Saturday, 22 December 2012

Storms and some gardening

  Well its been another busy week or so with not much in the way of wildlife apart from what's been around Ordaal. Last week was particularly cold with snow showers, sleet and freezing rain which made the roads rather icy in places......

 Down near the shore looking south west

   I had a number of jobs lined up to do around the house and outside. One job is to level out the two 'lawns' at the back of the house and cottage. When I say lawns, I don't think they were ever proper lawns, more likely rough grass and a vegetable garden. There a quite a few dips and hollows to fill in and level and then re-seed. To help me with all of this I recently made a heavy roller to go behind the quad. This was made using some angle and box section steel I bought in Lerwick and a 3'6" length of 10" plastic salmon cage pipe acquired from a local salmon farmer (thanks Christopher, I owe you one). I then placed a steel spindle in a sleeve through the centre and then filled it with concrete. I reckon the whole thing weighs around three and half to four hundred weight and I must admit I did think it would be too heavy, fortunately it works a treat and will get a lot of use.  Another job in the same area was to prepare the ground along the wall ready for planting the Rosa Rugosa.

The cottage garden looking north east

  Down in the field, I've put in the pond liner underlay and liner and weighted it down with lots of stones around the edges. I put it down just before a stormy night was forecast and had just finished as the wind and rain blew up. I checked it today (22th Dec) and there is already almost 2ft water in the deepest part. Once the level has been reached, I'll then tidy up around the edges and put some soil/peat in the bottom for any water plants to take hold.

 Over the night of the 14th/15th, there was a very high tide and a strong south easterly gale for a while. The forecast had been for a severe gale, however I don't think that past through Unst. We had gone down to Lerwick on the Friday afternoon as Sula was to be singing with the music and dance group 'Singing Saturdays' at the Garrison Theatre in Lerwick. Due to the forecast, we left here at around 2pm. Getting down to Ulsta to cross Yell Sound for 2.45pm, I then got a call to say the concert was cancelled due to travel difficulties - not from Unst at least. Unfortunately as I'd already paid for the s/c accommodation, we had to carry on or lose our money. The journey back was pretty horrible, driving rain - made even worse by having car trouble (it kept over heating, which meant I had to stop frequently to let the engine cool down).

  As I have just said, there had been a very high tide over the weekend and this had deposited a large amount of seaweed high and dry down at the shore. Seaweed makes a good fertilizer, so I've spent around a day in total collecting it up with the quad and trailer to use around the trees at a later date. Over at Haroldswick, both ends of the road around the bay have been blocked by stones and seaweed - in places it was 2ft high............

 There's a road under there somewhere - the north beach at Haroldswick.

Collecting seaweed at the Noost

  While collecting the seaweed, I came across hundreds of these jelly like larvae or eggs which were about the size of a 50p. I've no idea what they are and would love to find out...............

  On the wildlife front despite the weather, I had a hedgehog wandering around the garden the other day - quite a large one, not as I'd expect, an underweight youngster. Also a few days ago, some friends found a bat over at the Shore Station which was presumed to be a Leisler's. There's more info on the Nature in Shetland Facebook page here.

 One other job last week was to strip the wall paper in our sitting room and re-line and paint it. The rather over-powering orange coloured paper had been there for a while and had seen better days. It was while I was wall papering that I got 'the call' from Brydon. He was watching a Sea Eagle heading west along Balta Sound and I should be able to see it from the house. Sure enough, there it was in the distance over the Houb being mobbed by gulls. Good call Mr T, 113th species for the garden list !

  I think almost everyone would have heard about the Geminid meteor shower last week. Here on Unst the sky was fairly clear and it was quite cold, so I set the camera up to do some time lapse. Despite the camera taking over 500 images, I only captured one meteor trail and that was quite a faint one at that. After midnight, I had the constant problem of the cold air on the front of the camera lens turning in to ice. Despite not getting the pictures I'd hoped for, it was a pleasure to be outside on such a cracking night.

