Monday, 27 October 2014

The Grand Bird Race

A bird race- a race within a day to see or hear as many bird species within that twenty four hours as possible.

(Poster by Melody Duncan)

On the 24th two teams set out, the Golden Oldies and the Nature Volunteers.
The Oldies comprised of South Mainland birders Paul Harvey, Roger Riddington and Gary Bell, including West Mainland birder Rory Tallack.
My team, the Nature Vol's consisted of myself (Logan Johnson), Karen Mackelvie (the driver), Freya Stout, Melody Duncan and Louis Duncan.

Both teams would set out early in the morning counting the species far and wide across the Shetland Mainland before meeting back at the Ness Boating Club for the results of the race.

Originally the race was planned for the 25th, but due to bad weather forecasted, it was changed to the 24th.
I was scoping out sites for birds on the 23rd when I got the call and had to cancel my searching for pre-sites and gather all my data together.

So finally the team was gathered at Karen's, we worked on our route and I worked out the times we would spend it each given place.
By 10 everything was sorted! bird sites checked over, schedules done, birds ticked off and our general ideas were ready for the day, due to our planned early rising, we'd be out by 05:45 so we were in bed by 1030.

The Day

The day of the race...

I was up by 0515 and the team all got up and going with us out by 0600,
15 minutes, in the dark, hunting for Red Grouse wasn't really that successful.

Kergord was our next destination for some Woodland species- Woodcock, Sparrowhawk, Goldcrest, Robin, Woodpigeon etc.
It was still dark when we arrived but we stood and listened around for species and also a look in the woods produced Rook, Woodpigeon, Goldcrest, Blackbird and Hooded Crow.
Though we had this plan to stake-out Kergord, we'd gotten a tip off that the other team would be here around 7, so we waited, everytime a car went by we'd end up diving behind a tree or flattening ourselves against the ground (though mind it was still before 7 in the morning!).
The other team was late, there was no sign after 5 minutes so we shot north to Upper Kergord to get a couple more species before we headed back to watch for the others.
Karen went through the trees and we waited and she shouted out "SPARROWHAWK", we ran down the park and it flew by and out of site.
I wasn't actually expecting a Sparrowhawk but now I know where to get one! with the Upper Plantation we added a couple more species Sparrowhawk, Redwing, Mallard, Grey Heron and Greylag Goose.

We were pulling by Kergord again and we saw a black Mitsubishi parked up, we knew it was them! we all ran out and they were already doing the Plantation!!
We ran and masses of Woodpigeons started flying out, 30 birds at least! but nothing else, we only spoke with the other team a few seconds and we didn't dare tell them what we'd seen.

From here we knew where to go, the engine was started and we shot north, straight to Voe in search of the Rose-coloured Starling.
It was the only one in Shetland, and we were hoping the others wouldn't go that far north.
First of all we had to find exactly where the garden was, I thought I knew where it was but it wasn't the place.
I had no idea where it was, we ended up going to the shop and we asked where about the place was.
The lady at the till gave us the exact place! I thanked her and we shot off! we got to Norderhoull and saw the RC Starling within 30 seconds and we were off again! it was a good bird and
 my first as well!
In total so far we'd got a few more species- Herring Gull, Starling, House Sparrow, Collard Dove

Not exactly a Rose-coloured Starling but this is a juvenile bird

The team shot south, in hope of getting Red Grouse in Girlsta.
I knew where to check as I've gone over it a few times with my Dad, we got out and did the hills, covering over 100 metres in a line.
Twice we did two different areas and nothing, Freya had stopped and she got a Grouse! we ran over and couldn't see anything so we fanned out.
I was walking along and two males went over the top of the nearest hill, I shouted "GROUSE!" and Karen came running, we started doing the hill again and nothing....
Our spirits were low and we were trudging back to the car when they flew up in front of me! everyone got their eyes on them and that definitely saved us from a depressing journey.

Next came Strand, I was hoping for a Merganser, Mute Swan or maybe even a Goosander.
But nothing. The Loch was bare of any birds and only Curlew and Greylags were present.
My phone bleeped and it was a text from Paul, they'd just had a Red-breasted Flycatcher at the Lea Gardens in Tresta! we had a choice, get another specie which we couldn't get anywhere else or stay on course.... we went west to Tresta,
A couple of us got out when we arrived and asked the owner, he hadn't seen or heard anybody and we managed to get a Chiffchaff.
Well if you don't take the risk, them you won't see the bird.

We shot off back to Tingwall, on the way Karen got this call, it was a man from BBC Radio Scotland but the signal kept going and we couldn't really make out what he was wanting.
Finally Karen stopped the car and spoke to him, he was actually wanting to interview us as we were doing the race, a meeting point was arranged. Tingwall Loch.

At the Loch, we added a lot of species to the list- Whooper Swan,Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Teal, Goldeneye......
We were eyeing up a few ducks and then this knocking came from Karen's window, we turned and it was the man from the radio!
He asked us to come outside and he just asked us a few questions and our best birds of the day, it took a couple of minutes.
It was great to be interviewed and made the day even more worthwhile, but the downside was it would be on the radio at 6:30... in the morning.
By the end of that we'd reached 33 Species, just a lot to go!
Anyways! we headed off to Scalloway, hoping for Blue Tit, Goldfinch, Grey Wagtail and maybe a Siskin.

First spot we checked was a place called "The Sunken Garden", yesterday Dave (Okill) and I were scoping out sites and we got 4 (!!) Blue Tits there along with a Grey Wagtail! not bad.
Anyways on our checking of the place we got no Blue Tits at all but the Grey Wagtail did fly in and disappear among the trees.

