bird was doing a distraction display as we arrived and continued to do it after leaving. As I photographed from the car it was more likely that it was trying to lure the gulls away which sat close by.

It was good to find a pair of confiding Twite on the moors, these delightful little birds are always good to see at any time of year

Killer whales are now been seen around the north of Shetland, although we still haven't seen Killers in the isles. The latest sightings came from Lerwick early morning, others have been seen around Whalsay and Eshaness, you just have to be in the right place at the right time

Monday 11 July 2016

Speyside 2

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Speyside has been well known for breeding Goldeneye for some years, using nesting boxes in most cases. This year we only came across a couple of pairs which we found close to Aviemore. We also found breeding Wigeon , a female with 4 young on a loch in the middle of an ancient forest.

Another gem in the area is Slavonian grebe, we found a few pairs back in 1979 and although two of the nesting sites had been lost due to building work we did find a pair near Boat of Garten and two pairs on another loch.

 All these photos were taken from a public footpath, and behind fishermen next to the loch.

We were told that that main area at Loch Ruthven only had a couple of pairs and most had moved into the Spey valley. Slav Grebes are lovely colours and the red eye really stands out again the black head and golden tufts.
                                                                                                       Grey Wagtail

                                                                                         Sedge Warbler

A couple of pairs of Little Grebe , pairs of Teal and lots of Mallard all nested around these lochs. The vegetation held Sedge warbler, Wren and Pied Wagtail.


The rivers held the usual species, Dipper , Grey and Pied Wagtail, Common Sandpiper and thousands of midges  which attracted numerous House & Sand Martin, Swallow and a few Swift


                                                                                        Sand Martin

                                                                                      House Martin

                                                                       mother and Zepha the young dolphin

                                                                          Bottle nose Dolphins at Channery Point

One of the jewels of the ancient forest is the Crested Tit and I manage to find a couple of pairs in Rothiemurchus Forest very close to the main path. They only called a few times in the half and hour I watched them so they could have easily been missed. No Crossbill on this trip and this was the case for several other birders who had searched good areas

                                                                                                      Crested tit

                                                                                                                    Gt Tit
                                                                                                       Pied Wagtail



                                                                                                  Mistle thrush