Tuesday, 31 August 2021

31st August 2021 Unst NW3 Overcast

A 75 minute seawatch from Lamba Ness from 7.45am produced 13 Sooty Shearwaters and a pod of 6 White-beaked Dolphins all moving north. Skaw held a single Willow Warbler and there were 2 Willow Warblers at Norwick though I didn't see the Pied Flycatcher that was still present yesterday.

Sunday, 29 August 2021

29th August 2021 Unst N2 Overcast

With the wind back in the north it was no surprise that it was a case of diminishing returns today. I failed to see any migrants at Skaw but saw a Redpoll in flight at Lamba Ness. Norwick was still playing host to 4 Willow Warblers, the Pied Flycatcher and the Common Rosefinch. NorthDale produced my first Sparrowhawk of the Autumn. I saw my first Wigeon of the Autumn on Loch of Cliff and the Shore Station had held onto 2 Willow Warblers and one was seen at Haroldswick too. I was soon back painting the outside of our house!

Queuing for Matt's Magnolia?!

Saturday, 28 August 2021

28th August 2021 Unst SE2 Overcast

It felt perfect conditions soon after dawn feeling pleasantly warm with overcast skies and a light southeasterly sea breeze. However, on visiting Skaw, Lamba Ness and Holsen's road without seeing a migrant it felt like more passerine migrants had departed Unst than had arrived! A long walk around Norwick produced 6 Swallows, the Robin, a Tree Pipit, a Garden Warbler, 2 Chiffchaffs, 4 Willow Warblers, a Pied Flycatcher, a Common Rosefinch and a Mealy Redpoll. Several other sites seemed devoid of migrants but Burrafirth/Shore Station added 4 Knot and 5 Willow Warblers and NorthDale held a Willow Warbler and a Pied Flycatcher.

Pied Flycatcher at Norwick

Tree Pipit at Norwick

Friday, 27 August 2021

27th August 2021 Unst NE3 Overcast

After seeing just a single Willow Warbler in our garden yesterday seeing 2 today was an improvement! There were also singles along Holsens road and at Skaw where there was also 9 Knot on the beach. A walk around Norwick proved better seeing a Barred Warbler and Common Rosefinch at Leawart, a Wood Warbler, 2 Chiffchaffs and 2 Common Rosefinches together at Valyie and a total of 6 Willow Warblers. Burrafirth added another 2 Willow Warblers and a Common Rosefinch. Haroldswick was playing host to a Garden Warbler and 2 Willow Warblers. 

Knot and Sanderling at Skaw

Wood Warbler at Valyie

Twite regurgitating food for its juvenile

Common Rosefinch at the Shore Station

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

25th August 2021 Unst N5 Overcast

The Common Rosefinch was still present in our garden first thing but soon disappeared. A seawatch from Lamba Ness from 7.15am to 8.15am produced 6 Sooty Shearwaters flying north but just a single Puffin marking the changing of the season! A walk around Norwick added 9 Swallows, a Chiffchaff, 5 Willow Warblers, a Pied Flycatcher, presumably the Common Rosefinch from our garden and a juvenile Mealy Redpoll. The Bonaparte's Gull was again absent for most of the day but arrived to feed over the low tide from 5.30pm.

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

24th August 2021 Unst WSW3 Drizzle

A foggy drive to Skaw where the drizzle held off whilst I did a quick circuit of the beach and burn seeing a single Willow Warbler for my efforts. A quick look at Norwick added a Kestrel and 4 Willow Warblers. The wind increased, the drizzle worsened and Brenda commented that Gale Force fog had set in! Brydon had the Bonaparte's Gull fly past his house and then settle with Common Gulls loafing near the Baltasound Hall but it was back feeding in the surf off Norwick beach by 4.30pm and at 7.30pm a Common Rosefinch appeared in our garden.

Common Rosefinch at Millfield

Monday, 23 August 2021

23rd August 2021 Unst S2 Overcast

Another early visit to Skaw produced a Greenshank on the beach and a Willow Warbler. Lamba Ness added a Pied Flycatcher. A walk around Norwick produced my first Tree Pipit of the Autumn, 4 Willow Warblers, my first Wood Warbler of the year and another brief encounter with the Common Rosefinch. Burrafirth was playing host to 4 Willow Warblers and a walk around Haroldwick produced a Garden Warbler and a Willow Warbler. Despite being absent during two visits to Norwick beach the Bonaparte's Gull was back plunge-diving just offshore from 6pm.