Next was Ladysmith Road, a brief look there yesterday had pulled up a Goldfinch (my first of the year).
So that's what we were hoping for, Ladysmith was really the only site we could find Goldfinch in the isles at the moment.
We managed to add Brambling to the list but no Goldfinches, we were heading back to the car when I heard this funny call and then Melody spotted something in the conifers above us, she pointed it out and I raised my bins to see three Goldfinches!!!
We'd got them! they were not soggy as my bird from yesterday but they were beauties! with a couple of calls they flew off and that was the last we saw of them.

Everyone got back in to the car and we headed off to Sycamore Avenue in search of some Blue Tits, we spent a few minutes waiting and then one bird called in the trees to our right! another bird off the list!
Next we headed into Lerwick after briefly meeting the other team at the Sunken Garden, Clickimin was our first stop, three of us scanned the Loch, getting Scaup and also Gadwall with the help of the others who showed up.
A look in Helendale produced nothing and then we were off to Seafield.
Fulmar, Shag, Eider, Rock Pipit, Turnstone, Purple Sandpiper we are present at Seafield, all ticks and then we were off!
Lerwick Harbour got us Black Guillemot and nothing at the Catch, we were off to Sandwick when I got a text from Paul about an Olive-backed Pipit at the burn of Swinister!
A quick look at Leebitton got us two Slavonian Grebes and a Ringed Plover before we were off to the burn in search of the OBP.
The team headed up the burn, we managed Chaffinches and a Woodcock but the OBP eluded us, there was no sign (but turns out we were going down the wrong way!!).
We also checked a garden for a Hawfinch but that came up with nothing so we got some Jackdaws at the south of Hoswick.
Paul dropped me another text, they'd had a Bluethroat at Levenwick! they were finding all the good birds!
We went straight into Levenwick, I spotted out the site of the Bluethroat and we looked around, there was no sign of it.
I headed back to the car and Louis shouted for me, I started into a run, Karen & Louis had, had something disappear into a garden.
I spotted a small brown bird in between some bushes, there it was!! the Bluethroat! it dived into cover and we ticked it!
South again and we tried Spiggie for Mute Swans, we managed a couple of Mute's, some Pink-footed Geese and Lapwings (all ticks).
We scanned the Setter Marsh or as it was once known "The Phalarope Marsh" (as it used to house breeding Red-necked Phalaropes) for a Pintail which had been reported there but no luck.
Hillwell came next but we couldn't spot any different species so we quickly headed to Fleck and then Brow Loch but we couldn't find any Golden Plovers or Pochard!! ahh!! we were running out of time and species!!

The last legs of our journey came.... Sumburgh, the Pool of Virkie, the Hotel, Grutness, Scatness, Scord..... all in the space of an hour... could we make it? could we get our target species?!?.....
If we tried we could, we did Virkie got Bar-tailed Godwit.
Did Scatness with Pete Ellis (who happened to be there), got Shoveler and Black-tailed Godwit.
Went to West Voe of Sumburgh, snatched up Stonechat and Dunlin from the other teams scopes.
Grutness- Sanderling
Scord- 2 flyover Comorants and a Great-northern Diver
Sumburgh Hotel- finally Twite!! and Skylark

With six minutes remaining we rushed to Scatness trying to get no.70 for our list, we tried and tried, we couldn't pick up any more species.
We headed to the boating club, we stopped though to count up our list to make sure we'd got everything in check, Karen and I compared lists and she had more than me! I'd missed several species!! our list was now 72!! we'd broken the 70 barrier!!! we headed to the club in triumph!

The man from the radio and his accomplice were ready and waiting for our arrival, a quick interview and we were in.
Though there is one person I thought I should mention, a man though only days before I was speaking to on Fair Isle, and Clickimin Loch yesterday and today, Will Miles, for an ex-AW of Fair Isle he sure gets around.
Anyways onto the big decider!! we were greeted inside by a clap from everybody and then our lists were handed in to the referee- Martin Heubeck.
The totals were counted, we had a grand total of 72 (Gary had made of rough estimate of 60-68 species for the day so we didn't do bad!) and the Oldies had a greater total of 88 species!!!

Due to a handicap though, if the other team had 10-20 more species than us it was declared a draw, anything over 20 was a win for them and anything under 10 was a win for us.
So in the end it was a draw!! the Radio men had a prize though..... The Golden Binoculars, which was awarded to both teams.

The two teams. Back from left- Paul, Rory, Roger, Gary. (Photo by Jim Nicolson)
Front from left- Freya, Louis, Logan, Melody

A couple of photos were taken of the two teams and then soup was dished out, I had mine and had a chat with everyone around before having to jet back north to catch the ferry to Yell.

BBC Radio Scotland: Out of Doors. View our interview at  - 57.00-64.00

It was a really good day, it was an early start but I'd love to do it again, we're hoping to make it an annual event, maybe one in spring in well so you'd catch both migrations.

And just to add at the bottom here, our list for the day, which ended in the grand total of 72 Species.

