Saturday 28 October 2017


The weather finally cleared to produce a clear still day , after a few days of  fog and gales it was good to get out and we decided to head to the south end.

                                                                                                    Song Thrush

On the way down we stopped off at Fleck to see the 4 Barnacle Geese and 13 Pinkfeet feeding with 22 Greylag, winter is coming on fast

Our first real stop was Sumburgh Hotel where a Black Redstart and Yellowhammer had been seen. After a good search we couldn't find either but a large number of Redwing, Fieldfare and Blackbird  had arrived and they were very vocal.

                                                                               Only a few Wheatear left

At West Voe Long Tailed Duck (64) Red Breasted Merganser (6) Gt Northern Diver, Eider (4) Shag (6) . Working our way on foot round to Grutness a few Goldcrest flew up from dense vegetation and in the fields a Song Thrush in addition to the other Thrushes, which were even more numerous here.

On the beach a large mixed flock of waders, around 250 birds was impressive as they flew up from the beach, disturbed by a dog walker. Knot, Sanderling, Redshank, Ringed Plover ,Dunlin, Purple Sandpiper , Oystercatcher and Turnstone

At the garden only Robin(3) and two more Goldcrest, but beside the first quarry a Ring Ousel with around a dozen Blackbird, Robin (4), Meadow Pipit (6) Twite (25) Hoddie (6) Raven and Rock Dove (8). The rain started to fall as we walked to the second quarry.

A few sheep grazed inside the second quarry but it didn't stop a number of birds feeding. No sooner than I opened the gate when Brambling (4) Lesser Redpoll and Common Redpoll(2), Reed Bunting flew up from a bare patch of ground. Here Robin (10) Blackbird (12), some singing was a welcome sight as the rain fell for another 10 mins.

Fulmar (numerous) Hoddie Wren and Twite (30).  and a chaffinch made up the cast. It was good to see Paula and Helen out photographing as well and they were pleased to be shown the Redpoll.

                                                                        Showing signs of a Lesser Redpoll

In addition to the other migrants, several Blue Tit & Gt Grey Shrike have arrived with two Firecrest , a Humes Warbler on Foula, Steppe Shrike on Whalsay, half a dozen Arctic Redpoll on Unst and a White winged Scoter initially on Yell then Unst provided a good end to October

Friday 13 October 2017

Red Flanked Bluetail

Before I even visited Shetland I had heard that a mythical bird, the Red Flanked Bluetail had been seen in the isles . For me this is one bird  I always wanted to see and I did see one at Sumburgh head in the fog back in 2014.

Then I got lucky with a chance to see another right up at the top end of the mainland at North Roe. It took us about an hour and 10  mins from Sandwick but on the way up the sun started to peek out and there was no wind after 5 days of gales.

The long winding road to North Roe was interesting, this was the first time we had ventured up to this spot. We pass a house with an aircraft in the garden (more at and lots of interesting views.

Parking up I noticed that Gary Buchan was present along with another birder who said the bird had put in an appearance about 20 mins ago. Leaving Gary and me to look for the bird, the others left to try and find the Arctic Redpoll over at Ollaberry .

After about 5 mins I saw the bird near the house and then relocated it round the back in the paddock which allowed us to take a couple of photos. It then disappeared and was found in the small garden, twice it came onto the fence and on one occasion caught a Bluebottle.

I saw it several times again over an hour but now the bird was disappearing for longer spells, spending more time under the bushes.

It was a superb bird and looked far brighter than the Sumburgh bird and more confiding, a  worth while trip

The Red Flanked Bluetail is still there today and has been present since the 5 October.

Other birds this week included a Thrush Nightingale (Voe) Blyth Reed Warbler (Sandwick) 2 Cranes (at Brow) and a scattering of Arctic Redpoll

On the way back a Merlin shot over the road chasing a small bird and several flocks of geese could be seen in the distance.

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Saturday 7 October 2017

Parrot Crossbill

Its been about 30 years since I saw a flock of Parrot Crossbill so the chance of seeing some in Shetland was very attractive.

About a dozen Parrot Crossbills had turned up and had formed 4 parties spread north to south.
In Lerwick two small parties fairly close together had attracted a number of birders.

For photography they couldn't have arrived at a worse time with 5 days of gales and heavy rain. I caught up with a party at Sound in Lerwick, well two of them

The first visit produced none so I went down to Helendale where the others had been seen. Other than a Hawfinch on the road no Crossbills showed.

Arriving back at Sound around 10 birders had gathered, a large number for Shetland. One instantly showed but the light was bad and the rain and wind made it difficult for photography

I moved round the far side to a sheltered spot and lucky enough both Crossbills came low down in the conifer and started to feed on cones which they had snipped off higher up.

Eventually they came onto the grass and started to move closer to give us all superb views. They were totally unconcerned with all the lenses pointed at them. The rain came and went but the wind was still very strong.

Parrot Crossbill are big birds, the beak structure and call the best way to identify them. They are an irruptive bird arriving from Northern Europe and Western Russia. A small population can also be found at Abernethy Forest in Speyside

Adult males tend to be Red/ orange and one of the birds was an adult the other a juvenile bird.

Other notable birds in Shetland include a few Rustic Bunting, Red flanked Blue tail, Bluethroat, Siberian Rubythroat and an American Buff Bellied Pipit . A number of the birders have or are due to leave Shetland so it should get quieter , but this could also lead to less records being received