Greenshank at Skaw

Pied Flycatcher at Lamba Ness

Wood Warbler at Norwick

Sunday, 22 August 2021

22nd August 2021 Unst SE3 Overcast

Whilst it felt promising conditions 'on the ground' the winds arriving on Unst were originating from a little too far north in Norway to be really productive. It was still a disappointment that our garden, Skaw and Lamba Ness failed to produce a passerine migrant but there was a juvenile Moorhen and an adult and 2 juvenile Mealy Redpolls along Holsen's road. A walk around Norwick produced the Bonaparte's Gull, 14 Swallows, the Robin, 4 Willow Warblers, a Chiffchaff and a (new) first-winter Common Rosefinch that was initially very mobile flying around calling but did settle briefly. NorthDale was quiet although the adult and juvenile Mealy Redpolls were still present. Burrafirth was birdless but the Shore Station was playing host to a Pied Flycatcher and 2 Willow Warblers and a walk around Haroldswick added single Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Pied Flycatchers.

Sunrise from Millfield

First-winter Common Rosefinch at Valyie

Willow Warbler at Norwick

Willow Warblers at the Shore Station

Pied Flycatcher at Haroldswick

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

18th August 2021 Unst NNE3 Overcast with drizzle

As I headed down Lamba Ness I inadvertently flushed 2 Ruff that flew off north. The sea-watch proved uninspiring but 2 Swallows were feeding around the cliffs. Skaw added a flock of 15 Swallows feeding around the haa but I failed to find any other migrants. A walk around Norwick added the albino Great Northern Diver, the 2cy Bonaparte's Gull, a Swift, 16 Swallows and 2 Chiffchaffs.

2cy Bonaparte's Gull at Norwick
Having now replaced all of its primaries it's still regrowing the outermost two.

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

17th August 2021 Unst S2 Overcast

Nice conditions to be looking for passerine migrants but it proved tough going. Whilst walking around Skaw a flock of 4 Swallows overflew heading south. Norwick produced a flock of 9 Swallows, the Robin, a Willow Warbler and a Chiffchaff. At Burrafirth a Kestrel was my only reward and NorthDale added a Willow Warbler and the Mealy Redpoll was being accompanied by a juvenile.

Wheatear at Burrafirth

Mealy Redpolls at NorthDale

Monday, 16 August 2021

16th August 2021 Unst NW4 Overcast

With the continuing unhelpful wind direction I didn't spend much time birding but I saw the Bonaparte's Gull make a couple of visits to Norwick beach and there were 2 Common Swifts feeding low over Lamba Ness.

Juvenile Common Swifts at Lamba Ness
Having read about the intriguing Swift on North Ronaldsay in recent days I was keen to take a careful look at the duo encountered feeding low over the cotton grass but they were showing the expected suite of characters of Common Swift.

15th August 2021 Unst NW3 Showers

The 2cy albino Great Northern Diver, the 2cy Bonaparte's Gull and a Common Swift were seen from our house.

Saturday, 14 August 2021

14th August 2021 Unst NE2 Overcast

An early morning visit to Skaw produced my first Reed Warbler of the Autumn but nothing else. Norwick added the albino Great Northern Diver, the 2cy Bonaparte's Gull that was absent for most of the day but back on the beach early this evening, 5 Swallows and a Willow Warbler. 

Reed Warbler at Skaw

Bonaparte's Gull at Norwick

Friday, 13 August 2021

13th August 2021 Unst & Fetlar S3 Overcast

A walk around Skaw failed to produce a single passerine migrant and there were just 3 Turnstone on the beach. Despite having spent a fair while looking for the Bonaparte's Gull on Norwick beach yesterday to satisfy myself it had departed it was the first bird I saw on Norwick beach today - who knows where it has been the past two days! Otherwise I saw just 11 Swallows and a single Willow Warbler. Brydon had failed to see a single Warbler on his circuit around Baltasound and with news from Fetlar that the Black-winged Pratincole was still present we caught the 10.25am ferry meeting Pete E and Andy G on the Geira. Pete had seen the Pratincole on Wednesday so knew its favoured field and picked it out on our arrival only for it to promptly disappear! It did return to sit in the field a couple of times but never close. Fortunately the same couldn't be said of it hawking around our heads catching Crane Fly before it flew off east. It was then good to meet Paul M who had seen the Pratincole hawking around his house, but despite his best efforts, we didn't see it again. We returned on the 2.30pm ferry and a quick check of Haroldswick on our way home failed to produce a migrant. I elected to mow the lawn and whilst doing so saw 3+ Orcas exiting Norwick hugging the coast heading south. As they headed south Robbie successfully saw them off Haroldswick and then Uyeasound.

