Saturday 25 August 2018

Hooded Merganser - Shetland

News of a female Hooded Merganser came in on 15 August at Pullers Lock in Lerwick. This is a small loch at the end of Sea road

This duck comes from North America as is a rare vagrant , although not as showy as a male it is still a delight to see. Its much smaller than I expected and showed a nice tawny crest. It wasn't ringed as these birds are also kept in captivity, so could it be wild?

Virtually at the same time a White Rumped Sandpiper , another are UK vagrant from North America turned up at Virkie down in the south mainland also another in England, so it might have good credentials. Also turning up within a few days of this bird was a Lesser Scaup, Blue Winged Teal and a Ferruginous duck , American Golden Plover and a Buff breasted Sandpiper all from America.

It did keep flying off the first day, also seen on Clickimin Loch before finally settling down on Pullers.

It kept to a regular circuit as most birds do and was catching small fish on a regular basis.

The duck yesterday moved to the north end of Clickimin Loch, mixing with Tufted Duck

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Wednesday 22 August 2018

SNH issues licences to kill Swift & Robins

I couldn't believe it when I came across an article where the Scottish Natural Heritage have issued licences to kill Robins, Swifts, Skylark, Barn Owls and Cormorants among many others, some on the Red list - Birds of Conservation Concern 4.

 They are already under pressure to stop the 5 year mass Raven cull in Perthshire and this is the last straw.

Infographic: TSPL

more details

Red listed birds include House Sparrow, Starling, Grey Partridge, Skylark, Herring Gull (for full list)

The Red list has grown by 15 species since 2009

Swift are on the Amber list yet they have issued a licence to kill an indefinite numbers and why 5 licences for Robin

A SNH spokeswomen said ``We were confident that all activities carried out under these licences do not affect the conservation status of any of our native species''

Monday 20 August 2018

Killer Whales & the last Puffins

We that's it for this year as we said farewell to the Puffins at Sumburgh. Last weekend there were 100's of Puffins on the cliffs and flying around but by Tuesday it was down to just one bird.

Its along winter for these birds as they head out into the North sea where they spend the winter in extreme conditions. The colourful beak become black and will only grow back as the new breeding season approaches.

As for the young ones, it a test of endurance to see whether they are fit enough to survive the heavy seas. It looks like this year has been a good one for most of the seabirds with many birds bringing in fish. Arctic terns are still bringing fish for their young around the coast and many are still very aggressive.

It will be very interesting to see how Seabirds are doing in Shetland as a whole with the Seabird census now complete. Seabird deaths are down by half on last year (as per beach surveys) with only 48 birds found in July.

Whether the Sandeel population is expanding is another matter. Sandeels are food for the ever increasing Herring populations, the sunny weather the best summer in Shetland for years many have increased the plankton that Sandeels feed on or the  sea currents may have been favourable bringing a good number of Sandeels north from Orkney.

What ever the reason its been very welcome to thousands of birds.

Gt Skua chased off by Fulmar

Last week we caught up with Killer Whale Pod 27. which is a group of 7 including two large males. Having just missed them coming in close at Garthsness we headed north to Scousburgh bay and about an hour later they started to come into the bay

They first spent a lot of time in the outer reaches making a few kills before moving towards us and many others looking from the cliff tops. It was great to have two photos below published in this weeks Shetland Times.

A couple of divers tried to get close but the whales came passed them quickly

It was a great sight even though the sun was in the wrong direction . Its been a while since any Killer Whales have been in the south mainland as many seals have already been eaten this year. They are spending more time hunting around Yell and Unst.

Several Minkie Whales have been seen around Noss and further a field with 15 in a pod off Muness, Unst today

Migration has started early, apart from the Crossbills a few weeks ago, Marsh, Arctic,Barred and Icterine warblers have been seen, mostly in Unst and on Fair Isle. An unusual migrant was a Treecreeper seen on a wooden hut (well we don't have many trees) More common migrants such as Willow Warbler, Swallow, Kestrel, Wood Warbler, Pied Fly and a few Black Redstart are now arriving

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Sunday 5 August 2018


When news came in that Crossbills had been seen in Lerwick, there really could be only two spots- not many conifers in Lerwick

I went down to the conifer at Sound, the one that had Parrot Crossbills last year. Lots of pine cones laid on the road, a good sign

Then the Crossbills started to call, at least three birds and they were soon found feeding on cones on the lawn. They seemed very settled and allowed a 12 foot approach.

They were soon off, flying round before landing all together in the tree, four birds this time, again calling.

August is a good month to find Crossbills in Shetland, a few days before at least a dozen were found at Sullom and in Unst.

Once the birds had come down to the cones on the road they allowed even closer approach, this time within 5-6 feet. Not concerned at all, feeding all the time until a car came down the road and then they took off landing a few feet away in the tree,

A couple of birds carried cones back and forth and occasionally a squabble broke out, with the adult birds winning out and at least two occasions. No need really as there were at least 50+ to feed on.

Crossbills have distinct mandibles, crossed at the tips that can allow them to get to the seeds.

Crossbills are early breeders but can breed any month. Apart from one brown Juvenile bird the rest were females, would have been great to see a Red male.

These have been the best views I have had most of the others have been high up in Conifers