Sunday 30 October 2016

White Striped Dolphin

Seen first last Saturday and then Sunday, a mother and young White Striped Dolphins made Scalloway harbour their hunting grounds.

This species of Dolphin is rare in Shetland waters, most of the Shetland people i spoke to have never seen one .

It is not normally seen in shallow water but when we saw the pair they spent time near the marina in East Voe which is shallow. They moved very slowly circling around which no doubt made the fish swim in tight shoals - an easier food target, although some people said they may be disorientated.

The main food is sprat, Blue Whiting as well as squid and small crustaceans

They rarely stray from the deep water beyond the continental shelf and tend to be seen from the Western Isles, if at all. There has been an increase in sightings since the 1990's from north European continental shelf which could be down to warmer seas caused by global warming.

Its strange to see only two Striped Dolphins as normally they are very sociable and are normally seen in pod of 25 or so.

To identify Striped Dolphins, they are stream like and slender with a distinctive flank pattern. it has a dark prominent beak and a gently sloping forehead, the triangular dorsal fin is slightly hooked.

The upper parts dark grey with a distinctive pale grey blaze that sweeps from the fore flank and back up to the dorsal fin. Below is a second strip which is difficult to see unless it jumps clear of the surface.( Britain's Sea Mammals- Hugh Harrop, John Dunn & Robert Still)

I was pleased to hear that mother and calf had made their way out to open sea , passing the college at 6 pm on Monday.

There has only been 13 sightings of Striped Dolphins in Shetland waters, totaling 16 mammals in total. According to Paul Harvey SBRC all those dolphins beached or died.

In the last 4 years there has been sightings in Shetland waters, this pair is the only ones to have had a positive outcome.

Thursday 27 October 2016

Rare Wheatear

Rare Migrants seemed to prefer Unst these last few days with another Siberian Accentor (3rd for Shetland in as many weeks) , Little Bunting, Waxwing, Wood Sandpiper, Icterine warbler, Arctic Redpoll, Red backed Shrike

Down in the South mainland i was hoping to catch up with another two rare Wheatears. First stop was Scousborough beach. No one else in sight as i entered the beach making my way down to the eastern side where a Desert Wheatear had been present for a few days.

With most of the visiting birders having left Shetland it was good get out and find birds , however a dog walker had found this rare Wheatear.

The bird soon showed a 100 yards or so away near the sea. Sand here is like the desert and with the sun shining and a good warm day why would the Desert Wheatear want to leave.

It is normally found in North Africa or the Middle east. This cracking male bird was very confiding coming within 6 feet, too close to focus. It spent time down near the sea, up on a rocky area and into the dunes.

Males are  a warm sandy colour, with a jet black throat and wing. It stayed 4 days

The second was an Isabelline Wheatear just a short distance up the road at Noss, this bird never showed despite an hour wait. It favoured a stubble field for a 6 day period. Some people tried several times without success others saw it well on their first visit. I did see the Pied Wheatear still down at Scatness and a Greenland Wheatear, still not bad 3 species of Wheatear all within 8 miles or so.

News came in that a Pine Bunting had been found with an Arctic Redpoll in the Ortolan field. I arrive with three others and could find no trace. The stubble field held a couple of Lapland Bunting , 150 House sparrow in two flocks, around 50 Twite as well as Skylark, Meadow Pipit,Starling and Rock Dove. Despite a long search no sign of either bird

At Maywick only a couple of Robin, Goldcrest and Blackcap. Ireland neat Bigton, had a Jack Snipe a couple of Brent Geese, 20 Pinkfeet flew over and 85 Curlew fed in a grassy field. On the sea 38 Mallard as well as Shag and a couple of Grey Seal.

Thursday 20 October 2016


Last weekend was poor weather wise but very good for birds. Apart from the Pied Wheatear a female Common Scoter gave very close views at Scatness.

This is a Red listed species with only about 50 pairs breeding in the UK. Four passing Long Tailed ducks were good to see

Geese were very evident with Greenland Whitefront(6) flying over to land among other Geese at Scatness point. The flock  was disturbed  and took off, while the Whitefront flew north around 200 Barnacles circled round before landing in the same place, Greylag (15) did the same.

Down at Grutness one Pinkfoot fed in the horse paddock with at least 20 Meadow Pipit.

On the pond Turnstone (15) Dunlin(3) Redshank (6) and Teal(3) Mallard (4) and on the sea Eider (8) Shag (6) Gtbb (2) Herring Gull (4) and the beach held Sanderling (12) Ringed Plover (4)

Only a Robin in the wind swept garden, but moving to the first quarry Northern Wheatear (4) Twite (20) Starling (12) . In between the quarries Redwing (22) fed on the moorland area.

Entering the main quarry which offer a little protection from the wind a Woodcock took off and landed in the field at the bottom joining another flock of Redwing (30). It was now becoming very windy so only managed a few photos before the Woodcock took shelter behind a ridge. I tried to get a better view but it was keeping its head down and by this time my hat had blown off twice.


In the quarry two Robin showed at the entrance, Chiffchaff (3) fed along one of the sheltered channels and these were joined briefly by Goldcrest (2) until the wind got hold of them and took them up and out towards the farm. A Yellow Browed Warbler landed on the grass then got blown out of the quarry

Several dark billed Blackbirds, first summer males seemed very nervous, at least Wren (5) showed, Blackcap(m/f) Twite (12) and Fieldfare (3) flew in as i went out.

News came in that around a dozen Waxwing had arrived, a Siberian Stonechat  briefly at Toab, new Red Flanked Bluetail at Kergord along with Olive Backed Pipit. Its a great Autumn for birds with less and less visiting birders now present. Despite the terrible weather on Sunday An Isabelline Wheatear turn up at Spiggie another very rare bird