Monday 29 December 2014

Last post of 2014

  Here we are, Christmas is almost over and so is 2014, but what a year it has been !

  I have been so, so, lucky to have yet another fantastic year here on Unst. From seeing some wonderful auroras (including one from Hermaness) to spending many, many privileged hours watching the lives of Gannets from only a few feet away. From seeing one of the first eggs, to birds ready to leave the relative safety of their nest it was so easy to get 'lost' in their world. On a number of occasions, I would turn away from the birds and 'wake up' to the reality where I was, feeling I'd been in a different place'. Two posts about the gannets here and here .

 Feb 27th from Ordaal
March 26th over Flugga

  On the bird front, I was quite lucky to have found 3 BBs ( 'British Birds' rarities), two at Haroldswick and one at Skaw (Yellow-rumped Warbler, Citrine Wagtail and Spotted Sandpiper at Skaw) - links here and here .

Yellow-rumped Warbler Haroldwick May 8th 2014

Citrine Wagtail at Haroldswick May 23rd 2014

Spotted Sandpiper Skaw 15th May 2014

 Back in March, there was a stranding of two Sperm Whales down at Muness; in all, it was over three weeks from when they were discovered to when they were finally buried......

Sperm Whale at Muness in March
  ....... more pics etc here

  During the Easter break, we had two very enjoyable weeks in North Zealand, Denmark and for most of it had good weather. One of the highlights for me was seeing good numbers of Tree Sparrows from the window of the farm where we were staying, sadly not a very common sight in the UK now....

Tree Sparrow, Denmark

  Returning home, it wasn't long before I was back up to the Gannets.....
  and also by now the Puffins had returned.......

  One very nice bonus was a pair of Slavoinian Grebes (that were in breeding plumage),that spent more than a week in the bay at Haroldswick. Unfortunately for most of the time, they were too far out to photograph, but on one day they were very close to the shore and allowed me to photograph them from the car........

  For most of my 'spare' time in June and July I spent down with the Gannets as I mentioned earlier, but I also did squeeze in some birding as well.....
 Rustic Bunting
 Lesser Grey Shrike
 Pectoral Sandpiper

..... although I have to say, I didn't 'find' the first three birds. Also in June and July, I was guiding for my friend Brydons'  tour company 'Shetland Nature'. After the 'first night' nerves so to speak (even though I'd done them before), it turned out to be very enjoyable taking people around Unst (and Fetlar) on day trips - and meeting some nice folk as well. On the way to Fetlar for one trip, I had was very lucky to get Porpoise riding the wake, which is apparently not that common.....

 August again was partly taken up with visits to Hermaness - at both ends of the day - and by now things starting to quieten down with the Puffins and auks.The Puffins seemed to be doing well, bringing in lots of sandeels and other quite large fish at times......

  Weather-wise, we had a very good summer - not too hot (thankfully) but we did have many, many days without rain and lots of very calm days also.

 'Out Stack'

High level Noctilucent  Clouds over Baltasound

Bonxie sunset

  At the end of August, the nights were getting darker and I saw my first aurora of the 'autumn' on the 28th. A few days later, when the moon was around 'half', there was another. This time I went down to the standing stone at Lund, but sadly by the time I'd got there, it had died down somewhat......

 28th August over Baltasound

Standing stone at Lund 5th Sept.

  September and October was quite good for migrants this year, although not as good as other years - Mainland certainly was much better this year. For some of the highlights the link is here .....

 'Northern' Treecreeper in Haligarth

 Rough'legged Buzzard at Westing

Greenshank at Haroldswick

  November, weather-wise, was a cracking month. Very mild, not too much wind and rain and often it  was just a fleece jumper sort of day. Birdwise, the highlight has to be the Pied Wheatear that Brydon found at Haroldswick; which, after some initial difficulties, was very easy to see and remained for at least a week. It was on one of these days, that I found a lovely Grey Phalarope just a few yards from the shore at Haroldswick which proved to be quite a confiding wader. I love Grey Phals', they are very hardy, spending much of the winter on the open ocean and usually (although still uncommon in Shetland) occur after bad weather.......

 Grey Phalarope

Pied Wheatear

  In December, it was all change. We had a number of gales - storm force at times - rain and even a little bit of snow. Over the Christmas period, the weather settled down to be quite cold, clear and still. On four out of five nights we had mild auroras giving an eerie green glow to the north - sadly no 'curtains' but great to see anyway..........

Muckle Flugga

Muckle Flugga light-house