Saturday, 6 August 2022

6th August 2022 Unst

Britain's 18th, Shetland's 4th and Unst's first record of Harlequin Duck remained in situ. A day spent working on Unst and Yell with 4 White Wagtails seen on the former.

Drake Harlequin at Norwick

Friday, 5 August 2022

5th August 2022 Unst W4 Sunny spells

After a very busy couple of months both guiding and surveying without much time spent 'proper' birding at last I had a day off. The downside was the near-constant westerly, northwesterly airflow looked unpromising to produce any passerine migrants. I decided to walk to Valyie and back just in case... as I approached Norwick beach it was obvious the tide was out and the exposed green weed had attracted a gathering of Black-headed Gulls. I scanned through them ever-hopeful that last year's Bonaparte's Gull might still make a late return. No such luck with just a 'dark' Mallard among them that I scrutinised after the events earlier this year (Brydon's Black Duck). As I lowered my bins another more distant Duck caught my eye... it looked like a drake Harlequin, but on lifting my bins I anticipated it being an abhorrent hybrid Mallard... it wasn't!!

Drake Harlequin Duck at Norwick
Forever an iconic rarity for those of us of a certain generation, a superb sea-duck that, if I recall correctly, graced the cover of the first issue of Twitching depicting the first-winter drake present in Sullom Voe in 1987. I had to wait another 4 years before seeing the female on the river at Wick. Subsequently I've been fortunate to see many hundreds in Alaska, Japan and Kamchatka including plenty of drakes, but the species has never lost its appeal. To find a drake in the UK... very occasionally dreams do come true!

Tuesday, 5 July 2022

4th July 2022 Toft W5 Overcast

Whilst I was working near Toft there was news of a pod of Orcas travelling south in Yell Sound that passed me mid-afternoon a fair way offshore.

Orcas in Yell Sound

Sunday, 26 June 2022

26th June 2022 Unst SE4 Overcast

It felt promising conditions this morning but a walk around Norwick only produced the lingering Redwing and Willow Warbler. Just after arriving home a Warbler flew across our garden and landed atop our rosa - a Marsh Warbler! Unfortunately by the time I grabbed the camera it had dropped into the cover of the rosa, and in the limited time before I left for work, it only afforded a couple more glimpses - it's my latest Spring arrival date by 3 days and the first that I've seen this year. Later I heard a Quail at Inner Skaw.

Male Red-backed Shrike at Valyie
With very little time to edit images or blog recently, here's an image of a well-suffused Red-backed Shrike found by Dante mid-June - the only one that I saw this Spring.

Saturday, 25 June 2022

25th June 2022 Yell SSE4 Fog

Brydon found a male Moltoni's Warbler at Gutcher yesterday. I resisted leaving early from work on mainland and then paid the penalty of rain and fog rolling in by the time I was passing through Gutcher on my way home. I caught the earliest ferry from Unst and spent a while enjoying hearing it singing, calling and showing on and off. I was joined by Kevin Kelly before I left for the ferry to mainland but persistent thick fog meant an early return home! A walk around Norwick produced a Kestrel and a Swallow was feeding around our house late afternoon.

Male Moltoni's Warbler at Gutcher
Recordings of it calling and singing here, here & here

Thursday, 9 June 2022

9th June 2022 Unst ESE3 Overcast

With a high pressure system sat west of Norway I thought the conditions looked promising enough to take the day off survey work. After a long walk around Skaw had failed to produce a migrant I was beginning to think that might be a mistake when a Red-breasted Flycatcher suddenly appeared in front of me whilst zooming around the fencelines. Brydon soon trumped me finding a singing Greenish Warbler in Halligarth. Valyie proved quiet with just a Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler so I headed to Halligarth where I joined Brydon, Dante and Lauren enjoying watching the Greenish. I returned north seeing a Siskin at NorthDale from where the day rather fizzled out.

Red-breasted Flycatcher at Skaw

Greenish Warbler at Halligarth

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

7th June 2022 Unst NE4 partly overcast

I spent 3 hours guiding two Americans hoping to record as many moorland species as possible. Just as we were finishing our walk and approaching my car parked along Holsens road a female Black-headed Bunting flew past us and thankfully landed in some rank grass but out of sight. Creeping closer, it unfortunately flushed but landed close to the cliff edge where I obtained a few poor images as I was looking pretty much directly into the light. It again flew and disappeared down the cliffs. I rather hastily said my farewells to the Americans, put the news out and collected Dante from doing his rounds at Haroldswick and we returned to the scene. It took us half an hour or so before we again found it feeding along the clifftops when it was also nice for us to hear it call if only the once. Dante obtained some superb images that he's kindly allowed me to include below... In the increasingly windy conditions I later took a walk around Norwick that produced a singing Willow Warbler and a Spotted Flycatcher.

