Sunday, 31 July 2016

31st July 2016 Unst WNW1 Overcast

Just a couple of Chiffchaffs seen at Norwick today where there was an influx of Gulls feeding on the scraps from yesterday's fishing contest in the bay.

First-summer Herring Gull at Norwick beach
At first glance the rather plain uniform mantle and scapulars appeared rather intriguing for this age class but its eye colour, bill shape and colour, wing/tail length, old coverts, tail moult and moult score of its primaries all seem consistent with this species. A rather similar-looking July 2CY argenteus appears here.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

28th July 2016 Unst W2 Overcast

Nice to bump into a confiding juvenile Red-necked Phalarope today that on returning an hour later had disappeared.

Juvenile Red-necked Phalarope

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

26th July 2016 Unst SW2 Clear

Checked Norwick beach and Skaw beach this evening with 8 Sanderling present on the latter.

 Juvenile Arctic Tern at Norwick beach

Arctic Skua at Norwick beach
seemingly successfully robbing every adult Arctic Tern attempting to return to the beach to feed their young!

Puffin and Fulmar at Skaw

Monday, 25 July 2016

25th July 2016 Unst S1 Foggy clearing early afternoon

Limited time birding on the island today but 5 Whimbrel arrived in off the sea through the thick fog at Millfield at 7am this morning and were still circling low 30 minutes later. An hour's seawatch from Lamba Ness this evening proved very quiet as did a tour of the Wader sites with just a single Turnstone and only 3 Dunlin seen so it would seem something of a mass departure of the latter species!

Sunday, 24 July 2016

24th July 2016 Unst S1

Sea-watched from 5.15am to 6.20am at Lamba Ness when thick fog rolled-in seeing a Sooty Shearwater fly north at 5.38am. Then walked Skaw seeing 2 Sanderling on the beach and a Green Sandpiper in the geo. Touring various Wader sites on the island produced just a Bar-tailed Godwit and the two male Common Crossbills were still at Setters Hill. Sea-watched from Lamba Ness from 6pm to 8.30pm seeing a Minke Whale swim north, 2 Harbour Porpoises and 2 Manx Shearwaters fly north and 3 fly south.

Green Sandpiper at Skaw

Bar-tailed Godwit at Uyeasound

Male Common Crossbill at Setters Hill

Saturday, 23 July 2016

23rd July 2016 Unst S1 Overcast

An early morning visit to Skaw beach produced a Knot and 2 Sanderling. An hour's seawatch from Lamba Ness was quiet for birds but a superb Minke Whale swimming south stole the show with a Dolphin sp. and a Harbour Porpoise also seen. A call from Robbie and a text from Matt alerted us to Brydon having seen Orcas swimming north past the eastern side of Balta Isle. We gambled on returning to Lamba Ness where we soon picked up the pod of 12 or 13 individuals including a couple of large males with huge tall fins heading towards us. We then watched them offshore for 3 hours during which time a Sooty Shearwater flew north at 11.46am. Walked into the pines at Setters Hill this afternoon and heard a familiar 'chip chip chip' and there were two male Common Crossbills. Otherwise fewer Dunlin present today and just two Chiffchaffs seen. Spent an hour sea-watching from Lamba Ness this evening seeing a Manx north at 8.36pm followed by a Sooty north at 8.54pm.

Killer Whales off Lamba Ness
Mother and calf


Male and female

part of the pod hunting together

Male Common Crossbills at Setters Hill

Sooty Shearwater passing Lamba Ness this evening

Friday, 22 July 2016

22nd July 2016 Unst SE2 Clear

Took the 6.30am ferry to Yell only to subsequently hear that 3 Killer Whales swam north through the channel at 8am - very frustrating! More Waders arriving with a flock of c.75 Curlew seen near Uyeasound and Haroldswick beach playing host to 25 Dunlin. A 90 minute seawatch from Lamba Ness produced 6 Turnstone arriving in high off the sea and a Sooty Shearwater flying north at 5pm.

Puffin from the Yell ferry

Turnstone arriving at Lamba Ness

Sooty Shearwater passing Lamba Ness
flying right to left - honest!

Thursday, 21 July 2016

21st July 2016 Rain clearing W1

Steady rain persisted for all of the morning that finally cleared early in the afternoon. In the hope that a few Waders may have been grounded we checked the likely spots and six Sanderling were present on Skaw beach along with 47 Arctic Terns. A seawatch from Lamba Ness produced an adult Little Gull flying north and there was a Green Sandpiper on one of the pools. A trip to Baltasound produced 65 Curlews and a single Whimbrel.

Green Sandpiper at Lamba Ness

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

20th July 2016 Unst SE1 Fog clearing overcast

Awoke to patchy fog and a light southeasterly breeze. Birds can always surprise you - having not seen more than a couple of Twite at Skaw on previous mornings today there were at least 25 and probably more. There were 4 Sanderling and 12 Turnstone on the beach and it was good to see the Eider family were all present and correct, A seawatch from Lamba Ness produced a Manx Shearwater flying north at 8.28am. Norwick only played host to a Chiffchaff with the Common Swift having relocated to Northdale flying around low in the gloomy conditions. An evening seawatch for 30 minutes before rain stopped play failed to produce any more Shearwaters but the following were seen:

Gannet 368 N, 87 S
Fulmar 58 N, 12 S
Shag 9 N
Great Skua 3 N, 11 S
Arctic Tern 14 N
Guillemot 5 N
Puffin 67 N, 6 S

Twite at Skaw

Geo beyond Skaw

Some of the Fulmars have eggs ...

 ... others have large chicks

Fog persisting over Norwick

Common Swift at Northdale

 Juvenile Shetland Wren at Burrafirth

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

19th July 2016 Unst

The Common Swift remains at Norwick and there was a Chiffchaff in song at Setters Hill but otherwise just a couple of Turnstone were seen on the beaches today and the first fully fledged Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Common Gulls.

Great Skuas at Burrafirth
Amongst the Bonxies present at Burrafirth there are some very dark individuals. Such individuals are considered second-summer birds and show rather uniform upperwing-coverts and black underwing-coverts being similar to South Polar Skuas in that respect. That said they do show pale streaks to their scapulars but that would not be so easy to see under typical sea-watching conditions. 

Monday, 18 July 2016

18th July 2016 Unst SE1 Overcast

An early morning visit to Skaw produced 5 Sanderling and 10 Turnstone on the beach there and a Chiffchaff was seen at Norwick. A late afternoon visit to Lamba Ness produced the first Common Swift we have seen on Unst this year and the usual suspects passing out to sea.

Returning Sanderlings and Turnstones on Skaw beach

First-winter Common Snipe G.g. faeroeensis at Lamba Ness
The beautiful rufous form G.g. faeroeensis breeds in Iceland, the Faeroe Islands, Shetland and Orkney

the only surprise passing Lamba Ness today!

Moulting adult Chiffchaff at Norwick

Swallows at Norwick

Common Swift at Norwick