Saturday, 18 December 2010

Guess what.... It's still bloody cold!

It's been a while since my last post, but as you may have guessed, there ain't been a lot of action in this crappy weather we've all been having! The highlights have been; c. 40 Snow Buntings, 3 Jack Snipe, 5 Red Grouse, 10 Bar-tailed Godwits and quite a few very good views of Otters.... Unfortunately the weather hasn't been all that good for photography, and this is the best I could do with the local Otter (just a wee bit of light would have been nice!!!)

Otter in the dark...
On a slightly different note... I know we all have to 'start somewhere', and 'we all make mistakes' etc etc, but I seen this quote on a well known Internet identification forum, and couldn't believe what I was reading... "My immediate thought was Sparrow but it seemed a bit dark and chunky so perhaps Peregrine?"..... and I thought I had problems!!!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Dam it's cold... Part 3

OK... OK... I know the title lacks imagination, but it's still bloody cold here!

As far as birding is concerned, this cold snap has had it's good side though, as species that are normally very hard to see, are a bit more obvious as they have fewer places to hide! This helped me get a 'patch' record of 4 Jack Snipe today, along with copious amounts of Common Snipe and Blackbirds. Not sure if these are just local harsh weather movements, or refugees fresh in from Scandinavia? Also seen today; a hunting Merlin and the usual Otter. Not a bad day concidering I never even made it out of Burravoe!

I've had better Jack Snipe photos, but this was all I could manage today;

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Dam it's cold... Part 2

In the last few days, South Yell has seen temperatures just below freezing, with quite heavy snow fall and bitterly cold winds. This weather combination has made birding less enjoyable, and more of a challenge! But as always I'm up for a challenge, and I've been out and about (dragging my poor dog behind me as well!) and still managed to see a few nice birds (for this time of year!... any birds are good). Highlights for me are the 2 Mealy Redpolls, 1 Water Rail, 13 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Robins and 'strangely' 7 Pheasants!!!

This Water Rail was quite confiding, but the light was crap, so shutter speeds were down to as low as 1/50th sec, and the iso between 800/1600... not ideal, but still managed some semi-decent results!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Dam it's cold... Part 1

Finally off work today, and able to try for Brydon's Water Pipit (the first for Shetland no less!) on Unst. I arrived at the beach about 9'ish, and was joined by Robbie and Mike shortly after. The bird showed very briefly on the road behind the beach for about 2 min, before leading us on a game of cat and mouse for the next few hours. The temperature was about 2 degrees, and with a strong Northerly wind and rain/hail showers, it felt much colder!... All this, and the fact the bird was so flighty and difficult to follow, meant the pics I have are truly crap... So you ain't going to see any pics here. Try the 'Nature Shetland' link in the side bar for decent photos of this bird.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Easy come... easy go!

Well It seemed too good to be true. A stunning male Serin that takes a liking to Shetland and even starts singing in November!............. Looks like it was just a wee bit too good as well. The bird was photographed very well yesterday, and according to the 'bling' it's wearing on it's left leg, it's a bloody cage bird! (why can't the people who want to keep these things, not keep better control over them?) Oh bugger...

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Breakfast on the beach...

Finally received my lens back from Sigma today, and what a great job they've done (and more than I'd paid for!). So now my camera is back in action, I guess there will be no more good birds to photograph now!

I did manage to find this Otter having it's breakfast on the beach this morning. I was photographing it straight into the sun, so the results weren't ever going to be great. The pics are also shown in the order in which I took them, which is surprising as In the second pic he did clearly see me, as I was caught out in the open, but he still didn't seem too fussed and just continued messing about on the waters edge...

Bird wise, I did manage; 14 Bar-tailed Godwits, 5 Common Redpolls and 1 Robin today, and I also did another two BTO 'early winter' surveys, although found nothing unusual as expected.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Sweet 'serinus' song...