Female Black-headed Bunting along Holsen's road
(all images Dante Shepherd with more on Dante's blog here)
The fifth that I've been fortunate enough to find on Shetland (two in Spring and three in Autumn).

Sunday, 5 June 2022

5th June 2022 Unst WNW2 Rain clearing

After spending four consecutive days working on mainland Shetland I thought it was nice to be staying more local today. Frustratingly the weather forecast hadn't made any mention of steady rain and poor visibility and after spending an hour at Skaw in the rain I'd failed to see a passerine migrant. I returned home and waited for the rain to clear whereupon a quick look around Norwick, in what felt promising conditions, produced just a single Chiffchaff. I then left for Uyeasound for my first boat-based seabird survey of the season. News of a Needletail being picked up on a boat in the North Sea had us searching the deck of ours(!) but without success. Seven hours and 8 Red-necked Phalaropes later - all feeding on the sea - we were c.30 minutes out of Uyeasound when Dante found a male Moltoni's Warbler at Valyie! Being a world tick no less, and something I've wanted to see for a very long time, I was soon there joining Dante and Lauren and being treated to some nice views and great to hear it calling loudly and occasionally singing too - brilliant and a well-deserved great find for Dante after all the effort he and Lauren have put in since arriving on Unst a week ago.

Bridled Guillemot


Black Guillemot


Common Tern


Kittiwake on its nest

Pair of Red-necked Phalaropes

Male Moltoni's Warbler at Valyie
A sound-recording of a few calls here
Dante has uploaded his recordings of it singing here and calling here and there's a full account on his blog with some superior images showing its plumage hues nicely here

Friday, 3 June 2022

3rd June 2022 Toft NNE3 Overcast

Whilst working on mainland the cloud suddenly cleared early in the afternoon that clearly caused a few raptors to take to the skies as I saw a stratospheric Osprey circling until lost into a high cloud followed by a White-tailed Eagle circling moving slowly south.

Osprey over Toft

White-tailed Eagle over Toft

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

1st June 2022 Unst NW4 Clear

A look at Valyie this evening produced a Spotted Flycatcher and more views of the Rustic Bunting that was occasionally singing... until I pointed a microphone in its direction!

Rustic Bunting at Valyie
Only the second that I've heard singing in the UK but it's not uncommon to hear them singing on migration in Japan.

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

31st May 2022 Unst SE2 Overcast

It felt ideal weather conditions this morning to produce a few interesting migrants so it was a disappointment that didn't transpire. Skaw produced a drake Goosander, 3 Swallows, my first Grey Wagtail of the year, the Garden Warbler and the Blackcap. Norwick added a singing Chiffchaff and 2 Blackcaps. On hearing of a Red-backed Shrike and 2 Icterine Warblers being found elsewhere in Shetland I returned to Valyie this evening, where I failed to find anything newly-arrived, but was pleased to re-find the male Rustic Bunting.

Rustic Bunting at Valyie
calling near-continuously this evening that helped keep track of it

Arctic Skua

the Norwick scarecrows have taken on a new persona...

Monday, 30 May 2022

30th May 2022 Unst NW3 to SSE2 Early morning shower soon brightening

I walked to Valyie and was caught in a heavy shower just before I arrived there so took shelter in one of the barns. The shower seemed to encourage both a Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler into song. As the rain eased I made my way to the burn. As I climbed the hillside, I heard a 'tzik', spun on the spot, to see a Bunting flying up the hillside towards me, over my head, and landing near the top of a spruce - a stunning male Rustic Bunting! It only sat there for a matter of seconds before flying further up the hillside and alighting again, this time on the fence. I rattled off a few more images, but before I attempted to move closer, it was off again, gaining height and heading west. I spent a couple of hours looking for it without success only seeing a couple of Swallows. On my walk home I saw another Willow Warbler and the Common Rosefinch was still in Norwick. A check of Skaw added a Garden Warbler and a Blackcap.

Male Rustic Bunting at Valyie
My first BB rarity find of the year and the eighth Rustic Bunting I've now either co-found with JFC or found in the UK (6 in Spring & 2 in Autumn).

Common Rosefinch at Norwick

Garden Warbler at Skaw

Blackcap at Skaw