Sunday, 29 August 2010

Same sh*t, different day!

In gale force Northerly winds, birding isn't going to be at all easy. All the bushes on my patch are blowing about so violently, that small passerines were always going to be hard to see. Trips along the coast showed that 5 Bar-tailed Godwits were still hanging about, and the Ruff puts in an appearance occasionally, along with more Otter sightings, but not a lot else...

One small bird that did show today, was the now 'resident' Pied Fly. This bird is definitely a different bird to the one I photographed on the 19th. As this one has a stonking primary covert bar (on both sides), as opposed to the earlier bird, though unfortunately not large or extensive enough to get too excited over! ..... but the Autumn has only just started!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Too close for comfort!

To get decent photos of wildlife, sometimes means you have to sacrifice personal comfort! This includes lying on sharp rocks and having your boots fill up with seawater... just fantastic!

It was while watching a distant group of 4 Otters early this morning, that one of these (a large dog), decided to 'home in' on the patch of seaweed covered rocks that I was hiding in! He proceeded to patrol the edge of the rocks and was calling loudly too, but he still seemed totally oblivious to my presence. He got so close at one point that I couldn't even focus (9' min focal distance on my lens!). I got the impression he was calling the rest of the group over, as I have witnessed him do before. It was only when he headed downwind of me (the last pic) that he must have sensed me. Still, I was quietly quite glad the encounter was almost over, as I had some body parts that had given up on me by this point!!! It was well worth it though for the experience and the pics, even though the light wasn't all that great for photos. Shetland has to be one of the best places in Britain for getting the 'full on' Otter experience!...

finally he detected me, and photographed into direct sunlight too!
On the birding front, only 1 Ruff and 2 groups of Bar-tailed Godwits to report this morning (8 birds and 5 birds), looks like a complete clear out of migrants last night...

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Perplexing migrant passerines!

The title refers not to the 'identification' of migrant birds, but to the fact that there are migrant birds at all! The fact that we are getting NW winds, and have been for a while now, should mean that very few if any European migrants should be present! So the Common Rosefinch, Wood Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and Willow Warblers I found on Yell this morning, were all a bit of a surprise...
Wood Warbler
Pied Flycatcher (a different bird to last week);
The 2 Ruff and 9 Bar-tailed Godwits also in Burravoe today, are probably the ones present now for a few days, though they are very mobile and well away from where they had been!
Twite numbers are still increasing around my patch too.


Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Commuting with wildlife

The ferry terminals up here are some of the best places of all to get close encounters with Otters. These mammals are now so used to the ferries and cars, that they take little notice of people! This is of course as long as you stay in your car, and stay reasonably quiet!

This Otter was photographed on the way back home from a night shift, so it's still pretty dark, and the iso was set at 1600! This means the pics ain't of the highest quality, but I'm always happy just to see these beautiful creatures... and photos are just a bonus. This animal caught 2 Butterfish in a matter of 5 min, and was hunting only 20 feet or so from the small line of cars waiting to board the ferry! Not a bad commute to work eh?

Saturday, 21 August 2010

The Vanishing Warbler Trick!

Highlight of the last few days goes to the Paddyfield Warbler found on Unst (where else!), and found by Rory (again!)... This bird was present in a relatively small patch of Rose bushes, but was able to disappear and go undetected for ages! I tried my best for an hour before I even got a glimpse of it! Not an easy bird by any means, but well worth the effort!

I've also had a few waders in Burravoe recently, with different flocks of Bar-tailed Godwits and a few Ruff passing through.

Otters, Hares and Polecats have also been logged locally, but that's enough of them for now. I may also post a few more Otter pics, as soon as I can get them sorted out...

Friday, 20 August 2010

Gone fishing...

This Otter was just off shore, and was too busy fishing to notice me sitting on the rocks! even though I was making lots of animated hand gestures thanks to the midges!

Early mornings can be Ruff!

An early check of my patch produced a pair of Ruff in a newly cut silage field at 0630hrs. Unfortunately the sun was behind them, which made conditions for photography pretty tricky.
but thankfully they were still about later in the day for another attempt;
Else where in Burravoe, large numbers of Twite are gathering, and seem to have had a good breeding season locally.

and at least a few Arctic terns seem to have fledged this year, and are providing 'sport' for the local Skuas!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Back on 'patch'

It's been good to be out on my local patch again. Due to a combination of work and other commitments, I've spent precious little time birding my own area! I just hope that today's good birds weren't a sign of what I've been missing?...

It started off with 2 Otters on my dog walk this morning, and progressed to 1 Barred Warbler, 1 Pied Flycatcher and a Willow Warbler on my first round of the patch! Not bad, but I wanted to see what the rest of South Yell had to offer. The following were found at various stages of my tour; 1 Common Rosefinch, 1 Merlin, another Pied Flycatcher and another 7 Willow Warblers too! Quite a decent haul for a mornings work...

Afternoon update; In Burravoe there seems to have been a clear out of migrants, with just a new Garden Warbler on show during my afternoon patch workout.

