Friday, 30 April 2021

30th April 2021 Unst N4 Clear

With the ongoing northerlies I completed my second Common Breeding Bird Survey square that produced a singing Redwing on my arrival but no other surprises. On arriving at Skaw Bertie was keen to show me an exhausted House Martin that sadly had died in the meantime - presumably the cold northerlies have prevented enough insects being available for it to survive. Otherwise I just saw 2 Pied Wagtails on the beach there. Norwick hinted at there having been a small arrival of Chiffchaffs as I saw 5 walking my usual circuit and also 3 Great Northern Divers, a Song Thrush and a Goldcrest. After dropping the House Martin at Mike's we checked a couple of sites in Baltasound seeing a drake Pintail and 2 Chiffchaffs. Whilst returning through Haroldswick we saw the 5 Gadwall, another 2 Chiffchaffs and 2 Carrion Crows. A redhead Goosander was on Loch of Cliff late evening.

House Martin at Skaw

Thursday, 29 April 2021

29th April 2021 Unst NE5 Showers

I just had time for a quick walk around Norwick today in windy conditions seeing a Great Northern Diver, a Sparrowhawk, a House Martin, 2 Chiffchaffs and 8 Bramblings.

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

28th April 2021 Unst N3 Overcast

With the ongoing northerly airflow I elected to complete my first visit to on of three Common Breeding Bird Survey squares but I saw a Sparrowhawk, a Chiffchaff and 4 Brambling before leaving our garden. My first square didn't produce any surprises but 12 singing Wheatears were nice. A walk around Norwick added 2 Great Northern Divers, another encounter with the Common Buzzard circling ever-higher until lost as a tiny speck in the sky over Haroldswick at 10.15am, a Sparrowhawk, a Pied Wagtail, 2 Chiffchaffs, my first Willow Warbler of the year and a Brambling. At Skaw I was greeted by the House Martin having been joined by a Swallow and a Robin. NorthDale proved quiet too with just a Redwing seen. The 5 Gadwall, a Chiffchaff and the Carrion Crow were all still present at Haroldswick. A drake Pintail was present at Burrafirth.

Common Buzzard over Haroldswick
A full crop and as low as I saw it! It looked a case of 'adios, safe travels...'

Willow Warbler at Norwick

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

27th April 2021 Unst NE4 Overcast

A return to a northerly airflow and rather windy too. The flock of 9 Bramblings made a brief visit to our garden. A House Martin was still flying around Skaw. A short cold seawatch from Lamba Ness produced a smart White-billed Diver and 4 Great Northern Divers all sat on the sea but I only saw the usual Gannets, Fulmars and Puffins passing the headland but the was a Whimbrel feeding along the clifftops. A walk around Norwick added a Chiffchaff, a Goldcrest and my first Jackdaw of the year. Haroldswick was still playing host to the 5 Gadwall and a Chiffchaff. Burrafirth again proved disappointingly quiet with just the Pied Wagtail seen. On a brief visit to Baltasound we saw the 2 Black-tailed Godwits, a Redwing and a Chiffchaff.

White-billed Diver off Lamba Ness

Jackdaw at Norwick

Monday, 26 April 2021

26th April 2021 Unst SSW3 Light rain

An overcast morning with some light rain that became more persistent through the afternoon. Our garden held some early morning promise with an overflying Arctic Skua, a Swallow and Sand Martin looping around our rooftops, a Chiffchaff and a flock of 9 Bramblings. On arriving at Skaw there was a Whimbrel on the beach, my first 3 House Martins were flying back and forth along the burn but otherwise just the Redwing was seen. Lamba Ness was playing host to a Black-tailed Godwit. A walk around Norwick proved more productive with a Black-tailed Godwit, a Common Buzzard that flew west, a Sparrowhawk, 2 Whimbrel, 50 Meadow Pipits, the Robin, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest. A look around Haroldswick produced a flock of 9 Pinkfeet, 2 Sparrowhawks, 2 Redwings, my first Mistle Thrush of the year, 5 Wheatears and 3 Chiffchaffs. Burrafirth proved quiet with just a Pied Wagtail seen. A visit to NorthDale after the rain had cleared through produced another encounter with the Common Buzzard now hovering over Feall, a Song Thrush and a Dunnock.

