Thursday, 31 January 2019

31st January 2019 Unst SE3 Overcast

Awoke to plenty of snow still on the ground presumably responsible for 2 Redwings being present in our garden. A walk to Norwick was mistimed as it coincided with hail/sleet/rain! All that I saw was a Great Northern Diver, 15 Snipe, 5 Golden Plover and 10 Lapwings.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

30th January 2019 Unst Calm and clear

A bright sunny day but with a dusting of overnight snow persisting all day. Walking a few flowing ditches resulted in seeing c.30 Common Snipes. A walk to Valyie and back produced almost the same birds as yesterday including the European White-fronted Goose and Dunnock!


Norwick meadow

Norwick from Valyie

First-winter European White-fronted Goose with Greylags

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

29th January 2019 Unst NW1 Overcast

A frosty dawn with an early hail shower but brightening into a sunny calm day when it was nice to be out. A walk to Valyie and back produced a European White-fronted Goose with the Greylags, an incoming flock of 12 Lapwings and my first Dunnock of the year that is no doubt attempting to winter at Valyie.

Norwick mires from the top of the ravine at Valyie

a wintry Valyie

Snowdrops at Valyie
the first I've seen in flower this year

Raven at Norwick
Being the Up Helly Aa in Lerwick today it seemed rather apt that Ravens were displaying in the nice weather

First-winter European White-fronted Goose with Greylags at Norwick
It is developing its white blaze typical for the time of year and is already sporting some black blotches on its flanks.

Lapwings over Norwick
arriving from the direction of the sea are they perhaps the first hint of a cold weather movement?

Monday, 28 January 2019

28th January 2019 Unst NNW3 Overcast

There was too much ice on Holsen's road for me to make it to Lamba Ness. We therefore drove south looking at Haroldswick, Westing and Uyeasound all of which were quiet. On our return through Baltasound a scan of the flock of Greylag Geese opposite Nordalea revealed the continued presence of the 2 Tundra Bean Geese.

Lunda Wick from Underhoull

Golden Plovers at Westing

Tundra Bean Goose at Baltasound

Sunday, 27 January 2019

27th January 2019 Unst NE4 Wintry showers

A cold brisk northeasterly had me heading for Lamba Ness, but in an hour, all that I saw among a small number of Gannets and Fulmars was a blue Fulmar, 15 Kittiwakes, a Black Guillemot and 10 Common Guillemots all flying north. Our Water Rail was a little braver today, venturing further out from cover and onto the lawn, where it was seen to pull out an earthworm.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

26th January 2019 Unst NNW2 Overcast

With the wind at dawn being much lighter than forecast I wasn't expecting to see much from Lamba Ness so 2 blue Fulmars flying north in an hour were almost a surprise. The monthly beached bird surveys had us head for Norwick, Burrafirth and Easting where a Skylark at the latter is only the second I've seen this year. The flock of Snow Buntings at Upper Sotland numbered 15 today. A visit to Underhoull late in the afternoon produced a juvenile Iceland Gull.

Juvenile Iceland Gull at Underhoull

Friday, 25 January 2019

25th January 2019 Unst W3 Wintry showers

With a brisk wind and frequent showers I didn't venture far seeing the juvenile Glaucous Gull at Norwick and a juvenile Iceland Gull at Haroldswick.


Thursday, 24 January 2019

24th January 2019 Unst SW1 Clear

After a good showing of the northern lights over a snowy Norwick last night we awoke to a covering of snow although it was the associated black ice that made leaving the door to our house difficult! I walked a few ditches with running water down to Norwick beach where I saw a Great Northern Diver and a juvenile Glaucous Gull that flew off out to sea.


Wednesday, 23 January 2019

23rd January 2019 Unst W1 Clear

After a frosty dawn with some black ice it soon became a beautiful clear sunny day feeling almost Spring-like with Starlings singing. A walk along Norwick beach produced a juvenile and a second-winter Glaucous Gull among the masses of Gulls feeding on what appeared to be thousands of small maggots along the tideline. We then drove south stopping to scan the flock of Gulls feeding in a similar manner at Haroldswick. Next stop was Lund where we walked out to The Nev scanning the wick and enjoying the views of west Unst. We then toured the Uyeasound sites with Goldeneye displaying in the sunshine now back on Easter Loch that is again clear of ice.

View of west Unst with Flubersgerdie in the distance

Lunda Wick

Distant trio of Red-throated Divers in Lunda Wick
Winter records only became annual on Unst from 1998 per Birds of Shetland

Pair of Common Goldeneye at Easter Loch

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

22nd January 2019 Unst W1 Rain

Another cold front arrived this morning and I failed to see a single Glaucous Gull all day! The rain persisted so we didn't spend long in the field with us just seeing a juvenile Iceland Gull at Norwick, 4 Common Scoter sat on the sea off Haroldswick and our first Meadow Pipit of the year on the road there.

