Friday, 30 April 2010


The 'plucky' little Chiffchaff was still singing in my garden, and Snowy the friendly Bunting was still down at the farm, but that was about it for today...Rain and Northerly winds don't make for good birding here!

This is the local ssp of Wren 'zetlandicus'. It too found something to sing about today. It's subtly different from the British bird, and this also includes it's song. Below is a link to one of my recordings taken in June last year...

Ringing Update; A Herring Gull with ring number GN09032 that I photographed at the old pier in Burravoe on the 23/04/2010. Was ringed as a chick at the Horse of Burravoe on 28/06/2002 [didn't get very far then!]... cheers again for the info Dave.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Moorland madness

The male Snow Bunting was still 'chillin' in it's favoured farm yard this morning, and I've no idea how it stays so clean and White looking, as just being there for 5 min or so, me and the dog were covered in mud... and other stuff! (Seems to be a reoccurring theme lately). Also on my patch was a rather flighty Common Sandpiper down at the Voe, Chiffchaff in my garden, my first 'definite' Whimbrel of the year, and the 6 Fieldfare and single Redwing still.

I've even managed a short and very windy recording of this Bunting (Curlew in background)

lately I've also taken to sitting in the middle of moorlands and trying to get recordings of waders. This sounds like quite a nice pass time, but when you consider the weather up here just now (strong winds and rain/drizzle) it's not very enjoyable! but there is method to my madness, and more on this later (if I survive!). Below is a quick recording of the local ssp of Common Snipe (G.g.faeroeensis). In the background is an alarming Fieldfare.

And a Golden Plover with a 'zetlandicus' Wren...

And a Wheatear getting all Territorial and trying to kick a rival's ass...

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Singing in the rain...

Don't know how I've not managed a Linnet on my patch before now, but away from the Sumburgh area, these birds start getting harder to find. Found this bird while trying to sound record the Chiffchaff singing in the rain! Also in Burravoe were 1 Snow Bunting, 6 Fieldfare and 1 Redwing.

The raindrops were even bouncing off it's back! Photographed in atrocious conditions...

This Otter (one of 3) was also out and about during my early morning dog walk, and with fieldcraft, [with fieldcraft I mean crawling through sheep shit and mud!] I even managed to get within 7 feet or so. Now smelling of shit and covered in mud you might get close to Otters, but it ain't all that great for getting close to your wife, and even my dog didn't seem too impressed...

Most today's photos have been taken on about iso 800 and that's all due to the heavy fog and drizzle.

Blast from the past; 28 April 2005 seen me ticking off Whites Thrush at Quarf, Shetland. This was one of only four British Spring time sightings of this beautiful thrush, and thanks to living in Shetland I've now seen 3 birds in total, and I'll still go for the next available too! (Still not managed a pic either...maybe this year)

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

'Orange' Fulmar.

With a Chiffchaff singing behind my house this morning, I decided I had to find out what else I'd been missing while at work. After walking many miles around Burravoe and the coastline, the tally stood at; 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Fieldfare, 2 Swallows, 20 Purple Sandpipers and 3 Dunlin. Also 4 Otters playing in the seaweed. Unfortunately they were down wind of me and there was no way to sneak up on them for pics... Now why is it that a mammal that eats fish, and rolls around in smelly seaweed can still smell me from 50' away? On second thoughts, not sure I really want to know the answer to that one!

Now we occasionally get 'Blue' Fulmars up here, but this is the first 'Orange' one I've seen. Anybody got any ideas on this stain?

Saturday, 24 April 2010


Highlight of the last few days was actually a decent 'migrant' at last.... Found a Marsh Harrier while at my work. It was seen at 2030 hrs (almost dusk) and was pretty much in silhouette. It was also getting a pretty hard time from one of the local Hoodies, and flew along side and then right over my vehicle, but it didn't hang about unfortunately. Though with some Southerly and Easterly winds lately hopefully there will be more good migrants passing through soon.

Also spotted this Herring Gull on my local patch recently and I noticed this 'bad boy' was sporting a touch of bling... After the success in photographing a Rock Dove ring while it was at my feeders, I decided to try again. I did take a few hundred photos over the space of a few days (stop laughing!), but I finally managed to nail the last of the numbers! What the hell did we do before digital photography?

Wednesday, 21 April 2010


Woke today to a bright sunny morning (and total disbelief!), so decided to do my breeding bird survey before I have to go back to work again... All the usual suspects were singing, and I even seen an unexpected Knot. Don't reckon I'll get away with adding it to my 'BBS' though! It was even still in 'Winter' plumage.

The rest of the day was split between more Birding (with little reward), DIY (necessity) and writing my rarity submission for the Burravoe Bean Geese I found in Feb. I don't know who I feel more sorry for though, me for having to write this crap, or the poor sods who have to read it! At least I've got a few semi-decent pics of them (one below), so at least they can only argue about the ssp, and not whether they were 'Beans' or not!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Oh Bugger...

Well, it's Winter time again! and boy did the Summer fly past....

