Tuesday, 14 August 2018

14th August 2018 Unst SE1 Overcast with drizzle in afternoon

With a southeasterly breeze overnight it was disappointing that there were no migrants in our garden and just a Common Whitethroat at Skaw. Burrafirth failed to add any migrants but a trip to Baltasound did provide a glimmer of hope with 2 Willow Warblers seen at both Setters Hill and at the School. Drizzle arrived at lunchtime that only made the conditions feel even more promising. However, a walk to Valyie hadn't produced anything, and the rain was getting heavier, so I was fearing I'd made the wrong decision when I saw the briefest of glimpses of an interesting looking Phyllosc literally at the same time my first Barred Warbler of the Autumn flew into view in front of me before it dived into the thick cover. Whilst trying to see the Barred Warbler again I only saw a Willow Warbler in the process. As I entered the sycamores I noticed a movement in the canopy and there was an Arctic Warbler - brilliant! It took a fair while to obtain a few images, as whilst it was often sluggish, it rarely descended from the thick canopy of the sycamores. We checked a few more sites that failed to produce any more surprises. We returned to Valyie late afternoon where the Arctic Warbler was calling more frequently but unfortunately proved no more obliging.

Barred Warbler at Valyie

Arctic Warbler at Valyie
The third consecutive year I've been fortunate enough to find an Arctic Warbler on Unst being the second I've found at Valyie.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

11th August 2018 Unst W1-2 Clear

Leaving our front door a Merlin raced across my view heading towards Lamba Ness but a walk around Skaw failed to produce any migrants. Norwick only added the continued presence of the 2 Knot and a Willow Warbler. Haroldswick hadn't produced a migrant but Jim from Ungirsta very kindly stopped to tell us that he had seen a Greenland Gyr perched on a pile of wood, but whilst locating his camera, the bird had vanished and that was 4 hours earlier and he had seen no sign of it since. Before we had even left Haroldswick, with Jim driving a little way behind us, we noticed a commotion among Lapwings and Starlings and saw the Falcon flying low over the mires. Quickly stopping the car, bringing the traffic on the single track road to a halt, we unfortunately saw it was trailing a yellow tape from its legs and there was what looked like a small metal bell although we didn't hear it in the manner that we have on encountering various Falconer's birds over the years at Beachy! However, after parking our car, it didn't stop us enjoying what was an apparent white Gyr evading the attention of Oystercatchers that were continually mobbing it as it circled ever higher over Haroldwick pools where we eventually lost sight of it high in the sky.

Escaped white morph Gyr (or hybrid resembling a Gyr) at Haroldswick
In 1992 Steve Gantlett & Richard Millington drew attention to the artificial hybridisation of Falcons and stated that any hybrids which escape are likely to cause identification headaches (BW Vol. 5 No. 3) and a year later Dick Forsman stated such hybrids are often quite impossible to identify (BW Vol. 6 No. 2). However, whilst it would be nice to see today's bird perched, based on our encounter of it being seen only in flight, it certainly showed the long-bodied & long-tailed jizz and in being so white and having pure white underwing-coverts and translucent remiges when viewed from below, it's hard to imagine that it wouldn't have passed muster had it been present here on Unst in say February/March and not been carrying its tape and bell ! Here's the appearance of an adult photographed by Jim Scarff in the Canadian Arctic in August 2006:

Adult white Gyr in the Canadian Arctic in August 2006 (Jim Scarff)

Friday, 10 August 2018

10th August 2018 Unst NW2 Clear

A walk around Norwick produced my first 2 Knot of the year, 2 Swifts and 2 Willow Warblers.

Juvenile Knot at Norwick

Thursday, 9 August 2018

9th August 2018 Unst SW3 Clear

A sunny, warm but breezy day albeit the southwesterly airflow remains in place. A flock of 70 Golden Plover flew south over Mid Yell and an evening walk around Norwick produced 2 Willow Warblers and a juvenile dark morph Arctic Skua flew in off the sea and over our house.

Dark-morph juvenile Arctic Skua over Millfield

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

8th August 2018 Unst SW3 Clear

Another evening walk around Norwick produced a Merlin, a Pied Flycatcher, a Willow Warbler and I heard a / the Redpoll.

Merlin at Norwick

Pied Flycatcher at Norwick

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

7th August 2018 Unst S2 Overcast

A quick check of Norwick this evening produced 9 Swifts and the Pied Flycatcher and plenty of returning common waders on the beach. And then, of all the birds to relocate from Valyie to our garden it would be the escaped Redpoll !

Juvenile Common Swift at Norwick

Dunlin, Sanderling and Turnstone on Norwick beach

Escaped Redpoll at Millfield
The pale ground-colour to its rump and lack of pink on its flanks point to it being a Mealy Redpoll although an online reference suggests that many Redpolls in captivity are of 'mixed heritage' albeit it went on to say that pure Lessers in captivity are rare.

6th August 2018 Unst SW3 Overcast

For the first few hours at work the wind felt suspiciously like a light southeasterly so I rather wished I was out birding proper. On arriving home there was a Garden Warbler in our garden that helped quicken my pace to Skaw where there was just a Willow Warbler and then around Norwick where I saw just a single Swift and a single Pied Flycatcher so it didn't seem that too many migrants had arrived.

Garden Warbler at Millfield
our first migrant Warbler of the Autumn in our garden

Chiffchaff at Norwick