  1. Rook
  2. Woodpigeon
  3. Blackbird
  4. Hooded Crow
  5. Robin
  6. Wren
  7. Goldcrest
  8. Redwing
  9. Mallard
  10. Grey Heron
  11. Greylag Goose
  12. Sparrowhawk
  13. Raven
  14. Starling
  15. Collard Dove 
  16. House Sparrow 
  17. Herring Gull
  18. Rose-coloured Starling
  19. Curlew
  20. Blackcap
  21. Snipe 
  22. Red Grouse
  23. Chaffinch
  24. Redshank
  25. Rock Dove
  26. Great Black-backed Gull
  27. Long-tailed Duck
  28. Black-headed Gull
  29. Common Gull
  30. Chiffchaff
  31. Tufted Duck
  32. Whooper Swan
  33. Goldeneye
  34. Wigeon 
  35. Teal
  36. Oystercatcher
  37. Brambling
  38. Grey Wagtail
  39. Blue Tit
  40. Goldfinch
  41. Scaup
  42. Gadwall
  43. Rock Pipit
  44. Turnstone
  45. Shag
  46. Eider
  47. Fulmar
  48. Purple Sandpiper
  49. Black Guillemot
  50. Kittiwake
  51. Ringed Plover
  52. Slavonian Grebe
  53. Woodcock
  54. Jackdaw
  55. Bluethroat
  56. Meadow Pipit
  57. Mute Swan
  58. Moorhen
  59. Wheatear
  60. Lapwing
  61. Pink-footed Goose
  62. Gannet
  63. Bar-tailed Godwit
  64. Black-tailed Godwit
  65. Shoveler
  66. Stonechat
  67. Dunlin
  68. Sanderling
  69. Comorant
  70. Great-northern Diver
  71. Twite
  72. Skylark

Birding Down the Ness: a mid October jaunt

An edition to my action packed weekend, Sunday the 12th.
After having a great trip with Brydon, David and Amy on the Saturday, I headed down to the Southend with Dave Okill and Pete Ellis for a bit of birding.

Dave picked me up at 9 and we headed south, stopping in Helendale to try and find some Blue Tits that had been around, we spent a couple of minutes standing around and up popped a Great Tit! a Pied Flycatcher and two Yellow-browed Warblers! not bad for a couple of minutes of birding.
We got a few views before it was time to go, we headed south and did a bit of birding in Sandwick before picking up Pete.

There'd been a Siberian Stonechat by the Hoswick Beach yesterday so we decided to go for that.
Pete said that it was hanging around the fences so we spent sometime scanning them but it didn't pop up.
We were checking other posts when I spotted Glen Tyler & Juan Brown strolling down the side of a park, so we went up and checked if they'd had anything.
A couple of Stonechats was a couple of birds they'd had, one even flew by but I didn't see it, the five of us decided we'd have a joint search of the Swinister Burn, 2 from the South and 2 from the North.
Dave took us to the north end of the burn and we checked a few gardens beforehand.
These gardens pulled up a few Chiffchaffs, Robins and Goldcrests, Pete and I headed in and Dave went down to the middle of the burn.
We'd just gotten in and then Juan showed up, in no time at all they'd headed up the burn and already met us! so Glen showed up and the for of us spoke for a minute before Glen went farther up the burn to try and drive birds to us.
A few birds did pop up, a Jack Snipe (which landed and was then flushed by Juan's dog! also a year tick for me), 2 Mealy Redpolls, a Song Thrush and a very pale Chiffchaff (which gave a call different to the normal Chiffchaffs and it was believed to be an Eastern bird).
The four of us headed back down the burn and Dave was waiting, he told me he'd had a Grey Wagtail in the fork of the burn so I went for it (as I still need it for my yearlist and Dave remembered that).
I went all the way up and back but I couldn't find it, even though it was there a few minutes ago!
Anyways we all headed off, we didn't see any more birds but we went our separate ways, Dave, Pete & I headed off elsewhere, getting 40 Brambling.
We'd gone hunting for the Siberian Stonechat when I got a text from Glen, he'd had a Black Redstart at the Hoswick Beach so we thought we might as well go for that.
Glen and Juan were above the beach waiting and they pointed out the bird, it was a beauty! my first on Shetland (away from Fair Isle), but also there was a Siskin! a juvenile and it was really easy to get close to, presumably one from the forests of Scandinavia and never seen humans before.

Black Redstart, distant but you can make it out!

 Not a very cooperative Siskin

The next spot was a Cottage which held an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler last year (on my birthday), I stood with Pete and I saw a Goldcrest which flew within inches of us and a Great Tit which flew over me and Dave when I got back in the car!!
After the cottage we headed south, at the exit of Hoswick there was a good flock of Jackdaw (year tick), 35 exactly! and a few Chaffinches.
A quick run through Levenwick produced a few common migrants and the same on the Loch of Clumlie.
Boddam was our next stop, there was several hundred (c300/400) Golden Plover, very jumpy birds and they wouldn't land.

Only a part of the flock

The Voe itself at Boddam was pretty quiet bar a couple of Teal, though there was a Siskin and a very late Barred Warbler!

A couple of Teal

Russ Haywood was also doing a bit of birding and said he'd had a male Stonechat a little bit further along the road so we went for that, it showed quite well and we also got a Reed Bunting!

Another record shot, male Stonechat

Down at Fleck there was 74 Pink Footed Geese, 40 Barnacle Geese and some Greylags.
The Sumburgh Quarries was next along our stop, Pete went and did the farm while Dave and I did there and the Head.
In total we managed to get 1 Reed Bunting, 1 Snow Bunting, 2 Blackcap, 1 Robin, 1 Song Thrush, 6 Bramblings, 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Chaffinch.
It wasn't bad I'll say that! we found Pete round Sumburgh Hotel and he'd managed 40 Bramblings and a Jack Snipe.

This Blackbird never shifted once while Dave and I stood near it, I could of almost grabbed it

It also has two white outer tail feathers on either side of its tail

A skein of flyover Geese

Next stop on the list was the Pool of Virkie, we met Jim Nicolson who told us there was a Long-eared Owl in the willows a few metres away!! We rolled up and there it was! sitting all peerie and Owly, I even got some shots.