North west towards the village around midnight

  As I mentioned earlier, we've had some strong winds over the last week and these have kicked off again. The Northlink ferry hasn't been able to sail from Aberdeen for several days and Tesco's in Lerwick had to close off some of the fresh food isles as they'd run out of stock. Apparently there were nine lorries waiting in Aberdeen to make deliveries to Shetland but couldn't due to the ferry cancellations. Tesco's answer was to charter a Hercules aircraft to make a couple of trips and bring in the supplies. The height of the storm is due to be tomorrow morning when it's due to reach 'severe gale' - better make sure the chickens are in !

 Merry Christmas to all.


Monday, 3 December 2012

  Its been a mixed week of sunshine and showers, mild and then cold. Over this last weekend, the showers have been wintery on occasions, leaving a dusting of white on the hills of Valla Field and Clibberswick.

  Last week, the day after the last post (21st), there was an aurora alert. I kept an eye on and finally late in the evening, it started to show. As I watched, I was aware of flashes over to the west and couldn't work out what they were. We can't see the effect of the Muckle Flugga lighthouse from here so I was wondering if they had been flares of some kind - although they were white light. I soon realized however, that they were in fact flashes of lightening - this was the first time in over four years I'd seen it up here. Due to passing cloud, if wasn't a brilliant aurora, but great to see none the less...

... there is a lightening flash just above the lights of Baltasound

  A few days later just after the kids had gone to school, I took a walk down the field to the shore. As I crossed the small area of salt marsh by the tidal pool, I heard a small wader overhead (I don't know if it took off or was just flying over). It was a call I didn't recognize, but it did make me recall the call of Curlew Sandpiper. I watched the bird through the bins' and saw it drop out of the sky down to the shore along by the mussel factory half a mile or so to the east of us. Taking the car, I headed along to try and confirm the sighting and fortunately the bird was feeding on the shingle amongst some resting Ring Plovers and Dunlin. I didn't get good views of the bird, but I wasn't convinced it was a Curlew Sand' (they would be in a general greyish winter plumage by now). Getting a few distant record shots, I thought I'd try and get closer and as there was a strip of water between me and them, hopefully, they wouldn't feel too threatened. I was hoping to get to a suitable fence post to act as support - as I'd left my tripod behind (I'd been using it to do some night sky shots the previous evening). I believe it was in  Robbie Burn's poem 'To a mouse' that the saying ' the best laid plans o' mice an men' etc (here) was taken up as a proverb, well my plan didn't go as I'd hoped. As I reached the fence, two snipe flew up from the ditch, flew over the resting waders who promptly took off taking the unidentified wader with them, blast. The wader flew off west along the shore and then landed on the shore nearer to Ordaal, but for now it would have to wait as I'd got to go and meet someone.
  Returning sometime around 11am, I headed east along from Ordaal. Just as I crossed our boundary fence, the bird took off from the shore and flew high to the south west and towards the airport. A short while later, I met Brydon and told him about the bird and described the call. He had a good idea what it might be, but wanted to try and relocate before saying what he thought it may be. Despite looking for quite a while, we drew a blank and finally Brydon suggested it may be a Baird's Sandpiper - a new one for me and one I'd not even considered when I'd checked the Collin's Guide. Sending pics to Mike later, he also identified it as such and that it was a juvenile. Baird's are long distance migrants that breed in the northern tundra from eastern Siberia to western Greenland and winter in South America..................

  A rubbish record shot - but it got the bird identified (112th species for the 'garden' list) !

 A couple nights later, we had a lovely clear sky for a while which gave good views of Jupiter as it tracked across the sky fairly close to the moon. Stacking the 500 with both the 1.4 and 2x converters and then cropping enabled me to  get an amateurish shot of Jupiter and its moons....
The moon and Jupiter
Jupiter and its moons
  At the end of last week, I took a look up at Valyie and came a cross a lovely Hornenmanns  Arctic Redpoll feeding in a field that had recently been a potato crop. Over the last few weeks there have been a number of these lovely finches around Unst with up to 4 near the school and 3 down in Uyeasound. They are regular migrants through Shetland but usually in October and not in such numbers.....