A good day was had on the 'Out Skerries' today. It all started because a Male Serin was found by Peter F. last Sunday, but due to work commitments, I wasn't able to make it till today. Just glad the wee bird has taken a liking to the islands and decided to stay so long! The sun was out while I was trying to digi-scope it (still not got my decent lens back...), and bugger me it decided to start singing!!! so pics were forgotten about and the recording equipment was hauled out and dusted off (didn't expect I'd need it for another six months or so). Many thanks to Peter and Mark for all the help.

Crap pics of a top quality bird due to it being digi-scoped;

Calls quite reminiscent of Snow Bunt...

Very quiet song as it basked in the sunshine;

Also seen on the Skerries; 2 Jack Snipe, 1 Water Rail, 1 Woodcock, 1+ Redpoll sp and 2 Robins.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Straight to hell...

I went out looking out for Waxwings today, as I was hoping for some sound recordings of the beautiful 'trilling' call they make. For a change the weather up here was calm enough to get recordings too, but sod's law the only bird I did see just wouldn't call! I even tried the 'hated' method of playing an ipod at it to get a response (I know... I'm going straight to hell!), but even that failed to get a response... So I just took a few pics of this rather messy individual instead....

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Birder in 'work' shocker...

Well I know it will come as a bit of a shock to some of you, but I've been busy at work for the last 5 days! Still managed to see lots of migrants though, but only in the form of Fieldfares and passage waders etc...

Yesterday I had 3 Waxwings hiding from the wind in my front garden, but as soon as they seen my ugly mush at the kitchen window, they scarpered! A Grey Wagtail was also the reward for me doing a few of my local WeBS counts.

Today I decided to try my luck with Unst. The bird of the day being a very flighty and elusive Shorelark. These are pretty good birds up here, as we don't get many, and the ones we do get are always on Lamba Ness. So finding one at Haroldswick was 'nice'... I did get a few crappy record shots, but they ain't anywhere near good enough to post here! so you'll have to take my word for it... Also had a flyover Lapland Bunting here too. The Grey Phalarope was still at Westing beach. (Thanks to Robbie B. for the directions, as I was heading to the wrong place!)

All pic's are taken with a really nasty 200mm lens, as Sigma are still holding onto my decent lens!

Rainbow over Fetlar;

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Garden 'tick'...

A quick tour of the area this morning produced; 4 Bar-tailed Godwits, 2 Robins and a flock of 5 Redpoll 'sp' (flyover). The highlight though wasn't till I had given up birding and had started some DIY on the outside of my house. It was then that I had another flyover Redpoll 'sp' closely followed by a probable Richards Pipit flying low over my garden calling (flew into the direction of the sun). I have to say 'probable' because I heard it call about 4 times as it flew South, but the call was a bit harsher than I would expect of Richards! I'm still listening to recordings looking for a match... After I'd given up searching for the pipit, and resumed my DIY, a more obliging Waxwing decided to fly past at close range while 'trilling' away... Nice garden tick too! The moral of the story is that "if you can't get out to the birds, the birds will come to you". I just wish they would hang about a bit longer!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Waxwings.... At last!

Well about bloody time too! Burravoe finally scores with 5 Waxwings...

'The Boys are back in town'

It seemed like this was the only place in Britain not to be graced by these wee beauties. The weather is complete crap just now, and the birds very flighty in the strong winds, so no great closeup pics, but I'm just glad I got something (even if it was pretty much a compact camera I used!)

Monday, 25 October 2010

Not Waxwings...

A small arrival of 6 Mealy Redpolls were the best South Yell could muster today. Not the Waxwings I was hoping for! The first Redpoll was very pale, but not pale enough unfortunately! All pics were taken with a 200mm lens (due to my 500mm still away getting fixed), and not a lot of cropping. Just shows how confiding these wee birds can be...

A confiding pale 'Mealy';
Over and under the tail;
A darker typical looking 'Mealy';

Sunday, 24 October 2010

It's was fun while it lasted!

What with howling Northerly winds, and snow and hail for quite some time now, and the better birds in Shetland recently being the likes of Waxwings and WB Divers... can I now presume Autumn in the Northern Isles is finally over?