Hide and seek

I have to say that I really do like this picture, its probably my best of an owl

Jim also told us that there was an Olive-backed Pipit by the old bus along at Eastshore, it wasn't far so we went for it.
There was a single twitcher standing in a park with a scope, Pete & I headed up to talk to him and it turned out he was scoping Mipits, trying to find the OBP.
No luck, we shot off to Hillwell, scoping out two Scaup (male/female), Tufted Ducks, Teal, Moorhen, Wigeon and a few Greylags.
The Quendale MIll produced a Chiffchaff and 6 Blackcaps and Spiggie was more productive with 2 Barnacle Geese, 86 Pink-feet, Greylags, Wigeon, Curlew, 3 Goldeneye, 3 Grey Herons, 11 Whooper Swans, 2 female Shoveler, 1 female Pintail (year tick), 4 Slavonian Grebes and 2 Mute Swans.

A nice comparison between female Pintail and Shoveler

The last leg of our journey ended in Sandwick, with Dave dropping off Pete (and us getting 40 Chaffinches) and us heading back north.
A great day nonetheless.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Fair Isle: August 2014

Of course as many of you will know I am a "regular" to Fair Isle, this holidays was for the wedding of Karen and Inness, with me doing a bit of birding while I was there.

4th of August 2014

We headed into Fair Isle on the first flight and after getting down to Quoy, I spent my first while there before going birding.
I first cycled north to the Obs and spotted a Red Admiral on the way.

Red Admiral doing a bit of sunbathing by the Vaadal (Voi-del)

The first birds I had in the Havens were Rock Pipits, eleven at least and also a dried dead Octopus on the South Haven beach.

Rock Pipit

South Haven

While out on the beaches I got a text from David telling me to meet him at the Obs, I started walking up and David soon rolled up in one of the Obs' vans.
We headed inside and into the ringing room where he brought out a young Puffin! for me to ring! we took a few measurements and etc and then we let it go.
The Puffin, turns out, was found by a garage, David said he thinks it was at Houll.
Afterwards David and I went separate ways with me going north to the Lighthouse, I had a few birds but the only ones of note were two Swift flying south.

Arctic Skuas have had a better year on Fair Isle with about 12 chicks fledged 

It was getting close to denner so I shot off south and had six Golden Plover flying south over Barkland.
Just before two I headed out again to cover the south of the Island but I was stopped by some strange moth in the window of the Schoolton Garage, I went for a closer look and my attention was drawn to a Peacock Butterfly trapped inside with this moth fluttering around!
I went to Schoolton and told Nick and we caught the beauty before releasing it. I carried on south and I stopped off at Meoness.
First thing I saw was what looked like a lecustic Rock Dove, this actually got me excited but I saw green rings on its legs and at a closer inspection its colours were wrong.

Racing Pigeon

A close up of its colour rings

After the Racing Pigeon flew off I decided to do Meoness once over, heading around all I got of note was an Alba Wagtail.

 Maalie (Fulmar) chick on Meoness

A very obliging Wheatear (Steynshakker) that sat on a fence post for me

5th of August 2014

One thing I can't not do on Fair Isle is go on the morning traps! the excitement of what you might catch pulls me in everytime so I headed up to the Obs at 6:30 to find some birds on my way North.
Well this morning I didn't see anything but I did get to ring two Meadow Pipits and work with a "re-trapped" Wheatear.
Nick Riddiford had said to me the day before that he does Moths at 9 so after the traps I was straight to Schoolton for a bit of Mothing (the right name for it?).
Nick's Moth Trap brought up a respectable bunch with two Smokey Wainscoat, two Udea infealis (Micro Moth), four Antler Moths, twelve Ingrail Clay, three Large Yellow Underwings, twenty Dark Arches, two Eccna Ossenna (Micro Moth), one While-shouldered House Moth (Micro), one Stenophylax permistum, nine Northern Rustics, two beetles and one Sexton Beetle.
Afterwards I got a few shots and we released them all back into the wild before I headed back to Quoy,

Large Yellow Underwing

Dark Arches and moth sp

Antler Moth

A Dark Arches

Ingrailed Clay

Northern Rustics

Northern Rustic (?)

Smokey Wainscoat


The list for today

The two beetles

The Sexton Beetle

Most of my day wasn't spent birding but the large majority was spent painting Quoy, myself, Dad, Stewart and a couple others spent the day (a sunny one it was) painting Quoy, it did have its upsides though which resulted in me hearing a Red-throated Diver somewhere on the Island (flying over), a Swallow and a moth with reddy-orange underwings!
After we'd done the entire house, Stewart & Dad decided to head out fishing so I went off with them.
We headed up to North Haven and got the boat ready before heading north to the sea north of the Island.
The rods went down a couple of times but we just couldn't catch anything, Steven & Tom were out as well but they only got one "fair sized" fish (the same as us).
Though us fishing did attract a couple of Gulls, Herrings and a Lesser Black Back which was even ringed.

Peerie Fishy

Our "posse"

Our loyal "ringed" Lesser Black-backed Gull which stayed with us till we got past North Light

Right overhead

Heading back to North Haven we had one more try but nothing came up, we put the boat back and headed down the Isle.
Just before five I was able to head out birding again, I headed to the South, managing to pick up a couple of Waders. Redshank, Oystercatcher and Turnstones but the real surprise came from Utra when I found a female Tufted Duck and an Island tick of Ruff! (Year tick as well).

