Saturday, 31 March 2018

31st March 2018 Unst E1 Clear then snow

A Chaffinch had arrived in our garden overnight so I popped out of the house at dawn to refill the feeders. As I stepped out of the house a juvenile Iceland Gull was seen following a Common Gull doing a tour of Norwick before heading back out to sea. Skaw produced a Grey Wagtail on the beach and a slight increase in the number of Fieldfares both there and along Holsen's road was evident with the latter also playing host to a Mistle Thrush. On arriving home I was pleased to find a female Hawfinch had joined the female Chaffinch on our feeders. A snowstorm then commenced with heavy snow lasting a couple of hours and even settling. The female Hawfinch continued to binge on the feeders and then sleep in the roses and a male Chaffinch arrived. It then brightened into a glorious blue sky and even a warm day. It appeared that the snowstorm did a good job in grounding some migrants as stepping out of the house the first bird I saw was a Sandwich Tern flying back and forth along the shore - only the second I've seen on Unst! A walk in to the beach produced a female Hawfinch in Norwick that I wondered whether was the same female I'd left at our house? Robbie arrived to look for the Tern and gave me a lift to the beach. We walked to Vaylie where the Hawfinch was still present along with our first Greenfinch of the year. A visitor told us he'd seen a Sand Martin at Westing so Robbie left to take a look for it. I remained at Vaylie finding our first Chiffchaff of the year, a Grey Wagtail flew north. I then returned to the beach where 2 Yellowhammers were now present - another yeartick. Our Hawfinch was still present so quite likely 3 birds were involved today. We next tried Clibberswick where I counted 94 Skylarks in a single flock and nearby my first Pied Wagtail of the year was seen on Haroldswick beach with the 2 Jack Snipe were still performing on the pools. Next stop was Setters Hill where we inadvertently flushed our first Long-eared Owl of the year that flew to the trees of the children's playground. A Water Rail was seen walking around on a lawn near the church and another Chiffchaff was present at Clingera. 

Heron 4
Iceland Gull 1 juvenile
Sandwich Tern 1
Jack Snipe 2
Long-eared Owl 1
Wood Pigeon 3
Pied Wagtail 2
Grey Wagtail 2
Skylark 130 including a flock of 94
Dunnock 1
Robin 8 
Song Thrush 2
Redwing 8
Mistle Thrush 1
Fieldfare 18
Blackbird 25
Chiffchaff 2
Yellowhammer 2
Greenfinch 1 male
Chaffinch 8
Hawfinch 2-3

Grey Wagtail at Skaw

Female Hawfinch at Millfield

hopes for Summer migrants put on hold, or so we thought ...

Sandwich Tern off Millfield

Male Greenfinch at Valyie

Chiffchaff at Valyie

Yellowhammers (left ringed) at Norwick

Long-eared Owl at Setters Hill

Water Rail at Baltasound

Friday, 30 March 2018

30th March 2018 Unst SE1 Clear

I decided I would attempt to keep a rough tally of the number of Thrushes seen today but after driving the Holsen's road to Skaw it was evident that wouldn't prove too onerous as most had clearly departed presumably making the most of a moonlit night. Two Water Rails were seen at Skaw and another was seen in Norwick, 2 Lapwings departed northeast from the headland beyond Skaw, the juvenile Glaucous Gull was seen at Norwick where Freda very kindly stopped and excitedly told us about a male Hawfinch that she had seen in her garden, and by the time we had walked there, she was on hand to point it out to us. Whilst watching it 2 Woodcock flew past us. As we walked back through Norwick we enjoyed the unusual sight of a blue Fulmar flying back and forth over the sheep fields! We walked the beach at Burrafirth this evening seeing a Mistle Thrush and 4 Whooper Swans overflew high and continued high northwest 'bugling' as they went - presumably next stop Iceland... Our final port of call was Haroldswick where 2 Herons were present and a single Jack Snipe and another Heron flew over our house as we arrived home.

Grey Heron 3
Whooper Swan 4 flew high northwest over Burrafirth
blue Fulmar 1 Norwick
Water Rail 3
Woodcock 2
Lapwing 2 flew high northeast from Skaw
Jack Snipe 1
Glaucous Gull juvenile at Norwick
Skylark 62
Robin 11
Dunnock 1
Song Thrush 3
Redwing 32
Mistle Thrush 1
Fieldfare 30
Blackbird 35
Hawfinch 1 male Valyie
Chaffinch 4
Twite 8

Water Rail at Skaw

Male Chaffinch at Skaw

Lapwing heading northeast over Skaw

Male Hawfinch at Valyie, Norwick

 blue Fulmar at Norwick

Four Whooper Swans departing hight northwest over Burrafirth
bon voyage!

Thursday, 29 March 2018

29th March 2018 Unst SE4-5 Overcast but cleared

A strong southeasterly and plenty of rain yesterday was presumably responsible for the good numbers of Blackbirds, Fieldfares and Redwings on the island today that also included 7 Song Thrushes. A walk around Skaw also produced a juvenile Glaucous Gull, a Wood Pigeon and a Snow Bunting. The same Glaucous Gull was then present at Lamba Ness. At Norwick we saw our first Sparrowhawk for the year, we flushed a Woodcock, there were 2 Wood Pigeon, a new Dunnock and our first Goldcrest of the year. The juvenile Iceland Gull was still present at Uyeasound. Nearby we saw a migrant flock of 26 Ringed Plovers in one of the fields towards Muness. Best was saved to last as 2 Jack Snipe were seen busily feeding sewing-machine-style in the open at Haroldswick pools this evening.  

