Sunday 3 January 2016

October 2015

  October started with a 'lifer' for me in the form of a Swainson's Thrush near the Final Checkout found by a visiting birder. I was at home at the time when I got a call from Sula - who was working in the Final Checkout at the time - asking me if Id seen a Swainson's Thrush. When I asked what did she know about one, she said she'd Googled it because there was one behind the garage there ! When I got there, there were around a dozen other birders (the number soon grew) and the bird was quite visible although not particularly close. As more folk arrived, the bird moved a short distance and became much more elusive......

Swainson's Thrush (quite a large crop)

  While we were there, a skein of over 80 Pinkfooted Geese flew over high heading south, a good visible sign that the Autumn migration was well under way.......

Part of the skein of Pinkfeet'

A couple of days later, I got my first 'white-winged' gull of the Autumn in the form of an immature Glaucous Gull briefly at Norwick........

Glaucous Gull

  Even though I see Merlin on a fairly regular basis, it's not very often that I get one so obliging sitting next to to the car, so this one was a real bonus.......

  A few days later, it was time to head off south for the annual 'October Break' trip south. Catriona was away working for a month in the Solomon Islands, so I had the pleasure of taking the kids to Scotland, England and Wales !   The weather for the ferry crossing was, it has to be said, looking grim - wind and a big swell. However, thankfully, the swell was coming from the east so instead of the boat rising and falling through the swell, it rolled from side to side which was slightly less nauseating. The affect of this was I spent the first half of the journey sliding up and down the bunk - a very strange feeling in total darkness.

  Our first stop was in Glasgow. This was so the girls could go to a 'concert' featuring two guys from Radio 1 - Radio 1, whats' that ?  They also do a load of stuff on Youtube and, so it seems, they have quite a following. So basically, I had no intention of sitting through an hour and a half of screaming kids and two slightly less mature versions of Any and Dec, so I decided to sit and have a beer or two in the lounge area - or so I thought. Just after I'd bought my first pint, they started to close the bar - at 7.30 in the evening ! I quickly asked for another but the bar manager said the till was closed, so unless I'd got the right money I was out of luck. Well I didn't have the right amount, so I told him to keep the change - about 50p.

  The following day, it was most of the day on the train heading down south to the Cotswolds which would be our base for the next week - and for a change, the journey ran like clockwork; no delays, trains on time and book bookings etc all in place.

Over the next 10 days, we shopped, visited folk, shopped, went to West Wales, shopped, I went to the New Forest for a day, shopped, got the train back to Aberdeen and, believe it or not we shopped - or rather the girls did !

  Apart from seeing family and friends, the highlight for me, was revisiting the Red Kite feeding site at Bwlch Nant yr Arian Forest Visitor Centre east of Aberystwyth. I've been there a couple of times before and like it for the backdrop of the lake and forest behind. There aren't as many kites coming in to feed compared to Gigrin, but its worth calling in if passing - feeding time is 3.30 in the summer months, 2-30 in the winter months......

  No, Rona hasn't been in an accident, she was being 'artistic' with the sunset over our old village of Longborough.

Bwlch Nant Arian 

 Red Kite at Bwlch Nant Arian

 Batsford Aboretum

 The girls at Batsford

About to leave Aberdeen

  A few days after we'd got back home, I was up at Norwick with Brydon and Alan (Conlon) when Alan found a cracking Firecrest at Vaylie. I saw the one at Clingera last year - but only just as I didn't get particularly good views, this one however, was very obliging and fed right out on to the ends of the small conifer branches.....

Firecrest at Vaylie


  On the 7th of the month, we had quiet a nice aurora so I headed off to Lamba Ness to get a few shots. Unfortunately it didn't stay clear or fine for long, but any aurora is a special sight.....

Looking north from Lamba Ness

  A few days later, I was lucky to find a nice male Black Redstart up by 'Saxavord Resort'. A couple of days after, I briefly saw another down by Haroldswick Pools which was probably the same bird.....

  During the month, we had a few days of strong winds and storms and during one, a dead Grey Seal was washed up high on the beach at Skaw. Shortly after, the wind direction changed to the west which meant the beach was now sheltered from the worst of the swell. With the hope (or maybe a dream) that maybe an Ivory Gull could get blown in and find it after the westerly gales, I set up my camera to do some time lapses. Sadly no rare gulls, but daily there were up to 15 Ravens feeding on it. The birds were very wary however and no matter how well I hid the camera - it was covered in seaweed (with a waterproof cover first) - the birds seemed to have their distance at which they'd accept the end of the lens showing through the seaweed - I even set up a dummy lens using a brown bottle for a few days ! .....Just one of a number the camera took in my absence....
Ravens at Skaw

During the month I had both Iceland and Glaucous Gulls at Westing and a few casual sightings of Otters around Unst including a mature cub which came ashore with a fish and then misplaced its mum and brother or sister.....

 Glaucous Gull

 Iceland Gull

Mature cub


Grey Seal at Skaw

  December was a month of 'weather' so to speak, a mixture of everything. From gales to still calm days, wet cloudy nights and even a light covering of snow and several auroras - winter in Shetland :)
  On the bird front, the highlight for Unst for the month was almost certainly the Glossy Ibis over near Burrafirth first see by Brydon. My first view of it was a fleeting glimpse of it as it took off from the roadside......
  The following morning, I headed off over to Burrafirth again and quickly found it again, back feeding in the same roadside flood pool. The bird was quite flighty, but after a couple of quick flights, it settled back to feed in one of the larger roadside pools. The bird appeared to be in good health and was feeding well - and preening, often a good sign. Approaching the pool in my car, I cut the engine and slowly rolled to a halt with the passenger window down and the camera ready. Unfortunately I'd misjudged how far the car would roll to get off the road, so I had to quietly open my door, put my leg out and push the car the last 10 feet ! The bird was totally at ease and so I was lucky to watch it at very close quarters for 3/4s of an hour until a walker came past and the bird flew off again.....

Glossy Ibis nr Burrafirth

A few images to finish off the month/year.....

 Sand of Inner Skaw



 The cliffs east of Norwick nr Saxa's Kettle

 Aurora over the road from Lund

 Looking north from home.


  And finally to finish off the year, a New Years Eve aurora.....

Happy New Year