Hornemanns Arctic Redpoll


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

More Waxwings

  The last couple of weeks has been a real treat having Waxwings feeding in the garden daily. At the most there were 6 and this has now sadly dropped down to 1 today (20th Nov). As I've mentioned before, the birds were very confiding and even came and fed on an apple I was holding whilst I lay on the ground. The link to the (rather shaky) YouTube video is here taken on my mobile. Below are a few more of my favourites from the last week or so...........


  The Autumn migration period is now over with just one or two late stragglers passing through. Recently I had a new tick for both my Shetland list and the Unst one in the form of a Great Tit at Haroldswick (and another a week later - or maybe the same one? at Norwick). Last week I saw a pipit along at the end of the road by The Houb several times, but couldn't pin it down. Finally in the fading light on Saturday afternoon, I managed to photograph it perched on a fence. Looking at the picture, I came to the conclusion that it didn't look or feel like a Meadow P so maybe it was a Tree or even an Olive-backed' ? I do find sometimes that even a 'common' bird out of context - or not in a place that you'd usually see one - can 'throw' me off course so to speak. I'm certain that if I'd have seen the bird down in the Cotswolds rather than skulking about in some wet marshy ground, I'd have known straight away it was a Tree Pipit. On this occasion, I needed Brydon and then later Mike, to confirm its identity. As it turned out, Mike said it was the latest ever record for the species in Shetland.....


  One species which does turn up in varying numbers each Autumn is Water Rail. I find it hard to believe how they manage to fly across the sea; whether its from Scandinavia or mainland Scotland when they seem to have difficulty flying 50yds ! Catriona saw one running down our drive in front of the car last week but unfortunately I didn't get to it. However, the following afternoon, I saw a bird fly up almost 4ft in to the air from the Rosa bushes closely followed by a cat. The cat stretched out a paw and brought the bird down like some wild cat in the savannah. I shouted and fortunately the cat let go and the bird scurried off unhurt.....

Water Rail at Norwick

  We're are now i to the 3rd week of November and we still have a number of Hedgehogs of various sizes wandering around in both the night time and daylight hours searching for food. I'm sure that down south many would be hibernating by now and most would probably not be out and about during the daytime. I think that they do that here possibly for two reasons, one they are trying to build up their fat reserves for when the cold weather really does start and secondly, they don't have any predators - apart from vehicles that is. This one was out in the garden today......

   Last week I was asked to do a 'photo shoot' - or rather take some pictures of my friend Brydon wearing some of the latest Paramo outdoor gear. I took some last year while we were out around Flugga' and one of those was then used in various magazine ads' including RSPBs 'Birds'. I must admit not to like taking 'formal' pictures of folk, but on these occasions it's fun.

  Also last week, I had a trip off island to the bright lights of Lerwick. I quite like going from time to time - it reminds me that we are lucky to live in such a quiet and lovely place (not that I need much reminding I hasten to add) I went to get a few things and to have 4 tyres fitted on my trusty old Suby' - ouch ! I also picked up some spares for a quad bike that I bought a couple of months back. The trip down was really nice, it was a perfectly still, sunny morning (or rather sunrise) and I just wanted to stop every few miles and take pictures. Unfortunately due to time - getting there early enough for the garage, I couldn't stop. Going over Bluemull' I did take a few of my favourite non wildlife type pictures and they were of the bow waves created by the ferry on the very calm water. One similar shot I took last year has been quite a popular picture and has sold a number of times this summer......

   Back at home, I've been busy outside with a number of jobs around the cottage. This has involved concreting some steps, redoing a path and clearing piles of stones and soil from the cottage garden etc. This is where the quad has been invaluable as I've been able to move much more rubble at a time than I'd be able to move with a wheel barrow and with very little effort. Outside of the walled area of the garden, the ground is so rough in places that it would be very difficult ( or impossible) to move anything using a tradition wheel barrow. I then tipped the rubble down in a fenced off area in the field where there is a large hollow in a slight bank. My intention is to build up two of the sides and turn it in to a pond roughly 8 metres by 7metres. I have also just inquired about buying a quantity of Sycamore cuttings /saplings and also some Rosa Rugosa cuttings to plant along one of the boundary walls. It seems silly to buy some of the Rosa's as they grow like weeds in Shetland, but as they are only £1.50 each and also grow very quickly, it will save a lot of time and work.

