Sunday, 27 October 2013

Off to Unst (and Sand) 14th & 15th of October

So today Tommy and I went off to Unst in search of two birds, A Black-bellied Dipper and a Paddyfield Warbler.

Monday the 14th of October

After we got off the ferry we went to Halligarth in Baltasound where we found a Robin, several Blackbirds, A Grey Heron and a Blackcap or two.
So we then headed to Skaw in search of the Paddyfield Warbler.
On route we visited Haroldswick and we found several Snow Buntings, a Snipe and a Skylark and then we started heading north again to Skaw.

Snaa Fuls as we call them in Shetland

"Coming in for touchdown"

When we arrived in Skaw we found a Wheatear, we both thought it was a bit late for Wheatears but maybe it was a straggler so I took a few photos just in case.
Also in Skaw we found about 40 Redwings and at least 40 Snow Buntings (or Snaa Fuls) but there was no Paddyfield Warbler so we started to eat our packed lunch.

We found this couple on the way back from Skaw

So after enjoying our food we headed south to the Loch of Cliff.
There we found a mixed flock of 30 Redpolls, Twite and Snow Buntings, we then headed south to Baltasound.

 A Raven or Corbie

We couldn't find many birds so we went back to Halligarth where we met Brydon Thomason (one of the Unst birders) we spoke to him for a while and I then showed him a picture of "our" Wheatear and he said that it was one of the Greenland race birds, Tommy and I were quite happy because we hadn't expected it to be one of the Greenland race.
So several minutes later Brydon heard a Great-spotted Woodpecker in the trees and then he and Tommy spotted it but I couldn't see it from where I was and then it disappeared but it was nice to hear it call.
So we then said goodbye to Brydon and we went looking for the poor Common Crane which had been staying round Baltasound with a broken wing.
We found no sign of the Crane, it had either moved to another location or died.
We then got out of Baltasound and I spotted a Merlin on a fence post, Tommy halted on the brakes and I got out camera ready and I was chasing after the bird which had flown to a farther away fence post, I got a few pictures before it flew right onto a rock opposite Tommy! I got a few pics of it on the rock and then the Merlin (a female bird) flew in between to fences and where the fences met the bird just vanished, we checked the area but there was no sign of the bird at all.

 Not completely in focus but I was lucky to get this photo

 And this one of it in flight!

Just love this one

So we headed to Westing in search of some more birds.
At the Westing beach we found a flock of at least 130 Snow Buntings, 3 Long-tailed Ducks and several Seals.
We then moved on to Uyeasound where we found 5 Whooper Swans, 27 Mallards, 38 Tufted Ducks and a Goldeneye.
And to finally end the day we got on the ferry at Belmont and went home.

Tuesday the 15th of October

This morning I went down to Lerwick with some of my family to get our photos taken and afterwards I went birding with Mairi's dad, Stewart who had come out of Fair Isle.
We had gone for something to eat on the "street" in Lerwick and on the way back from our meal I spotted a "ringed" Starling on the path in front of us, sadly the Starling flew off and its origin with it.
We then headed over to the Clickimin Loch to find the male Pochard which I spotted on the weekend.
Within five minutes we spotted the Pochard among the usual flock of Tufted Ducks and then we went off to Sand to see the Wilson's Phalarope.
At Sand we spoke to two birders who were leaving and we asked them if the bird was still there, they said it had just disappeared into the reeds on the marsh, so we thanked them and we went to find it ourselves. 
We waited half an hour and there was no sign of the bird but we did see a beautiful male Long-tailed Duck (Calloo) and a Red-breasted Merganser (Herald Deuk) and so we left Sand.
So Stewart and I headed south to Channerwick to see Mairi's brother, Ewen.
At Channerwick we saw 8 Redpolls, Redwings and a possible Minke Whale.
So we spoke to Ewen and then we headed back north to Lerwick.

This is my last blog post before my trip to Fair Isle on the 16th

Friday, 25 October 2013

Wilson's Phalarope and other birds (12th & 13th of October)

So this weekend I went birding round Scalloway and Lerwick, and I also went over to Sand in the Wast Side with Paula to see a Wilson's Phalarope.