The snow is falling again, with a strong Northerly wind and it feels bloody Baltic, and what a surprise there is no migrant action on the bird front! Today 'could' have been the first day of the local breeding bird survey (BBS), but I reckon I might leave mine a wee while yet!

We hope to return to a normal Shetland Spring sometime soon....

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Caution, Parental advisory!

This title refers to the antics of the local dog Otter when he found a female (and cub)!

I spotted the male as he came out of the water and started calling. Then this female with cub appeared and homed in straight to him. One thing led to another, and I started to feel like a 'voyeur', as daddy and mummy Otters got down and dirty... and all in front of the kids as well! (For full size pics, check out the link in the side bar -----> )

and on the 'migrant' front, I also scored my first Chiffchaff and Bonxie of the year today...

Also more Rock Pipits (photos of two diferent birds) inc one with a 'super' and 'Pinkish' tinge...but not much Grey though! (colours not altered, see side bar for more hot 'Pipit' action!)

Thursday, 15 April 2010


I took a day off work today to try and get my new roof watertight before the predicted rain at the weekend. Unfortunately, although it was sunny and mostly dry, the wind decided to blow hard enough to ruin my best efforts at roofing! So predictably attention turned to birding (what a surprise eh!), and more specifically trying to photograph more 'dodgy' variations of the local Rock Pipits! It was while photographing these, that this Otter decided to amble through... Not a great shot, but it was an opportunistic grab, before the Otter spotted me and scarpered!

The Wheatears are also back on my patch....

Monday, 12 April 2010

Aurora No. 2...

With thanks to the help I received after the last farcical attempt by me to photograph the Aurora, this time I got some results! Not fantastic, but you can tell what it is though!

My mobile phone was beeping a text message at about midnight last night, and many thanks to whoever sent the anonymous message, letting the local birding grapevine know about the Northern Light display that was happening right now... No time to waste, and I was dressed and out side in a flash. The results from my driveway looked like this....

Then a short drive into the moors North of Burravoe, where there is no light pollution at all...

The 'lights' were better than these pics looked, but as a first attempt, I'm happy with my photos of them!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Costa del Sol... Is it?

Second day in a row with stunning sunshine in Shetland! and for the second day in a row I'm stuck up on the roof... you don't realise how strong the sun can be (even in Shetland), and I now look like I've just came back from the Costa del Sol (with sunburn on my nose and scalp!), What's more I've got at least another two days of this roofing crap when I finish my 'normal' work again!

Got a bit of a better look at the fly past 'alba' Wagtail again. That was about it for the birding today, but it was good to hear so many Twite and various Waders singing and full of the joys of Spring. Still waiting for my first Skuas though...

Saturday, 10 April 2010


Thanks to the investigative talents of Dave Okill, the local BTO representative, the origins of the ringed Rock Dove at my feeders has been solved. ES58139 was ringed on the island of Bigga, while roosting in an old building there on 14/07/2002. It was an adult when ringed, and this means it ain't traveled very far in it's 11 years, but seemingly due to the scarcity of recoveries of ringed Rock Doves, it may just be one of the oldest!

Today I was busy on my roof, replacing the roof in fact, so very little birding. I did hear what sounded like the call of a Redpoll sp flying over, and my first 'alba' Wagtail of the year, but as I didn't have bins up there with me, I'll never know which ones! I'm sure there will be more of each before the Spring is through. Did get a couple of passage Redwings today though...

Friday, 9 April 2010

Oh no...not more photographs!

The Beardie was striking a pose as if to say "Not more photos please..." This mammal has had a steady stream of photographers visiting Yell in it's 4 month stay, and today Jase one of my friends from Whalsay finally connected with it. The seal didn't seem to even notice we were there for most of our visit. How I wish Otters were this easy to watch.

This last pic shows just how unconcerned at our presence he actually was. If you would like to see more photos (and prob much better too!) then check out Jase's website here; The only other things of note today were 8 Bar-tailed Godwits at Hamnavoe, including one in almost full Summer plumage. The rest were all looking very drab by comparison!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Survey work produces results!

Today was a day for doing my early season BTO (ttv's) surveys of East Yell. I had three areas to cover, and got soaked in the process. The sun was out and the birds were singing, but every now and then the heavens opened and it rained in monsoon proportions... This work was rewarded by a singing Male Wheatear, my 'first' for the year, Not a hope of a photo though as it was obviously charged up with hormones, and was zipping about all over the place. Also seen during my surveys were 2 Pheasants calling. This ain't something you hear very often in Shetland, as only a few survive being released! These birds at Aywick have been around for many years and I've seen them occasionally, but this is the first I've heard displaying in Shetland! 3 Chaffinch were the only other birds of note (2 at Aywick, and my singing Burravoe bird)

When trying to take photos of the local Rock Doves, I noticed one individual had a ring on it's right leg. So I zoomed in and tried to capture as much of the ring info as I could. This resulted in me noticing the terrible state of the birds feet. Most of the toes were missing or gnarled, but the bird still walked as normal. I believe this can be caused by a mite infestation, and is obviously not caused by the metal ring. An investigation into the origins of this bird is underway, as it's number looks readable in the many photos taken (ES 58139).

