Tuesday, 19 May 2015

East meets west! Ducks, Crakes & Egrets

For this weekend I intended to spend it on Yell for my siblings birthday party, but due to a sickness going round we had to cancel and I still stayed in Yell.
On the morning of the 17th of May, I headed out to find nesting birds and maybe a few migrants, Blackbird nests were logged and even a migrant Redpoll but nothing else, then news broke of a Little Egret at Spiggie in the South.
I'd said to myself if anything turned up on Sunday then I'd go for it so I did, within the next two hours I'd journeyed down to the Mainland and with the help of Paula we went down for it.

Hugh Harrop and one of his tour groups had found a singing male Corncrake down at Boddam the day before, nowadays this species is quite difficult to find in Shetland since they've stopped breeding but this bird was said to be quite easy to see so we decided to head to it first as I have never seen one,
We rolled up to Boddam, parked up and waited (after being told where to park by Roger Riddington), 40 minutes passed, we'd heard it call many times, this weird insect like noise and then Paula spotted it but it disappeared again.
My hopes slowly started to dwindle but it called again and then Paula spotted it again, skulking through the grass away from us! I got good views and a photo before it wandered off.

Well its a record shot!

The rain came back on and the bird seemed unlikely to come out again so we headed off to Spiggie for the Little Egret.
We arrived to Spiggie and from a distance we could see Jim Nicolson parked up (most likely photographing the Egret).
Suddenly Paula spotted this white bird fly up from the marsh and up comes the Egret! it flew overhead and then lands on the cliffs! Certainly an easier Shetland tick than the Corncrake!
No.234 on my Shetland List so I'm not doing to bad.
I got a few photos of the Egret before Jim rolled up and we spoke for half an hour before heading off to Hillwell for a Garganey.

Flight shot

The bird seemed to like sitting on the cliffs

Not the typical spot for a Little Egret

Arriving at Hillwell I whipped out the scope and started scanning the Loch, first of all I noticed a large number of Swallows, 2 Knot and a pair of Shoveler.
One male Pintail was picked up among the reeds and then a pair flew in! I tried to get Paula onto them (who was using binoculars) and in the process I spotted my first Garganey in Shetland! a splendid male which very quickly disappeared into the reeds.
It was around 3 o'clock by this time and we were needing to head back north so we headed off.

We were heading through Cunningsburgh and I got a call from Hugh Harrop (I assumed it was about the Garganey) so I picked up.
He asked where we were and I said Cunningsburgh and he told us to quickly turn around and get to South Punds, Levenwick, he'd just found two drake Ring-necked Ducks!
After a slight rearrangement of plans we doubled back south and were enjoying these North American beauties within 10 minutes!

It may be distant but you can make out the white line on the bills if you zoom in

Next came the actual trip north, I ended in Brae and found myself a year tick of 3 Siskins in the Plantation between the school and "Toy Town", so not a bad end to the day!
But big thanks to Paula for taking me around, I would of never seen them without her help!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The Patch, some Migrants and the Odd bit of Ringing

The weekend of the 24th was pretty good in my terms.
First of all the 25th started with a bang, two patch ticks of Willow Warbler and Common 'Mealy' Redpoll turned up on Clickimin, in the same tree! so I was delighted about that.

Male Gadwall, one of only a pair that are on Clickimin now, first Shetland breeding record?

Mealy? Lesser? Its a Redpoll anyway

Stretching Willow Warbler

The head colour looks quite subdued but you can still see the red

Bressay in the background, quite an odd sight

Later on in the day I headed out with Paula and a trip to Ladysmith Road got me a Hawfinch (year tick along with the above birds), a Goldfinch and a Goldfinch x Greenfinch Hybrid! a really odd but fascinating bird and probably the first one in Shetland, of course credit goes to the finder Jim Watt who lives in the house where the bird was seen.

The beast itself, captive escape? wild hybrid? who knows but it is odd

I also had time to go out on the patch and the snow was rising as steam off the hills

Seal at Seafield

Sleepy Seal

And this beauty! patch year tick of a Razorbill, quite the treat also around was a White Wagtail (patch year) and 18 Tysties

Also the old Sea Kale is growing more everyday

Water droplet upon the leaf

Closer up shot of the droplet

Purple Sandpiper "KKU" ringed in Svalbard

This guy was found by Kevin Bryant and has been around for a few days

The next day the 26th I headed out with Dave for some Raven ringing, my first shot at ringing Ravens after I went twitching for a Cretzschmar's Bunting last year (and dipped) instead of ringing.
It was a truly amazing experience, the chicks were so fat and the bellys huge so I found it difficult to hold them/pick them up.
We were doing one nest and this pair kept squawking until one flew down and landed just a foot short of where I was, I've never been that close to an adult Raven and even Dave was amazed!
A total of 7 chicks were ringed and hopefully we are to do some the next weekend.

