Sunday, October 23, 2022

πŸ“– RSPB Local Group 23/10/2022

 πŸŒ€15C Sunday 23rd October 2022 ~ RSPB Strathbeg today with the RSPB Aberdeen Local Group. A full report can be found HERE on the group's site.

Despite the thick fog during the drive out to the reserve, I arrived around 9:30am to a beautiful mild autumnal morning. A quick coffee while watching the large Tree Sparrow population which resides here before heading around to Starnafin Pools. It was a large group today so we split into two but I tended to wander off on my own, checking in occasional with the others. 

So good to see so many juvenile Whooper Swans across the reserve today.

As per usual at this time of year, it's wonderful to see the 1000s of Pink-footed Geese and 100s of Whooper Swans that winter here and in among the many Pinkies three Barnacle Geese stood out. One of the highlights of the day was watching huge flocks of Golden Plover which were regularly airborne twisting and turning in the sunlight, likely put up on most occasions by two marauding Buzzards.


Starnafin Pools held a large number of Dunlin, along with Golden Plover, (4) Black-tailed GodwitsLittle Egret and plenty of Snipe feeding around the margins. Lots of wildfowl too with large groups of Wigeon, along with Shoveler and Teal. A walk to the Dunbar Hide produced a pair of Stonechat, a nice flock of Linnet, with Yellowhammer and a good number of Reed Buntings. Only one common migrant of note today, a female Blackcap feeding on Elder. 

Black Redstart at Rattray car park

I stayed until lunchtime before ending my day at Rattray were a very confiding Black Redstart was happy to pose for photos. As the sea haar rolled in I headed for home.

Black Redstart

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

πŸ“– Shetland 2022 ~ EPILOGUE

This was my second visit to Shetland, with Dazza joining me for the weekend. Both visits took place in the first week of October 2021/22 and the contrast in the birding and for that matter weather, could not have been more vivid.

Red-breasted Flycatcher ~ One of several seen during my 2021 visit.

Not a sign during my stay this year of Red-breasted Flycatchers, Little Buntings, Shorelarks, Common Rosefinch and Western Bonelli's Warblers but instead Myrtle Warblers, Hornemann's Arctic Redpolls, a Pechora Pipit, an amazing Lanceolated Warbler and of course the incredible Least Bittern, a UK first. For me an amazing five UK lifers during my seven days!

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle Warbler) One of two birds discovered during this year's visit.

It's all down to the winds of course and during our whole visit this year we were bombarded with persistent westerlies and a succession of fast-moving transatlantic weather systems. Hence the influx of birds from North America and Greenland. This is why for me, a relative newbie to Shetland, this will be the place to come and join the 'twitching' fraternity for at least a week in the early autumn.

A more sedate 'twitch' for Myrtle Warbler a few days after the find

I've seen the best and the worst of 'twitching' during this latest visit. With a minority whose only focus is to obtain that all-important tick or photograph with complete disregard for the bird's welfare. I witnessed birds being pushed from pillar to post using the unethical procedure of organised flushes, where an exhausted bird is physically dislodged time and again only to be pursued by marauding photographers. Fortunately, by way of the majority are those who are just happy to enjoy the banter among fellow birders, enjoy the wildlife and just simply watch how things unfold naturally, I'd like to think that I'm one of the latter. 

Shetland 22 List

Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Good, Barnacle Goose, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck, Greater Scaup, Common Eider, King Eider, Goosander, Red Grouse, Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Slavonian Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Shag, Grey Heron, *Least Bittern, Sparrowhawk, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Ruff, Sanderling, Knot, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Snipe, Jack Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Glaucous Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Black Guillemot, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Skylark, Swallow, Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Tree Pipit, *Pechora Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Wren, Robin, Redwing, Fieldfare, Blackbird, *White's Thrush, Wheatear, *Lanceolated Warbler, *Myrtle Warbler, Siberian Chiffchaff, Common Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Great Grey Shrike, Hooded Crow, Raven, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Brambling, Twite, Common Redpoll, Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, Siskin, Reed Bunting, Snow Bunting *Depicts LIFER

BUBO Listing
NEW Scottish Life-List Since Relocating Permanently to Aberdeenshire in October 2020

πŸ“– Shetland 2022 ~ Part 3

 πŸŒ¦11C Saturday 8th October 2022 ~ We awoke to hear the news that yesterday's Least Bittern as expected had not survived the night, a sad end to an epic journey! ~ Today was by far the best day of the week weatherwise, with a light breeze, sunny skies and just the occasional heavy downpour.

