Thursday 23 October 2014

   Something I omitted from the last post, was a very special occasion that Rona and I had at Lamba Ness in July. We were walking around the headland, when I saw an otter fishing in the sea below us.  As the sea was very still and the water was very clear, we were able to watch it fishing under water for around 20 minutes as it swam around the coastline. It was something I'll not forget for a long time.......

   I ended that last post by mentioning the northern lights, well a week later and we had our first one of the end of the summer. It wasn't particularly strong, but it was nice to see none the less and then a few days afterwards there was another. On the evening of the second one, I'd thought about going out, but the sky was cloudy and there was a very bright moon, so despite there being an alert for one, I turned in around 10pm. Not long after, my mobile lit up with an alert, I looked out and saw a fairly clear sky and a glow to the north.

  Heading out, I set off down to the standing stone at Lund, where I had an idea for a picture. Quickly setting up the camera in the moonlight, I managed a few pictures of the stone lit by moonlight and a dim aurora in the background. Because of the directions of both the moonlight and the aurora, I filled in some of the shadows on the stone, by 'painting with light' using a small LED torch. The aurora soon died away so I set off for home, unfortunately as often happens (will I never learn - or maybe its too late ?) the display peaked again with a few 'curtains'. I turned and went back but it didn't continue..........

Aurora over Baltasound August 28th 2014

Standing stone at Lund 5th Sept 2014

  By the time early September arrives, thoughts of migrating birds arriving are at the top of the list so to speak. With the wind direction (south easterly) during the early part of the month, it was hoped there would be a good 'fall' of migrants. There were a number of 'mega' rarities both here and down on Mainland, several of them arrived when I was in the 'wrong place at the wrong time'. One was a Swainson's Thrush which turned up in Norwick on the day I was down at Sumburgh and then a White's Thrush turned up the following day down on south Mainland when I was back on Unst. There was also a Yellow-rumped Warbler down near Sumburgh which showed really well and allowed folk to get some cracking pictures of it. I would have liked to have seen the White's Thrush but I don't twitch birds off of Unst unless I'm going there anyway. As to the Yellow-rumped Warbler ? I've seen one of those already this year :) see here

  It was a good autumn for my 'lists, adding Firecrest, Blue Tit, Treecreeper, Little Stint, Temminck's Stint and Great-grey Shrike to my Unst list (255 species) - five of those also went on my Shetland list (270 species). I also added 3 birds to my 'garden' list - Blue Tit, Rednecked Phalarope and Jack Snipe, taking the total to 135 species. My Shetland lists aren't particularly high, but I think its ok considering I don't twitch off island very often and we've only been here for six years or so. Below are a selection of some of the birds from this autumn........

Blue Tit at Clingera
Bluethroat at Clingera
Eiders at Buness
Great Grey Shrike at Northdale
Great Tit at Clingera

Greenshank at Haroldswick

Red-necked Phalarope at Haroldswick

Little Bunting at Skaw

Little Stint at Skaw

Long-eared Owl at Vaylie

Red-breasted Flycatcher at Burrafirth

Ruff on Hermaness

Subalpine Warbler (eastern race) in Baltasound

Temminck's Stint at Haroldswick

Tree Pipit in Haligarth

'Northern' Tree-creeper in Haligarth

Rough-legged Buzzard at Gunnister

  Away from the wildlife - although it is difficult to totally switch off - I have been busy at home. One of the main jobs has been to make the old stable (which is now my work shop) more water proof. It was never done properly and has always let in water both through the doors and, when the rain is blown by the wind, also through the horizontal boarding. So I've now replaced two of the sides (lining it with building paper first) and also made two new doors. It is now very nice to not have to duck under the top half of the stable door when I go in to the shed. The only other job (for now) is to replace the roofing felt - which I'll do as soon as we have a decent calm day !

  Now in the 3rd week of October, the main migration season is virtually over and any rarity is likely to be a gale blown bird from afar. Strong winds and big seas will probably be a common sight for the next few months but hopefully there will also be some still, sunny days - fingers crossed.

'Big Sea' at Westing a couple of weeks ago