House Martin at Skaw

Common Buzzard over Norwick
only the second I've seen on Unst

Mistle Thrush at Stove
the latest I've seen in Spring

Sunday, 25 April 2021

25th April 2021 Unst SSW2 Light rain clearing

It was virtually calm at dawn with very light rain that cleared mid-morning to become a bright and sunny day. A visit to Skaw produced a White Wagtail, a Robin and 3 Wheatears. Norwick added the White-billed Diver, the 2 Great Northern Divers, the Sparrowhawk, 5 Wheatears, the White Wagtail, a Pied Wagtail and 2 Chiffchaffs. The 5 Gadwall were still at Haroldswick. I decided to head to Uyeasound to take a look for Andrew Harrop's 2cy drake King Eider found a couple of days ago that I finally saw in among c.120 Eider present around the offshore salmon cages. I was soon joined by Mike and Robbie and it eventually swam into more open water for a short while. I also saw a Kestrel and a 2cy Iceland Gull whilst at Uyeasound but just after I left and was driving north the Gulls started to panic and I soon saw the White-tailed Eagle flying south from Loch of Watlee towards Dam Loch, when it lost height, and landed on some rocks. A crowd of Hooded Crows soon assembled around it and unfortunately it took flight just before Mike and Robbie arrived but it was soon seen gaining height and we tracked it north to Baltasound. I stopped to take a look at Mike's Yellow-browed Warbler that he found yesterday afternoon at Setters Hill and I also saw my first 7 Siskins of the year there. During the evening a flock of 5 Carrion Crows arrived outside our house.

Sparrowhawk at Norwick

Female Kestrel at Uyeasound

2cy King Eider off Uyeasound

2cy White-tailed Eagle north of Uyeasound

Yellow-browed Warbler at Setters Hill

Saturday, 24 April 2021

24th April 2021 Unst SE1 Light showers clearing

A few light showers early in the morning soon cleared into another day of sunshine. Skaw proved quiet with just a couple of Wheatears present. At Haroldswick there was a Great Northern Diver sat offshore, the flock of Gadwall had increased to 5 today, 2 Moorhens, my first Arctic Skua of the year was seen circling over the sea but passerine migrants were limited to just a couple of Wheatears. Burrafirth only produced a singing Wheatear and 2 Pied Wagtails. A walk around Norwick produced yesterday's White-billed Diver still distantly sat on the sea, 2 Great Northern Divers, a Sparrowhawk, the Whimbrel, 6 Woodpigeons, 2 Pied Wagtails, 2 Chiffchaffs and 6 Bramblings. An evening drive to Burrafirth produced our first Kestrel of the year and another Whimbrel.

Whimbrel at Norwick

Friday, 23 April 2021

23rd April 2021 Unst NW2 Overcast

A nice calm day that was originally overcast but soon cleared to blue skies. Soon after dawn there was a Wheatear, a Phyllosc (Chiff/Willow) and 5 Brambling in our garden but none lingered for long. I headed to Burrafirth to complete the monthly Beached Bird Survey where I also saw 2 Pinkfeet, a Pied Wagtail and a Wheatear. A walk around Norwick added a female Gadwall, my first Whimbrel of the year, 2 Pied Wagtails, a White Wagtail, my first Dunnock of the year, the Blackcap, 3 Chiffchaffs including my first songster of the year and 2 Brambling. On walking out of our front door early afternoon a White-billed Diver sailed distantly into view off Norwick! Haroldswick was playing host to a Great Northern Diver and 3 Gadwall.

Chiffchaff at Norwick

Dunnock at Norwick
my first of the year - last year I had to wait until May

Gadwalls at Haroldswick
After three blank years for this species for me it's no surprise that today's four represents my best count since living on Unst.

White-billed Diver off Norwick
Large Divers are renowned for their rapid moult but I'd be surprised if they can moult so quickly to attain a black crown, nape and flanks in less than a week. Today's individual appeared a larger-billed bird too.

White-billed Diver on 17th April

Ignoring one on Bluemull and assuming that the one off Norwick this February was the same as the one off Skaw in January I've been fortunate enough to find 16 White-billed Divers since living on Unst with April proving to be my peak month to find the species.

All of those I've found in April have been in the last half of the month with the 23rd April having good form for me...!
and even this one found with JFC & PN off Birling Gap, Sussex was on the 21st April.

Thursday, 22 April 2021

22nd April 2021 Unst NW3 Rain clearing

The northerly airflow continues and it rained on and off through the early morning when 3 Brambling were present in our garden. We combined a trip to the medical centre with visiting a couple of sites in Baltasound seeing a Black-tailed Godwit and a Robin. After the rain had cleared through a walk around Skaw produced 2 Wheatears and the Redwing and a walk around Lamba Ness added a summer-plumaged Great Northern Diver. A walk around Norwick produced the 2cy Iceland Gull, a Blackcap, a Chiffchaff and a Brambling. 

Male Blackcap at Norwick

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

21st April 2021 Unst NW3 Overcast

A cold and grey morning brightened late morning. A Brambling was present in our garden early in the morning and the Great Northern Diver was still offshore. A walk around Norwick produced a Barnacle Goose and two Goldcrests. A visit to Lamba Ness added a grounded Black-tailed Godwit being the first I've seen this year.

