Thursday, 31 December 2015

End of the year: the 3rd year

Well once again, the year is over, 2015 has ended, and what a year it has been, with odd birds appearing late in the year, seabirds having an ok year but still not that good, my list of ringed birds ever going up with Gannet, Merlin & Mute Swan all a good host of species ringed! but yes as a whole the year has had its ups and downs as many people have but it's been enjoyable nonetheless.

But for now I'll just head onto the monthly summary


The first 5 days of the year were spent on Fair Isle with a total of 36 species being found on New Year's Day (less than what we've had the past two years).

The 5th resulted in me getting Pomarine Skua added to the list, with a bird at Ulsta on my way home from Fair Isle!

Generally the rest of the month was spent year listing as I'd falled into the habit once again

On the 24th I twitched Surf Scoter on Unst, another addition to my Shetland List.

By the end of the month I had gotten 2 Lifers and the year list sat at 71


Generally a more quiet month where few birds are seen, but still the American Wigeon from 2014 was still hanging around at Sandness.

I also managed to ring my first Mute Swan in Scalloway during a very snowy day.

Two Greenfinches that turned up in Brae during February

There was no additions at the end of the month and the year list stood at 76


Things started to pick up more this month with a 'Black-bellied' Dipper which roamed between to burns in Voe was my first in Shetland but was seen only briefly on the 7th.

A few migrants here and there but still quiet, though a Solar Eclipse on the 20th was worth the sight if the cloud was obscuring it, as most of the country found out the cloud was in the way.

One Shetland tick for March and with the year list at 90


Birds have started showing up in better numbers now, with a trip down the south end with Paul Harvey in the middle of the month bringing up Green-winged Teal, Sandwich Tern, Iceland Gull, Shoveler & Pintail.

Black Kite was the only Lifer/addition this month with one bird at Exnaboe on the 26th which resulted in a mad dash both up and down to see it!

Ended the month on 1 Lifer and 105 on the year list


May was to be more of a bumper month for ticks with Dark-eyed Junco at Toab (11th), Corncrake, Little Egret & Garganey in the South Mainland (17th), Hoopoe at Clibberswick, Unst (22nd) and Nightingale on Noss (24th).

Corbie (Raven) ringing was also in full swing this month and out of the 56 ringed in Shetland this year I ringed 28!

Lifers 2 Shetland Ticks 4 Year List 133


A Great Reed Warbler on Unst was the only addition before thing started to quieten down, also in Unst- Wood Sandpiper, Short-eared Owl, Red-backed Shrike, Icterine Warbler & Spotted Flycatcher.

Only 1 Lifer this month and 142 on the year list


A trip to Italy with the Yell Youth Club was amazing with quite a few nice birds on the side during activities. Just a couple of the birds I saw were Alpine Swift (Lifer), Serin, Black & Common Redstart, 'Italian' Sparrow, Little Bittern (Lifer) & Black Kite.

A bit of Diver ringing was done as well with 5 Red-throats done while out.

No Shetland additions this month but 2 lifers abroad, the year list is at 148


At the start of the month we visited Edinburgh to see my sister in the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, I haven't stuck it in the 'Summer Summary' but I did get 2 Lifers- Treecreeper & Stock Dove and a Scotland tick in the form of Nuthatch.

Two additions, both warblers, with me confirming Booted Warbler at Sumburgh Farm (22nd) and a Melodious Warbler at Norwick, Unst (26th)

Lifers 2 Year 154


Long-billed Dowitcher at Burravoe (8th) was my first 'Yell rarity' of the year and Curlew Sandpiper at Grutness (13th) and Grey Plover at Virkie (26th) were both very welcome and sought after additions.

Long-billed Dowitcher on Yell

Another good bird this month was a 1 day Grey-cheeked Thrush at Ollaberry, but one of the more exciting things was that a met a host of NGBer's who were up for a week of autumn birding.

 Lifers 2 Shetland Tick 1 Year List 161


Swainson's Thrush, Unst (4th) and Cattle Egret, Collafirth (25th) were both lucky additions as both disappeared the next day! the latter having been around for at least a week while I heard the news in Spain! very glad I didn't miss it as the last bird was in '99.

Little Gull is also a bird of note because it is a bird I have so rarely seen before, with this bird spending some time around Weisdale but showing well on the 3rd.