Saturday the 12th of October

So this morning I went to the Loch of Clickimin in hope of finding something on the "Clickimin patch".

After a while of searching the Loch I found a strange duck, I quickly got out my scope and decided it was a female Wigeon also in the view of the scope was another strange duck which I identified seconds later as a male Common Pochard, my first one this year! I was really happy that I'd found it and just to make sure it wasn't a Redhead or a Canvasback I checked my birdbook, sadly it didn't turn out to be either of those very rare American ducks but still the Pochard was a really good find.

So when I returned back to the house I sat and had a bite to eat and a cup of tea before heading over to Scalloway with Dad.
On our way out of the house we met Paula who had a letter for Dad, Paula then started speaking about the Wilson's Phalarope in Sand and asked if I wanted to go and of course I said yes (since the last one to been seen in Shetland was 1988!).
So after stopping off at Girlsta we set off to Sand in hope of seeing this American rarity.
When we got to Sand we walked across a beach towards two groups of twitchers who were probably watching or at least looking for the Wilson's Phalarope.
One arrival I noticed one or two birders who I recognised and I asked them if the Phalarope was still on the marsh, they said that it was but it hadn't been showing for about an hour.
So we waited a while and then someone said a Slavonian Grebe was on the sea behind us, so I turned my attention to that and soon everyone else did too then Paula pointed to the Phalarope on the marsh! and every turned around to see the Wilson's Phalarope.
I got some okay photos of the bird before it swam into the reeds again and disappeared, soon everyone started wandering back to the cars after being happy with their sightings and left while Paula, me and two other men stayed and waited for the Phalarope to come out.
After about 20 minutes Paula again spotted the Phalarope coming out of the reeds and all four of us got our cameras at the ready as the bird got closer and closer, then it was with 15 feet of us and we all got amazing photos before the flew off after seeing us, I got a few photos of the bird in flight which turned out okay.

My first Wilson's Phalarope, 
a cute peerie bird which is actually quite amazing for a thing 
so small to travel all the way over here from North America.

I was amazed at how small it was when I saw it.
Paula also let me use one of her cameras on this trip

So after getting great shots and views of the Wilson's Phalarope, Paula and I headed over to Scalloway to meet up with Dad.

After speaking with Dad a while I went out birding round Scalloway and eventually I made it to the Tronda Bridge then Dad picked me up and we went home for the day.

The view south of the Tronda Bridge

Sunday the 13th of October

This morning I went birding round the Clickimin Loch and Seafield in Lerwick.

The Clickimin Loch was completely empty this morning besides from a few Mallards so I went home made a cup of tea and headed off to Seafield.

At Seafield I found a couple of House Sparrows and a Wren but just as I was about to move on I spotted a very pale warbler fly into a tree down the path to me.
I followed the warbler in hope that it might be something rare and after five minutes of fleeting views I identified it as a Chiffchaff.

I was quite happy with the bird so I moved on to try and find something along the shoreline.
White Feral pigeons

I ended up flushing at least 5 Snipe and possibly a Teal but it flew off and disappeared before I could identify it.
So I headed over to Clickimin in hope of some more birds and there I found the male Pochard and a Goldenye in the Tufted Duck flock, so after that I popped over to Helendale and there was nothing! at all! so I went home.
Later on that day I got a text from Dougie saying that he had found a Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll at the Windhouse Bod outside Mid Yell.
So when I got back to Yell I headed there in hope of seeing the bird.
On my first look around the Bod I found a female Blackcap, so I took a second trip round and I spotted several small birds in some trees over a fence from where I was.
So I ran over there and started going through the trees, several Redpolls flew up including one with a white rump.
I couldn't see the Redpolls very well so I moved to the oppostie side of the trees and there it was, the Hornemann's Arctic three meters in front of me sitting on a branch so I slowly moved Paula's camera (which I had borrowed for my trip into Unst the next day and for Fair Isle later in the week) and started taking shots in the fading light.