Juvenile Glaucous Gull at Skaw

Juvenile Glaucous Gull at Lamba Ness
clearly using a slightly inferior washing powder to RJF's Iceland Gull today!

Fieldfare, Redwings and Blackbird at Norwick

Fieldfare at Norwick

Goldcrest at Norwick
Our first for the year although Brydon has been watching one successfully overwinter at Halligarth

Woodcock at Norwick

Juvenile Iceland Gull at Uyeasound

Jack Snipes at Haroldswick pools

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

27th March 2018 Unst E6 Overcast

A quick check of Norwick beach this evening produced a Herring Gull with yellow legs and feet.

Herring Gull at Norwick beach
Interestingly Olsen's Gulls book states 5% of argentatus Gulls in Denmark show yellow legs. This evenings' bird's wingtip with a large white tip to p10 and lacking black to p5 would seem a good fit for argentatus.

Monday, 26 March 2018

26th March 2018 Unst W5 Clear

A quick look at Norwick beach this evening produced my first White Wagtail of the year being all the more surprising as I've not seen a Pied Wagtail this year as yet.

Male White Wagtail on Norwick beach

Saturday, 24 March 2018

23 & 24th March 2018 Yell & Unst

Yesterday I saw a Grey Wagtail and a Song Thrush soon after first light at Skaw and a Song Thrush at the Windhouse bod garden on Yell. Today, I failed to find the female King Eider in a quick search at Mid Yell but did see a flock of 35 Fieldfare whilst looking along the north shore of the voe. A quick stop at Easter Loch late this afternoon revealed the juvenile Iceland Gull was still present.

Juvenile Iceland Gull at Easter Loch

Thursday, 22 March 2018

18 - 22nd March 2018 Unst & Yell

Since arriving home there's been a slight increase in the number of Whooper Swans on both islands with the species more scattered on various lochs now. The female Pintail has remained around Uyeasound being seen on Easter Loch. We counted over 100 Long-tailed Ducks on Belmont loch during the WeBs count and I saw c.400 flying around Bluemull Sound today. I saw my first pair of Red-throated Divers back on territory today with now good numbers in Bluemull Sound and various voes including some still in juvenile plumage and a few Great Northern Divers remain on Bluemull. A flock of 3 Herons were seen flying over Snarravoe today and there's regularly been one at Haroldswick pool. My highlight since getting back was a male Hen Harrier seen flying east over the Windhouse bod on Yell today. A Water Rail showed well on a lawn at Uyeasound. Oystercatchers are now everywhere, some displaying and a pair seen copulating today. An obvious increase in Golden Plover too with several large flocks seen throughout Unst now. Also, the largest numbers of Lapwings are on the islands that we've seen since living here presumably cold-weather refugees that arrived whilst we were away. Some Curlews have commenced displaying with others still forming large flocks. Numbers of Black-headed Gulls have increased and the first pair are back on territory at Norwick. Flocks of Common Gulls are now widespread and there are a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls. A juvenile Iceland Gull was present on Easter Loch a couple of days ago and again present there today. A couple of Wood Pigeons are back at Norwick and Skylarks have returned in numbers - I hadn't seen any before leaving in February - whereas flocks of up to 30 are now widespread. There's a good scatter of both Fieldfare and Redwings, a couple of Song Thrushes and we've seen Mistle Thrushes at Norwick, Saxa Vord and 2 at Burrafirth beach. Robbie found a female Stonechat at Burrafirth a couple of days ago that we saw there today and the Dunnock continues in residence at Valyie. We've seen up to 6 Snow Buntings at Norwick beach, 1 at Westing beach and 4 flew over our house today. 

Mistle Thrush at Saxa Vord
Having found a White's and seen 2 Siberian Thrushes it was nice to add Mistle Thrush to my island list!

Female Common Stonechat at Burrafirth

Male Hen Harrier at the Windhouse bod, Yell

Friday, 16 March 2018

16th March 2018 Kinabatangan River, Sabah

Only time for an early morning boat trip before making our long journey home. We first tried the Russan river that produced a surprise male Bornean Banded Kingfisher - it was a new site for the species for Romzi who only knew of a single territory along the Menanggul River that we'd already tried a couple of times without success. We then made a quick sortie along the Menanngul River back to where we had heard Chestnut-necklaced Partridge. Romzi didn't hold out too much hope and sure enough they weren't calling. However, a little further along the river we heard one calling from thick forest along the opposite riverbank. Romzi chose our spot carefully, tied-up and after a short while we obtained a series of views of a pair - a fine end to our trip. We were then a little late back to the homestay where we enjoyed our final breakfast, said our farewells to Romzi and his family who had looked after us so well and were driven back to Sandakan airport through the depressing endless palm oil plantations. Flights then followed to Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpar, London, Edinburgh and Sumburgh where thankfully our car started first time and we were soon on our way home to Unst.

Storm's Stork 1
Lesser Adjutant 1
Brahminy Kite 1

Dawn along the Kinabatangan River

Male Bornean Banded Kingfisher along the Russan River

Lesser Adjutant along the Kinabatangan River

Storm's Stork along the Kinabatangan River

Brahminy Kite along the Kinabatangan River

our final venture along the Menanggul River

Graydon's Chestnut-necklaced Partridge along the Menanggul River

Dragonfly sp. along the Menanggul River

these two were very excited that we were off to the North Pole - well, nearly!

a great send-off after being well looked-after by all at the homestay

Departing the Menanggul homestay

Romzi looking relaxed safe in the knowledge of two very satisfied customers!