Wednesday, 31 January 2018

31st January 2018 Unst Calm with passing showers

A Song Thrush at Norwick was an addition for the year this week and the scatter of Fieldfares and Redwings remain. A tour of the island today revealed a large influx of Gulls into the bays that included a Glaucous Gull and 2 Iceland Gulls at Norwick and 2 Glaucous Gulls at Haroldswick. There was also an adult Whooper Swan at Dam Loch, 20 Snow Buntings at Caldback and the drake Shoveler at Hillsgarth.

Juvenile Glaucous Gull at Norwick

Iceland Gulls at Norwick

Part of the flock of Gulls at Haroldswick ...

... included a couple more juvenile Glaucous Gulls

Snow Buntings at Caldback

Oystercatcher at Baltasound

Thursday, 25 January 2018

25th January 2018 Unst & Yell Calm

I waited for the rain to clear and then made my way south across Unst seeing a juvenile Iceland Gull at Dam Loch and a second-winter at Uyeasound where the 5 White-fronted Geese were still present and there was a sign of Spring in the form of my first returning Oystercatcher of the year! Crossing Bluemull produced a Great Northern Diver, 2 Red-throated Divers, c.20 Long-tailed Ducks, the female Velvet Scoter accompanying 2 Common Scoter and the drake Surf Scoter among the Eider. A quick visit to Cullivoe added another juvenile Iceland Gull and I saw the female King Eider still near the mussel lines in Mid Yell Voe.

Second-winter Iceland Gull at Uyeasound

Monday, 22 January 2018

22nd January 2018 Unst SW1 Overcast

Four WeBS counts completed today producing 5 European White-fronted Geese at Uyeasound, a Water Rail at Clibberswick, a 2w Glaucous Gull at Lund, a juvenile Glaucous Gull at Norwick and a dead juvenile Glaucous Gull on Lamba Ness.

European White-fronted Geese at Uyeasound

Friday, 19 January 2018

19th January 2018 Yell

A second-winter Glaucous Gull was seen on leaving Belmont for Gutcher.

The Windhouse, Yell
allegedly the most-haunted house in Shetland!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

16th January 2018 Unst SW1 Snow

Overnight snow persisted all day conjuring up thoughts of Gyrs and Snowy Owls but the best we saw were a few Redwings and Fieldfares! In recent days we've seen have been 3 juvenile Whooper Swans at Norwick, 4 Barnacle Geese at Skaw, a Moorhen at Norwick, a Woodcock at North Dale, a juvenile Glaucous Gull at Dam Loch, a Dunnock at Norwick and a flighty flock of c.12 Snow Buntings at Skeggie.

Norwick bay from our kitchen window

.Lamba Ness under threatening skies from our garden

Monday, 8 January 2018

8th January 2018 Yell SW5 Clear

The 'MV Geira' had developed an engine fault so I sailed to work on the MV Bigga via the Bluemull Sound. Only 12 Long-tailed Ducks were seen, a female Velvet Scoter was a surprise and it was nice to pick out the regularly returning drake Surf Scoter among a tight flock of Eider. A single juvenile Glaucous Gull was seen flying east through the sound.

Long-tailed Ducks in the Bluemull Sound

Female Velvet Scoter in the Bluemull Sound
After the events of last Autumn it was nice to appreciate the concave culmen.

Adult drake Surf Scoter in the Bluemull Sound

Sunday, 7 January 2018

7th January 2018 Unst SW4 Overcast

Brydon kindly collected me again and on our way to Lamba Ness we saw 5 Snow Buntings and 3 Redwings above Braeview. We sea-watched for around 2 hours seeing 2 Red-throated Divers, 15 Kittiwakes and 20 Common Guillemots flying north and a juvenile Glaucous Gull flying south. On dropping me home there was a Great Northern Diver present off Norwick beach. Decided to tour the south of the island again despite the inclement weather and as we passed Dam Loch there were 2 Glaucous Gulls present and Easter Loch was playing host to a Glaucous Gull and 2 Iceland Gulls. On our return north a Merlin was seen chasing a Fieldfare across the road.

