Tuesday, 30 November 2021

30th November 2021 Unst N2 Wintry showers

The ice and snow had thawed overnight so I headed to Lamba Ness sea-watching from 9am until 10.30am. I then checked the sea off Skaw, Norwick, Haroldswick and Burrafirth but it proved quiet.

Lamba Ness: Great Northern Diver N, 4 blue Fulmar N, Jack Snipe, 7 Little Auks N, 2 Black Guillemots N & 30 Guillemots N.

Norwick: Great Northern Diver.

Haroldswick: 3 Great Northern Divers, Long-tailed Duck & Carrion Crow.

Burrafirth: Red-throated Diver.

Great Northern Diver passing Lamba Ness

Little Auk, Fulmar & blue Fulmar passing Lamba Ness

Sunday, 28 November 2021

28th November 2021 Unst N4 Snow showers

The Holsens road was covered in ice and snow preventing us seawatching from Lamba Ness so I completed the Beached Bird Surveys for Burrafirth and Norwick.

Burrafirth: 3 Red-throated Diver.

Haroldswick: Great Northern Diver, Robin & 2 Chaffinches.

Norwick: Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver & Glaucous Gull.

Something of a water spout passing Lamba Ness

Saturday, 27 November 2021

27th November 2021 Unst N5 Light snow showers

Brydon collected me and we headed to Lamba Ness where we spent 90 minutes sea-watching although hampered by the cold northerly wind constantly buffeting us, poor light and birds passing more distantly than we would have liked! I then completed the annual Greylag count for north Unst whilst Mike tackled the much larger area to the south but he was quick to note that it seemed as though many had left the island with the onset of snow - I managed 339.

Lamba Ness: blue Fulmar N (BHT), Merlin, Black Guillemot N, c.40 Guillemots N, Puffin N, 8 Little Auks N, 4 Glaucous Gulls N (3 1cy & ad) & 8 Kittiwakes. Also a Minke N (BHT) & 5+ Orcas N.

Little Auk passing Lamba Ness

Orca passing Lamba Ness

Friday, 26 November 2021

26th November 2021 Unst NE8 Overcast

The gales associated with Storm Arwen persisted all day confining us to home.

Norwick: 1cy Iceland Gull & Redwing.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

25th November 2021 Unst NNW4 Overcast

After a strong overnight northerly I met Brydon at Lamba Ness and we sea-watched from 8.30am until nearly 10.30am with the highlight being 11 Little Auks and I guess my first Shelducks of the year should qualify too! A walk around Norwick with Brenda produced a Long-eared Owl and a Goldcrest but proved rather ill-timed getting caught in a prolonged heavy snow shower!

Lamba Ness: Red-throated Diver N, 11 blue Fulmar N, 4 Shelduck N, 12 Guillemots N, 4 Puffins N, 11 Little Auks N, 4 Glaucous Gulls N & 15 Kittiwakes N.

Norwick: Long-eared Owl & Goldcrest.

1cy Glaucous Gull passing Lamba Ness

Shelduck passing Lamba Ness

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

24th November 2021 Unst WSW5 Clear

We made a tour of the lochs today but they proved quiet with 3 Scaup the best.

Uyeasound: Red-throated Diver, drake Scaup, 2 Fieldfare & Chaffinch.

Westing: 2 Red-throated Diver

Loch of Cliff: 2 Scaup (one drake). 

Norwick: Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Robin & 8 Chaffinch.

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

23rd November 2021 Unst W6 Overcast

I completed the two monthly WeBS counts for north Unst with the highlights being a 1cy Puffin and a 1cy Iceland Gull both on the sea just off Norwick beach.

Norwick: 1cy Puffin & 1 cy Iceland Gull.

Burrafirth: drake Scaup.

1cy Puffin off Norwick

Monday, 22 November 2021

22nd November 2021 Unst WNW5 Overcast

It felt like sea-watching from Lamba Ness was worth another try, but despite similar weather conditions to yesterday, there were far fewer Fulmars, Guillemots and Kittiwakes passing today.

Lamba Ness: 1N & 1S Red-throated Divers, 5 blue Fulmars N, 5N & 3S Guillemots, 2 Puffins N, 2 Little Auks N & 3 Kittiwakes N.

Scandinavian Herring Gull passing Lamba Ness
no white-wingers today but a steady trickle of argentatus

Juvenile Red-throated Diver passing Lamba Ness

blue Fulmar passing Lamba Ness

Puffins passing Lamba Ness

Sunday, 21 November 2021

21st November 2021 Unst N4 Overcast

I sea-watched from Lamba Ness for 75 minutes from 8.15am.

Lamba Ness: Great Northern Diver N, 20 blue Fulmar N, Glaucous Gull N, 1cy Iceland Gull N, 61 Kittiwakes N, 109 Guillemots N, 3 Black Guillemots N & 2 Fieldfare.

Norwick: 2 Great Northern Divers.

Guillemots passing Lamba Ness

Black Guillemot passing Lamba Ness

Glaucous Gull passing Lamba Ness

Saturday, 20 November 2021

20th November 2021 Unst WNW5 Overcast

I sea-watched from Lamba Ness from 1.30pm until 2.30pm where a Little Auk and a nice close Minke whale proved the highlights.

