Monday 28 November 2016


The Killdeer was back in Sandwick on Wednesday but i didn't get chance to get down until it was going dark on the Friday night. I saw the wader briefly before a Merlin flew low over the field spooking the bird and it flew off south.

On the Saturday i arrived at the site to find Paul Bloomer looking at the bird at the east end of the field close to the pools.

I soon as i walked to the viewing point it flew off further away but in the same field. It was still giving good but distant views.

A Lapwing landed close by and chased the Killdeer back towards us. Starling and a Turnstone fed near by and they didn't seem to react to the Killdeer. Then the  Killdeer called a few times as it moved back to the pools.

The name Killdeer comes from its call

This is the third record for Shetland, we did see the previous Killdeer at Virkie back in 2008. The bird seemed to have paired up with a Ringed Plover and stayed eleven months. Like the Sandwick bird this one seem to favour an area with pools.

Adult birds, like this Sandwick one has a bright orange eye ring and rump, it has a white chest with two black ring bands. It has a largest tail, dark brown wings, it has a dark thick bill. Male and female are similar in appearance.

It nests in Alaska and northern Canada, preferring drier sites at this time but moving to wetter coastal areas outside the breeding season

They feed on insects and this one moved similar to Ringed Plover in short steps often stopping to listen. After a bout of feeding it would find a sheltered spot and often become almost invisible as it sat among mud heaps or straw.

Friday 25 November 2016

Killer move

Having missed out on the Killdeer by a day we spent time around Sandwick on Saturday and managed to record the following:



Greylag (166) Golden Plover (56) Ringed Plover (62) Turnstone (47) Redshank (6) Curlew (4) Snipe (12), Jack snipe (1),  Purple Sandpiper (6) Oystercatcher (2) Lapwing (18) Meadow pipit (26) Starling (50) House Sparrow (40+) Blackbird (30+ ) Redwing (20+) Fieldfare (4) Rock Pipit (12) Mallard (6) Robin (2) Long Tailed Duck (6) Shag (18) Eider (20) Rock Dove (16) Herring Gull (12) Gt BB (8) Common Gull (3) Fulmar (30) Black Guillemot (6)  Twite (12) Raven (4) Hoddie (12)

On the Sunday we also managed to see Dolphin (5) although at a distance, we saw them jumping out of the water and moving very fast out of the bay, couldn't identify the species at that range. The usual Porpoise (10) also seen in the bay.

Also the Selkies resting on the jetty. Further north people saw Humpback and Killer Whales

On the Sunday the weather was equally good so we went south to Grutness where Long Tailed Duck (6) Black Guillemot (4) Shag (8) Mallard (6) Teal (4) Sanderling (22) Turnstone (8) Ringed Plover (2) Gt BB, Herring Gull, Fulmar, Rock pipit, Meadow pipit all present but no unusual species.

Its interesting that we are finding more and more Blackbird's with white feathers in Shetland, this one at Sandlodge. Perhaps in Blackbirds the white feather show more against their normally black/ brown colouring.

This condition is known as Albinism and is commoner than first thought, it is usually inherited but the amount of white can vary considerably. It normally the male Blackbird that are affected and only occasionally females.

Other birds such as House Sparrow are also affected,  but a photo appeared on facebook the other day of an almost white Water Rail found in the north mainland, a very striking bird.

I walked round St Ninian's Isle the other day in superb weather, i was photographing Landscapes so no photos but did come across the following:

SE Owl, Snow Bunting, Jack Snipe (2) Common Snipe (12) Gt Northern Diver (3) Long Tailed Duck (8) Rock Pipit (15) Gt BB Gull (49) Fulmar, Kittiwake, Common Gull, Wren, Sanderling, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Starling, Redshank, Whooper Swan (3 Over) Lapwing, Hoodie, Raven, Twite, Blackbird, Herring Gull, Meadow Pipit, Black Guillemot, Shag

Just a few days ago the Killdeer re-appeared in the same field as before so hope to see the bird this weekend.