There has been a few goodies found, and many more twitched by myself, and I've listed the better ones below.... Whether or not all these Northerly winds will bring some Arctic wanderers our way soon, we'll just have to see!

Autumn 2010;
2 Buff-breasted Pipits, 1 PG Tips, 1 Lancy, 1 Izzy Shrike, 1 EOW, 3 Cit Wags, 1 Dusky, 1 Radde's, 2 Sykes's Warblers, 1 Pallas's Warbler, 1 Richards Pipit, 1 Rustic Bunt, 2 BB Sands, 1 Melodious, 1 Arctic Warbler, 3 Arctic Redpolls, 1 Paddyfield, 1 AGP, Plus loads and loads of Rosefinches, Barred Warblers and YB Warblers, and more Lap Bunts than I knew existed!.... not too bad I reckon!... Now how long is it till spring?

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Listen to 'mummy'...

Well my mummy always told me "if I played with it too much, I'd break it", and it looks like she was right. This Autumn has been so exiting so far, that I'd been playing with it on a daily basis, and now it's broken! I'm in the process of trying to get it fixed, which might be a bit painful in more ways than one, but with luck I'll be able to abuse it for many years to come...... I'm talking about my camera lens... What were you thinking!

Mind you, I was also told I'd go blind too...... Oh bugger, I do only have one eye! Maybe I should have listened?

Of the recent sightings in Yell; Otters, Knot, Merlin (stunning hunting action!) and a flyover Lap/Snow bunting has been about it in these strong snowy Northerly winds.

Monday, 18 October 2010

One for the anoraks!

Well I did promise some 'tristis' recordings, and after a good bit of head scratching, and some consulting with the 'guru' of all such things Magnus Robb (cheers once again!), I can give you the following...

Siberian Chiffchaff ('tristis')

The reason for the 'head scratching' was the variety of calls this bird was giving. The typical 'tristis' call is described in 'Collins' as a "piping, straight (or negligibly downslurred) 'hii(e)p'... ". This call was given by this bird, but it also varied the call with some deviations, including a slight upward inflection in the middle of some calls! And quite a few calls with the downslurred ending mentioned in the 'Collins' guide. I know these birds are still a bit of a 'work in progress', and I wanted to make sure I wasn't missing out on any new info. As I believe the 'tristis' bird to be a first winter bird, I've included the calls of a young 'collybita' bird raised in Shetland this year as a comparison. As you can hear they do sound very different, with the local bird, the calls all have a smooth upward inflection as expected...

Common Chiffchaff ('collybita')

Friday, 15 October 2010

Redpoll overdose!

Back on Unst today, but this time to try for better recordings of these 'Sibe' Chiffchaffs! but more on that later.

Good birds today included; 1 Arctic Redpoll, many (60+) Lapland Buntings, 2+ Sibe Chiffchaff, 10 Snow Buntings, 1 Lesser Redpoll (a good bird up here!), many Mealy Repolls and a few NW Redpolls too. It seemed like everywhere I went I could hear flyover Lap Bunts and Redpolls, and god alone knows how many of each were on Unst today!

Lesser Redpoll found skulking in a flock of 'Mealy' Redpolls;

More of these 'dodgy' looking Chiffs;

Thursday, 14 October 2010


I decided to try the top of Unst this morning, and by 'the top', I mean Hermaness Nature Reserve! certainly not for the feint hearted in this weather either. The rain was constant, and the visibility in the fog was negligible... It was a bloody hard job to find my way back to the car, never mind any wayward 'yank' Pipits or Waders!!!

After the soaking I received, my enthusiasm was a wee bit dampend, but I still decided to try working a few areas before heading home. Best I managed was Arctic Redpoll (BT's bird in Baltasound), 3 Sibe Chiffchaffs, 4 Lapland Buntings, 1 Merlin, lots of Mealy Redpolls and a couple of North-western Redpolls and strangest of all.... A Dunnock on Hermaness NR!