Turtle Dove at Gott ~ A good record for my Scottish listings.

After a late breakfast, we decided to head over to Gott, just 4 miles west of Lerwick to see if we could catch up with a Turtle Dove which had been reported a few times feeding around gardens near the burn to Strand Loch.  We eventually found the bird while sitting and enjoying a coffee on a bench overlooking the loch. It was asleep for most of the time during our stay likely fully fed from the feeders in a garden just along the burn. 
After Gott a short drive over to Loch of Tingwell where we connected with a female Greater Scaup.

Myrtle Warbler at Bigton was showing exceptionally well.

The last time Dazza had seen a Yellow-rumped Warbler was when we'd lived in Canada for a short while and so with the excellent weather and the Myrtle Warbler still in situ at Bigton we headed over for a look. Now, this is our kind of 'Twitch', with just a handful of birders on site (most having 'ticked' the bird the previous few days and moved on) the bird showed beautifully a number of times during our stay in bright sunlight.

After Bigton and our packed lunch, we headed south to Scatness, which had turned into one of Dazza's favourite walks during our first visit to Shetland last year. A short drive around Vikrie before Scatness produced the same five Brent Geese we'd observed on Thursday along with Sanderling, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed-Plover, Curlew and Dunlin

A lone Barnacle Goose circling Scatness.

Plenty of Twite at Scatness along with Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and a few Snipe which we accidentally flushed while walking. On the lower pools six Whooper Swans a large flock of Wigeon, smaller groups of Teal and a couple of skeins of Pink-footed Geese overhead, plus a single Barnacle Goose, which circled a number of times likely looking for his mates. It was a particularly quiet walk birding-wise but nevertheless very enjoyable.

Tree Pipit ~ Not breeding in Shetland this one is a likely Scandinavian bird

A stop at Hoswick on our way back north for a walk around the shoreline and local gardens produced a Siberian Chiffchaff and surprise Tree Pipit

Red Grouse ~ Thanks to Dazza's spotting skills!

Our final birds from an excellent day were literally just a few hundred yards from our accommodation when Dazza suddenly spotted three Red Grouse in a field just off the road. A quick about-turn and the above image was thanks to Dazza's great spotting skills.

A Few More Images of the Myrtle Warbler...


🌧10C Sunday 9th October 2022 ~ The forecast for today wasn't looking great and we enjoyed a late breakfast before news broke of a White's Thrush at Lerwick. Fortunately, the sighting was just a 5-minute drive from our accommodation and we arrived to find a number of birders scanning the treeline which overlooks Clickimin Loch. Some with thermal imagers were on the ground scanning the canopy floor for signs of movement but only coming up with Blackbirds and RedwingsFrom the look of the skies, we didn't have long before the heavy rain and strong wind arrived but after a half hour of scanning the bird suddenly took flight. I spotted it immediately, the tail quite distinctive in flight. It landed a short distance along a nearby burn and by the time everyone had relocated to its new position the bird flew straight back, disappearing into the trees once more and by now the rain had arrived.

White's Thrush ~ Excellent views of the bird feeding on the school grounds.

11C Monday 10th October 2022 ~ Our flight home today and thankfully yesterday's brief views of the White's Thrush were replaced by excellent views of the bird feeding in the grounds of Anderson High School car park in the early afternoon. A great bird and another lifer to end the week!

White's Thrush

Friday, October 07, 2022

πŸ“– Shetland 2022 ~ Part 2

 πŸŒ¦πŸ’¨ 13C Thursday 6th October 2022 ~ Today was probably the quietest day of the week with few new sightings appearing on the airwaves, likely down to today's galeforce winds and heavy showers.

