Thursday 19 December 2019

Long Tailed Duck

There is nothing more elegant than a Long Tailed Duck

We are very fortunate to have 100's in Shetland during the winter and even a few throughout the summer although fewer summering birds now compared to the 1980's

I prefer the winter plumage to the darker breeding plumage 

                 Have a great Christmas, looking forward to sharing more experiences in 2020

Saturday 7 December 2019

Winter Birding

Very quiet at the moment, even after severe gales and torential rain

This Bar Tailed Godwit was on Grutness beach feeding for a few minutes before flying off south

Lots of Fulmar long the cliffs and in Sumburgh quarries, all very noisy 

Lots of Curlew around on the moor with a flock of 76 in one field with at least 35 Redshank

Hope for more next week but still been a very good year

Wednesday 4 December 2019

Mystery Redstart in Shetland- possible Samamiscus

Its always good to find something interesting, especially if no one can identify the bird. At the weekend I was working my usual patch down at Sumburgh

I had been down at Sumburgh garden where Blackbird, Robin, Twite, Sparrow and Starling showed.

Walking up the single track road to the farm I noticed  around 20 thrush flying out of the crop with most landing on the wall.

I was scanning through when something with a reddish colour moved across my line of vision which I originally thought it could have been the Robin from the garden. Moving closer to the area a small Redstart was on the wall

First though was a Black Redstart, often see on Shetland at this time of year. A couple of photos later and I moved forward again. This bird looked odd, more like an 1st winter eastern Black Redstart, very rare to the UK

I followed it along the wall, it flew down to the back of the wall then reappeared further along and it continued up to the southern bend near the farm, then flew strongly back down.

I relocated the bird, now on the original wall going east just near the substation. It was now further away and flying down into the crop to feed.

I wanted more information so went home and looked in `Britain's Birds' an excellent reference book showing photos rather than drawings. One bird stood out and it was very like the eastern Black Redstart showed, with a few differences.

First it lacked the blackish chest, this bird had more of a collar, but had the same orange underbody colour extending along the tail. It also had a white flash to the wing.

I contact Hugh Harrop, one of the authors of the BB book sending him a photo. He shot down to the site in fading light and managed some photos as well. only one person responded to my message on WhatsApp, saying it wasn't an Eastern Black redstart, but said it was an odd bird.

Hugh got back later when he had chance to process his photos and even he was unsure. He then sent photos to a friend in Israel and an expert down south.

Thoughts are, it could be a Samamiscius raced Redstart which can be found from the Crimean Peninsular, central Asia, Turkey & Middle East- thanks to Hugh Harrop for this information, although not 100% guaranteed. It may be a 1st autumn male Ehrenberg's Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus samamiscus) which is very similar to an Eastern Redstart

Saturday 30 November 2019


Redwings have been arriving for a couple of months now with a couple of sightings in September 

By mid October many 100's arrived on a foggy day, falling out of the air with other thrushes

This particular one didn't seemed bothered about my close approach and started to preen

Even today we have a dozen or so feeding in a sheep field, there short hop and listen an easy indication of there Identification

A couple of nights ago several passed overhead calling, perhaps indicating another fall

Getting a bit quiet now for migrants although a few Turtle Doves, Hen Harrier, Desert Wheatear (sadly killed by a Merlin) and the odd Waxwing knocking about

Sunday 24 November 2019

Snow Bunting

Its always good to see Snow Buntings and so far this winter i have seen a few flocks

This flock of 7 birds stayed around the pool at Grutness for a good couple of hours with a couple  birds feeding close to the road

In the afternoon, the light picked up the warm colours on the feathers. 

This may have been the same flock that frequented Grutness beach the week before

These birds allowed a close approach and i was able to photograph them for 20 mins before flying off further up the coast