Sibe Chiff;

And of course a sonogram of the distinctive call. For anyone interested in calls... (The actual recording is a bit 'pants', so I've just included the sonogram instead)

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Izzy 'in da bag'...

After 7 fruitless hours scouring South Yell for migrants, and only coming up with a 'best' sighting of 7 Bar-tailed Godwits, I'd decided to call it a day and go home. It was then that I found out about the Isabelline Shrike in South Shetland!!!............ What! I'd not received a text or heard anything through the grapevine! and this was after 3pm and the bird was reported just after 1pm. What was going on? After a few frantic calls to the South birders for some 'gen', it was a quick dash for the ferry, and the rest is history, as you can see by the pics. The day has never really got light today in Shetland, so all pics were taken on iso 800, and stupidly slow shutter speeds, but at least I got something. Many thanks to J. Nicolson for letting me use his lens too. Much appreciated mate!

With the remains of a Blackcap it prepared earlier!... Nice.

Monday, 11 October 2010


Sunday morning was spent birding Fetlar with hopes of another PG Tips. When that failed to show, the rest my time was spent looking around the rest of the island! Highlights for me were the many Lapland Buntings, including a flock of 11+ on the East side. Other birds included Redstart, NW Redpoll, Reed Bunting, Spotted Flycatcher and loads of common migrants...

Today was spent in South Yell. Still loads of common migrants around including hundreds of Redwing, many Goldcrests and Blackcaps etc, and a rather nice juv Peregrine which perched on an over head wire... My third in three days!

juv Peregrine;

Goldcrest... Great wee birds, but just too active for photography!
Another migrant that has unexpectedly hit Yell in vast numbers is the Raven! In one small area of moorland there was over a hundred today! No signs of any obvious food source to attract such a large gathering, and they weren't here yesterday.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Dirty little 'Twitcher'...

Got dragged kicking and screaming to Lerwick today for my wife to go shopping!....... shopping...... BLOODY SHOPPING!!! She has obviously forgotten it's October, with Easterly winds, and anything can and will turn up in Shetland at this time of year. So as punishment for this 'crime', I decided to drag her off to twitch a few of the goodies that were hanging on doon Sooth.

First up was the Pallas's Warbler at Sumburgh Farm. A great little bird found hopping along a stone wall. While photographing this wee gem, I also heard a Richard's Pipit fly over! It was only 5 min later that I spotted it landing in the next field and managed a distant view of it sitting in the grass, before taking off again and flew North over the Hotel while calling all the time.... Nice!
Pallas's Warbler;

As my wife didn't seem too pissed off at this outing. Next up was the Dusky Warbler at Quendale. This bird was a total pain in the arse as it only showed on the deck for a few seconds, but it did call, and it did fly a lot.... a hell of a lot! No pics of the Dusky, as it just wouldn't cooperate, but the Red-breasted Fly at the rifle range did pose...

RB Fly;

Goldcrest looking cute!

Dunlin with a very long bill;

The one that got away?... On leaving Quendale I had brief views of a Tree Pipit which landed on the path for a couple of seconds before flying off into the bushes. Only a couple of hours later a Olive-backed Pipit was reported at the same place! On 'my' quick views it did just look like a Tree Pipit to me, with not enough colour in the mantle, but a good strong head pattern. Oh well, shit happens....

Two Peregrine were also good to see today. One carrying prey at Sumburgh Airport, and the other at Dales Voe being mobbed by the local 'Hoodies'

Friday, 8 October 2010

Look into my eyes...

Nothing rare today, though 'another' Barred Warbler and the Jack Snipe at Littlester, wasn't too bad a way to start the day! The 'best of the rest', were made up of; Lesser Whitethroat (patch year tick!), Whinchat, Bramblings, Chaffinches, Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff and loads of Goldcrests...

The Jack Snipe can be very confiding, but it can take quite a lot to find him in this large area!

What do you mean I'm not invisible! and looking a bit more relaxed
A very uncooperative Lesser Whitethroat; Male Brambling 'posing'