Sunday, 20 November 2011

Sunshine after the rain

 Last Monday (14th) was another pretty dull day. Despite this, I took a look over at Skaw and to just have a stroll along the beach. Walking along the edge of the field at the back of the croft, a bird flew up out of the yard and flew up high and in a big semi circle past me and up the field to the north;  as soon as I saw it, I knew it was something different. It's wings were rounded, the tail was short and had an undulating, woodpecker like flight. My instant 'gut' feeling was that it had to be a Woodlark, however, knowing how uncommon they were up here, I had to be sure. Seeing generally the direction where it had gone I headed off, it was now pretty dull and starting to drizzle. I saw the bird on two more occasions (only in flight) and was now sure what it was. The following morning was much brighter, heading back over, I felt confident in 'nailing' the bird and getting some shots. My idea was to head east and then come back over the hill from the north and if it is up in the fields, then it would fly back down towards the croft. Despite an hour of searching, I drew a blank until that is, I got back to where I had started. Suddenly it flew up and landed on the wall some 100yds in front of me, yes definitely a Woodlark and I got a record shot to prove it...albeit very poor quality..............

Some distance ! - full frame

............big crop

 Despite looking, the bird had disappeared again and I had to head off unfortunately. Just after lunch, the sunshine was still holding out so I just had to go and have another quick look at Skaw. Parking up, I took a look over the wall in to the yard and there it was sitting on the gravel track, this time much closer. I managed to get 20 or so shots before it either saw or heard me and flitted over the wall and in to the field. Time to go..............

Still quite a big crop, but better.

  As it happens, the last Woodlark recorded on Unst was just over 23 years ago and in the very same place.
  Both Thursday and Friday were a bit of a washout (at least I was at work inside), wet and dull and getting dark by 3.30pm. On Friday afternoon I did go and have a look at Skaw again and as I reached the parking area at the bottom, the Woodlark flew up from the roadside looking rather wet and bedraggled.

  Also on Friday, I received some post I'd been looking forward to for a while. It was a new book (or rather a 2nd edition of a book) written by Prof' Mike Harris on the Puffin. It wasn't just because I'd got two pictures in it, but also because it is the book on the Atlantic Puffin. If anyone wants to find out anything about this species, from what I've already seen, it will be in there.

  Saturday, was a nice day, so after leaving Sula on Yell to go to Lerwick with friends, Rona and I headed off over to Burrafirth so I could do a quick job and also see a new couple that had recently moved in to one of the Shore Station flats. It was while we were there, I started getting texts from Brydon asking if I'd managed to see the OBP (Olive-backed Pipit) that he'd found at Norwick in the week. I'd recently received a new phone and was still trying to work out how to access the various menus etc (it's one of those android things) until he finally phoned me and said ' There's a Bittern at Haroldswick' . I thought it was a wind up but no, there was one at Haroldswick Pools. The bird was doing what Bitterns do best - being hard to see. Despite the reeds not being particularly tall, the bird managed to remain well hidden for much of the time - except when it wanted to have a look around. Rona and I, sat in the car and watched it for over an hour and a half - or rather I did as Rona was playing on my Ipod, for much of it. We then left for an hour and I later returned until dusk. This is one from Saturday lunchtime............


 I had a look at the weather forecast for today, Sunday 20th Nov and the one I saw wasn't too brilliant. However, on mentioning to Sula that I would be going out at sunrise to look for the bird, she was very keen to come - Sula had seen one at Slimbridge many years ago and still remembered it. So on getting up this morning I was pleasantly surprised to see a clear sky to the east and also an orange glow. By 8.20 we were over by the pool and had seen the Bittern feeding, but not for long however, as it took off and landed in the much larger and denser patch of reed at the north end. Fortunately over the next hour and a half, we had some cracking views of a bird I never thought I'd see on Unst; in fact the last one recorded on this island was in 1871 - around 140 years ago !.....................


'Lift Off'

  Back home later, I headed off down the field to retrieve the trailcam as the sheep were feeding in that part. I noticed both a Great Northern Diver and the mum and otter cub feeding just offshore from the beach. The GND was too far out for any decent shots, but maybe the otters would come in to range ? Watching GNDs when they dive, I think they must be one of the most graceful surface diving birds. When they dive, they give you an indication they are going under by moving their head and neck back ever so slightly and then slip below the surface with hardly a ripple. Yet when a Shag or Red-breasted Merganser dive, there is so much water splashing about everyone knows about it.

   In no time at all, both mum and daughter were out of the water and clambering amongst the seaweed covered rocks which were now exposed by the very low tide. They did a sort of sound check on the barking sheepdogs that were several fields away and then just melted away amongst the rocks for a  snooze...............


 
These two pics are of the cub, now well grown, mum is just out of the frame having a good shake - on a larger pic you can see the water droplets. I waited for half an hour for them to stir, but no sign, so I left them to their slumbers.

            Robbie

2 comments:

Suze said...

Amazing sightings Robbie,so many special images just in one blog, very jealous. Thanks for sharing.

robbieb said...

Thanks Sue, it's got to be one of the main reasons I like it here is that there is always something to see or look at.

Robbie