I also downloaded some Rock Pipit photos I took yesterday, which included another very Grey looking bird. This bird had an extensive grey colour to most of it's upperparts, and flanks, but lacked the stonking White 'super' of the previous bird. Click the link to see the original bird Yet again there is just a hint of Pinkish colour to the lower throat. The colours in the photo below have not been altered.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Everythings Hazy!

Finished Night shift this morning, and due to sleep deprivation, I'm sure I've been hallucinating! It was while boarding the Ferry at Toft to go home, I could swear I seen 5 'White' Geese flying towards Firth! I got the bins onto them just before they dropped down the other side of a hill, and I'm happy they didn't have any black to the wingtips (birds only seen from behind), so I'm putting them down to be 'escapes' of one form or another. But the real question is; Did they ever exist? and where are they now? If nobody else sees some strange white geese in Shetland soon, I might just lock myself away where I can't do any harm. At least until the proper Spring migration starts...

I also seen 4 Bar-tailed Godwits at Hamnavoe on the way home (I think?), and when I finally arrived home, I could hear the Male Chaffinch 'singing' in the museum garden next door. So not only am I hallucinating, but I might also be hearing things too? Who Knows.....

The above photo 'might' contain a Rock Pipit (taken on my early morning dog walk). If you can't see a bird in the above picture then I'm in more trouble than I thought!

Monday, 5 April 2010

Aurora Borealis...

For all those people who were in bed last night (lucky sod's!), I hope you had a good night sleep?

Myself, I was watching the Northern Lights. By far the most stunning display I've seen up here in the 5 years or so since I arrived in Shetland. These lasted from about 11pm till about 3am, but unfortunately you'll have to take my word for it, as my incompetence with a camera knows no bounds! (not even a fuzzy pic!) You'll also have to take my word for the 2 Polecats and a Hedgehog also seen...

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Scores update.........

Otters 1, Dougie 1.

Well that didn't take long to equalise the scores. When I arrived at Toft ferry terminal this morning, this Otter was fishing just off the slipway. He didn't take any notice of the car, or the fact that the occupant was very uncomfortably trying to take photographs out of the passenger window, while trying to avoid sitting on the handbrake! (Not to be recommended). The results ain't all that great, but at 0630 hours, with rain and heavy cloud, the ISO was set on 1600. Now... I have realised that when your ISO is about 8 times higher than your shutter speed, your results won't be fantastic, but at least it's an Otter.....

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Latest Scores Just in...

Otter 1, Dougie 0.

In a bit of last minute action (while boarding the ferry to work!), a quick glimpse of a large dog Otter heading along the breakwater, had me reaching for the camera on the passenger seat. Like 'lightning', my car was stopped (sorry to those following me!), the window was down, and about a dozen shots were fired off at the fast moving 'beast'... Feeling quite smug I boarded the ferry and decided to check the results, feeling sure I had captured the action with my fast 'cat like' reflexes. But when I looked at the images on the LCD screen, all I seen was what looked like a large Brown 'skid mark' streaking across all 12 photos! Great work Dougie! Next time I'll try and remember to reset the settings after taking shots in sunny conditions. (An ISO of 100 in near dusk conditions meant a shutter speed of 1/20 sec...) At least living in Shetland I'm pretty much guaranteed another try at Otters before too long... I hope!

Friday, 2 April 2010

Black Redstart

Out and about today, thanks to both a trip to the vet's for my dog 'Corrie', and doing my monthly WeBS counts. The trip to Bixter for the vet's, produced my first two Lesser Black-backed Gulls of the year. I know... I know, everyone else has seen lots by this time of year, but I wasn't trying, and I refuse to get excited about a migrant that will be everywhere in a few weeks time...
I also managed to photograph what is probably the same Black Redstart. This time at the crossroads in Burravoe. This time it looks to have a more pronounced wing panel, and perhaps is a wee bit darker? (prob just photographic effect?) This bird was also flighty, but not as 'manic' as the other times I've seen it!

The WeBS counts produced a total of 11 Bar-tailed Godwits, and 2 Knot, along with the more common stuff. The rest of the birds included 1 Robin (still) and 2 Chaffinch (still).

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Not the 'Sound Approach'

Today's migrants included the Black Redstart (still, and still as flighty!), 2 Chaffinches (still), 1 Robin (still), 4 Knot (still) and 3 Wood Pigeon (New...yippee). So not a lot new today then! But it was good to see so many birds around, and a lot of new Pipits arriving too, although the poss 'littoralis' from a few days ago seems to have passed through. After getting photos of such a confiding 'adult' Shag a few days ago, it was good to get a confiding '1st Summer' bird today for comparison!

For anybody interested (there must be someone?), I've posted a couple of mp3 sound files at the bottom of the sidebar on the right. These include a recording of the 'First' fully documented 'moltonii' Subalpine for Britain (armchair tick some day?). A recording of Stormies from Moussa last Summer, and another couple of Shetland birds. I'm trying to make an online library (on this blog) of the many sound clips I've recorded, once I figure out the logistics of it.... As you all know, I'm not very technically minded and this is a bit of a challenge for me!