Thursday 17 July 2014

Gannets Galore - Part 1

  As I said in my latest post, I've had more than a few visits already to Hermaness this year - and hopefully a few more before the season ends in mid October. I had hoped to try and follow the birds through their season this year, but already there are photographic gaps in their breeding progress. That said, the bits I've missed this year, I already have pictures of from the last one - but there is always the 'need' to improve on the results.

  The 1st visit this year was on 19th Feb and already there were lots of birds on the cliffs; that said, I took a visit a week later and some areas were devoid of birds........

The Neap 19th Feb 2014

   Returning again around a week later, there was a lot more activity and this was to only increase as the weeks went by.....

 Looking north towards Clingra Stack (centre top)

 Gannets over 'The Greing'

 Part of Humla Stack

The top of Clingra Stack

    End of March........

  Due to the Easter hols', I didn't get back to the cliffs until the end of the 3rd week of April........

 .... and by now breeding was well underway.

  Once I knew that the birds were sitting on eggs, I kept well away from the nesting birds as any disturbance by me, could lead to panic in the colony and eggs getting broken or stolen by the ever present gulls. I thought this was a good opportunity to look for different viewpoints and locations for different times of the day and lighting conditions. Going up there on June 24th, I was really surprised how advanced some of the gugas (young gannets) were........

Saito June 24th 2014
A sad 'sign of the times' ?

  Below are few of my favourites from May/June and early July this year......

Gannet and a 'Simmer Dim' sunset on June 21st


Wednesday 2 July 2014

  I was going to title this post as the 'Beginning of the end' as my posts have been getting further apart and was finding it difficult to sit down for an hour or so in front of the pc, so I'd thought about packing it in. However, doing this one has 're-kindled the fire' so to speak, in that it's great to share a few pictures of this fantastic group of islands - even if they are only glanced at for a few seconds by somebody.

  On the 15th May I was taking a look at Skaw and as the ewes were either lambing or waiting to lamb, I kept away and walked down the burn. Half way down the burn toward the beach I noticed a sandpiper by the waters edge but with its back to me; assuming it was a Common', I carried on towards it. The bird took off and as it did I saw it was heavily spotted on its flanks - surely its got to be a Spotted Sandpiper? I relocated it along the far end of the beach out on some rocks. I didn't even get the bins' on it before it took off again and headed across the bay and towards some rocks several hundred yards along the coast to the south. Going back to get the camera, I took a big semi circular detour to hopefully get the other side of it, so if it flew it would fly back towards the burn. There was no sign of the bird along the coast, but on returning to the burn, I found it feeding. Taking a few pictures, I headed off to get a phone signal in order to 'put it out'; on returning, it appeared that the bird had been disturbed by three visitors walking down to the beach, but was fortunately re-found by Mike later.

Spotted Sandpiper at Skaw Unst

 One evening a few days later, I got another call to say that there was a Red-rumped Swallow over at Burrafirth; I arrived there around 6pm, Mike arrived not long after. After a short search, Mike found it feeding with swallows along the bank below Sotland. It was a nice bird and in good light too......

Red-rumped Swallow

  On the 23rd May my spell of nice finds continued at Haroldswick Pool. I'd just pulled up in the car by the bushes and thought I heard a Yellow Wagtail call. I couldn't see anything, then suddenly a bright yellow wagtail landed right in front of me on the edge of the pool. It took a short while to convince myself that the bird I had in front of me, was in fact, a male (1st summer) Citrine Wagtail - what a cracker. The bird stayed for a couple of days and was seen by a few birders............

1st summer male Citrine Wagtail

  A week later, I was up at Skaw with Ian (my father in law, who was visiting) when Ken Shaw - a visiting birder - came over and was looking rather pleased with himself. It turned out he'd just found a Rustic Bunting, but the bird had flown off. There had been one there two weeks previously, so this one could have been that one or even a different bird all together. After a short search, I re-found the bird up the burn and managed a few shots of it on the fence before it flew off - any closer and the lens wouldn't have found focus !...

Rustic Bunting

 Highlights of other birds included Icterine and Marsh Warblers, Red-backed Shrikes, Mandarin Duck(s -2), Coot (not common) , Quail and Great-crested Grebe, to name just few birds. On the 16th June a Lesser Grey Shrike was found up at the airport by Rory(Tallack) and Paul (Harvey) which was still around until 2nd July at least. When I got the call,  I was heading up the path from the Hermaness car park to spend the morning at the Gannets with our friend Molly, who is staying with us again for her 2nd visit. During her stay she is also working with Brydon and also getting photographs of sea birds etc for her college coursework. More on Molly's visit here -  'simmerdimdiaries'

 The shrike has proved very difficult to get any half decent pictures of as its extremely flighty. If its anywhere near the road when a car drives along, it flies off in to the middle of several large fields which makes getting close impossible........

Lesser-Grey Shrike (in heat haze!)

  The most recent uncommon migrant has been a Pectoral Sandpiper at Haroldswick Pool. There had been concern recently as the Highways Dept had enlarged the drain-off ditch to lower the water level slightly and how this would affect the wildlife that use the pool. There was a worry that water seeping under the road and down the beach could have a detrimental effect on the road so it decided to lower the water level. Several had suggested that the lower level may actually be of a benifit to both resident and migrant waders alike due to more mud being exposed. Maybe the Pec' Sand' is a sign of things to come ?........

Pectoral Sandpiper

A few other pics from during the last month........
 Arctic Turn hawking for Crane Flies

 Arctic Turn food pass



 Mandarin Duck


 Pale phase Arctic Skua

Sun set behind Muckle Flugga and Out Stack

 Quite a lot of my 'photographic time' over the last month or so has been taken up with the Gannets etc at Hermaness. I'll do a specific post shortly just on my visits up to Hermaness.