Saturday, 7 January 2017

7th January 2017 Sandwick to Unst Overcast but calm

After disembarking the overnight ferry from Aberdeen at 7.30am our first stop was Sandwick where we spent nearly an hour awaiting sunrise on what proved a calm mild day. Walking along the road bordering the partially flooded stubble field produced 20 Lapwings, 20 Redshank, 10 Turnstone and an overflying flock of 35 Golden Plover before locating the wintering first-winter Killdeer. More of a surprise was seeing a farmer deliberately flushing a flock of 25 Greylag Geese by firing flares into the sky. The Geese flew over us and we picked out 2 White-fronted Geese among them that landed a mile away where views on the deck revealed them to be an adult and first-winter European White-fronts - nice but not nearly as gripping as the Pett Taiga Bean Geese! A quick visit to Muckle Roe proved third-time unlucky as we again failed to see Mark's drake Green-winged Teal with just 25 Wigeon and 4 Tufted Duck being present. Toft to Ulsta produced at least 15 Black Guillemots but no sign of the Killer Whales seen here yesterday. The ferry crossing from Gutcher to Belmont added a smart drake Long-tailed Duck. Haroldswick beach produced 2 Ringed Plovers and 8 Rock Doves. In light of the recent gales we were pleased to see the recently-planted Willows were still in our garden (!) as was the Robin along with 2 Redwings and 25 Twite. I saw 23 species on Unst so I won't be rivaling Matt anytime soon!

 First-winter Killdeer at Sandwick
Whilst clearly attempting to winter in its favoured stubble field at Sandwick, Killdeer is one of the earliest Spring migrants among North American waders with Spring migration commencing in February so it might not linger much longer...  that said, the previous one I saw on Shetland was present intermittently from April 2007 to April 2008 and clearly paired to a Ringed Plover when I saw it.

First-winter and adult European White-fronted Geese with Greylag Geese at Sandwick

Adult European White-fronted Geese at Sandwick

Adult and first-winter Black Guillemots off Toft

First-winter Black Guillemot off Toft

Adult-winter Black Guillemots off Toft

 Second-winter Kittiwake off Ulsta
On this individual P5 shows a small black tip so proves a close match to Pacific Kittiwakes seen off Japan