Tuesday, 8 June 2010

May seemed like a long month

I can't believe where the time has gone during the last month and that it has been 3 weeks since my last post - very sorry about that. The last couple of weeks in May and the first week in June have been rather busy with both a few visitors and also the better half being away twice. The unfavorable weather continued with mainly westerlies and not too much sunshine, although during the last week it did turn out nice. I didn't do too much in the way of photography, with most of my pictures being 'record' shots of the occasional migrant.

Even though my 'drive' in picture taking is in the broad sense, natural history, I'm always looking for other shots of almost anything. One such picture is below which I took while having my 'taxi drivers hat on' ie ferrying children either to or from friends etc. I was traveling through Uyeasound early one evening when I saw this small boat tied up at the old harbour. The colour and reflections caught my eye, so I grabbed a couple of shots - before the girls upset the residents with volume of the car stereo as they waited for me. Looking at it now, I thing it would have been better if it had been taken 15 minutes earlier to get a better colour on the water, but unfortunately the boat has now been moved. I did have to clone out a few distracting ropes hanging down however.

 A few days later, I was returning from Lerwick with my daughters when I got a phone call from Rory to say there was a Little Ringed Plover at Skaw. It often seems to be the case, when I go off the island, something turns up. It was a rather damp, overcast afternoon, so I was hoping that the bird would remain - until at least I got there ! LR Plover may not cause too much of a stir down in southern England, but up here it was quite a good bird to find - in fact there had only been nine records on Shetland up until 2002. By the time we had arrived back on Unst and I had got over to Skaw, it was gone half five and the light was pretty poor. My first reaction is to grab a few record shots and then given the opportunity, get as close as possible without disturbing the bird. Having got the first few distant shots, I crawled along the beach on my stomach for a least 50yds. I was using a bean bag to support the camera etc but wet sand and camera equipment don't really make good companions, so I should have used my own version of the -
http://www.naturescapes.net/store/the-skimmer-ground_pod-ii.html   - which is a small aluminum frying pan and does the job just fine. Despite this, I manages to get pretty close to the bird without disturbing it. I think you'll agree that the bird looks pretty miserable.

Little Ringed Plover

Over the next week and a half, we had a number of friends visiting, four of which were keen photographers and two others were on a tour with a certain wildlife tour company from Shetland (who will remain nameless). I went out with Steve, Graham, Alison and Sue as much as I could but school runs and other stuff restricted it a bit. The first trip to Fetlar was rather a washout with total wind and rain making much of the photography difficult. Over the next week, I had return trip to Fetlar (still no Phalaropes showing) and a second trip to Hermanes and fortunately the weather cleared up and (I think) a good time was had by all.

 While calling in to a house to see about doing  a small job in Baltasound, I had the surprise of seeing two Common Cranes land in a ploughed field several hundred yards way. Unfortunately, the sound of the car starting up frightened them and the birds took off and soared skywards. Following their direction of flight, I stopped outside Skiboul Stores and managed a number of shots - unfortunately in to the light.

It's almost certain that these are the same birds that were here before and have also be down on Mainland. Putting on my 'garden listers hat', I quickly drove back to the house to put them on the 'garden list' - job done !

I think that like most photographers  of wildlife, I try and get some behavioral shots of birds etc 'doing' something rather than just sitting. Turnstones are in my top five list of favourite waders so are a target for this type of shot. Recently I was over at Skaw and was watching a solitary one feeding amongst the sea weed high above the tide line. The wind was blowing a little and as the bird did what they are known for doing - turning over stones, sea weed or other beached items, the wind blew it in to the air. Action shot, I thought. Not so easy to achieve though, in a limited amount of time (half an hour). Either the bird was looking away, or there was no catch-light in the eye or the stuff it was turning blew the wrong way. Hey ho. Out of several dozen pictures these were a couple of the better ones. Maybe if I put a catch-light in the eye of one, but then that's cheating - isn't it ?

As I've mentioned in previous posts, migrants have been fairly thin on the ground with only a scattering of birds coming through on Unst. One bird which has caused a bit of a stir has been a Black Stork which arrived last week. This bird, as it turns out, was ringed in 2007 in Hungary and has wandered far and wide in the time, even getting as far as the Outer Hebrides. Amazingly, a bird was seen flying over the north of Skye on the 31st May and then, presumably the same bird was recorded on Unst on the 2nd of June. My first views were of a fairly distant bird on the foreshore at Burra Firth, but over the next couple of days I had more sightings on Unst - one on a roadside loch less than 50yds from the car. We saw it as we were driving to catch the ferry and my first reaction was to get a picture etc, but then when I thought about it I didn't try for two reasons. One was that there was a friend on Unst who hadn't seen it, and secondly, as the window wasn't working in the car that I was driving, it would have meant opening the car door which would have certainly spooked the bird and may possibly have not been seen again.

Black Stork and Bonxie

Shortly after seeing this bird in flight, I phoned a couple of visiting birders (who have been coming here annually for 6 or 7 years) to check what was about. When the call was answered, it was answered in a whisper - 'I think we've got a biggie' . To cut a long story short, Stef and Ash had found a first for Shetland, an Iberian Chiffchaff. Very difficult to identify by plumage alone it is helped greatly by having a distinctive call and song - on plumage alone, I'd have passed it off as a Willow Warbler ! 

 Iberian Chiffchaff in Haligarth

Over the last few days of slight south easterlies, we've had a few birds drop in including at least 3 Golden Orioles on Unst on one day, a first summer Common Rosefinch, several Lesser Whitethroats and a cracking Great Reed Warbler over at Burrafirth. However, it has to be said that most folks only saw it in flight (including me) as it was very flighty.

Yesterday, Dennis a friend of mine from Mainland, Ian (my father-in-law) and I had a day around the island. We had been hoping for maybe seeing the stork again or even the G R Reed', however things don't always go to plan and the best we could find was a few of the more common migrants such as Lesser and Common Whitethroat, Blackcap and Spot' Fly'. The last port of call was Westing and here we did get to have close views of two feeding otters and also saw 3 or 4 feeding Neesicks (Porpoise).


1 comment:

WPATW said...

Enjoyed seeing Turnstones in this plumage recently too Rob