Spain was very good, spending a week in the town of Nerja, Malaga in the south during the first full week of the holidays, was very good for birding and generally hot, I picked up around 5 Lifers, Little Owl, Blue Rock Thrush, Blue-crowned Parakeet, Spotless Starling & Dartford Warbler. also there was a good supporting cast of Crag Martin, Cattle Egrets, Sardinian Warbler, Reed Warbler, Yellow-legged Gull, Gannet & Common Sandpiper.

 Lifer 1 Shetland Tick 1 Year 166


The month started off with the Annual Swan Count on the 8th, sadly though it wasn't as good as expected in the Central Mainland with many lochs without Swans when they have had ones wintering in the past.

Next came a Lesser Scaup to Nesting in the middle of the month but I dipped on my first try and managed to catch up with it on the 21st at the Loch of Houlland.

The bird of the year was found by Liz & Jim Watt in Scalloway on the 25th, Oriental Turtle Dove, 2nd Shetland Record and a bird many people wanted to see, it was a Wednesday it was found so I did manage to catch up with it 3 days later on the 28th.

2 Lifers and the year list stands at 173

December 176

A month where things now quieten down for the year but this being Shetland that was not the case, Little Auk was a year tick in Yell Sound on the 19th but the real star appeared on Boxing Day.
Now I haven't done a blog post for it so I'll just do it here.

On Boxing Day I had gone down to my step-grandparents in Mid Yell for 'denner', I was checking Nature in Shetland and I came across a photo by Austin Taylor of a dove in his garden, I looked at the picture and it hit me! MOURNING DOVE! I knew it straight away after seeing the photos from the Outer Hebrides bird a few years ago, news quickly got around and I helped spread it round too, a few people got onto it before dark on the day but many (including myself) had to catch up with it the next day.
I got up early and left my Dad's house in Lerwick (having arrived last night) and walked across the road to Austin Taylors at Murrayston, which is the south-east corner of my Clickimin patch! Dennis Coutts was already there and he pointed it out to me as it sat in a tree! yes! got it! I had just bagged the bird of the year, which was also a 1st for Shetland, 5th for Britain and a Lifer for me!

This North American beauty, is peerier than our Collard Doves and not a bad patch tick!

I was around from 9 til 12 and many birders came to see it in that time, a good percentage of the Shetland birding population visited and weren't disappointed!

The link to the Rare Bird Alert: Finders in the Field article by Austin Taylor

Mourning Dove was the only Lifer this month and the final tally for the year list is 176, only 6 birds short of beating 2014's total of 181, I'm hoping to surpass 200 next year.

On another note I made a challenge with Tommy Hydnman on Fair Isle to try and get 16 new species of bird to my Shetland List in exchange for a painting/drawing of my favourite bird from the past year, well I'm happy to say that I bet it back in September and I've now rocked up to 21 additions this year!!! only 7 birds off my total of 28 additions the year before!

Well here's the list anyway of all the species I've managed to add this year, certainly an odd bunch! Pomarine Skua, Surf Scoter, Dipper, Black Kite, Dark-eyed Junco, Corncrake, Little Egret, Garganey, Hoopoe, Nightingale, Great Reed Warbler, Booted Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Long-billed Dowitcher, Curlew Sandpiper, Grey Plover, Swainson's Thrush, Cattle Egret, Lesser Scaup, Oriental Turtle Dove & Mourning Dove.

Well its certainly been a great year, I couldn't of asked for more really, I have met some great people in the past twelve months and made some good friends, I have a lot of people to thank and the list is huge but I'm just gonna sum it down here.

It really wouldn't of been a good year without all the people who've helped me along the way, family have played a big part with putting up with me disappearing to go chase a rarity or for running me to a bird.  The Shetland birding community have definitely contributed a lot this year, with many ringers taking me out to ring a whole variety of birds, whether Ravens, Divers or Waders, I'd just like to thank them.
To all the birders who've taken me out birding and to the ones who have giving me a lift to a twitch, taken me to a bird or just given me details concerning birds or places to visit, you all get my thanks.

I may not have spent that much time on Fair Isle this year but still the time I did spend there was great, as always the Bird Obs was very helpful and I thank them for helping me during ringing sessions, giving me advice and keeping me informed with any birds even though I don't stay at the Obs, and the Islanders need a mention as always they encourage me and always help if they can.