Black-winged Pratincole (and Crane Fly sp.) at Houbie, Fetlar

Thursday, 12 August 2021

12th August 2021 Unst NW3 Overcast

An early visit to Skaw produced the lingering Garden Warbler. A walk around Norwick added 4 Swallows, 2 Willow Warblers and the Mealy Redpoll. NorthDale was still playing host to the Garden Warbler, the Sedge Warbler, a Willow Warbler and the Mealy Redpoll. An afternoon visit to Burrafirth added a Merlin, a Willow Warbler and the Barred Warbler and Haroldswick produced our fifth Willow Warbler of the day.

Sedge Warbler at NorthDale

Willow Warbler at NorthDale

Barred Warbler at Burrafirth

11th August 2021 Unst SE4 Overcast

A walk around Skaw produced a Swallow and a Garden Warbler. Holsens road was better adding a beauty of a fresh first-winter Marsh Warbler and a Mealy Redpoll. There had clearly been a mass departure of Arctic Terns from Norwick beach and it appeared that the Bonaparte's Gull had left with them. Otherwise, despite a long walk around Norwick, I only saw 4 Swallows, a single Chiffchaff and a Mealy Redpoll. An afternoon visit to Burrafirth confirmed the continued presence of the Barred Warbler.

First-winter Marsh Warbler along Holsens road

Mealy Redpoll along Holsens road

Barred Warbler at Burrafirth

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

10th August 2021 Yell Sound NW3 Overcast

For the second week in a row I was privileged to be invited to join a SOETAG survey aboard Shetland Seabird Tours super-comfortable Ayda Ruby II. This time the survey covered the shores and islands of the entire north Yell Sound. An early 5am start saw me heading for Toft where Captain Phil Harris went above and beyond ensuring that I was wearing a correctly-fitting life jacket and helping me aboard. Initially into a cool northwesterly breeze with some light rain the Ayda Ruby II again came into its own with its clear perspex panels providing everyone aboard with plenty of shelter from the elements but still allowing for excellent views of the seabirds to ensure the success of the survey. Captain Phil carefully and skillfully circumnavigated the intricacies of all of the many islands in Yell Sound to ensure that Mick & Will could accurately count and age all the Eider present. 

As the wind moderated throughout the day it was possible to sail north from Ramna Stacks into the open seas northwest of Fethaland. As last week, Glen was again on duty preparing and delivering a chum slick that was soon attracting the attention of Fulmars, including a blue-morph individual, Gannets, Bonxies and Storm-Petrels and also passing Sooty Shearwaters, Arctic Skuas and Arctic Terns. At just gone 4pm there was what seemed like a communal shout of 'Wilson's Petrel' with what felt like everyone but me looking in the opposite direction! Quickly spinning around, fortunately there was only a single Storm Petrel in view close to the boat so that I, along with everyone else, was soon enjoying nice views as the Wilson's flew past the boat and across the slick of chum. Not only was it the first Wilson's Petrel that I'd seen off Shetland but also for both well-known long-standing Shetland birders Roger and Rory. All too soon our time offshore slipped by but we were further entertained by a small pod of Atlantic White-sided Dolphins, a small Shark and even a passing small passerine that briefly seemed tempted to join us aboard. 

As the light began to wane we headed back into Yell Sound there were still a couple of evening surprises in store as Phil first brought the Ayda Ruby II to a halt so that we could enjoy views of a Minke Whale surfacing and then for a second time as he'd noticed a Sabine's Gull sat on the water! It circled the boat and was in danger of slipping away but was enticed back into close view by Will sacrificing and quickly deploying what was left of his sandwiches! A superb finale to a thrilling day! Shetland Seabird Tours had again far-exceeded expectations delivering two species of seabird I'd not previously seen from Shetland despite spending many hours over 5 years looking seaward from shore! I arrived home at 11pm and whilst I will spend today still gently buzzing, daydreaming and reliving the excitement of yesterday here's to acknowledge the commitment of Mick and Will being back out completing more SOETAG surveys and to Phil for again being at the helm of the Ayda Ruby II ensuring that everyone fortunate enough to be aboard today are enjoying the seabird spectacle that Shetland has to offer to the full. Very many thanks to everyone involved for making it such another memorable day!

Arctic Skua off Fethaland

blue Fulmar off Fethaland

Sooty Shearwater off Fethaland

Storm Petrels off Fethaland

Wilson's Petrel off Fethaland
Scottish Birds Vol. 41 (2) details the (just) six accepted records for Scotland prior to 2020.

Sabine's Gull in Yell Sound
Olsen & Larsson (2003) caption individuals like this one with just a faint yellowish tip to the bill as 'putative second-summer'.