Though my story is not done, after Dave dropped me in Brae just before 4, I got ready for tea, then he texted with news of a BLACK KITE at Exnaboe, now going from Brae to Sumburgh to see a bird of prey which may fly off and roam the Shetland cpountryside is quite risky, though I like my risks....
I ended up phoning one of the finders Roger Riddington (The other finders were Rob Fray & Gary Bell) to see if the bird was still around, he said it was happily sitting on a fence post and looked like it would sit around, I asked him to keep me posted and we shot off!

The Deep Blue (not really the right name for a red ship)

An hour later we arrived to see Jim Nicolson & Roger at the site at North Town, Exnaboe looking at a plowed park.
I got out, got directions and raised the bins to the Kite sitting on the ground a few hundred metres away! Black Kite! Shetland tick/lifer no.232 and also no.105 on the year list! I rattled off a few record shots and we spent a minute or two admiring the bird.
I don't really see myself as a twitch and go kinda person but I have to be at times, such as needing to catch a ferry and so on, so we left and thanked Roger for helping out.

Record shot or what? still good to have a memory of it- Black Kite

I don't really see myself as a twitch and go kinda person but I have to be at times, such as needing to catch a ferry and so on, so we left and thanked Roger for helping out.

We headed off and I spotted some Curlew ish sized birds in the park below Paul's so we checked them out, I very happily raised by bins to not 1 but 4 Whimbrel! year ticks! (106) I was actually more excited to find these 4 Whimbrel than the Kite! it did round off a great day so we headed north and that conludes this blog post.

In the field I have difficulty sometimes separating them from Curlew but its from lack of experience

Its good to get them again, hopefully more birds will return in the next week

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Journey for a Junco!

At 1100hrs on the 11th of May, news broke that would send a majority of the Shetland birding community racing to see it. A DARK-EYED JUNCO, a rare North American bunting with only four previous records and the first since 2003 was found by Donald Robertson in his garden at Toab (not a bad one for the garden list!).
A photo online asking for an ID of this shocked many of those who looked at it, it probably took them a second to quickly put out the news but soon people were flocking.
And me? well I was playing football during breaktime in Mid Yell and I just stopped there and then, gawking at the text I'd just received.
Over the course of the next like 3 hours, I was trying to figure out a way to get down there to see this rarity, luckily somehow, I managed the bus timetable right, got someone to run me back up to Yell and also got to give the chance for a much younger birder, Joe Petrie, to come and see it!

I took us over an hour and a half to make it down but with the help of Paula Moss, Joe & I made it down the South Mainland.
On the way we phoned up Hugh Harrop who gave us directions straight to the bird (thanks Hugh!) and also he said about two Cranes at Levenwick! I hadn't even heard of them! (presumably the Yell birds because they weren't seen today).
Soon we had made it down to Toab at 1815 and the rain had started, we couldn't see Hugh so I gave him a call and he said two birders were walking towards us so we mobilised.
Roger and Glen appeared around the corner and pointed in the general direction, so the pace evidently picked up.
Right round the corner was Hugh with one of his massive cameras, I did see this dark thing which I took for a Sparrow under a trailer (this was it).
Hugh said it was hopping around on the grass behind the trailer so I crouched down and there it was! Joe and Paula both laid eyes on it and we all enjoyed a very nice Lifer!
So the Junco was my 233rd bird in Shetland and Joe's 42nd ish (we are still working out his list), also my 118th for the year!

Initial shots/views of the Junco

Joe spying at it under the trailer

The Junco happily hopped along the grass before flying off, we headed to Donald Robertson's garden to see if it had returned and I was delighted to see a Sedge Warbler! year tick no.119 and Joe's first ever! that though didn't stay for a photo.
Though soon we were back to the Junco as Paul Harvey was waving us back over to see it.
We got slightly better photos and here's one of the results before it flew off again.

They are beauties these Junco, a stonking male, shame we didn't hear it call

Well anyways it was time to head so we said our goodbyes and nipped up to South Punds, Levenwick for the Cranes.
A few minutes initial searching and I spotted them pretty close in, a year tick for me (120), Paula's first in Shetland and Joe's first!

The pair, I've seen photos of them mating, maybe Shetland's first breeding record?

Joe and Paula watching the Cranes

Two happy Crane twitchers

So we headed back north, Joe managed another lifer in the form of a Swallow and soon we were up at the ferry waiting to catch the 2015 home.

A happy boy with 11 (!!!) Lifers under his belt including the Junco, he's hardly passed 50 yet!

Well it was some day, I can't help but thank those who helped out, Dave for sending me the news, Hugh for the directions and help to see the birds and Paula who drove us there and back so we could see it. Who knows though, maybe we'll be doing something similar next week, how about Spectacled Warbler on Whalsay?