Lamba Ness: Great Northern Diver on sea, 4 blue Fulmars N, Eider on sea, Long-tailed Duck S, Little Auk, Purple Sandpiper N & Minke Whale.

blue Fulmar passing Lamba Ness

Minke Whale off Lamba Ness

Friday, 19 November 2021

19th November 2021 Unst WNW5 Overcast

After overnight westerly gales we headed to Westing but disappointingly there were very few Gulls present feeding in the surf. I then waited for the gales to abate before sea-watching from Lamba Ness from 1.15pm to 2.15pm where the highlight was a White-billed Diver that flew north before it splashed down onto the sea and commenced diving between Lamba Ness and the Holm of Skaw.

Millfield: Siberian Chiffchaff.

Lamba Ness: Eider, White-billed Diver N then splashed down, blue Fulmar N, Puffin N then splashed down, 2 Little Auks N & Fieldfare.

2cy White-billed Diver passing Lamba Ness
On seeing it approaching I was initially a little perplexed on seeing the combination of its pale bill and the overall darkness of the plumage. However, as it passed rather closely, there was no overlooking its bill! In having acquired plenty of white-centred scapulars but lacking any white-spotted wing-coverts I think that it effectively ages this individual as a 2cy being a plumage that it then largely carries well into its 3cy summer - there's a nice portrayal in Lars Jonsson's Birds of Europe (1992).

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

17th November 2021 Unst W5 Hail showers

It's felt like we've slipped from Autumn into Winter these last couple of days with yesterday's highlight being our garden producing a Dunnock - only the sixth I've seen on Unst this year! Today our garden was graced by a Siberian Chiffchaff.

Millfield: Red-throated Diver, 3 Long-tailed Ducks, 5 Redwings & Siberian Chiffchaff.

Haroldswick: Meadow Pipit, Skylark, c.20 Blackbirds, c.35 Fieldfare & c.30 Redwings.

Siberian Chiffchaff at Millfield

Monday, 15 November 2021

15th November 2021 Unst SW4 Overcast clearing

Nice weather to be birding with a few migrants still present.

Skaw: Fieldfare & Chiffchaff.

Lamba Ness: 3 Long-tailed Ducks, 3 Woodcock, 6 Meadow Pipits, Skylark, 10 Redwings, 1 Fieldfare & 12 Snow Buntings.

Holsens road: 5 Fieldfare & Siskin.

Norwick: Woodcock, Long-eared Owl, 4 Robins, 4 Blackcaps, Siberian Chiffchaff, 2 Siskins, 17 Chaffinches & 2 Brambling.

Haroldswick: 51 Fieldfares.

Burrafirth: drake Scaup.

Drake Scaup at Burrafirth

Possible female Scaup x Tufted Duck hybrid (left) & Tufted Duck at Burrafirth
Being similar in size to the accompanying Tufted Duck and having the hint of a crest note its more Scaup-like headshape and reduced black tip to the bill hence matching the description of some females of this hybrid combination in the Collins Guide.

Sunday, 14 November 2021

14th November 2021 Unst S6 Overcast

Very windy and rather dull weather for the Swan count saw me fail to find any at all whilst touring the north of the island!

Burrafirth: Grey Wagtail.

Haroldswick: Long-tailed Duck, 1cy Iceland Gull, 1 Fieldfare, c.5 Redwings & Chaffinch.

Drake Long-tailed Duck off Haroldswick

Saturday, 13 November 2021

13th November 2021 Unst SE2 Overcast

It almost felt the last roll of the dice of Autumn today with a light southeasterly airflow and being dry all day. It's the Swan census tomorrow that feels very wintry!

Skaw: 5 Redwings.

Lamba Ness: Oystercatcher & Woodcock.

Norwick: Meadow Pipit, Skylark, 3 Robins, 20 Blackbirds, 25 Fieldfares, 45 Redwings, Siberian Chiffchaff, 3 Siskins, 10 Chaffinches & Brambling.

Haroldswick: 5 Meadow Pipits, 10 Blackbirds, 3 Fieldfares, 20 Redwings, Mealy Redpoll, 8 Chaffinches & 3 Bramblings

Burrafirth: Red-throated Diver & 2 Meadow Pipits.

Meadow Pipit
Having not seen any for a good few days there was clearly a small arrival today.

Friday, 12 November 2021

12th November 2021 Unst SE6 Rain

A wet and windy morning saw a visit to the shop produce an adult Glaucous Gull in Haroldswick and a 1cy Iceland Gull off Norwick that then spent the afternoon touring the wick. The rain virtually stopped early in the afternoon so I took a walk around Norwick.

Haroldswick: adult Glaucous Gull.

Norwick: Woodcock, Water Rail, 1cy Iceland Gull, 1 cy Glaucous Gull, 2 Robins, 3 Redwings, Blackcap, 2 Siskin & 10 Chaffinches.

