Thursday, 18 August 2022

18th August 2022 Unst SE5 Clear

A walk around Norwick produced a surprise when I heard the familiar call of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Locating it took a minute or two as it was calling from out of sight being exactly the other side of a telegraph pole! However, it eventually showed well before flying off towards Valyie. I quickly relocated it there, where it was appearing to feed on the spruce seeds before taking flight again, gaining height and flying west until out of sight, calling as it went. Otherwise there was a Knot on the beach and 2 Willow Warblers.

Juvenile male Northern Great Spotted Woodpecker at Norwick
The first that I've seen on Unst! Birds of Shetland states 'all those seen well enough in the field have had whitish underparts typical of the nominate form from northern Europe and Siberia, and virtually all birds examined in the hand have had measurements typical of this form, which may erupt from its breeding areas in response to variations in food supply, particularly the seeds of pine and spruce'. A recording of it calling here.

Wednesday, 17 August 2022

17th August 2022 Yell N3 Overcast

Whilst completing a marine Diver survey on Yell I saw the eclipse drake King Eider off Basta Ness.

Eclipse drake King Eider off Basta Ness

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

15th August 2022 mainland Shetland & Unst NE2 Overcast

A walk around Clickimin Loch produced 3 Willow Warblers and c.12 Mealy Redpolls including a ringed adult and plenty of juveniles. A late evening look at Skaw added another 2 Willow Warblers.

Mealy Redpolls at Clickimin Loch

14th August 2022 Off NW Shetland SE3 Overcast

An early morning look at Skaw produced a Willow Warbler. I then headed to Lerwick to join the afternoon SOTEAG Eider Survey of the islands in Yell Sound. It was great to be back aboard Shetland Seabird Tours Ayda Ruby II with Captain Phil Harris at the helm. The expert boat-handling necessary to navigate the intricate coastlines of the various uninhabited islands and skerries in the Yell Sound produced not only Eiders but also some good numbers of Arctic Terns congregating before they make their long journey south. Needless to say a few Arctic Skuas were keeping a watchful eye on the Terns. In the virtually calm conditions and without the blanket fog materialising as predicted by some of the weather forecasts the decision was taken to then head offshore northwest from Shetland. A number of trawlers were in the area and there seemed to be increased numbers of Fulmars compared to similar forays offshore last year. Phil picked out a pod of Risso's Dolphins breaching that spent most of their time in view. We were then joined by the first Sooty Shearwater of the day that joined the Fulmars (including a blue) feeding on a chum slick prepared by Glen that was soon attracting European Storm-Petrels too. An adult Pomarine Skua checked us out but decided not to linger. A migrating Meadow Pipit nearly took a break by making a couple of attempts to land on deck. As we headed for Lerwick Phil and Will decided to take a closer look at one of the trawlers that was dragging its net. This proved inspired as in the trawler's wake there was a large flock of hundreds of Fulmars (including several blues), a few Sooty Shearwaters, European Storm-Petrels and best of all a Great Shearwater proving a great finale to the day.

Willow Warbler at Skaw

Eider in Yell Sound
At this time of year Eider are very cryptically-plumaged and can be easily missed

Arctic Terns in Yell Sound

Risso's Dolphins off NW Shetland

blue Fulmar off NW Shetland

Storm Petrels off NW Shetland

Sooty Shearwater off NW Shetland

Pomarine Skua off NW Shetland

Trawler dragging her nets

Fulmars in the wake of the trawler...

...included a few blue Fulmars...

...and then something altogether more exciting - top right...

...exiting stage left...

Great Shearwater off NW Shetland (Will Miles)
Thankfully Will obtained this much superior image (then increasingly cropped)

Friday, 12 August 2022

12th August 2022 Unst S1 Overcast

We were anticipating that Andy Graham would be visiting today to see the Harlequin Duck, so it was a real shame, that after its week-long stay, I couldn't find any sign of it from soon after dawn. A walk around Skaw produced a single Black-tailed Godwit.

Black-tailed Godwit at Skaw

Norwick Taing and the would-be Harlequin admirers
Today's 'negative news' hasn't dissuaded some travelling from as far away as Somerset to visit tomorrow 

Patrick Lanaway kindly sent me an image of the very first issue of Twitching with Richard Millington's portrayal of the 1987 Sullom Voe Harlequin on its front cover. I didn't subscribe until April so unfortunately haven't got the first three issues - donations very welcome!!

Saturday, 6 August 2022

6th August 2022 Unst

Britain's 18th, Shetland's 4th and Unst's first record of Harlequin Duck remained in situ. A day spent working on Unst and Yell with 4 White Wagtails seen on the former.

Drake Harlequin at Norwick

Friday, 5 August 2022

5th August 2022 Unst W4 Sunny spells

After a very busy couple of months both guiding and surveying without much time spent 'proper' birding at last I had a day off. The downside was the near-constant westerly, northwesterly airflow looked unpromising to produce any passerine migrants. I decided to walk to Valyie and back just in case... as I approached Norwick beach it was obvious the tide was out and the exposed green weed had attracted a gathering of Black-headed Gulls. I scanned through them ever-hopeful that last year's Bonaparte's Gull might still make a late return. No such luck with just a 'dark' Mallard among them that I scrutinised after the events earlier this year (Brydon's Black Duck). As I lowered my bins another more distant Duck caught my eye... it looked like a drake Harlequin, but on lifting my bins I anticipated it being an abhorrent hybrid Mallard... it wasn't!!

Drake Harlequin Duck at Norwick
Forever an iconic rarity for those of us of a certain generation, a superb sea-duck that, if I recall correctly, graced the cover of the first issue of Twitching depicting the first-winter drake present in Sullom Voe in 1987. I had to wait another 4 years before seeing the female on the river at Wick. Subsequently I've been fortunate to see many hundreds in Alaska, Japan and Kamchatka including plenty of drakes, but the species has never lost its appeal. To find a drake in the UK... very occasionally dreams do come true!