Snow Buntings above Braeview

Glaucous Gulls at Dam Loch

Herring Gulls and Iceland Gull at Easter Loch

Glaucous and Iceland Gulls at Easter Loch

Saturday, 6 January 2018

6th January 2018 Unst NW4 Overcast

Brydon kindly collected me and we then sat seawatching at Lamba Ness for a good 3 hours. We saw a single Red-throated Diver, 3 blue Fulmars, c.4 Glaucous Gulls, c.15 Kittiwakes and c.15 Common Guillemots all moving north. We then checked Skaw seeing c.6 Redwing on the drive and there. Norwick was better with 2 Mealy Redpolls and 6 Chaffinches. A female Pintail was present on Easter Loch, the drake Goosander had joined a flock of 15 Mergansers on the adjacent sea and 2 Iceland Gulls were around the offshore fish cages. A single drake Long-tailed Duck was on Loch of Belmont.

blue Fulmar passing Lamba Ness

Adult Glaucous Gull passing Lamba Ness

Female Pintail at Easter Loch
Last year I didn't see one on Unst until April

Friday, 5 January 2018

5th January 2018 Unst NE3 overcast

Tried another early morning seawatch from Lamba Ness that soon produced a juvenile Glaucous Gull flying south followed by an adult flying north literally a couple of minutes later. At 10.25 I then picked out 3 Auks heading towards me with the trailing bird appearing to show the classic head-pattern of a winter-plumaged Brunnich's Guillemot and a short thick bill. Unfortunately I couldn't see a whitish line along its gape but I still decided to try and quickly obtain some images - then trying to look at the 'back of the camera' they appeared of poor quality. Otherwise, I saw c.300 Fulmars, c.50 Gannets, 3 Kittiwakes and 3 more Guillemots all flying north before feeling hypothermia might be about to set in! Another Beached Bird Survey to complete then sent us heading south where a check of Easter Loch produced a drake Goosander, just 2 Goldeneye and a loafing Iceland Gull. Easting Beach was walked, despite the increasing northeasterly wind, and 4 more white-winged Gulls (2 Glaucous & 2 Iceland) were present.

Juvenile Glaucous Gull passing Lamba Ness

Adult winter Glaucous Gull passing Lamba Ness

Two Common Guillemots and Brunnich's Guillemot passing Lamba Ness
Images simply cropped. My attention was drawn to the bird by virtue of its apparently ‘classic’ winter-plumaged Brunnich’s head pattern - consisting of wholly dark ear-coverts lacking any white behind eye, simply showing a restricted poorly demarcated ‘dusky’ whitish throat contrasting with a broad dark collar - and a short thick bill – the two accompanying Guillemots bills appeared long and narrow by comparison, particularly the w/p individual. Interestingly, to my mind, the image conveys the trailing bird appearing slightly more contrastingly black-and-white than the two very slightly browner/greyer Common Guillemots.


Brunnich's Guillemot passing Lamba Ness
Enlarged it has an unfamiliar feel for someone used to seeing passing Guillemots and Razorbills in showing a noticeable forehead, short strong bill, curving upper mandible with bill held subtly pointing downwards and a thickset, pot-bellied appearance.

In addition to the structural similarities of its head-shape and bill-shape and the plumage similarities of its head-pattern, the Razorbill-like white rump-sides inflecting upwards where they ‘meet’ the trailing edge of the wing seems a close match to the Brunnich’s Guillemot rather than rather messy rear flank pattern shown by the Common Guillemot in the left image.

Accompanying Common Guillemots passing Lamba Ness

The w/p Guillemot (top left) shows its distinctive dark armpits and the s/p individual (top right) some ‘dirty’ flank markings. By comparison the trailing individual (bottom right) shows a minimal dark bar on its armpits and unmarked white flanks similar to the Brunnich’s (bottom left). It is also interesting to note the similarity in the pot-bellied appearance and even ‘feet carriage’ conveyed by the birds in the lower two images despite the difference in angle.

Images simply cropped – no other adjustments. Dutch (accepted) fly-by Brunnich’s Guillemot (left) and today’s bird passing Lamba Ness (right).

Drake Goosander on Easter Loch

Herring Gull and Iceland Gull at Easter Loch

Two Iceland Gulls and a Glaucous Gull at Easting Beach

An image for my Mum !

Thursday, 4 January 2018

4th January 2018 Unst & Yell NE2 Clear

I seawatched from Lamba Ness early morning for 30 minutes seeing plenty of Fulmars and Gannets offshore, 5 Kittiwakes flying north, a juvenile Glaucous Gull flying north and what I considered was a second-winter Iceland Gull that images reveal was showing characters of Kumlien's Gull also flying north. I then headed to work on Yell seeing a drake Goosander on Sand Water, juvenile Glaucous Gulls at Gutcher and Basta and the female King Eider, albeit rather distantly, in Mid Yell Voe.

Juvenile Glaucous Gull passing Lamba Ness

Iceland Gull passing Lamba Ness
The above two images have simply been cropped whereas the top image has also been lightened. Presumably the contrast between the dark uppersides to its outer primaries and its pale inner primaries suggest that it was actually a Kumlien's Gull. With many thanks to both JFC & BHT for sharing their thoughts on these poor images.

Herring Gull and female King Eider at Mid Yell Voe
I wasn't the only one watching the King Eider, as when it successfully brought a mussel to the surface, the Herring Gull would immediately swoop down on it and rob it of its prey.