Thursday, 28 February 2019

28th February 2019 Unst N1 Light cloud

Brydon phoned to say he'd found a flock of Redpolls in Baltasound that consisted of a Lesser, several Mealy Redpolls and a Coues's Arctic Redpoll. By the time I arrived the flock had split, and whilst we refound the Lesser and 10 Mealy Redpolls around c.500m away, frustratingly we couldn't refind the Coues's.

Male Mealy Redpoll at Baltasound

Mealy Redpoll at Baltasound

Lesser Redpoll at Baltasound

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

27th February 2019 Unst E1 Hazy

Another lovely day to be out birding with a hazy start to the morning soon clearing. Whilst driving to Skaw I saw a male Stonechat sat on a roadside fence along Holsens road - my first for the year but not totally unexpected with a few seen across Orkney and Shetland in recent days. There was a Song Thrush present at Skaw and another at North Dale. A total of 10 Meadow Pipits around Haroldswick is my first double-figure count of the year. However, I only saw a measly 4 Skylarks today in stark contrast to the 576 seen on North Ronaldsay yesterday!

Male Stonechat along the Holsens road
A scarce, though annual Spring migrant in Shetland

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

26th February 2019 Lea Gardens, mainland Shetland

With Mike McKee relocating the Tengmalm's Owl at Lea Gardens, Tresta yesterday and news of its continued presence there this morning it seemed timely to make another visit. It was good the see Brian Minshull and Ken Shaw there and also Mike, who had stayed overnight. Mike kindly attached my camera to his lens that was set in pole position so I could obtain some better images of the Owl than I managed on my visit to Tumblin with Brydon exactly a week ago. Richard Thewlis was busy painting the bird and Dave Jackson arrived from a tour of a few other locations and as dusk approached the number of observers swelled. As the Owl left its roost it duly obliged by sitting in the open on the edge of the tree before flying to another nearby. Right at dark it then flew to a tree within c.5m of the crowd before flying off low over our heads towards the house.

Tengmalm's Owl at its day roost in Lea Gardens
With grateful thanks to Mike McKee for allowing me use of his lens to obtain the above images and here's a link to Mike's twitter for his brilliant video obtained this evening.

Tengmalm's Owl at Lea Gardens, Tresta
on leaving its day roost it took on a whole new persona

today's twitch was a very relaxed affair ...

... with Richard painting and Mike photographing in the warm February sunshine ...

... all to the backdrop of a chorus of frogs!
Prey items of Tengmalm's Owls are mainly small rodents, especially voles. They also eat lemmings, shrews, mice, and moles. They occasionally take small birds, squirrels, bats, frogs and beetles.

Monday, 25 February 2019

25th February 2019 Yell W2 Clear

On leaving our house I saw my first Lesser Black-backed Gull of the year - a smart adult walking the field in front of ours. After the early morning mist had cleared it was a beautiful day to be walking the hills on Yell where I saw my first displaying Curlews of the year and small groups of Oystercatchers chasing each other around calling. Spring is slowly arriving!

Saturday, 23 February 2019

23rd February 2019 Unst S4 Overcast

A windy overcast morning that felt colder than of late being a reminder that it's still February! With the monthly beached bird surveys to complete we visited Norwick and Burrafirth seeing a Snow Bunting at the cattle grid at the burn at the latter and 2 Skylarks flying south over the Shore Station. A look at North Dale produced another 2 Skylarks and a flock of 11 Redwings. With Gulls gathering off Norwick this afternoon I joined Robbie looking through them seeing 2 Iceland Gulls.

the galley at dawn ready for the Norwick Up Helly Aa this evening

Gulls at Norwick including juvenile Iceland Gull top right

Adult Iceland Gull at Norwick

Norwick Up Helly Aa procession down the hillside

the galley and the jarl

the squads

burning of the galley

Colin the Guizer Jarl

Our close neighbour Al

Brydon & Nula enjoying the fireworks

Friday, 22 February 2019

22nd February 2019 Unst S3 Overcast

After fog at dawn very quickly cleared it was a beautiful sunny morning to be out birding albeit the wind picked up and the cloud rolled-in by lunchtime. Along the road to Skaw I saw what is only my second Merlin of the year and there was a single Fieldfare, single Redwing and 5 Blackbirds around the farm. I ventured south, but a little disappointingly, just displaying 30 Long-tailed Ducks were at Belmont and 10 displaying Goldeneye at Snarravoe. I then made another visit to Uyeasound where 4 Whooper Swans were seen flying low over the sea calling, there 3 juvenile Iceland Gulls around the offshore salmon cages and a flock of 10 Fieldfares. At Clingera, 4 Skylarks in flight together are the first small flock I've seen this year. A Blackbird singing at Millfield this evening certainly made it sound like Spring!

Whooper Swans over the sea off Uyeasound

Thursday, 21 February 2019

21st February 2019 Unst SW4 Drizzle

A walk to Valyie and back produced a Dunnock at Wilma's and 30 Redwings. I then teamed up with Al and we headed for Uyeasound where we saw the 3 juvenile Tundra Bean Geese, 2 juvenile Iceland Gulls, a Skylark, 5 Redwings, 15 Fieldfares and 6 Chaffinches. At Westing the Pink-footed Goose was still present.

Juvenile Tundra Bean Goose at Uyeasound

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

19th February 2019 Bixter NW4 Clear

We awoke to a strong northwesterly so I headed for Lamba Ness where in an hour I saw a single blue Fulmar and a juvenile Glaucous Gull. On driving south across the island Brydon kindly telephoned to ask if I'd heard the news - I hadn't - Tengmalm's Owl at Bixter! I was soon at Brydon's from where he drove us to Bixter where it was all rather surreal joining John Lowrie-Irvine and Brian Marshall watching the Owl that was mainly sleeping on a branch just a few feet away. Occasionally it would awake, when WOW, what eyes!!

With all the pine plantations surrounding the garden at Bixter it was incredibly fortunate that when Erik Moar threw open the curtains this morning there was the Tengmalm's Owl sat a few feet from his window! He called his wife Jackie to take a look who then posted her photo of the Owl to facebook. Thank you to both Erik and Jackie for their hospitality today.

Tengmalm's Owl at Bixter
Brydon's images here

Saturday, 16 February 2019

16th February 2019 Unst E1 Overcast

Despite being cooler than recent days it felt Spring-like and there was again the hint of some passage as we saw a mixed flock of 12 Fieldfare and 5 Redwings at Lund. A Woodpigeon that flew across the road at Baltasound is our first for the year. The first-winter Iceland Gull was again present along the road to Westing where the Pink-footed Goose remains in residence.

Juvenile Iceland Gull along the road to Westing

15th February 2019 Unst SSW4 Clear

A walk to Valyie and back produced 20 Blackbirds being my largest count of the year so far so likely to involve some migrants. There was also a Song Thrush at Valyie and another at Burrafirth again being locations I've not previously seen them this year. The same cannot be said for the Water Rail that remains in our garden. Our reward came late in the day along the road to Westing as we picked out a second calendar year Gyr flying towards us, and were transfixed, as we watched it zoom past us!

Female Blackbird at Norwick

Blackbirds at Norwick
It's that time of year when it's difficult to distinguish between winterers and migrants, but with my previous day count being 5 this year, today's total of 20 almost felt a like a fall !

Gyr along the road to Westing