Thursday, 2 September 2010

Off to a good start ?

What I'm referring to in the title is Autumn, and going by the last  couple of weeks I hope it is. The weekend after I arrived back as I already have mentioned here, we went ringing petrels and then we had a couple of days away and we saw a cracking Minke Whale. During the time away on Mainland, Rory and Will found a Sykes Warbler at Burrafirth - a rather rare bird, only the 12th record for Britain and I missed it !

Two days later on the 18th August, I'd parked up by Haroldswick Pools and had just seen a juvenile Moorhen (nothing to shout about down south but a good bird here) and was waiting to try and photograph it. No pictures sadly, but as I waited, a small greenish warbler flew across the pools and into the line of wild rose bushes next to where I was parked. Fortunately for me, the bird didn't dive straight in to cover and so this enabled me to grab a few long distance shots of the bird which I saw straight away wasn't just another 'willow/chiff'. As soon as I looked at the pictures, I thought 'Arctic Warbler', however I needed to be sure. It was a further hour before the bird showed again and it was just as I was on the phone to Rory and telling him what I thought I'd got. Fortunately, it stayed visible for long enough (this time it was closer) to get a few more shots before it went into cover again. Some of these rare warblers are taking me out of my depth so to speak with regards to identification etc (although Arctic is fairly straightforward) so I was a little cautious about 'putting it out' ie phoning around to say it was there. Fortunately, Rory and Will (and others) getting to see it later confirmed my suspicions which was a relief.

Arctic Warbler

The following day, I had a few hours out with my friend Brydon. At Lamba Ness we had a Barred Warbler up by the radio mast which was a surprise for me considering the lack of vegetation there, maybe the bird had arrived during the previous night ? At Haroldswick, eagle eyed Brydon shouted to me to stop the car as he'd seen something. It turned out to be a Little Gull - minus its tail feathers which made it look quite odd. No apologies for the picture quality however !

Little Gull

Over the next few days, things picked up a bit with lots of Willow Warblers around, a juvenile Cuckoo and another Barred Warbler.

Willow Warbler

On the 24th August, I was on my way to Uyeasound doing the school run, when I got a phone call from Rory. If he'd phoned two minutes later he'd have not got hold of me due to the 'great divide' - ie one side of the hill getting an Orange signal and the other side being Vodaphone (I'm with the aforementioned) Fortunately he did and he asked if I could get to Haligarth asap as he thought he had a Paddyfield Warbler and he needed some pics if possible. Paddyfield' is another of those LBJs (little brown jobs) that can be extraordinarily difficult to i.d. if not seen well (no good asking me then !) so a picture would be of great benefit. Getting there quicker than I should have, the bird was playing hard to get and I/we were wondering if I'd get any shots at all. Fortunately for us, the bird flew in to another group of bushes and then did just what Rory said it would do if it went there, it climbed up an Angelica stem to feed on insects, so camera already focussed on it, hey presto !

Paddyfield Warbler
If you want a more detailed description is this bird you can go here

Last week, Rona and I took a walk to a headland and came across Shetlands, no probably the worlds first GANNET FARM ! There they were, almost 30 adult gannets in a cage and looking very healthy in deed ! See for yourself in the picture below.

Obviously I'm only joking, this is one of the downsides of salmon farms, these birds had somehow got into the cage - presumably after the fish - and were now trapped until they are released.

Whilst on the afternoon school run, we came across this Cormorant which had been fishing in Easter Loch. It had caught a flat fish that seemed far too big for its gape and spent ages trying to swallow it, after around 15 minutes it finally swallowed it.

Today (2nd Sept) I had a trip of to Skaw and spent some time there watching and photographing the Sanderlings. I've said it before these are probably my favourite wader and never get tired of watching them.

From there, I headed out towards Lamba Ness (as it was a beautiful still sunny day). Having only been in the car for a couple of minutes, I stopped to check a flock of around 20 birds sitting on the electric wires on the roadside. Slowing up, I then saw a Merlin was sitting right in the middle of them on the top of the pole. As I slowly drove past (to get the sun behind me) most of the pipits flew off, but the Merlin remained. Thankfully it wasn't too bothered by me or the car which enabled me to watch for quite a while and also get some shots. It was quite entertaining watching it, watch the pipits, buzzing around it.

Moving on to Lamba Ness, as I walked around the headland, I was sure I saw a fin out of the corner of my eye. I looked again for several minutes and finally thought I'd been seeing things. I was just about to leave when someway out, a fin broke the surface - it was a Minke Whale. I hurried back to the car to get the camera and long lens in case it came in close again. Sadly it didn't, but I did get to watch it for some time as it fed offshore in a totally flat calm, blue sea. Sometimes it's good enough just to watch................


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