One way to tell a Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll is by it's unstreaked rump (as in this picture)

 And another is by the size of the bird and the amount of white on it.

 I'm glad that I got to see the bird feed happily and unaware of me even standing taking pictures of it.

It seemed to be quite at home in the trees with the other Redpolls

So after getting my shots I went home before the light got to bad for taking photos (and for seeing my way home).

So what awaits me in Unst tomorrow? stay tuned to find out.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Birthday Birding 5th of October

Saturday the 5th of October 2013

So for my birthday this year I planned a very well timed birding trip to the South end of Shetland with my Dad, granddad Tommy and Henry.

This morning I got picked up by Tommy from the 8.15 ferry from Ulsta and we headed down to Brae to see if we could spot anything.
All we got was a couple of Whooper Swans and several Mallards so instead we quickly started on our journey to Lerwick to meet up with my Dad and Henry.
We slowed down a bit next to the Loch of Voe incase we saw the Arctic Warbler which had been hanging out around there, luckily a birder came out and said that it was showing well just a few metres along the path, I rushed into action and ran to the bird with Tommy behind me, I saw two guys trying to get some pictures of it so I slowed down a bit and asked them where it was, they said that it had disappeared into the trees but it flew over a heads a few minutes later and landed in a tree several metres away, all four of us moved into positions so we could take some pictures.
The guys probably got photos ten times better than mine because the Arctic was hidden behind a twig when I took the shot but it will be a good memory of the bird.

Arctic Warbler

So after the bird flew deeper into the trees I went to a small path which led into to where I guessed the bird was and yes I guessed right because I found the bird again, it showed really well but I didn't get any more shots of it because it disappeared after about 2 minutes.
So Tommy and I left the two men searching for the Arctic while we rushed down to Lerwick after happily adding Arctic Warbler to our ever growing lists.
We finally arrived in Lerwick at 10.30 after our delay watching the Arctic Warbler, we got into the house and had a bite to eat and a speek before heading south at 11.
After being no less than 5 minutes out the door I got a call from Mairi saying that there was a Eastern Olivaceous Warbler at Cliff Cottage, Hoswick! so that was our first destination on our birding trip.
As soon as we arrived in Hoswick we saw a "flock" of birders with scopes and cameras looking into the trees at Cliff Cottage from the border of the fence, within minutes we were part of the flock and enjoying views of the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler! first for me, Dad and Tommy. Henry had seen een on Fair Isle a few years back.

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler in flight

and in the grass

So after watching the Olivaceous for about ten minutes it started raining and even retreated to their cars and we headed to see the Geosetter Thick-billed Warbler.
At Geosetter we could see at least 20 cars and over 80 people with scopes looking for the Thick-billed Warbler in a field full of some kind of crop (oats), after we found a parking spot we joined the mass of birders.

This is only a small portion of the birders that I saw at Geosetter 

 Two male Blackcaps

After half an hour we saw no sign of the Thick-billed Warbler so we left and went to Spiggie to try and find some other birds.
On arrival we found two Blackcaps, 25 Whooper Swans and 8 Mute Swans and surprisingly not much else so we headed towards Hillwell to find some more birds.

Whooper Swans at Spiggie


At the Hillwell Loch we found at least 250 Rock Doves, 8 Moorhen and 10 Mallard, we then moved a bit further along the road to the Quendale Mill where we found several Yellow-browed Warblers and some Chiffchaffs, I also saw a man there who I had met on Fair Isle when I went there a year ago in October.
After spending several minutes looking around the mill we met Paul and Roger who had been birdwatching around Quendale and Hillwell, also this man went past us and said that there was two Great-spotted Woodpeckers up the road from where we were standing, so after speaking with Paul and Roger we went to see the Woodpeckers.

