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'

Thursday, 7 October 2010


With a few good birds about Shetland yesterday, I decided to head to the top of Yell, and see what was being missed up there. Only while driving there I received a text from Rob Brooks to ask if I was planning a visit to the Lanceolated Warler on Unst..... decision time!...... In the end I cracked and gave up and headed to Unst. The thought of a Lancy on the neighbouring island, was just too much for me to ignore! And what a wee stunner it was too. In complete contrast to the other 'locustella' warblers being found on Shetland this Autumn, this bird was happy doing it's stuff as we all watched a few meters away! I didn't want to hang around too long, as I knew lots of folk would be heading for this bird, so I only hung about for 15 min or so, and went back to birding Yell. Many thanks to Rob, Tim and Martin for this cracking bird...

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

'corax' karaoke?

Recorded this Raven on Yell today. Now the unusual thing about this bird, is the fact he seems to be trying to do the corvid version of karaoke. All the clicks etc are coming from the same bird!

Apart from vocal corvids. Today had me checking various areas, and produced; 1 Yellow-browed Warbler, 18 Barnacle Geese, 1 Pied Flycatcher and lots of Siskin, Brambling, Chaffinch, Blackcaps etc... Not too bad, but there must be a good 'Yank' out there somewhere!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Birds on film...

To a complete technophobe like myself, doing simple things like downloading a short video clip of the Unst Turtle Dove from the end of Sept, can take quite a while... It was filmed on my mobile from the car! so quality not great... (A few folk thought that the bird looked a bit 'unhealthy' from the pics I took, so this is just to show how active it really was!)

Monday, 4 October 2010

It's all gone a bit 'Brown'

If ever there was a theme to today's birding, this title sums it up quite nicely!

The plan was for a birding raid on the mainland with Jase, to catch up with the reported 'PG Tips' at Levenwick, then perhaps mop up the other good birds that had been hanging around...

As we all know, plans never go to plan. So after a few hours of chasing the bird equivalent of a 'feathered' missile around a patch of Irises. The reported 'PG Tips' turned into a 'Gropper'. (it was a hard call though, and full marks to the lads for even finding it in the first place)

Not one of my best photos, but you can see all the identification features of a lump of shit about to hit a fan!

From there to the Farm at Sumburgh, where we were told the Radde's was showing beautifully. Which it duly did for us as well. In complete contrast to the above bird. (still a wee brown job though!)After that, it was decided to visit the Channerwick Booted/Sykes's. The bird did to show perched-up for all of about 2 seconds in the next 2 hours! It too was screaming about like a bird possessed in the windy conditions. (so no pics of this one either)

We decided the long staying Buff-bellied Pipit at Eshaness had to be showing better than these. So we took the long drive North, where after a few false starts with flighty pipits in horrendous light conditions, we finally locked onto the right bird. This bird was a total gem, and showed very well as we watched it from the car!

To finish off the 'Brown' theme, we then visited the 2 Buff-breasted Sandpipers at the lighthouse, which performed fantastic as they usually do (why can't British waders be as tame as these?). We also had a c100+ Snow Bunting passing through on arrival, but they didn't hang about long...

Sunday, 3 October 2010


These two Buff-breasted Sandpipers were showing well at Eshaness, so it only seemed polite to pay them a visit, and a small flock of c12 Snow Buntings there made it all the nicer too!

and I've no idea what that 'blob' is that it's eating? but it looks disgusting!