Female Tuftie on what I like to call "the Utra Pond"

Record shotted Ruff, year and Island tick

I called it a day after heading to Da Water and headed back to Quoy hoping to enjoy the end of the day but a Barred Warbler had other plans.
I got a text from David saying that there was one at Schoolton! I grabbed my stuff and I was off! I had just arrived and the Obs Van pulled up a mere 20 seconds later!
There was maybe six of us looking for the warbler which fluttered once and then flew 60 metres away onto a style, I took a few record shots and headed back happy with adding a new bird to my Fair Isle list! (And year).

Record Shot! Barred Warbler

But I couldn't resist having one last check up North so by 7:30 I was crawling round Easter Lother Water hunting for Waders, managed to get a Redshank, Dunlin and Ringed Plover before going to Golden Water and finding a second female Tufted Duck!
This time though I did head in as the sun was setting and the birds were going with it.

My second female Tufted Duck of the day at Golden Water, note: the white/cream patch around the base of the bill which was not present in the bird from Utra

North Cliffs and Gannet Colony

David told me that tonight would be good for "Stormies" so hoping to ring a few (and hopefully get Swinhoe's Petrel) I went up after 11.
The traps were quickly set up and the moon was out as well, within a couple of minutes I got two different photos: featured below.

 Yellowy Moon

White Moon

The traps got pretty full of Stormies, throughout the night over 200! came in and were ringed, a couple of re-traps as well and I did a few.
But there was no Swinhoe's and he wasn't seen again.
I got home with Glen who was up on the session as well, saved me walking back!

6th of August 2014

I woke up late this morning for traps, nine to be exact but I had no texts so nothing rare had been caught.
I got ready to head out and I had another ten minutes before I got a text from David saying that they'd just caught a Greenish Warbler in the Plantation!!
I grabbed everything and I was up there like mental, not wanting to miss it. My legs were burning by the time I'd got there and Ciaran and David were just leaving.
I cycled up to them and David asked me if I could go up to the Obs to spread the news, so off I was again.
I dashed north telling anybody I found along the way, I got into the Obs and I went round spreading the word and soon we had a gathering of people by the ringing room.
David and Ciaran arrived and the ringing started, the bird was then taken outside for photos and it was released.

Greenish Warbler, a nice start to the day

Painted Lady

I headed north after coming from the Obs and then I headed south again to Utra.....

The day is continued on...

7th of August 2014

This morning I was up for traps and out for 6:30 again with birds being seen at Barkland. 7 Oystercatchers, 2 Common Gulls, 2 Lesser Black-backs, 2 Black-headed Gulls and 2 Curlew but nothing else along the way.
On the traps we caught a few things with my first Green Sandpiper of the Year flying out of the Finniquoy Gully (or just the Gully).
I got to ring a Wheatear and then I headed north where I found nothing of note bar a Painted Lady.
After my normal morning routine I headed out to the south and got 19 Turnstones and a Sanderling (A Fair Isle Tick for me!) on Sample, South Harbour.

Sanderling, Island tick

Glen and a kite

Next came South Light and Muckle Uri Geo, the areas in and around both pulled up a few waders and gulls, c30 Redshank, 3 Dunlin, c40 Common Gulls, 4 Black-headed Gulls and 6 Turnstones.
While I was looking at these I got a text from David, they'd just caught a Wryneck in the Vaadal (Pronounced Voi-del)! I told him I was on my way.

The Wryneck!!

I don't think I've ever cycled that fast, I was up there in five minutes and they were sat waiting, I plunked myself down and watched as it was pulled out of its bag and the ringing started.
This was my first Wryneck on Fair Isle and a Year Tick, my first was last year and roughly the same time at Sumburgh Farm when twitching a Short-toed Lark in the mist.
So after it had all been done, David got me to take a few shots of it for ageing purposes and then I watched in marvel as the Wryneck did some funny head movements, twisting its head around to look at David.
Everyone split up after that and I did a bit of birding before heading back to Quoy.

I decided that today would be the day I headed up Ward Hill for a look (always hoping to head up each trip but I never quite get around to it...), I asked Dad if he wanted to come and so we set off North after denner for a look.
It was an amazingly sunny day and it was hot but there was a good breeze going so we were fine, on the way up the Hill road we had twenty Skylarks, a couple of Shalders and two Ravens. We had a walk around, to the top and then to look at the Gannet Colony.

Carved into one of the huts on Ward Hill

Another one beside it

View from the top

Black & White Seals

Juvenile Skylark

Black & White Ram

We spent maybe twenty minutes watching and photographing the Colony and some Seals before I got a text from David saying that North Ronaldsay just had a Honey Buzzard flying north and they'd lost it.
That started to get me excited, seeing as I've never seen one yet! we headed back up the northern face of Ward Hill and begun our ascent to the top to spy for this avain hunter.
On the way we found a dead Bonxie, Dad got me to check the leg for a ring and there was one! so the procedure began of getting it off and after ten minutes we got it (I presume its a Fair Isle bird seeing as it's ring number is about 100 off one bird I ringed last year).
At the top we scanned and scanned for a while hoping to pick out this Buzzard but nothing so we set off back down the Hill road, we had the car and the plane was coming in so we had to wait.
I got a few shots in the process.
While waiting David dropped me a text saying that North Ron's Honey Buzzard had flown back over so it didn't come this way!


