Monday, 30 January 2017

30th January 2017 Sound Gruney, Bluemull Sound

With only needing to work for 'half a day' on Yell today with it being a calm clear morning it seemed an ideal opportunity to take the ferry to Yell via Fetlar to have a look out in the Bluemull Sound. That paid off handsomely when an adult-winter White-billed Diver appeared in view just south of Sound Gruney. Fortunately the ferry passed quite closely and the Diver remained on the surface of the water allowing for a few images to be obtained. Otherwise a blue Fulmar, c.300 Long-tailed Ducks, c.300 Eider, 4 Common Scoter and 2 Glaucous Gulls (ad & juv) were seen.

Eider in Bluemull Sound

Common Scoter in Bluemull Sound

 Adult winter White-billed Diver off Sound Gruney, Bluemull Sound

Only first described in 1859 by George Robert Gray in Proc. Zool. Soc. London 27:167. ‘Description of a new species of Diver’ that can be read by courtesy of the brilliant online biodiversity library by scrolling to p.167. Then appeared the fascinating 15 page account ‘On the Occurrence of White-billed Diver in Norway’ by Prof. R. Collett in Ibis in 1894 that also detailed notes on its identification, ageing and included the above colour plate.

Monday, 23 January 2017

23rd January 2017 Unst W1

Skies had cleared pre-dawn and as I walked to my car I flushed a Jack Snipe that landed not far away but out of sight. The Pink-footed Goose had returned to Inner Skaw keeping company with the Greylags there. A colourful sunrise was enjoyed from Lamba Ness where I sea-watched from 9.00am to 10.00am where among a fair northerly passage of both Fulmars and Gannets I saw a superb Little Auk whizzing its way north at  9.12am, a juvenile Glaucous Gull flying north, 4 blue Fulmars moving north, Kittiwakes 13N, 9S, Guillemots 2S and distant Auks (Guillemots/Razorbills) 13N, 13S, Another juvenile Glaucous Gull was sat along the cliffs of Lamba Ness and the blue Fulmar was still holding territory there. The 4 Tundra Bean Geese were still present at Norwick but there was no sign of the Puffin in the bay but a Great Northern Diver. Haroldswick bay produced another Great Northern Diver. A visit to the Post Office in Baltasound produced our first encounter of the year with 14 of the Common Redpolls wintering there and the 2 Slavonian Grebes seen by Mike P in the voe yesterday were still present albeit distant today. We then tried walking east from Belmont where a flock of several hundred Eider were seen distantly in the Bluemull Sound and a flock of 165 Long-tailed Ducks flew east and a flock of 65 Golden Plover were seen flying around.

Trawler distantly off Lamba Ness
Mark wondered if the Unst Glaucous Gulls were feeding around offshore trawlers and this digiscoped image of a distant trawler surrounded by a swarm of Gulls suggests just that!

Juvenile Glaucous Gull at Lamba Ness

 Blue Fulmar at Lamba Ness

Tundra Bean Geese at Norwick

Mealy Redpolls at Baltasound

Belmont house viewed from the east

 Dusk over a calm Bluemull Sound

Sunday, 22 January 2017

22nd January 2017 Unst W2 Overcast

Another mild dry day with nothing more than a gentle breeze proving ideal conditions to complete the two north Unst WeBS counts that yielded some distant Auks seen flying around the cliff faces of outer Burrafirth for the first time this year and a couple of surprises in the form of a Common Scoter at Quoys and a winter-plumaged Puffin continually diving for prey in Norwick bay. Glaucous Gulls seen comprised 3 adults and 2 juveniles at Loch of Cliff, 4 juveniles at Skaw and 2 juveniles at Lamba Ness and the 4 Tundra Bean Geese remain in residence at Norwick. 

Loch of Cliff & Burrafirth

Loch of Cliff

 Juvenile / female Common Scoter at Quoys

Saturday, 21 January 2017

21st January 2017 Yell W2

Another day spent working on Yell in the unseasonably mild conditions. The highlight of the day were several flocks of fast-flying Long-tailed Ducks seen from the ferry between Belmont and Gutcher.

Long-tailed Ducks off Belmont

Friday, 20 January 2017

20th January 2017 Yell W2-3 Overcast

An overcast but very mild day at work although a quick check of Mid Yell produced a juvenile and 3w Iceland Gull.