Twite at Gulberwick 

My first stop was at nearby Gulberwick where a small flock of Mealy Redpoll had been reported, along with yet another Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll. After a heavy prolonged shower, I watched from the roadside and almost dropped my flask when a Twite suddenly appeared on the fence just feet away. It stayed just long enough for me to slowly grab the camera and take a snap before disappearing as quickly as it came. 

The view from Eashaness Lighthouse

With not much happening I decided to head north and ended up having my packed lunch at Eashaness Lighthouse, which provided some spectacular sea views. I did spend a little time looking for a reported Wood Warbler at nearby Murrion but the conditions were horrendous and I gave up pretty quickly. 

One of the five Brent Geese at Pool of Vikrie.

With Dazza arriving for the weekend on the evening flight, I spent an hour or so opposite the airport at Vikrie before picking her up. The highlight here was a group of five Brent Geese feeding close in along the shoreline.

πŸŒ¦πŸ’¨13C Friday 7th October 2022 ~ More wind and rain today and the amazing news that a second Myrtle Warbler had been found just a short distance from the Ellister bird at Bigton. Even more remarkable was the fact that the bird had been found by the same observer! We spent most of the day visiting various sites and enjoying the amazing scenery Shetland has to offer and at one point stopped to look for a reported Ring Ouzel at Cunningsburgh. Once again the conditions were challenging and after searching through flocks of Redwing and Blackbirds without luck decided to head off for lunch. 

The Least Bittern ~ Completely exhausted the bird was eventually taken into care.

It was late afternoon when the remarkable news came through that a Least Bittern (a first for the UK) had been found at Scousburgh. When we arrived a half hour later you can imagine the scenes! Twitching is a phenomenon I find difficult to perceive but there's no point in coming to Shetland as a birder and not getting involved, there are some terrific species to be found and this was 'A' list. When at home I'd be lying if I said I didn't partake in the occasional frenzy, but a twitch in Aberdeenshire can contain less than a half dozen birders. Today was mayhem and the stress factor (to get the 'tick') in some of the individuals I encountered was off the scale. The main issue was that the bird was deep in cover and only a few people at a time were able to observe. A queuing system had been put into place but the problem was that the people at the front were selfishly not moving on! I watched and waited and did catch a glimpse of the bird in cover but over a period of time, it was quite obvious that the bird was completely exhausted and a decision was made quite rightly in my view to take the bird into care. To be frank, it was quite likely stressed out and I'm pretty sure would never have survived the night.  At least everyone got to see this incredible little bird whose journey here to our shores you can only imagine! Once again we headed off pretty smartish!

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

πŸ“– Shetland 2022 ~ Part 1

⛅️13C Monday 3rd October 2022 ~ Arrived on Shetland for my seven nights stay shortly after 07:30am having taken Loganairs first flight out of Aberdeen to Sumburgh this morning. Luckily I received a message that my accommodation was ready by the time I'd picked up the hire car and so I headed straight up to Lerwick to drop off my luggage. 

Great Grey Shrike ~ Hillswick

Having checked out social media over a quick coffee I decided that my first target was a Great Grey Shrike at Hillswick, around a 35-minute drive north. The thought is that this could possibly be a Homeyer's, a SE Russian race of Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor homeyeri referred to as Homeyer's Grey Shrike but as I'm no expert on Shrikes we shall see what transpires at a later date. The bird showed quite well and I spent an hour or so watching the bird and chatting with a few fellow birders before heading off.

Yellow-browed Warbler

Back south and a stop off at Kergord and Wester Quarff for Yellow-browed Warblers followed by a walk around Pool of Virkie before heading across the road to Toab. Not the best of tide timings at Virkie but Rock Pipit and a few waders which included Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Dunlin and a good number of Ringed Plovers. The houses and gardens on the north of the pool produced Whinchat and Meadow Pipit. Across the road to Toab for Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll which proved quite elusive but I saw the bird perched briefly along with two Mealy Redpolls and then later in flight but not a chance of any images on this occasion. 

