Saturday 21 April 2018

Swan combat

I was down at the north end of Spiggie Loch the other day watching 10 swans, two of which were Mute. Two families of Whooper (5) (3) including two adults in each party.

The Mute Swans fed at the north shore, meanwhile the 8 Whooper swans flew in from the south and immediately came under attack from the male Mute Swan.

After about a minute the party of 5 Whooper Swans flew off to the far east side of the loch. The other party of 3 moved away from the Mute swans calling and then flew off south about 400 yards.

They started feeding quietly, meanwhile the pair of the Mute Swan flew towards them landing a good 30 yards away then moved closer on the water. The male raised its wing and lowered its head showing aggressive behaviour towards the Whoopers

The female Mute also showed this behaviour but not as aggressive. Within about 10 yards the male Mute started to run across the water at the Whoopers which scattered.

With wings outstretched and neck lowered  it charged one of the adult Whoopers, which ran off.

After about a couple of minutes the Mutes retreated leaving a peaceful scene, the whoopers moving in the opposite direction but glancing back. The Mutes flying back to the north shoreline, which may eventually become a breeding site.

There are slightly more Breeding pairs of Whooper Swans (10 Pairs) then Mute Swans (8 pairs) in Shetland with the odd bird of either species summering

Dont forget to check out my new blog

Wednesday 18 April 2018

Pied Billed Grebe

Back down at Spiggie the Pied Billed Grebe was still showing at the north end although it was still very nervous. I first spotted the bird midway in a flooded part of the loch which was virtually surrounded by vegetation.

It quickly moved away diving and catching a couple of fish before disappearing into vegetation on the far bank. It was now in breeding plumage and looking a smart bird compared with our first view in November last year.

The black band across its bill very prominent. These birds are normally long stayers so may well stay throughout the breeding season. It will however become more difficult to see when the vegetation grows.

A lot of waders called with Curlew, Snipe, Lapwing, Redshank, Oystercatcher in the marsh and Ringed Plover, Turnstone and a single Purple Sandpiper on Peerie Spiggie beach. Skylark and  Meadow Pipit called overhead.

Around the inlet at least 4 Chiffchaff and a Blackcap was located, while a Swallow came over disappearing fast.

A couple of fields had been ploughed the first time I had seen this done at this end of Spiggie and these attracted Rock Dove, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Starling, Skylark, Common Gull, BH Gull, Raven and Hoddie Crow.

Birds seem to be making a landing as they met thick fog on the east side and two fields in particular producing 20 and 30 Blackbirds Min. Elsewhere over 100 Brambling landed on Burra, the highest number of Hawfinch seen in spring and a few Waxwing . Rare birds turned up on Unst with Woodchat Shrike (Found dead today), Gt White Egret, Black Redstart, White Tailed Eagle and a Red Kite in the south mainland.

Saturday 14 April 2018

Breeding now starting

Spring has arrived in Shetland during the last few weeks or so, numerous wildflowers are coming up and the birds are in full song. The weather has been warm and sunny as well, life is good

Shetland Name ( English Name)

Shalder (Oystercatcher)

Some birds have just started to nest, others such as Corbie (Raven) are early nesters starting in February.

                                                                      A Sandiloo (Ringed Plover)
Dunter (Eider)
Eiders are still in flocks as we speak but will soon break up into pairs with many pairs nesting on the moors. They are so well camouflaged that the female tends not to leave the nest even though the intruder may only be a few feet away. The males on the other hand, are displaying and calling always a spring treat

Gannets are back on the ledges and only journeyed south for a couple of months. Young stay in the nest along time and adults will be very busy finding food

Starlings having been displaying for a while and a constant source of enjoyment with a variety of song
                                 Breeding and migrant Blackbirds are still around in good number.

Laverek (Skylark)

Skylark are still present in good numbers as a breeding bird

                                                                                     Lintie (Twite)

                                    Twite are one of my favourite birds and are still around in large flocks

                                                                                        Male Twite show a red rump

Shalder (Oystercatcher )on a nest

Redshanks are one of the first birds to call out when anyone is near, it was good to find this pair busy feeding

                                   Flocks of Starlings still gather even though many have spilt up into pairs

Blackbirds now becoming territorial

Next month I will be busy, with different surveys. An on going one is the Beach survey which records any bird fatalities. I also do the Breeding bird survey for Shetland Amenity Trust covering two areas, something I have done since moving to Shetland. A new one this year is the Arctic Tern survey for the RSPB. Numbers are well down in Shetland due to the lack of Sandeels, it is possible that they may down to 1/4 of the population compared with the 1980's.

These are in addition to my own patches in Shetland, one in Sandwick and the other at Grutness in the south Mainland

I have just started a new Shetland Blog :