  As to the cottage? Now it has been re-carpeted, we're going to start advertizing it as a holiday let for next year. Over the next month or so, I'm going to do a blog page for 'Ordaal Holiday Cottage'. It won't be update regularly as it will be just for giving details of the cottage and having pictures of the cottage (inside and out), contact details, links to ferries etc etc. A link to the cottage will then be put on other sites to publicize it - watch this space.


Sunday, 4 November 2012

  A  day after we arrived back, we had a light covering of snow on the hills and by heck it felt cold ! I had a couple of hours out with Brydon to look for the Humes Warbler he'd found at Norwick last week that was still around. Unfortunately the bird wasn't to be seen, but we did have a pipit fly up from the roadside in front of the car. Brydon had a feeling it could be something special, but despite searching we couldn't find the bird again.

   The following day I was over at Norwick again and had a pipit on the road in front of me. Having a really poor view through the front windscreen with my bins', all I could really see was that it had quite a distinctive head patten. Fortunately I saw where the bird landed and manged to get some record shots. My first thoughts when I saw it some way in front of the car was that it was an Olive-backed Pipit, however, now I could see the rest of it I could clearly see it had plain flanks and a mostly plain breast (just a bit of streaking on the throat). Checking 'Collins', I came to the conclusion it was one of two,  Richards Pipit - quite rare on Shetland - or Blyth's Pipit - very rare. Richard's tend to have the appearance of being long-legged and long tailed and in my limited experience of Richard's, this bird didn't appear to have either. Unfortunately this bird didn't turn out to be a Blyth's, just a small Richard's Pipit - still nice to find though.......

Richard's Pipit at Norwick

  Later on in the day (around 4-30pm), I was heading back home in the now fading light, when I noticed a small bird running along the roadside in front of my car. Slowing down, all I could see of it was a prominent white eye stripe - I've got to nail this one, what ever happens. The bird had gone in to the long grass of the roadside ditch and most likely wouldn't be very easy to flush. I reached a gateway to a field and no bird had appeared, it must have popped over the wall in to some even thicker vegetation. Walking this through, the bird flew up and along on to our boundary wall, the trouble was, I was someway from our drive to count it  as a garden tick - what ever it was! A short time later, I re-found the bird as it was making its way down along the base of the wall of our field. I fired off a few frames at a ridiculously high ISO (5000 ISO) and then lost the bird in some bushes in the garden. Putting the shots straight onto the PC, I discovered what it was - a Bluethroat - either a female or a 1st winter bird as they have a very similar plumage..........

  A few days later (29th) I was heading up to towards Skaw from Norwick when I noticed a pale looking chat sitting on a roadside fence. For a split second I though ' female Whinchat', but then noticed its size and shape etc and realized it was a Stonechat. As it was so pale, I checked in 'Collin's' which confirmed my  thoughts it could possible be a 'Siberian' one (although I'd never seen one before). Two of the pointers were, lack of streaking on the rump and lack of streaking on the breast - both of which this bird had :)   .....

Siberian Stonechat, Norwick

  At just after midnight on the 30th, it was lovely and clear (and also very frosty) and also a full moon - called the 'Hunters Moon'. I went out to take some photographs and in no time at all I couldn't feel the ends of my fingers. It was one of those magical nights with no wind, no sound apart from the water gently lapping on the shore and a few geese calling......

