Monday, 27 June 2016

Blog update Pt1

  Looking back to the months of March and April, one of the lasting memories I will have, will be of several auroras during the months.The first I saw was a very brief glow on the 6th, but that was followed by another on the 7th. The downside was that the wind was fairly strong from the north east which meant one of my 'quick visit' locations wasn't really suitable (by quick visit, I meant  just a short drive in the car and not a long trek like out to Hermaness) So I decided the Skidbladner at Haroldswick might provide a bit of protection from the blow, so I headed down there. Sadly once again we were blighted by cloud cover and so I didn't stay very long.......

The first was from Lamba Ness

The Skidbladner at Haroldswick

  On the 16th/17th March, there was another forecast but by now, the moon was getting pretty bright. Despite this - or even possibly because of it, I decided to head of up to Hermaness for the evening.......
 Looking north from near the end of the boadwalk

 Muckle Flugga

Humla Stack

  The last picture is a shot I've wanted to take for a while - well almost, but not quite - its still not quite as I want, hopefully next winter. I need four things to fall into place; a good aurora, a clear sky, no wind (or very little) and at least a half moon - and some Gannets on the stacks !

  As far as interesting or unusual birds go, the highlight was a cracking view of an immature Sea Eagle over the north of the island on 12th/13th March. A large raptor was seen over Hermaness on the 12th and then the following day I was stopped by a crofter who told me he'd seen a Sea Eagle up on Saxavord; I had Rona with me, so we headed up to take a look. I spotted something in the distance (which turned out to be a Hen Harrier) and as I was looking, Rona said ''Look, what's that up there''? - it was the Sea Eagle. After a short 'chase' in the car, the bird headed back over our heads at Saxa Vord. As it past over, it was almost full frame in the camera, but for some reason it wouldn't focus - it was a flat, grey sky however in the defence of my 7D2 :) I turned the auto focus off and got a record shot as it drifted off over Burrafirth........

Sea Eagle and Hooded Crow 
  On another occasion I was driving along the shore road through Haroldswick when I heard and almighty commotion. I soon tracked down the reason, it was a female Sparrowhawk that had caught a Starling down on the beach. The bird stood there for several minutes with water washing over the hawks feet and all the time being harried by numerous birds. The Sparrowhawk eventually flew off, dropping the still live Starling in the process (which then flew off).......

Sparrowhawk with Starling

  A few other common birds from March.....

 Rook - not too common on Unst

 Heron with frog


 My first Golden Plover of the year back on the hill 

  My first Pied Wagtail of the 'Spring' 

Purple Sandpiper at Lamba Ness hunkering down out of a storm.


  On the 2nd of April, I had my first evening visit of the year to Hermaness. It was an evening of lovely  light but the sun sank in to a band of cloud on the horizon just before sunset.....

  On the walk back later down the board walk, I noticed the green glow of a mild aurora, as it got darker, for awhile it grew brighter, but sadly it didn't last.....

  Over the next couple of nights, we were treated to several nice displays, the ones below are a few from various parts of Unst.....

  Bird wise, April was rather 'slow' regarding migration. The wind had been from virtually every direction apart from the one that mattered and that was SE. Even so, there were still a few new birds around in the later part of the month.....

 Black Redstart in Baltasound

 Turnstone at Norwick

Great Grey Shrike at Burrafirth 

 Golden Plover at Valla Field

 Longtailed Duck at Belmont

 Lapland Bunting at Inner Skaw

 Barnacle Geese at Baltasound.....
 ...these geese hung around until the wind changed from a northerly airflow

 Gannets at Hermaness

 Blue 'phase' Fulmar at Lamba Ness

Blue 'phase' Fulmar with a 'normal' one.

  A few landscapes from April....

 Lamba Ness

Hamar from Ordaal

 Hill of Clibberswick from Lamba Ness

 Looking east from Ordaal


 Easting Beach

 Belmont at dusk

 Breiwick looking towards Flugga'

Part of Humla Stack Hermaness.


Tuesday, 22 March 2016

    Here we are in the last week of March and with a feeling that Spring could be just a few weeks away - although as has happened in the past, there is still time for more storms, gales or even snow !

  2016 started with a fine night and a brief aurora during New Years Eve and into the early hours of New Years Day - a nice way to start the year :)

Auroral glow with a celebratory firework 

  It was not going to last however, as a couple of days later, it was back to strong winds and big seas from the general direction of the east......

From Norwick looking towards Lamba Ness

  Over the next few days, I had several visits down to Easting beach in the south east corner of the island. On the 1st Jan, Brydon found a drake Surf Scoter, (almost certainly the same bird from last year - first found by Mike Pennington at Skaw). The bird spent an awful lot of time a long way out feeding, occasionally coming back in slightly closer, but still too far to photograph. It would often swim almost the entire width of the bay and then go all the way back again. Or it would take off, fly around, look as if it was coming close to the shore and then go back out often over a mile away. (It wasn't because I was visible, as I was well concealed). Finally, after 4 visits of putting up with wind, rain and snow showers and a total of over 6hrs sitting and waiting, it did come in closer - briefly.......

 Easting beach looking north

Drake Surf Scoter

Pair of Red-breasted Mergansers

  On the 16th, we had a light fall of snow; so, when there's a likelihood of more showers during the daytime, I head for Hermaness. On this occasion, the snow showers didn't increase, but it was nice while it lasted.

  A few days later, we had a little bit more snow, combined with several clear(ish) nights and a bit of an aurora. Despite the very bright moon, the glow showed through which enabled me to get out a get a few pictures......

3 shots from Burrafirth

  ... four more pictures from around Unst at the end of January.........

 Uyeasound looking east

 Uyeasound looking south west




  The month started off nicely with a some quality time watching our 'local' family of a mum and two otter cubs which I've been seeing regularly since late August. On this occasion, while mum was offshore fishing, one of the cubs had what looked like a lumpsucker fish - and wasn't going to share it with its brother or sister !.....


  In the middle of the month, we had a few days of intermittent snowfall so it was back up to Hermaness at the first opportunity to try and get some Gannets in the snow. There can  be a couple of problems when trying to do this and they are, 1) if the wind is too strong from a particular direction then it can cause a problem with getting the front element wet which ruins the images or 2) if the snow is too heavy, then it will make the images look 'soft' or un-sharp - a bit like a soft focus effect...... a few from north Unst during the cold snap...........

 Looking south from Valla Field

 Looking south from Hermaness

Viking Longhouse and the 'Skidbladner' at Haroldswick 

Looking southeast towards Hagdale and the Keen of Hamar

  When I was on Hermaness on the 25th Feb, I was walking back around from Saito at the south end of Hermaness, when I glanced down to the cliffs of the Neap and saw something I've been wanting to see for a long, long time - a Brocken Spectre - for a full description you'll have to read this here :)

... a Brocken Spectre - with me in the middle :)

  A few other images from around Unst......

 The cliffs of Clibberswick with a strong updraft.

 The perils of liking seaweed

 Grey Heron down at the shore

 Glaucous Gull at Westing

 Common Seal on our stone jetty


 Hooded Crow

  One very pleasant surprise for me during February, was to hear that an image of a drumming Snipe I took on Fetlar last summer, was commended in the 'Birdguides photo of the year competition' ....


   Finally,  I'll finish off with a few pictures from this years Uyeasound Up Helly Ah.....

The 2016 Uyeasound Guizer Jarl, Christopher Ritch and his daughter Merran