Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Some fine weather - and some fine birds !

For almost a week now, we have had a taste of real spring. Most days have been sunny with the temperature even reaching double figures! On Saturday, I got to go out for a few hours again as the rest of the family were down in Lerwick for the day and as usual, I started over in the north at Skaw. I hadn't been there long when I saw and heard the tell-tale sign of a raptor being around and that was Starlings taking to the air giving an alarm call as they wheeled around. Shortly after I had not one, but two Sparrowhawks coming inland from the Holm of Skaw as if they had just come in off of the sea. Even better, it was a male and a female and as they passed overhead, they soared around in unison a few times and had it been over a woodland down south, I would have said they were a pair.

Down on the beach, Arctic Terns were starting to do food passes but as the light was so harsh I didn't bother to take any pictures. Despite the fine weather, there were few small migrants around, just the odd Willow Warbler or Chiffchaff - probably because most of them have taken advantage of the settled conditions and continued their journey.

Later, down at Haroldswick, I came across a number of feeding gulls amongst the rocks. Pulling up, I could see it was because there were two large salmon on the shore. I positioned my car so I could get some shots and then saw there was a bonus amongst them - an Iceland Gull. After a couple of minutes, two Bonxies came in to feed and they seemed to be keeping the others away. Fortunately, the Iceland Gull wasn't as nervous as the GBB Gulls and came quite close.

Iceland Gull

From there, I made a couple of more stops but didn't really find anything until my last port of call in Baltasound. Here I was really pleased to find a cracking male Garganey which hung around for several days. Unlike the ones I saw when I was down south at Easter, this one was in glorious sunshine.

Sunday was a fairly quiet day as far as birds go as also it was the day my other half went away for a week. The only pictures I took were of the LBB Gulls that come to feed at the back of house - one of them has even got to know the sound of the door opening when I go to put out scraps. 

On Monday evening, I had a text from a friend asking if I fancied a mornings birding  the following day, as it was going to be another nice day - good idea Mike. I picked Mike up at around 9.30am - after our school runs - and then headed off towards Skaw. As we drove along the road above Norwick, we noticed scores of skuas soaring around high above us. It wasn't long before we saw what was causing the commotion - a Sea Eagle. Looking through the bins', we could see it was an immature one and also that it had green tags on the wings, almost certainly the same one I had the other week over our house. We watched the bird for a while as more and more skuas took to the air, and then, in seconds we lost it. Carrying on over to Skaw, we then saw it again over Saxavord, by now we reckoned there were several hundred skuas in the air and if you think a Bonxie is a big bird, see one along side a Sea Eagle.

We sat and watched the bird for a fair time as it soared higher and higher to who knows how many thousand feet, at one point I could only see it with my bins'. The bird then turned and started a long 'flap, flap, glide' sort of flight out to sea in a north east direction. If it carried on, the next land would have been Norway. To be quite honest, we were spoilt too early on in the day as that was the best bird, mind you, it would have had to been something pretty special to beat that.

Last night at about 8pm, I got a call from Rory to say there was a Red-rumped Swallow at Norwick. Now I've seen them in Spain, but not in Britain so I would obviously have to go  and look - wouldn't I ? The kids had just got ready for bed, so it was a quick change for them and into the car. To cut a long story short, we didn't see the bird - which is often the case with 'twitching' and is the reason why I gave it up years ago - or at least I thought I had. Unfortunately for us, it didn't end there. The radiator in my car had decided to over heat and it looked more like a steam engine as we tried to head back home. It got to the point where it was seriously over heating so all I could do was to stop and get some water once it had cooled down a bit. We finally limped home at around 10.15pm - twitching, never again (so he says). Apart from not seeing the bird and my car playing up, it was a magical evening. As we arrived home, the mist was forming with an orange backdrop with perfectly calm water, I didn't turn in to gone midnight and there was still an orange glow in the sky.

 This morning was yet another nice morning, so once the kids were at school (and before I went to do a small piece of work) I went to look for the Rr Swallow again. On the way, I met Rory and despite our best efforts, we didn't find it. I did find 7 'ordinary' Swallows, two Sand Martins and a House Martin though.

3.25pm, waiting for Rona to come out of school, phone goes. It's Mike Smith, 'I'm watching the R r Swallow at Haroldswick'. Did I say I'd given up twitching ? Off again, with the girls in the car, get to Haroldswick - and there it was ! A stunning looking bird, feeding with Swallows over the seaweed covered rocks. Unfortunately, from a  photographic point of view, the light was rubbish as the only place to get a decent view of it was directly in to the light, hey ho. For Unst, it was probably classed as a mass 'twitch' as, including my girls, there were eight of us watching the bird for over an hour.

Red-rumped Swallow

I make no apologies for the picture quality, but I wonder if it will be around tomorrow ?.................


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