Baltasound by moonlight - 00.30am Oct 30th 2012

  Later on at around 8am, I headed off around the field and down to the shore for one of my regular walks. I was expecting it to be a clear frosty morning but sometime late last night, cloud had come in and the place had 'warmed' up as it was now damp and cloudy. Heading across the small salt marsh area by the pools (hoping for a Jack Snipe), I heard a strange noise - a sort of a cross between a hiss and a cough. At first I though it was one of our cats but then saw just a few yards in front of me, an otter curled up amongst some tussock grass. I thought immediately it must be injured as it would usually be very difficult to get this close to one out in the open so easily. At first it didn't attempt to move away, but then after a couple of minutes it turned (looking slightly disorientated) and headed for the shingle bank. Sure enough, it was injured as it limped quite badly, holding its front right foot up off the ground. It was a male, but I didn't know if it was the male we see around here regularly and can only assume it had been in a fight with another male. It headed back in to the water and seemed to swim and dive normally - lets hope it's ok.

  Just as we'd left to go on holiday a couple of weeks ago, there had been an arrival of Waxwings in Shetland and I was thinking I'd miss out on them again. Well thankfully they were still around and I managed to see a few around Unst over the last few days of October and into November. On the 2nd, just as it was getting light, I looked out of the bedroom window to see six feeding around an apple I'd put out the day before (I'd been to Lerwick that day). It has been the one bird that I'd wanted to get in the garden up here, so I was one happy bunny ! Over the next couple of days, I had some really special times watching and photographing them and at times, from very close quarters. As the Rosa bushes don't usually produce much in the way of berries, I fixed up a bolt on which I could hang a apple. This was useful on two counts, one was to benefit taking pictures of them, the other was to stop the chickens from eating it all. I don't normally do 'bird on stick' type photography, but this allowed me to position the food in a suitable position without a distracting and cluttered background. Below are a few of my favourites................


Sunday, 28 October 2012

 24th Oct
  Well this is the first full day back home after our trip to the deep south and what do we get, a strong cold northerly and snow showers ! Winter is just around the corner.

  The trip south took two days including overnight on the Northlink and a night in Cardross to visit one of Catriona's relations. We left Unst on the Saturday lunch time and arrived in Tolox, southern Spain at around 9.30pm Monday, local time.

  The house where we stayed was high up on a south facing hillside but with views also to the other 3 points of the compass. For most of the week we stayed around the house and pool, with the occasional walk back from Tolox or had a lift in to either Tolox or Coin ( pronounced Coeeen - or something like that). The weather was mostly clear, sunny, and by Shetland standards, very warm at around  23c - 28c.

  All around the hillsides I could hear Crested Lark, Woodlark, Sardinian Warbler and Cirl Bunting. Daily over head I saw a number of raptors including Sparrowhawk, Peregrine, Kestrel, Buzzard, Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle and a probable Bonelli's Eagle. Most mornings there was a passage of birds along the hillside made up of small flocks of finches (Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch etc) and also Hirundines such as Swallows, House Martins, one Red-rumped Swallow and quite a few Crag Martins. Both Great Tit and Blue Tits were fairly numerous. Other birds from the garden included Firecrest, Crossbill, Little Egret, Redlegged Partridge, Blackcap and Little Owl. During the spring and breeding season I would think there would be a lot more raptors, hirundines and warblers around.

  There were a few obvious insects around including grasshoppers, carpenter bees, a swallow-tailed butterfly and a small praying mantis that ended up in the pool (which survived after been fished out with a net).

   Much of the surrounding landcsape was dominated by olive groves and also almond, orange and lemon trees. Ther only thick vegetation really was down in the river valleys or in some of the small gorges that would have water in in them after any substantial rainfall.

  Below are a few pics from the week.......

Looking north towards the house (arrowed in white)

Looking roughly south from above the house (again arrowed)

From the same viewpoint looking north

A couple of shots of the house after dark

Olive trees

Freshly picked olives that are going to be made into oil

 Female Sardinian Warbler



 Little Egret

 Praying Mantis

 Crested Lark

Swallow-tailed Butterfly

  The villa belongs to a friend of mine who I've known for many years and is available to rent for holidays. For more information click the link here