Common Rosefinch; (distant and very flighty!)

Pied Flycatcher; (taken at 100th/sec shutter and hand held too!)

Willow Warbler; (The only bird that wanted it's pic taken today!)

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Waders, Warblers.....and Wet!

After dropping my wife in Lerwick this morning, I decided to kill a few hours by trying to find a few birds in the South Mainland.

The weather was truly awful, and heavy rain and mist tried to spoil my best efforts. I still managed a few goodies, though not as good as the three lads on Unst (who found another 'rare' in the form of an Arctic Warbler today!)

2 Green Sandpipers were the best I could manage today. These were on the small pool at Garthsness. Also seen today were 1 Summer plumage Sanderling, 3 Shoveler and 9 Willow Warblers. These were all at various points between Lerwick and Sumburgh, and along with Garry Bell's Wood Warbler at Sumburgh Head that was about it. The fog at Sumburgh Head was awesome, and the pic below of the Wood Warbler shows just how bad it was!

Willow Warbler;

Wood Warbler (in the mist);

Monday, 16 August 2010

Eastern Promise...

As if this morning wasn't good enough (see previous post!). Rory and Will scored large with this stunning Sykes's Warbler this afternoon at Burrafirth! A most accommodating bird, as can be seen below...

And a rear view, to show more 'features', such as outer tail feathers, tertials etc...

Midnight Magic

After hearing "rumours" of some Petrel ringing going on in Shetland, I thought I'd make some inquiries! All it took was just one phone call, and one text, and I was all set for my first ever bird ringing session. And what a session it was too!!!

I arrived at the destination at 2300hrs, and as I got out the car, the sound of tape lure was already in the air. After a quick hello, I was immediately shown a Leach's Petrel 'in the hand'... One that had just been caught as I arrived! What a fantastic start, to a great few hours.

After I'd recovered from this initial shock! The Petrels came in thick and fast, with a total of just over 20 Stormies and 2 Leach's caught in the 4 hours. (Some of the Leach's were even calling as they flew over head!). It was a great privilege to see these nocturnal seabirds at such close quarters, and to be able to photograph and study them too, while being given lots of info on plumage, brood patches and habits etc. I was even allowed to release some of the processed birds back into the dark.... Fantastic night, and many thanks to all involved, but esp. Rory and Will! This was a night that will be remembered for a long long time...

Leach's Petrel

and of course, a Stormie.

After an hours sleep in the car, it was time for migrant hunting... Although the migrants had other ideas! So with only a couple of Willow Warblers, and not a lot else, I decided to head home. I did manage to record this young Chiffchaff though.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Bloody Midges...

Well I'm still here (no thanks to AOL), and the proud owner of a new email address too!

Bird wise, the highlights lately have been Merlin, Common Tern and a small flock of Siskins. Nothing too earth shattering I know, but with the dreaded midge plague we are experiencing just now, being in the 'field' is quite a pain at times!

Mammal wise, the best has been a few Otters and a bull Killer Whale. The pic of the Killer Whale is distant and fuzzy, but I think you can get the idea... It was feeding in the Yell Sound, and many thanks to Brydon for the tip off.....again! (I've got to get a job on the ferry!)

Common Tern fishing off Busta

(I did tell you the Orca pic was crap!)

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Breeding failure?

For the first time since I moved to Shetland about 5 years ago, the usual 'late Summer' post breeding congregation of Kittiwake at Toft ferry terminal, is noticeable in it's complete lack of juvenile birds this year! does this mean a total failure of local birds? this is a shame indeed, as I reckon this is one species where the juv/first winter birds actually look nicer than the adults!

The local Arctic Skuas were still in attendance, and always ready for a free meal though. Which in turn made for some very interesting and fast photography...

On a separate note. I'm in the process of swapping my broadband from AOL to BT. So if I'm off line for a while then you know it's not gone to plan...

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Oh no!.... not more Crossbills!

Spent today on the Mainland of Shetland, with the hope that there might be some good birds about! but the only ones I managed to find were a couple of flocks of Crossbills, and a very scruffy Redpoll...

The Crossbills were found at Sullom and at Kergord, with the three birds at Sullom proving to be the usual '4E' vocal type that seems to be the norm up here lately... but the Kergord birds were the scarcer '1B's that I've only found 3 times before in Shetland!

The pic and sound clip are of the '4E' birds...

The sound clip also contains Siskin and Curlew calls;

Now we do get quite a few different species and sub-species of Redpoll up here! but this rather scruffy looking individual seems to be in heavy moult, and even has only two fully grown tail feathers. Does anyone care to comment on race?

Thursday, 5 August 2010

The weekend starts here...

Another day... another falcon! (and at about the same ridiculous time in the morning too!)

This time it was a female Merlin at about 0600 hrs. The sun hadn't even risen fully yet, and so the slow shutter speed was far from ideal, especially as it was a hand held shot! Not a bad start to a weekends birding... Also more Polecats and Hedgehogs were seen this morning as well! lets just hope it doesn't all end here!

and a Kittiwake at the ferry terminal too...