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


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