Late in the afternoon news came through of a Pechora Pipit, which would you believe was back north at Hillswick, my first stop of the day for the Shrike. I was still at Toab at this point but managed to arrive some 55-minutes later into the frenzy which ensued. As the bird had gone to ground in nearby Iris beds, it was decided to complete what's known as an 'organised flush'. I arrived just as the bird was dislodged, heading directly over my head and into nearby gardens. What followed was not what I consider to be in the best interests of the bird. Once the bird had returned to the iris beds a short time later 4/5 more flushes took place pushing the bird from pillar to post with trigger-happy photographers in hot pursuit. On at least three occasions the bird did actually perch up offering good views but was immediately rushed. Having had at least one excellent view I headed off and despite connecting with a 'lifer' and several Jack Snipe which were also flushed I felt a little deflated, this is not what I call quality birding!! 

A few more images of the day...

Great Grey Shrike ~ Hillswick

Golden Plover ~ Always worth scrutinising the large flocks found around Shetland

πŸŒ¦πŸ’¨ 11C Tuesday 4th October 2022 ~ The weather today had changed to a more typical fare for Shetland with a strong breeze and occasional showers. After breakfast, I headed over to Wester Quarff for an eclipse drake King Eider

Huge Redwing arrival overnight on the 4th

The one noticeable thing while driving down to Quarff was a major influx of Redwings overnight with most fields holding some large flocks busily feeding. No sign of the King Eider after a search of the bay and the buoys of the distant fish farm but several Common Eiders and a pair of Goosander, the latter I'm led to believe not that common around the Islands. The garden of the house where I'd parked held a Yellow-browed Warbler and a couple of Brambling

Glaucous Gull ~ Lerwick

Back to Lerwick for a reported Glaucous Gull, which had been lurking around the harbour and I eventually located the bird on top of the fish market roof.

My only image of the Lanceolated Warbler which I was just happy to watch!

One particular species high on my list when planning for Shetland is the Lanceolated Warbler and when in the early afternoon the word Locustella SP. Wester Quarff flashed up on the Shetland Whatsapp Group it set the pulse racing! Five long minutes later 'Lanceolated Warbler', Wester Quarff confirmed but I was already en route. I arrived to find twenty or so birders peering into a ditch and after several minutes and with the help of a thermal imager, which one of the birders was using I was onto the bird! More of a mouse than a bird, absolutely fascinating to watch as it crept through the grass and although mostly elusive occasionally offered some albeit brief but excellent views before returning to cover. By now as you would expect many other birders had arrived and the bird was now about twenty feet into a cow field, closely monitored by thermal imagers. I spent a good hour watching with occasional views but with more of this 'organised flush' nonsense now taking place I departed. I think I'll keep my thoughts on this outrageous unethical practice to myself but if you search social media you'll find plenty of condemnation!

πŸŒ¦πŸ’¨πŸŒˆ 11C Wednesday 5th October 2022 My first stop this morning after breakfast was Scalloway for an Eclipse drake King Eider, which was likely the bird I'd dipped on yesterday at Wester Quarff. I located him after a short scan mixed in with a few Common Eiders and after a while noticed that the bird had drifted quite close to the harbour opposite. A drive around for closer views paid off and I was able to grab a few decent images before the bird drifted away.

Eclipse drake King Eider at Scalloway from the harbour wall.

After Scalloway I drove south hoping to have better luck photographing the Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll back at Toab but no sooner had I departed than news of a Myrtle Warbler at Ellister came up. I was there in good time to find around thirty birders lined up along a driveway overlooking a small Sycamore copse. Almost immediately I had good views of the bird but unfortunately, I was looking almost into direct sunlight. Then things began to unwind when the resident whose drive we appeared to be viewing from requested that we should all leave but not before I managed another brief view of the bird low in a sycamore. I knew what was about to transpire and by now birders were arriving in droves and so happy with good views of another UK Lifer, I bid a hasty departure. 

No Redpoll photo for my efforts but always nice to photograph a confiding Wheatear.

I did spend a good few hours back at Toab and once again was thwarted in my attempt for a Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll photograph, although I saw the bird on three separate occasions. While at Toab my first Fieldfares of the autumn, more Redwings, Wheatear and a Snow Bunting flew overhead heading towards Pool of Vikrie.