Bordanoost (left) overlooking today's assemblage of Gulls

Gulls enjoying the very high tide at Haroldswick today

Meadow Pipit at Haroldswick
Fair Isle recorded their first for the year on the 17th January.

Monday, 21 January 2019

21st January 2019 Unst SW4 Overcast

With no sign of any incoming Gulls at Norwick we headed to Haroldswick seeing single juvenile and adult Glaucous Gulls there. We next tried Burrafirth where we saw just a single adult Glaucous Gull. At Loch of Belmont we enjoyed watching the calling drake Long-tailed Ducks making their short display flights over the females as described in BWP. Easter Loch was free of ice today and again playing host to the 2w Iceland Gull. As we drove back north we saw the roadside flock of c.20 Snow Buntings at Caldback. 

Gulls at Haroldswick

Adult Glaucous Gull at Haroldswick
A rather round-headed individual that almost invites confusion with Iceland Gull but note how its primaries only just extend past the tip of its tail. The winter plumage of this individual appears restricted to showing small brown spots to its head.

Juvenile Glaucous Gull at Haroldswick
The combination of its black-tipped pink bill and dark eye safely age it as a juvenile.

Adult winter Glaucous Gull at Burrafirth
Winter plumage is characterised by the varying amount of brown streaks and spots on the head sometimes extending onto the breast-sides as shown by this individual. The bill is also paler yellow with a paler orange spot on the gonys than in summer.

 Juvenile Kittiwake at Lund

Display-flighting Long-tailed Duck at Loch of Belmont

Snow Buntings at Caldback

Sunday, 20 January 2019

20th January 2019 Unst SW2 Clear at first

The weather at dawn was better than forecast, and in what felt a rather uninspiring light and mild southwesterly wind, I took the opportunity to start gardening. At 9.40am I heard some Great Black-backed Gulls calling, and being easily distracted from gardening, I looked across Norwick and could see a flock of Gulls arriving... were we in for a repeat of yesterday? Instead, today there was a steady stream of Gulls arriving and in the next 25 minutes I estimated 500 Herring Gulls, 100 Great Black-backed Gulls and counted 10 Glaucous Gulls. It started raining, and although the main thrust of the arrival was over, by 2pm we'd seen a total of 15 Glaucous Gulls. Whilst the ageing won't be an exact science, as some were at a range where any third-winter's would likely have been overlooked as adults and some juveniles/second-winters can be tricky, my best stab at ageing them was 5 adults, 3 second-winters and 7 juveniles. I'd also seen my first Peregrine of the year. At c.2pm Robbie kindly sent a message to say that he was watching a flock of c.1,000 Gulls viewed from the south end of the Loch of Cliff among which he could see c.10 white-wingers. We therefore decided we'd head for Burrafirth, but just as we'd donned our coats, Brydon sent a message to say Rory had let him know that a dead Sperm Whale had been washed ashore at Underhoull that was quickly followed-up with an image from Connel making the whale appear huge. We therefore headed to Underhoull meeting Robbie and Catriona there and seeing our only Iceland Gull of the day - a juvenile. After viewing the dead Whale we then made a dash for Burrafirth arriving just before dusk in time to see 5 Glaucous Gulls on the beach.

click to enlarge!

Gulls arriving at Norwick

Robbie, Catriona & dead Whale at Underhoull

Four of the five Glaucous Gulls at Burrafirth beach

With a similar arrival of Glaucous Gulls witnessed on the 10/1/2017 - that time in a light westerly wind - it's perhaps interesting to look at today's weather charts and speculate whether the arrival was a direct result of the Gulls moving just ahead of (or on) the cold front that arrived at about the same time on Shetland today.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

19th January 2019 Unst Calm & clear

Another beautiful calm and clear day but with the forecast not looking so good for tomorrow we decided to complete the WeBS counts for Norwick and Burrafirth. The morning was dominated by a trickle of incoming Gulls at Norwick that numbered c.300 Great Black-backed Gulls and c.200 Herring Gulls including a high percentage of argentatus. Looking through them as best we could we saw 3 Glaucous Gulls (2 juv & a 2w) and a juvenile Iceland Gull. Similar arrivals usually spanning the entire morning have been seen on nice bright sunny days in past winters. Are these birds arriving from an offshore trawler fleet or from further afield? I guess we'll never know... Otherwise the most notable birds we saw were 2 Diver sp. flying distantly north past Lamba Ness, a Red-throated Diver, a Great Northern Diver and 11 Goldeneye on the sea at Burrafirth and 2 Water Rails at Norwick. 

Haroldswick from Upper Sotland

Great Black-backed & Herring Gulls arriving at Norwick

Water Rail at Norwick