"G-SICA is a go"

We continued down the isle and I popped into Shirva, I headed out again and I got one Willow Warbler.
I walked down to Midway not expecting much but maybe a warbler, I had gotten a few metres into the Angelica and something flew up onto a wire in front of me, my eyes wandered and it was a Black Redstart!! I dipped the one a few days ago (maybe the same) and this one just flew straight towards me! I didn't even get a chance to pull out my camera before it flew to the back of Midway.
I ripped out my camera and ran after it, it was perched on a piece of pipping and I didn't even have a chance to photograph it before it shot off!
I chased it but it was gone and I didn't see it again but it was a British tick so I was very pleased!
I continued south, seeing the female Tufted Duck who was present for her third day running.
A quick run around the South Light/Skaadan area pulled up a couple of Alba Wagtails, Turnstones, Rock Pipits, Oystercatchers and a Snipe.
I walked back up the road to Quoy and that nearly ended my day but I went off to twitch a Reed Warbler by Midway (Year Tick).

Sunset from Quoy

8th of August 2014

I managed to sleep in this morning and also miss Nick's Moth Trap in the process but he didn't catch anything big so I popped over and had a look in the garden.
I managed to get the Barred Warbler, also there was a few Oystercatchers in the parks.
I headed down to Meoness, managing to pick out 65 Common Gulls and a Great Black-backed Gull.
Next came South Harbour which brought up a Sanderling and fifteen Turnstones and a Puffin, which I caught!
There must of been something wrong with the thing if it let me catch it without running away, I took a few shots and let it go (later I was told the bird was sick).

Puffin, cracking bird 

Down by Mid Geo I spotted four Sanderlings (my own Island record flock) and then I was off to the pools around South Light which brought up 6 Hooded Crows, 12 Turnstones and 9 Purple Sandpipers.
Utra still had its faithful Tufted Duck (She is still present for her fifth day).
On the way to Midway, the Reed Warbler was still in its patch of trees and next was the Chalet which got me a Garden Warbler.
I carried on North to the Havens, they had a few birds in the shape of 5 Rock Pipits, 5 Dunlin, a Turnstone and a Alba Wagtail.

Someone's nosey

South I went for denner and after that the South Harbour was next but it didn't bring much but on Meoness I found 70 Common Gulls and 5 Golden Plovers.
My day started to slow down from here and I headed to the South Light with Tommy to watch some golf, we did find a Common Sexton Beetle which wasn't half bad!
When I got back to Quoy, Stewart and I were debating about Red Rattle, we found the latin name the same as another plant and it was Lousewort, Triona told me where to look so I headed up to Chatham's Land for a look.

It didn't take me long to find it!

Also Common Ragwort

And Bird's Foot Trefoil

Lousewort in comparison with a one pound

Dwarf Willow

Self Heal


Chatham's Land

9th of August 2014

Today was the day of Inness and Karen's Wedding and it was a complete downpour throughout the day (breaking the most rainfall in twenty four hours for the Island by about 13mm) but that didn't stop anybody (or the birds).
I saw the Obs Van at the Kirk about ten minutes before ten so I decided to go and see if they'd got anything, in the weather you would of thought I was mad but they'd had a Wood Sandpiper so there is just somethings you got to do.
The bird was gone so I cycled in the rain to Utra to get a few Waders, the scrape was flooded and my camera bag was nearly as well (I actually brought it with me).
Utra was promising with three Ruff, a Snipe, a Greenshank and two female Teal.

Common Gulls, hundreds were around today

Greenshank in the rain

and a female Teal

I went off the find the Obs Van and I met them at the Puffinn, as soaked as me and not enjoying the weather at all.
We exchanged sightings and we headed off quickly, it wasn't worth being out.
I didn't brave the outdoors again after that, my boots were soaked through, so was my clothes and my camera bag as well (though its contents were safe).
The rest of the day was spent getting ready for the wedding, while we got all ready and nice, the rain flooded everywhere, all burns were overflowing and roads were submerged, it really was like the weather was against everybody.
But that stopped no-one, everyone met in the Chapel and the ceremony started. It was a great occasion being there and it was excellent.
We had an hour before the Hall so we waited and headed up, there was a great meal with speeches and then the band started which went on into the early hours.
It was an amazing day and congratulations to Inness and Karen of course!

10th of August 2014

So it was maybe about 8;45 in the morning and I'd just gotten up from the wedding the night before, I heard people speaking in the porch so I went to have a look and it was Glen.
He'd just come in asking if I wanted to go out birdwatching, I had actually just gotten up but I couldn't decline so off we went.
First we headed to Utra, there was a couple of Waders, three Ruff, one Black-tailed Godwit (Year Tick and Island Tick), 8 Teal and 22 Redshank.

Juvenile Black-tailed Godwit, nice bird for the day

Flyover Teal

We worked our way north from here getting a Greenshank at Da Water and a Willow Warbler with four Ruff at Barkland.
We passed the Obs and went straight for Easter Lother Water, taking the walk up we flushed three Ruff and on Easther Lother itself there was three Greenshank!
We'd been out a while so we headed to one last stop at the Obs, checking the board there wasn't
much news but there was a Pied Flycatcher in the Garden which we saw.

Female Pied Flycatcher

Glen put me back to Quoy and I took the day a bit slowly, I headed back out again at 11 to South Light.
There was good numbers of waders with 30 Turnstones, 15 Purple Sandpipers, One Whimbrel and over 20 Redshanks.
I headed over to Utra next which had a quite a few good waders with three Greenshank, two Common Sandpipers, two Ruff and two Wood Sandpipers!! (Lifers!!).

One of the Common Sandpipers

Wood Sand & Redshank!