1cy Iceland Gull against the cliffs of Lamba Ness

Thursday, 11 November 2021

11th November 2021 Unst NW5 Clear

I seawatched from Lamba Ness for a couple of hours from dawn but given the conditions it proved a little disappointing with a single Little Auk the highlight. 

Lamba Ness: 2N Red-throated Diver, 1S large Diver sp., 2N blue Fulmars, 2 Eider (1N & 1 on sea), 4 Purple Sandpipers, Little Auk N, 4 Black Guillemots & Snow Bunting.

Skaw: Robin.

Norwick: Red-throated Diver, 4 Great Northern Divers, Long-eared Owl, Robin, 5 Redwings, Chiffchaff, 2 Siskin, 11 Chaffinches & Brambling.

Black Guillemots off Lamba Ness
The snowy-crowned individual proved eye-catching but Shetland has form for these and unfortunately this one shares more similarities with this one than this beauty.

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

10th November 2021 Unst WSW7 Clear

After a clear night another very windy day but there was a stream of incoming Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls arriving throughout the morning with 3 Glaucous Gulls seen among them. At around 11.30am a further 6 Glaucous Gulls were seen arriving in c.5 minutes but then just another single during the afternoon. A walk around Norwick was enlivened by seeing 3 Long-eared Owls and an overflying flock of 10 Snow Buntings.

Norwick: 2 Long-tailed Ducks, 10 Glaucous Gulls (9x1cy & a 2cy), 3 Long-eared Owls, Robin, Redwing, 4 Chaffinch, 2 Brambling & 10 Snow Buntings.

Long-eared Owl at Norwick

9th November 2021 Unst SW6 Clear

Norwick: 1cy Glaucous Gull

Monday, 8 November 2021

8th November 2021 Unst SSE3 Overcast

It felt nice conditions at first but the wind soon increased and then rain arrived from c.2pm. The highlight of a walk around Norwick was an overflying Hawfinch.

Norwick: 2 Sanderling, 2 Woodcock, 2 Robins, 2 Song Thrush, 6 Fieldfares, 2 Siberian Chiffchaffs, 4 Chiffchaffs, Hawfinch, 2 Siskin, 6 Chaffinches & 4 Brambling.

Sanderling at Norwick

Sunday, 7 November 2021

7th November 2021 Unst NW4 Overcast

Nicer weather than forecast early this morning but the wind soon increased. Another small wave of Redwings were evident as were a few more Goldcrests - at last!

Norwick: Great Northern Diver, Water Rail, 1cy Glaucous Gull, 2 Robins, 35 Redwings, 2 Fieldfares, Siberian Chiffchaff, 2 Chiffchaffs, 4 Goldcrests, 2 Siskin, 8 Chaffinches & 4 Bramblings

Skaw: Purple Sandpiper.

NorthDale: Brambling.

Saturday, 6 November 2021

6th November 2021 Unst S4 Light rain

Light rain persisted for most of the morning before the wind increased and the forecast heavy rain arrived.

Norwick: Skylark, 5 Redwing, 2 Robin, 2 Chiffchaff & 10 Brambling.

NorthDale: Siberian Chiffchaff & Brambling.

Haroldswick: 2 Great Northern Divers, 4 Meadow Pipits & 10 Brambling.

Friday, 5 November 2021

5th November 2021 Unst WNW5 Overcast

I sea-watched from Lamba Ness for a couple of hours with 3 Little Auks the highlight. I also saw the M/S Norrona ferry pass on its way from Iceland to Denmark so I immediately thought now would be a good time for a stowaway to 'jump ship'. However, a subsequent visit to Skaw suggested otherwise...! But, perhaps one did, as whilst driving back home from the shop my phone came into signal to receive eight messages and a voicemail from Martin Kerby, who is currently a visitor birding the isle, to say that he'd found a White-crowned Sparrow on Easting beach! Robbie was without his car, so I gave him a lift and we soon joined Martin, Adrian and Dougie watching the Sparrow foot-scratching in search of food around the ruins at the south end of the beach completely unconcerned by the presence of its admirers - superb! Well done Martin!

Lamba Ness: 2 Great Northern Divers (1N, 1S), blue Fulmar, drake Goosander (S), Long-tailed Duck, 3 Little Auks, 2 Black Guillemots, 2 Purple Sandpipers, 16 Starlings (two flocks 10 & 6 that flew east out to sea until lost to view)

Easting beach: White-crowned Sparrow.

Great Northern Diver passing Lamba Ness

Starlings off Lamba Ness
bird migration is difficult/impossible to fathom at times... this was the second small flock of Starlings seen flying out to sea in a northeasterly direction... next land Norway?!

Martin, Dougie and Adrian watching the White-crowned Sparrow at Easting beach

1cy White-crowned Sparrow at Easting beach
Having received a couple of enquiries as to which subspecies it might belong its lores appear 'pale' and its bill appeared orange although images show a few pinkish tones to its upper mandible. More details on the various subspecies and apparent intergrades here & here. It certainly appears a close match to the 2017 Foula individual that was considered showing features of the western Z.l. gambelii whereas the 2018 Foula individual appeared notably pink-billed in comparison.