Raven checking me or my sandwiches out!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

19th January 2017 Unst W4

No sooner do I ponder on whether most of the Glaucous Gulls have moved-on and there is a return to form today as I found a juvenile dead at Skaw, 2 juveniles and a second-winter at Burrafirth and see 2 juveniles and an Iceland Gull fly south past Westing and Brydon finds a flock of 18 Glaucous Gulls and 3 Iceland Gulls at Belmont! Otherwise the 4 Tundra Bean Geese remain at Norwick and 14 Teal were present on the floods and we saw 4 Otters playing together near Baltasound.

An image that I know my Mum will enjoy!

 Second-winter Glaucous Gull at Burrafirth
Juveniles seen thus far this winter are still appearing fresh with the pale eye and bill tip and patchy appearance of its underparts being a mixture of old and new feathers ageing this individual as a 2w.

Dead juvenile Glaucous Gull at Skaw
Sadly the second Glaucous Gull I've found dead at Skaw

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

18th January 2017 Unst W6 Overcast

Miserable weather with a strong westerly wind combined with persistent drizzly rain. Despite the weather an adult Iceland Gull and a juvenile Glaucous Gull were seen battling their way into the wind arriving in off the sea at Norwick where there was a Great Northern Diver sat offshore.

Juvenile Iceland Gull at Baltasound Pier on 15/1

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

17th January 2017 Yell & Unst W2 Overcast

A day at work on Yell but did manage to see 6 Whooper Swans and a female-type Merlin and find 2 juvenile Iceland Gulls in my lunch break at Mid Yell. Literally in the last glimmers of dusk (now being gone 4pm) the 4 Tundra Bean Geese were again present at Norwick.

Whooper Swan near Gutcher on Yell

Juvenile Iceland Gull at Mid Yell

Sunday, 15 January 2017

15th January 2017 Unst SE1

The snow melted during the nice calm morning but not before finding a Jack Snipe sat beside a stream that frustratingly flew just as I reached for the camera. A total of 5 Common Snipe were also flushed and there was a Robin, Redwing and Chaffinch in our garden. A walk to Norwick added an offshore Great Northern Diver, a Water Rail and another 7 Chaffinches. A trip to buy some milk resulted in finding a juvenile Iceland Gull at Baltasound pier where a juvenile Glaucous Gull flew over and there were also 2 Great Northern Divers offshore and 5 Dunlin feeding on the houb. A drive down to Uyeasound where Easter Loch had remained partially ice-free playing host to a drake Goosander with a second drake seen just offshore.

Juvenile Iceland Gull at Baltasound Pier

Drake Goosander at Easter Loch

Sunset looking southwest from mid-Unst

Saturday, 14 January 2017

14th January 2017 Unst NW6

Awoke to a light dusting of snow. Didn't venture far with the only notable birds seen being single juvenile Glaucous and Iceland Gulls present in Norwick bay.

Norwick Bay from the warmth of our living room!

Friday, 13 January 2017

13th January 2017 Unst NW10 Wintry showers

The forecast 'arctic blast' duly arrived but although the wind was very strong there was very little associated snow. Norwick bay played host to a feeding melee of Gulls that included at least 10 Glaucous Gulls (ad, 2w, 8 juv) but there was no sign of the Tundra Bean Geese - presumably frozen out. Lund bay produced a juvenile Glaucous Gull. Uyeasound produced the surprise of the day with 3 drake Goosander sat on the sea. Belmont produced several flocks of incoming Long-tailed Ducks probably amounting to around 30 individuals. Burrafirth beach played host to a juvenile Iceland Gull and 4 Glaucous Gulls (2 ad & 2 juv) and the Fieldfare was still present. On getting home to Millfield a Pink-footed Goose (presumably from Lamba Ness) flew over and was seen to land at Norwick where it joined the Greylags. Another quick check of the beach produced 9 Purple Sandpipers.

Norwick bay with Gulls feeding along the swell

 Second-winter Glaucous Gull at Norwick

Nine Glaucous Gulls at Norwick
click to enlarge!

Drake Goosander off Uyeasound

Pink-footed Goose at Norwick

Starling joining the Waders

 Juvenile Great Northern Diver at Norwick

Haroldswick Bay and Clibberswick