Black-tailed Godwit on Lamba Ness

20th April 2021 Unst NW4 Rain clearing

We spent most of the day in Lerwick where a 2cy Iceland Gull was seen at the Catch but on returning home there was a Great Northern Diver off Norwick and 4 Bramblings dropped into our garden and spent the evening below our feeders.

Monday, 19 April 2021

19th April 2021 Unst S4 Clear

Still breezy but an improvement on yesterday. There was a Wheatear and a Brambling in our garden. Burrafirth was playing host to a Pink-footed Goose, a Woodpigeon, a Pied Wagtail, 7 Wheatears and a Redwing. On arriving at Skaw I'd seen a 2cy Iceland Gull, a Woodpigeon, a Pied Wagtail, 2 Wheatears, a Redwing and a Brambling before walking to the beach, where I heard a commotion, and there was the Sea-Eagle flying over the sea heading for Lamba Ness where it cleared the cliffs and flew over the wartime buildings near the tip before continuing low south and out of view followed by an angry entourage of Gulls and Ravens! I walked out to the headland where there was a Hen Harrier floating around. A walk around Norwick produced another encounter with the Hen Harrier now heading for NorthDale, 3 Sparrowhawks, a Merlin, a Woodpigeon, 2 Pied Wagtails, 4 Wheatears and a Brambling.
Pink-footed Goose & Greylag Goose at Burrafirth

White-tailed Sea-Eagle over Lamba Ness

2cy female Hen Harrier at Skaw

2cy female Hen Harrier at Norwick

Female Sparrowhawk at Vaylie
As nice as it is to see a good number of Spaarowhawks on the island I only saw a single passerine whilst at Valyie today!

Sunday, 18 April 2021

18th April 2021 Unst S6 Clear

A strong southerly wind made for challenging conditions today as most places visited lacked much shelter. A Chiffchaff present in our garden gave me hope of an arrival of migrants but it proved a false dawn (for me at least). Skaw was still playing host to the male Blue-headed Wagtail, a White Wagtail, 2 Wheatears and the male Blackcap. A walk around Norwick added a Sparrowhawk, a 2cy Iceland Gull, a Grey Plover, 10 Woodpigeons, 2 Pied Wagtails, 3 Wheatears and yesterday's Chiffchaff.

Male Blue-headed Wagtail at Skaw

Sonogram from a sound-recording of a flight call obtained at Skaw (left) yesterday (here) proving an near-identical match to a sonogram obtained of a M.f. flava obtained by Manceau Lionel in France the day before (here)

colour-ringed Rock Pipit 10/4/21

Kjell Mork Soot has kindly replied with the ringing details of the colour-ringed Rock Pipit AEM seen on Norwick beach on the 10th April. It was ringed at Lista Bird Observatory, south Norway as a first-winter male on the 24th September 2018 and subsequently seen at Wimereux, Pas-de-Calais, France on 11th March 2019. Kjell added some additional thoughts ''I think this bird is colour marked on migration in Southern Norway. The bird has been wintering in France (they often return to the same locality every winter), and this spring it has gone to south-east  England (from France) and has flown along the east coast of UK to Shetland. From there it will go to breeding ground further north in Norway. This spring a lot of colour ringed  Rock Pipits are seen in south east in England. I think some may have come from France.''

Saturday, 17 April 2021

17th April 2021 Unst S3 Overcast

Another day where the cold wind increased during the day. Whilst at Skaw I saw a Peregrine, a Redwing, 2 Wheatears, the Blue-headed Wagtail, the 5 White Wagtails, a Pied Wagtail and 2 Chiffchaffs. At Lamba Ness there was a Teal, a Redwing and 3 Wheatears. A walk around Norwick produced 3 Sparrowhawks in the air together, a Woodpigeon, 2 Wheatears, a Pied Wagtail, a Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrests, a Chaffinch and my first Brambling of the year. At Burrafirth I saw a pair of Wigeon, a Sparrowhawk, 2 Wheatears and a Pied Wagtail. Haroldswick added a Sparrowhawk, a Collared Dove and my first Carrion Crow of the year and NorthDale a Sparrowhawk and 2 Woodpigeon. Whilst mowing our lawn a Sand Martin looped around our house before heading for the beach and from the comfort of an armchair I found the bird of the day being a transitional-plumaged White-billed Diver sat off the south cliffs of Lamba Ness.

Male Blue-headed Wagtail at Skaw

Chiffchaff at Skaw

Teal at Lamba Ness

Brambling at Norwick
my latest 'earliest' date since living on Unst

White-billed Diver off Lamba Ness