And to Dave, who has put up with me on many outings, twitches and ringing sessions, putting in many hours to teach me and take me around Shetland, I have truly enjoyed it and I'm extremely grateful for everything he's done for me, thank you.

Now I'd like to wish everyone who reads this a Happy New Year and I hope 2016 is just a fantastic as the past year!

PS: I may not have beaten my previous year list record but I certainly had some great birds along the way, now here's a list below, in order.
  1. Greylag Goose
  2. Mallard
  3. Blackbird
  4. Herring Gull
  5. Starling
  6. House Sparrow
  7. Hooded Crow
  8. Redwing
  9. Fieldfare
  10. Rock Dove
  11. Great Black-backed Gull
  12. Fulmar
  13. Common Gull
  14. Redshank
  15. Turnstone
  16. Eider
  17. Shag
  18. Rock Pipit
  19. Robin
  20. Wren
  21. Snipe
  22. Iceland Gull
  23. Purple Sandpiper
  24. Snow Bunting
  25. Gannet
  26. Grey Heron
  27. Tundra Bean Goose
  28. Sparrowhawk
  29. Black Guillemot
  30. Raven
  31. Barnacle Goose
  32. Merlin
  33. Common Guillemot
  34. Woodcock
  35. Teal
  36. Great-northern Diver
  37. Curlew
  38. Wigeon
  39. Skylark
  40. Water Rail
  41. Buzzard
  42. Whooper Swan
  43. Mute Swan
  44. Kittiwake
  45. Pomarine Skua
  46. Goosander
  47. Red-breasted Merganser
  48. Comorant
  49. Goldeneye
  50. Tufted Duck 
  51. Rook
  52. Collard Dove
  53. Gadwall
  54. Black-headed Gull
  55. Ringed Plover
  56. Moorhen
  57. Chaffinch
  58. Blue Tit
  59. Goldfinch
  60. Oystercatcher
  61. Twite
  62. Lapwing
  63. Golden Plover
  64. Glaucous Gull
  65. Long-tailed Duck
  66. Great Tit
  67. Brambling
  68. Meadow Pipit
  69. Surf Scoter
  70. Black Redstart
  71. Song Thrush
  72. European White-fronted Goose
  73. Woodpigeon 
  74. Slavonian Grebe
  75. Red Grouse
  76. American Wigeon
  77. Jackdaw
  78. Greenfinch
  79. 'Black-bellied' Dipper
  80. Red-throated Diver
  81. Shelduck
  82. Dunlin
  83. Sanderling
  84. Stonechat
  85. Coot
  86. White Wagtail
  87. Goldcrest
  88. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  89. Chiffchaff
  90. Reed Bunting
  91. Peregrine
  92. Puffin
  93. Razorbill
  94. Bonxie
  95. Wheatear
  96. Green-winged Teal
  97. Swallow
  98. Sandwich Tern
  99. Bar-tailed Godwit
  100. Shoveler
  101. Pintail
  102. Mealy Redpoll
  103. Willow Warbler
  104. Hawfinch
  105. Black Kite
  106. Whimbrel
  107. Black-tailed Godwit
  108. Common Tern
  109. Brent Goose
  110. Pied Flycatcher
  111. Linnet
  112. Blackcap
  113. House Martin
  114. Arctic Tern 
  115. Arctic Skua
  116. Knot
  117. Cuckoo
  118. Dark-eyed Junco
  119. Sedge Warbler
  120. Crane
  121. Carrion Crow
  122. Corncrake
  123. Little Egret
  124. Garganey
  125. Ring-necked Duck
  126. Siskin
  127. Scaup
  128. Hoopoe
  129. Yellow Wagtail
  130. Tree Sparrow
  131. Nightingale
  132. Greenshank
  133. Red-necked Phalarope
  134. Lesser Whitethroat
  135. Great Reed Warbler
  136. Red-backed Shrike
  137. Spotted Flycatcher
  138. Icterine Warbler
  139. Garden Warbler
  140. Short-eared Owl
  141. Wood Sandpiper
  142. Reed Warbler
  143. Common Sandpiper
  144. Swift
  145. Common Crossbill
  146. Storm Petrel
  147. Green Sandpiper
  148. Leach's Petrel
  149. Common Rosefinch
  150. Ruff
  151. Booted Warbler
  152. Whinchat
  153. Kestrel
  154. Grey Wagtail
  155. Marsh Harrier
  156. Melodious Warbler
  157. Long-billed Dowitcher
  158. Curlew Sandpiper
  159. Little Stint
  160. Pink-footed Goose
  161. Yellow-browed Warbler
  162. Grey Plover
  163. Grey-cheeked Thrush
  164. Little Gull
  165. Swainson's Thrush
  166. Velvet Scoter
  167. Siberian Stonechat
  168. Cattle Egret
  169. Pochard
  170. Waxwing
  171. Common Scoter
  172. Little Grebe
  173. Lesser Scaup
  174. Oriental (Rufous) Turtle Dove
  175. Little Auk
  176. Mourning Dove

