Friday, 26 February 2010

Yet another fine day (kids still off school) but sadly most of the morning was spent around the house with just a short trip to Skibhoul Stores for milk etc. - although I have to admit the journey there is pretty good as far as scenery goes etc.

Every day since we had the first snow over Christmas, there has been a small flock of Greylags' that I pass. I'm now sure they are getting used to my car as I slow down to check that they are all just Greylags and that a less common one has turned up. This was the case last month when a Tundra Bean Goose turned up in the village amongst them. To start with it was a bit wary, then as the cold spell took hold, the bird would just carry on feeding in one of the few wet areas with fresh grass near to the Houb. In the UK, we get two distinct races of Bean Goose, 'Tundra' and 'Taiga'. The Tundra  has a stubby bill with a narrow orange band and the Taiga has a longer narrow bill with a broader orange band. Neither are particularly common visitors to the UK but there are two regular sites way down south in mainland UK where the Taiga winters but the Tundra is less predictable and usually turns up in 'grey geese' flocks. Saying that, at the moment the number of Tundras on Shetland are in double figures.

Tundra Bean Goose
 At this same location at the village end of 'our' road, there are a number of small burns that run down in to The Houb and then on into Balta Sound. The water margins are usually good for small waders (depending on the season) such as Greenshank, Redshank, Dunlin, Turnstone, Curlew etc. However, when there is a covering of snow, the most frequent wader is Common Snipe. As we passed one of these burns today, we were lucky to have one on the roadside next to the car. When taking pictures in this situation, I never wind the window down straight away but either drive on or reverse back depending on how far the nearest space to pull over into is. This done, I can then check the camera, put the bean bag on the door and then drive back to the spot and coast to a standstill. For me, this method works on most occasions.

 Common Snipe
Despite now having had a week of lying snow, I'm still seeing the occasional Robin around the island and it makes me wonder what on earth are they feeding on. They are fairly common passage migrants here but scarce winter visitors and very rare as breeding birds. This winter on Unst I know of certainly three individuals around the island and unlike their mainland cousins, they are often shy and difficult to get close to.

As well as wildlife, I'm always looking out for sort of 'abstract' type pictures using natural features or objects. I don't usually move any of the items around within the frame preferring to shoot 'as is'. Again, the recent icy conditions have provided some interesting shapes and subjects over the last few weeks or so.



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