Friday, 28 April 2017

28th April 2017 Unst NE1 Clear

Mark Chapman has seen several White-billed Divers and some very impressive Spring movements of Skuas from the west coast of Shetland at Esha Ness over the years. A downside of living on Unst is the difficulty in accessing the west coast of the island, but after much encouragement from Mark, with today's switch to anticyclonic conditions I felt a few Arctic Skuas might be on the move especially having seen 2 dark-morphs together on Yell yesterday so it seemed a good day for a recce. Looking at the map, Flubergerdie seemed to offer the shortest walk to the optimal Birling / Bridges of Ross height of cliff albeit the walk across boggy and hilly terrain still took 75 minutes. Bonxies, Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins were all seen milling around but a couple of flocks of Kittiwakes did give the impression that they were on the move. Attempting to dry my wet socks and boots on a sunny rock was resulting in cold bare feet and I was regretting not taking a flask and something to eat. Without any Arctic Skuas it was beginning to look like 'pain for no gain' when at 7.55am a stunning summer-plumaged adult White-billed Diver came into view, high in the sky, approaching from the south at medium range. Having read of how their bills can all too easily 'disappear' against both sky and sea, with perfect lighting and viewing conditions looking due west, this one's bill stood out like a beacon! I rattled off a few record shots before continuing to watch it through the scope fly north. Brilliant. After returning home, and in need of a rest, a comfortably-seated seawatch from Lamba Ness seemed the ideal solution with plenty of northbound flocks of Auks to keep the interest. The wind veered east and in Spring-like weather there were more Wheatears in evidence, Skaw produced a Redwing, a Chiffchaff and 2 Brambling, Norwick a Sparrowhawk and a Chiffchaff, Burrafirth a bleached immature Iceland Gull on the beach only seen at range and another Chiffhcaff, and with Haroldswick producing the first Swallow of the year this evening.


the walk back

looking south along the west coast of Unst

Adult summer-plumaged White-billed Diver passing Flubergerdie

Puffins off Flubergerdie
these two were frequently gliding on raised wings presumably being part of their display

Presumably the same individual that we saw last Summer again sat among Fulmars

Brambling at Skaw

Sparrowhawk and Hooded Crow at Norwick