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The Summer of 2015 - with birds and without

Its been maybe a month, two since my last proper post, I haven't found the time and I've just plain out forgotten about it so I'm gonna try make an effort to do it again.

This summer has been a pretty amazing experience, I've met a few interesting people along the way, the birds have been good when I've actually been birding and life in general has been pretty fab.

In Augsut/September I have managed around 4 Lifers- Booted Warbler (Sumburgh), Melodious Warbler (Unst), Long-billed Dowitcher (Yell) and Curlew Sandpiper (Grutness).
This brings my total additions to my Shetland List, this year anyways, up to 15 and one bird away from winning my bet with Tommy Hyndman.
The year list stands at 157 and has been quite slow in rising as I haven't really spent that much time birding in August, most weekends now are spent with my friends so the birds have been pushed to the side a bit.

2nd-12th of July 2015

The start of the holidays resulted in some of the school going down to Italy for an adventure holiday in the Alps.

Generally birding was to what I could manage inbetween activities but there was some goodies involved.

Species seen on this trip were- Serin, Black Redstart, Common Redstart, 'Italian' Sparrow, Blackbird, Blackcap, Buzzard, Great Tit, Swift, Raven, House Martin, Sand Martin, Black Kite, Alpine Swift (Lifer),  Dipper, Comorant, Mallard, Grey Heron, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, acro sp & Little Bittern (Lifer).
Bats of an unknown specie were seen nightly over the camp and a Toad put in an appearance one night.

The first morning was spent getting used to the camp and its surroundings, located in the Aosta Valley, high up in north-west Italy.
Serin, Black & Common Redstart, 'Italian' Sparrow & Blackbird were the few birds seen on the first day.
Most of the days just showed the similiar stuff but Blackcap, Buzzard, Great Tit, Swift, Raven, House Martin, Sand MArtin and Black Kite were seen around the compound in the coming days.
Bats were seen nightly, going over very briefly, also a Toad made an appearance one night, Lifer!!

A day spent in the mountains doing rock climbling, gorge scrambling & 'squeezing' manged a few bits and peices, breeding Black Redstarts, my first Alpine Swift, Swallow, Swift, Sand Martin and several imposiible to see birds which were singing around.

Insects and flowers were really varying, quite a few reminded me of Shetland ones.

14th July 2015

A trip to Mousa to see Storm Petrels was quite good, we got to see Mark Bolton ringing them, also I had a look at the islands Flora, where I could find it at least, there was only one or two sites with Spear Thistle on the entire island.

18th-23rd of July 2015

This was spent on the usual visit to Fair Isle but I only stayed on for five days.
There was no big rarities but a acro sp in the Walli burn could of been if it was re-found, some of my time was done ringing with Bonxie, Arctic Skua, Gannet (!!), Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher all birds done while I was in.
I met a young Spanish boy who'd come on the JHMF and had been staying at the Obs for a while and the both of us went birding occasionally, best thing was we'd found a pair of Oystercatchers (with chicks) and another two pairs of Ringed Plovers (with chicks).

22nd August 2015

The Booted Warbler was at Sumburgh Farm on the 22nd of August and it was put out as a 'probable' by Russ Haywood, I headed down for it with Dave and we got onto it within ten minutes of being there, I saw the bird on and off for around and hour and then we left, now I didn't know that I was the only one to actually photograph it, so when I stuck the photos online the next day saying I'd photographed a few people were surprised, though I'm quite chuffed to of confirmed it!

Booted Warbler at Sumburgh Farm

23rd September 2015
Dave and I had a run around the Central Mainland totaling up no fewer than 15 Goosander (an impressive count for August), 2 Pied Flys, a Whinchat and a Grey Wagtail (as seen below).