Still time to order your Shetland canvas in time for Christmas at

Sunday 13 November 2016

Coues's Arctic Redpoll

Recently caught up with the Redpoll flock in Lerwick. On the day i went down it was a mixed flock of the Arctic Redpoll, Meally Redpoll (6) and 15 Common Redpoll.

It was good to see the variation in the Redpolls. The Coues's Arctic Redpoll on this occasion was the un-ringed bird. Another has been present with a ring, caught several days before over towards the harbour.

                                                                                       Coues's Arctic Redpoll

 The Redpoll flock seem to favour two areas, the burn running down and under the bridge at Quoys towards the cemetery.This area has lots of small saplings including a good stand of alder which are the preferred food of the birds

The other above this, an area with just a few bushes and a couple of gardens with one tall conifer tree.

It was surprising how quiet the flock was when feeding. When flying off they called and generally headed to the other area.

As the sun was straight in our face and it was difficult to get good views especially for photos. It was impossible to get across the burn and up the other side as it was dense cover.

We managed to get the best views of the Coues's Arctic Redpoll form the wooden bridge where it fed showing the rump and wing bar.

The Coues's Arctic Redpoll is from the tundra of north America or Eurasia with most keeping near the breeding grounds. Others are encouraged to migrate if they join a flock of Common or Meally Redpoll, travelling a short distance south.

                                                                                            Common Redpoll

A Coues's Arctic Redpoll is a paler bird with an unstreaked rump and a uniformly pale vent. We managed to get the best views of the Coues's Arctic Redpoll from the wooden bridge where it fed showing the rump and wing bar.

                                                                                     Coues's Arctic Redpoll

The Greenland race , the Hornemann's is a very larger bird some times referred to as a snow ball due to its white feathering. A bird of this race turned up at Sullom Plantation earlier in the week

Still time to order your canvas in time for Christmas, see for full details

Thursday 10 November 2016

Good news for nature

Although Viking Energy supports might not think so, i was pleased that the government announced this week that it was unsure whether non- mainland onshore wind farms projects should be entitled to receive subsidies.

Bidding for a share of the pot of money in April next year will not benefit the two Shetland wind farm projects, Viking and Beaw on Yell as they will be unable to participate. The time lag will also see the interconnector cost rise yet again making it a less viable project.

I have seen costs between £600- £750 Million to connect Shetland with the Scottish mainland(250km at a depth of 100m)

The North Atlantic Energy Network Report( January 2016) indicates that there was 49 failures in submarine cables between 1990 - 2005. These are impossible to repair during the winter months so its not straight forward even if they did get the funds.

I would like to see a Shetland, unspoiled, the last wilderness in the UK and where there is no conflict between wildlife and the environment. (please look back at my other blogs on this subject)

We should promote Shetland as a tourist attraction and having talked to a number of visitors that's what they would want to see as well. Even those unable to get to Shetland are saying they would like at least one area without ugly wind turbines spoiling the landscape.

Just as everyone was thinking autumn migration was over, news of a Rufus Turtle Dove came in. This is the third Shetland record and the second in the last twelve months.

                                                   Scalloway Dove

The bird arrived at North Roe garden in the north mainland, it was in poor condition and taken into care being released the following day.

While this was the major talking point there was still good numbers of Waxwings throughout Shetland, kept here by people putting out apples, so Tesco will have done well. Around 300 other birds are in Scotland at present and moving south.

A few Glaucous gulls have also arrived while a few common migrants are still around, Robin, Blackcap, Goldcrest , Brambling, Water rail, Jack Snipe and even a few Gt Tits -rare up here.

                                                                                               Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine and Merlin have been seen in the south mainland recently, but as yet no Rough Legged Buzzard

Blackbird, Fieldfare and Redwing are still present in good numbers throughout Shetland

There is still time to order a canvas for Christmas , see for details