Saturday, 13 October 2012

 Unst - and Shetland in general, has been pretty busy in the last couple of weeks with visiting birdwatchers/birders/twitchers - call them/us what you like. Unfortunately once again, like in many walks of life, there are a few who spoil it for the rest of us. This time it was down in Norwick last week. There had been a couple of rare birds found (Pechora Pipit and Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll) down in one of the fields. I wasn't actually there myself (I saw the numbers of folk and decided to keep clear) but from what I'm told there were quite a few walking through the fields, climbing fences and, so I'm told, leaving gates open. Eventually the crofter got fed up with the behaviour of some of them and asked everyone to leave. One (so I understand) even argued to say 'I can legally go where I like' - he may think so, but I bet there are a few crofters that would argue against that. I was talking to the crofter the other day and she told me, that just leaving that gate not tied up properly, could have caused her a whole load of problems. The gate concerned separated two fields with sheep in; one had ewes, the other had at least one ram in it. If they'd got together it could have meant the lambs were born two months earlier, which means they'd be lambing in the late winter.  Just one example of selfish, thoughtless behaviour by a few.

  Earlier in the week I had a parcel delivered which was a new book - 'Birds: Through Irish Eyes', it was written by Anthony McGeehan and Julian Wyllie. Anthony contacted me a while ago for a couple of pictures he liked and wanted to use them in the book, to which I happily agreed. The photographs were the Grey Phalarope - which I use as my blog banner - and the Woodlark from Skaw last winter. I must say it's a cracking book and will thoroughly enjoy reading it. The book is here on Amazon.

  One 'milestone' reached this week on Unst, was by Mike Pennington. Mike reached his 300 species seen on Unst - quite amazing and even more so that the all time total for the island is 333 species. That puts Mike in a very exclusive club up here in Shetland, so well done Mike for that. What was the bird, I hear you say? It was a Longtailed Tit at Skaw - the first for the island in 151 years ! The bird was discovered by Martin Garner and the group he was leading (For Brydon's Nature in Shetland). I think it must have been a bit strange for the group, they had come up looking for rare or scare birds and then Shetland birders getting excited about a LTT ! .....

  Last Monday (8th Oct) there was a fantastic aurora - as said by those lucky enough to see it. I stayed up until midnight and by then it had clouded over and was spitting with rain, so I turned in. Later around 1.30am, it all kicked off and as I was told by one person who saw it, it was as good as any you'd see on the tele - blast! There's another one forecast for around the 14th/15 but unfortunately I'll miss it as I'm going to the very deep south. We're off to visit a friend of mine who I've known since 1989 but have not seen for almost 20 years; Linda and Innis now live in southern Spain. After months down there with no rain (which resulted in wild fires and one fatality) they have now had severe floods in places - it almost sounds biblical.

 A couple of nights ago, we had a lovely clear, cold night. There had been a prediction of low auroral activity, but I took a look anyway. There was a very faint glow to the north at midnight, but I liked the mist on the water and, on this occasion, the harbour lights helped the picture.....

North over Blatasound from home

As I said, I'm away for a short while so I won't be posting for a week, after that it may well be pictures from a more warmer climate.


Sunday, 30 September 2012


  Firstly, sorry for the late update, the time has slipped by since the last post. One really great piece of news for us and Unst as a whole, is that at the last minute, the school was removed from the proposal for closure by the council - for the time being anyway. Everyone realizes that the council has to save money, but to severely cut education is the wrong end to start at. However, the battle for Baltasound may have been won (thanks to the hard work of lots of people and some common sense by councilors who voted against closure) but the fight goes on for the number of other primary and secondary schools in Shetland that are threatened.

  So what else has been happening up here? I have had a couple of more days working, fitting a window at one house and a new door and frame at another. On the wildlife front it has been both quiet and exciting - if that's not a contradiction. On the 12th Sept, I had a walk around Valyie in the afternoon and didn't really find anything. I didn't look in the bushes behind the house as, despite just having my bins' overhauled by Zeiss, they now don't focus less that 30ft away - which is pointless in the close confines of the shrubbery at Valyie. Heading home, I then got a call from Mike P an hour or so later to say there was a Red-eyed Vireo there - a first for both Unst and Shetland ! How that could have been me that had found it, such is life ! Quickly getting in the car at 6pm with Rona, we were soon over there and, luckily in a very short time, saw the bird in the conifer trees on the west side. I fired off a few frames in the now fading light..........