Two Common Sandpipers

Utra Scrape

I ended up heading back after doing Utra but in the afternoon Harry & I decided to have a cycle up to the "Heinkel" wreckage, as it had been washed away slightly.
We arrived and had a walk out to see that the tail of the Heinkel had been washed to the fork in the burn.

The Heinkel

After a look around we headed back for the Football Game by South Light which went well and there was a good turnout, a crowd even gathered! 

(And in fairness that was my day, I had a good rest afterwards)

11th of August 2014

The Ruff were really close

I only got out 12:00 today but it was worth it, Rob Hughes from the Obs had, had a Wood Warbler at South Reeva so that was my first stop.
Almost straight away I got it on the Angelica and it was a beauty! an Island tick and a year tick as well!

Wood Warbler!

I worked my way to Midway managing to pick up five Willow Warblers and a Garden Warbler before heading back to Quoy.

Willow Warbler

Garden Warbler

The Garden Warbler again

Water Mint

Henry and I headed out birding at 3:30 and after a Lesser Whitethroat at Haa we headed to Utra.

A great Lesser Whitethroat

The Black-tailed Godwit was still there along with five Ruff and one Green Sandpiper.
South Light came next and it was bucketing it down but we managed to get one Green Sandpiper, eight Dunlin, one Redshank, three Ringed Plovers and a single summer plumage Knot.

Green Sandpiper and its not flying away!

We ran back to Haa and everything pretty much stopped there for the day.

12th of August 2014

This morning I was out by 9, in the first few minutes I had a Black-headed Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull.
At 5 past I was down at Haa and had a Peregrine flyover, Tommy pointed out two Greylags on Meoness which were the first of the Autumn (they took off north shortly afterwards),

Greylag Geese, first of the Autumn

I did a quick tour of Meoness, bringing up 3 Sanderling, 4 Common Sands, 14 Rock Pipits, 1 Golden Plover, 1 Green Sand and a flock of 50 Twite of Meadow Pipits but they disappeared before I could ID them.
Next was Utra and it still had the odd wader in the shape of two Green Sands and a female Teal.
I walked over to South Light and in Muckle Uri Geo I spotted 16 Redshanks, 1 Green Sand, 30 Turnstones, 12 Purple Sands, 3 Knot, 7 Ringed Plovers, a flyover Greenshank, 6 Dunlin and a male Pied Wagtail.
I headed over to Mid Geo by "The Puffinn" and an Alba Wag was feeding on the beach and a Common Sand flew off towards Sample.
North was next, Leogh had a Willow Warbler and 19 Common Gulls with a flyover Merlin between the School and Lower Stoneybrek.
Finally I checked Barkland which had just under twenty Oystercatchers before I headed back south to Quoy.

I seem to have no notes on the afternoon, and I can't remember what happened, all I have is this Arctic Skua

Nice birds, pretty cracking as well

13th of August 2014

I was up for traps once again this morning! 6:30 to be exact, I was out just after this and hunting for birds before traps.
At Da Water, it seemed lifeless but I spotted a dark duck, I got my eyes on it and it was a Wigeon! the first of the Autumn I think and I took a bad record shot before moving on.

First of the Autumn!

The Obs and Buness

Up North on the traps we had a Common Sand fly out of the Gully and a Chiffchaff in the Vaadal (Voi-del).
I took me a while to get back as the rain was so bad! I was only back at Quoy by 9:50 and a couple of minutes before I'd had my first Grey Heron of the trip at Da Water!

Finally! took me days but I got it!!

I stayed in at Quoy for the morning and I managed to get Black-tailed Godwit and Green Sand from the kitchen window.
I headed out after denner and my first good bird was a Sand Martin over the Meadow Burn! this might of even been an Island tick for me! there was also a different Green Sand.

Sand Martin, first of the Autumn as well!

Down by Haa I was getting to the edge of the Skerryholm Garage when I saw what I thought was a Merlin land and disappear 30 metres infront of me! I got my camera out and a Cuckoo flew up onto a strainer post! I got some shots and then it flew off, I went in and told Tommy and Henry.

Year tick, not bad

A second racing pigeon

South Harbour was my destination after that and there was 3 Common Sands, 7 Turnstones and 2 Sanderlings on the beach.
On  my usually course I was off to Utra, a Willow Warbler was by the house and a Green Sand, Greenshank and 16 Turnstones were by the Scrape.
I decided to take a different course and I headed to the cliffs by Gunglesund, I never head out this way so it was a nice change.



The birds too were also nice! there was 3 Ruff, 1 Green Sand and a Grey Heron (Haegrie), I also met a man who was staying at the South Light.
He'd come for the Island itself, just to have a look at it.
While we were talking I saw a Fieldfare (the bird which had been round the area for the past two days and it was also a trip tick).
I went by Midway and that only pulled up a Willow Warbler, I decided to head north along the west cliffs and then to Pund and thats what I did.
I did get one bird and that was an oiled Grey Heron by Pund which took off and disappered in the parks.
Barkland pulled up four Ruff and a jaunt down to Haa at 8:10 got me a Common Whitethroat and two Green Sands!

It took me many days but I finally caught up with a Common Whitethroat this trip!

14th of August 2014

I was up for traps as usual, round Barkland there was 8 Oystercatchers, 14 Twite, an Alba Wag and a Cuckoo! I'm not sure if it was roosting in the Angelica behind Chalet or if it just happened to be sitting there but anyways from here I was off on the traps.

The Cuckoo, these things are amazing!