Grey Wagtail at Kergord

Also on my way back north I picked up a Marsh Harrier at Toft which showed breifly before going south, I beleive this to be the bird which was seen in Vidlin earlier this week and at Graven two weeks after my sighting.

Marsh Harrier at Toft

26th August 2015
A Melodious Warbler popped up at Norwick, Unst on the 25th and I went with Rob Brookes the next day, getting almost immediate views before we checked the rest of the Vaylie garden and then headed back to the Ferry.

      Melodious Warbler at Norwick, Unst

Pied Flycatcher at Norwick, also Red-backed Shrike was present but wouldn't pose for photos

That was the Summer, an exciting one and certainly one I'll remember for a while, with some great birds and memories.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Oriental Turtle Dove, Lesser Scaup and birding

Having not completed a blog post for a few weeks I'm gonna add the past two weeks together.

21st November 2015
After dipping on the Lesser Scaup on the 15th I decided to give it another go on the 21st.
First stop with Tommy was the Loch of Benston where the bird had moved to after being found on its original site of the Loch of Houlland.
After scanning through the duck flocks I couldn't spot anything bar Tufties and Wigeon, most birds where a good piece off, so if the Scaup was there I certainly couldn't ID it.

Pig at the Loch of Benston

Next came the Loch of Houlland and a car was already pulled up looking at the Tufties and what we hoped was the Lesser Scaup too.
We rolled up to see Jim Nicolson watching the Scaup and he pointed it out to us before I rattled off a few photos, at the distance they weren't the best but at least they were identifiable.
Sadly we didn't have time to stick around so we thanked Jim and headed off to Lerwick, very much a tick and dash.

Lesser Scaup (Centre) at Loch of Houlland, no.247 in Shetland

22nd November 2015

Today I headed down the South Mainland with Dave & Pete to see if we could locate any migrants.
First stop was Sandwick and the only bird of note was a Carrion Crow feeding with the pigs.
Next along came Clumlie, a flock of 4 Mipits was odd for this time of year and were presumed to be wintering, a Greylag with a neck collar 'DTC' was another bird of note, originally being ringed in Clumlie.

Greylag 'DTC' at Clumlie, ringed this year as one of the four birds that were ringed as part of the yearly round up

There wasn't many birds between Grutness and Virkie bar a Shalder, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, a Robin and 5 Sanderling.
Scatness was a bit more exciting with 3 Shelduck and so was Hillwell with a Coot, a female Common Scoter, 2 Robin and 17 Whooper Swans.
Surprisingly all the reeds were frozen underwater, yet there wasn't any Little Grebes.
Good numbers of geese were around Quendale with a couple of hundred Greylags and at least 45 Pink-feet, no sign of the rather elusive Lesser White-fronted Goose though.

Spiggie was next, hundreds of geese surronded the west side of the loch and I'm pretty sure we saw over 1000 over the course of the day.
There was a few wildfowl of note, a flock of 151 Wigeon, 34 Whoopers, 9 Mutes, 4 Barnacle Geese and 17 Pink-feet.
That was pretty much the only birds of note we saw for the day before we headed back north.

Looking across the Pool of Virkie to Sumburgh Head

28th November 2015

On Wednesday the 25th, a Oriental Turtle Dove was photographed in Scalloway by Liz & Jim Watt, I saw the photo before the bird was properly identified and I was actually too scared to comment, as I feared it would be the rarer of our two Turtle Doves.
This was an Oriental (or Rufous, depends which one you choose), bird of the year for Shetland, the last bird having been seen in Fair Isle in 1974.
November is generally a time when any Turtle should be well scrutinized, as it could be from very far east.
As the news was only put out on Wednesday night, no birders could make it so many were there for first light the next day, all having ticked it and getting some amazing photos.
Now I couldn't actually go til at least Saturday which meant I had three agonizing days of waiting for the bird to either stay or depart.

Having been seen the day before I headed on Saturday the 28th and I prayed it was still there, I arrived on the scene of Ladysmith Rd, Scalloway to see to photographers pointing their rather large cameras at what was obviously the bird feeding on the deck, we crouched closer and there it was feeding away!
I got a few record shots and we inched closer, the light wasn't the best as it was only 9 but it was good enough for views, sadly we had to get going but I was happy with my views, maybe not as much with the photos.

The best shot I had, really but not a bad 248th addition to my list

Silhoutted against the morning sky