Red-eyed Vireo

  The Red-eyed Vireo is one of the more common vagrants from North America to hit the UK shores - but, as I have mentioned, not Shetland - until now. The following day I had to go off island and didn't get back until 2-30 in the afternoon. It was a horrible wet and windy day, so hopefully the bird would stay put as there would certainly be a few folk coming up from Mainland to see it. When I arrived there were a few folk there that had been looking for almost 5 hours in the wind and rain and only got a few glimpses of it as it flitted through the bushes. Shortly after I had arrived and not long after the others had left, the bird showed quite well just in front of me, which allowed me a few more very high ISO pictures.

  Friday came and, just as forecast, the weather was much better, so I headed up to Valyie again. After quite a while of fleeting glimpses, I did see it well although it was very active and didn't stay still for long..............

  I had to have another couple days off island getting the Audi sorted for an MOT, firstly for a new windscreen (thankfully the insurance paid for most of that) and secondly for the MOT - which it past. While the screen was fitted, I had around fours hours to wait while the adhesive went off. As the garage was in the middle of nowhere (well almost) I spent the time walking the coast and up on some nearby hills.I did see a few Red Grouse (introduced to Mainland) and also a Mountain Hare as it sped away.............

From Brunt Hamersland towards south Bressay

One of the cruise ships designs in Lerwick Harbour

  Last Friday (21st) I bumped in to Brydon and Mickey who were just off out to check out a warbler in Baltasound so I tagged along. After many frustrating glimpses, they agreed it was a Blyth's Reed Warbler and so the next task was to try and get some pics of it - not an easy task as it was so elusive in the vegetation and shrubs around a small walled garden. I managed to get a few record shots but they weren't good enough for 'confirmation pictures', so, as I had to pick up the girls from the leisure centre later, I went for another look. This time I managed to get some great views and one or two better shots but not a full on side view as I was hoping for :( ..............

Blyth's Reed Warbler

  The following day (22nd), the girls and I headed off island to Sumburgh to pick up Catriona and also a birding friend of mine called Tim, who was coming to stay for a week. It was a fairly straightforward trip, but on the way back I got 'the call'. Brydon had left a message to say there was a Great Reed Warbler at Valyie so, once the car had been unloaded, we headed off. Fortunately this bird was much easier to see compared to the Blyth's..............

 Great Reed Warbler

 Also there was a rather nice flock of Common Redpolls, some of which, were very confiding....

Kittiwake at Belmont

  The forecast for this week was supposed to have been east or south easterlies for most of the week - brilliant for migrant birds at this time of year. It was in that quarter for a couple of days, but it has now moved in to  a more northerly airflow. We were also supposed to have rain on Tuesday, but that seemed to stop at Orkney and then track back south. So while the southern half of the UK were having floods and travel chaos, we (for a change) had some fairly nice dry weather. It did bring a few migrants here, but not the numbers some were expecting. Another rarity was found by Mike, Micky and Brydon and that was a Greenish Warbler at Valyie. Tim and I went up there the following morning and spent several hours looking before it showed itself.........

Greenish Warbler

  As Tim was only here for a week - and also that he is a very keen birder, we were out everyday from around nine to three thirty in the afternoon. I don't really consider myself as a serious twitcher (a term I really hate) but I will go and have a look-see at birds around Unst, Yell or Fetlar. I'd already seen a Blyth's Reed Warbler a few days before but as another one turned up in Haligarth, Tim was keen to see if we could see it. We did eventually get it after a total of several hours but the bird was much more difficult to see than the one at Hillsgarth a few days before. While we were there, there was also a 'flyover' of a Rough-legged Buzzard that had an unusual plumage pattern below, the 'jury' is still out trying to age it...............

Rough-legged Buzzard over Haligarth

  Below are a few other shots from the past week..............

 Booted Warbler at Clibberswick

 Goldcrest at Northdale

 Starling at Valyie

Yellow-browed Warbler at Valyie

Another Redpoll, this time at Skaw

Redshank at Buness