I got to work with a couple of Wheatears which we'd trapped one was a re-trap and the other an un-ringed bird so I got to ring that.
I had a quick look in the Havens before heading south again and getting the Cuckoo, a Willow Warbler and two Ruff.
On quick look in at Schoolton produced a Lesser Whitethroat (different from the Haa bird?) and then I was up to Quoy for breakfast.

Lesser Whitethroat at Schoolton

I was back out again at 10:30 and my first bird was a Sand Martin by South Harbour.
Henry joined me on this one and by Utra we picked up a Green Sand a couple of Alba Wags.
We headed down to Mid Geo and Henry spotted a small warbler on the beach, I got my bins on it and it was a Wood Warbler!! I got some pics and texted David with the news of it.
An older couple were sitting 20 metres away so we told them and showed them the bird which was a first for them.

Looking North to Puffinn, Mid Geo, South Harbour and the croft houses

We were all going around the Skaadan so we just helped each other out, Henry and I spotted a couple of birds and got the couple on it in no time.
In the Obs sacrificial crop by the Puffinn we plucked out some Twite and twenty House Sparrows, the Skaadan Pool contained a few Dunlin and a Alba Wagtail, Muckle Uri Geo produced a Redshank, 4 Ringed Plovers, 13 Turnstone, 1 Sanderling, 4 Dunlin, 5 Oystercatchers, and 4 Groliks (Purple Sandpipers), down below South Light we got 3 summer plumage Knot (which quickly disappeared into the cracks and crevices), one Greenshank and a Green Sand.
We met Chris from the Obs and he told us about the odd bird that was around and after that the couple, Henry and I, and Chris all headed off in separate directions.

A dried fish in a fish box would you believe

Two of the three Knot and a Greenshank on the left hand side

Henry and I worked our way north, heading to Midway and getting a Willow Warbler and by this time it was 1 so I was back into Quoy for denner.
Afterwards I got a text from David, there was a warbler in the Gully that he thought it would be worth checking out, I replied to him and after a few jobs with Stewart we headed up.
The first thing I saw was a few guys around the Gully trying to flush the bird into the trap but to no avail.
David went off to do the plane and the other Ob's guys went back for a mist net with Alex staying in case the bird came out.
And me? well I stayed in case it came out, I sat myself on the top of the Gully and Stewart stayed for a while but headed back after twenty minutes.
The Obs guys came back and an older couple came as well, the man was called John and I talked to him as the Obs boys were setting up the net.
John has been here a few times, first when Ken Williamson was the warden and in his time he told me about a Red-necked Phalarope he'd seen and a Greenish Warbler on the isle.
It took a while for the mist net to be put up but after two tries the bird was caught and taken back to the Obs, I walked back and when I got to the Obs the bird was being identified in the ringing room but we had to wait out side.
The guys came out and said it was a Blyth's Reed, a couple of people came and a few taken before it was taken back to the Gully.

Blyth's Reed! Nice peerie birdy

I went up to the Plantation with the Obs to do a run of the traps, we got a Garden Warbler.
Tommy and Henry arrived (I'd given them a call about the bird) and so I headed off with them.
We didn't get much but I headed down to Schoolton afterwards and got a Common Whitethroat.

Tonight was my last night of Log so I didn't want to miss it, as usual I said my sightings, had a drink and headed back to Quoy.

15th of August 2014  

After the exciting time I've had over the past couple of days it was finally time to leave.
I had enough time to get up for the traps and see a couple of birds before I left.
The highlights outside Quoy were a Black-headed Gull.
I had a run south on my bike to get as much coverage as possible, in South Harbour there was a flock of 34 Redshanks and two Green Sands.
I had a Grey Heron at Utra, a Willow Warbler at Midway, 2 Sand Martin at North Shirva, 2 Teal on Da Water and 3 Ruff at Chatham's Land.

Oiled Grey Heron on Da Water

A ship on the horizon

I was checking the pond at Chalet when I saw large movement, a Grey Heron! I don't know why but I tried to catch it, the bird had been "fulmared" by Fulmars.
It couldn't escape quickly so I moved and I grabbed on to some large grass but the ground was hollow beneath me and half of me fell into the pond (my camera side) luckily all was ok, I was a little bit wet but that was it.
Still I continued onto the traps, they caught a wren, wheatear and a twite and there was also a Common Sand flying out of the Gully.
I shot straight back after this, picked up my wet clothes from the Chalet and headed back to Quoy.
My bag was soon packed and everything was ready, we said our goodbyes and soon headed off on the plane after a great 11 days.

Our time on Fair Isle this trip was amazing, the weather was great (for most of it) and everything had a great time at the wedding.
I met a couple of new people and even found a (Fair Isle) rarity, the birds were great and so was the people.
Also I would like to thank anybody who helped me in anyway during my stay.

If its an Island you want to visit, this is the one.

New species=  Wood Sandpiper
Shetland List additions=  Wood Sandpiper and Black Redstart
Fair Isle List additions= 10
Year List additions = 13

Total species= 74 (same as my May trip total last year)

House Sparrow
Arctic Skua
Pied Wagtail
Black Guillemot
Rock Pipit
Tufted Duck
Great Black-backed Gull
Golden Plover
Common Gull
Hooded Gull
Meadow Pipit
Ringed Plover
Red-throated Pipit
Rock Dove
Barred Warbler
Willow Warbler
Greenish Warbler
Red-necked Phalarope
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Green Sandpiper
Black Redstart
Purple Sandpiper
Reed Warbler
Garden Warbler
Black-tailed Godwit
Pied Flycatcher
Common Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
Lesser Whitethroat
Wood Warbler
Greylag Goose
Grey Heron
Sand Martin
Blyth's Reed Warbler
Storm Petrel