Rock Doves and a Shalder

Can anyone guess who these two birders might be

A Chiffchaff at the mill

along with this Yellow-browed Warbler


A look around some nearby gardens came up with nothing so I headed back to the car but as I looked up I saw dad and Tommy pointing to something behind me I quickly turned around to see a Woodpecker pecking on a fence post! I whipped out my camera and quickly took some shots and then Henry joined me and we watched the Woodpecker working its way around the fence post.
After watching it for a minute or two it flew off and we rushed back to the car to see if we could catch up with it, luckily we found it again and I got a few more shots before it disappeared.

One of my first shots of a Great-spotted Woodpecker ever and my second ever sighting

It sat very well on top of this strainer post

And posed for the camera every now and then

This the time I got really close to it

And I got this great shot before it flew farther along the fence

So after seeing the awesome Woodpecker we went to the Pool of Virkie in hope of seeing some waders.

On arrival at the pool we spotted a few Redshanks and then a small flock of Godwits flew to the west end of the pool, we quickly turned around and went in the direction of the Godwits.

We were able to find 10 Godwits and we identified them as Bar-tailed Godwits also near the flock of Godwits were several Redshanks, Dunlin and a Shalder also as we were just about to leave the pool Tommy spotted a Redwing in some willow trees.

Three Bar-tailed Godwits

So we left the Pool of Virkie and headed straight to Geosetter to see the Thick-billed Warbler before we had to head back north.

On the road between Scousburgh and Bigton I spotted some dark shapes in the sea, after a second of watching them I spotted a fin, dolphins! Dad braked and we all trained our eyes on the sea; after several minutes we counted at least 15 animals and later decided that they were Harbour Porpoises also we found a Great-northern Diver north of the Porpoises.

The Harbour Porpoises

At Geosetter the birdwatchers were all huddled around the trees opposite the field, Henry and I quickly jumped out the car and joined them, some of the birders told us that the Thick-billed had flown into the trees several minutes before, several minutes later the Thick-billed flew out of the trees and back into the field of oats!! I had just seen the Thick-billed Warbler!!, sadly Henry had been looking into the trees but he didn't see the bird because of the big rush of birders in front of him, so Henry stayed and looked into the field while I went and got Tommy and Dad.
When I arrived at the car Dad and Tommy said they had seen the bird and that Henry was waving me back, I thought they were joking until I turned around and saw Henry waving me back! so I ran straight back to the field and got a very good view of the Thick-billed through my bins just before it flew back into the trees and the 5th Thick-billed Warbler for Britain disappeared (from our eyes anyway).

So us four happy birders started the journey back to  Lerwick (but that wasn't the end of my day)

When we got back to Lerwick at 4pm  Henry had to be taken back to the hostel so Dad dropped Tommy and I at the house, we went inside and waited for Dad to come back.
When he came back I got to open my birthday presents which were amazing (thanks Dad, Mairi, Abby, Laura and Ellie) and also the truffles were fantastic.
At 5.15 all of us went to the Shetland Hotel for a meal, the food there was great and the puddings equally as good (I was planning to try and have a sundae for three, it said that you could have it if you liked a challenge but Tommy and I had to go to a Shetland Bird Club meeting at the Lerwick Hall at 7 so we were a bit pressed for time but I'll ).
So when we both finished our puddings we went straight to the town hall for the talk on 5 decades of rare moments, luckily we arrived in time for the first talk which was an introductory talk by Dennis Coutts. Throughout the night I got to hear about all the rare birds that different people had found across the decades in Shetland, it was great and I learned so much more about how the birders actually found the birds.
At 9.30 the talks finished and Tommy to me back to the house, and that was the end of my Birthday Birding.

Today was great, I got 3 new birds to my list (Arctic, Eastern Olivaceous and Thick-billed Warbler) and also the meal and the talk were fantastic and the presents and the messages were all very thoughtful.

Total species for today 37=
Greylag Goose
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Whooper Swan
Collard Dove
Arctic Warbler
Golden Plover
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler
Rock Dove
Hooded Crow
Mute Swan
Common Gull
Meadow Pipit
House Sparrow
Yellow-browed Warbler
Great-spotted Woodpecker
Bar-tailed Warbler
Great-northern Diver
Thick-billed Warbler