Thursday 14 June 2018

Seabird decline

I was talking to a visitor to Sumburgh head a few days ago and he said the seabirds were impressive, if only he had been here about 20 years ago he would have seen a far bigger, nosier and smelly bird colony.

Shetland Seabirds have been in decline for about 25 years, numbers significantly down in Shetland but also elsewhere like the Farne Islands, St Kilda and the Outer Hebrides. So why and how do we know? Its all well saying numbers are down but without a proper census its just an educated guess.

                                                                                  Fulmars feeding on ?

This year I have joined about 40 others in Shetland undertaking the latest Seabird census to establish just what numbers of seabirds survive in Shetland. The RSPB are co-ordinating work over the next couple of seasons.
                                                                              Common Gull young

I have taken on three areas close to where I live, these are part of 550 sites to be covered in Shetland. The aim is really to count all the Arctic Terns and other seabirds in the plot for the Seabird Monitoring programme. A lot of the previous information is given so its good to compare the results

Plot 1 (1hour 1 6 18 / 1.5 hours 2 6 18

                                     1998              2018
Arctic Tern                     55                  94
Black Headed Gull          0                     2
Common Gull                  4                     5
Herring Gull                   63                    6
Shag                                 0                     3
GTBB                              3                     1
Fulmar                           399                   181

Plot 2
Arctic Tern                      2                     2
Fulmar                             310               465
Herring Gull                    9                     1
GT BB                             1                     0
Black guillemot              N/C                 6                
Shag                               N/C                  2

Plot 3 (3 hours 2 6 18)                           (2018)
Arctic Tern                                             124
Gt Skua                                                    22          (Club 46)
Arctic Skua                                               1
Puffin                                                       42
Guillemot                                                 142
Razorbill                                                    23
Black Guillemot                                        12
Shag                                                          12
Fulmar                                                      TBC

The 1998 count was part of the Seabird 2000 count (1998- 2002)

All the Auks and terns rely on Sandeels which are now in short supply, last year one Puffin from Shetland travelled for 248 miles to bring food back to the young yet a Puffin from a colony at Inner Farne only travelled a couple of miles.

This year there appears no sign of recovery with only a few birds carrying small Sandeels or very small fish

Warm seawater is said to be part of the problem with Sandeels diving deeper, but today news came in from the salmon industry in Shetland that infections on salmon are 50% down much to do with cooler waters than normal

If you are in the Sheffield area why not consider coming to my talk on Amazing Shetland, book your tickets full details on poster

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Sunday 10 June 2018

Shetland in spring

I went down to see the RB shrike last weekend, it was giving distant views but you could make it out. I just turned round when someone decided to climb the fence and walk round to where it had been feeding and disturbed the bird.

It flew off some distance but I relocated it only to find the same thing happened again. Looking at his car registration it would appear he was from down near London, some people are so ignorant.

Anyway, I did pick out a House Martin, Redstart and a Spotted Flycatcher and unusually 6 Collard Dove at the Quendale

I was kept amused with the House Sparrows and several Starling which had been collecting grubs, it makes you wonder how they could see.

At Virkie is was good to hear and see a Marsh Warbler, one of several in the isles, together with a Red Breasted Flycatcher and a Linnet. A Garden warbler was showy at Sumburgh Hotel, I have seen more in Shetland than I ever did in the Sheffield area.

Two Barnacle geese was a nice surprise down at Grutness and allowed a close approach, these are very late returning to Spitzbergen.

Oystercatcher have young while Ringed Plovers mated, Curlew, Golden Plover, Redshank, Sanderling and Lapwing joined the ranks. Very little in the voe except Red Breasted Merganser(5), Black Guillemot and a couple of Red Throated Diver.

                                                                                   Spotted Flycatcher

Its always great to hear Skylarks and they seem to be everywhere as usual in Shetland while the parachute display of the Meadow Pipit added to the aerial display.

Most of the scarce and rare birds have been turning up mid week when I am at work, these have included a Snowy Owl on Mossy Hill. A very distant bird apparently only seen through a telescope, the last one I saw was back in 1987 on Fetlar, one of the young that bred on the island.

Supporting cast continues with Ortolan Bunting, Icterine Warbler, Rose Coloured Starling, Red Backed Shrikes, Golden Orioles, Crane, while the biggest surprise was a Walrus which turned up on the Skerries one late afternoon, not the easiest place to get to.


A small number of people hired boats to catch a late evening glimpse before it finally disappeared. The Bearded seal however is still showing very well in Lerwick and you never know the Harp seal down in the Hebrides may drop in on its way north to make it a hattrick of Arctic mammal visitors

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