Wednesday, 19 January 2022

19th January 2022 Unst NNW5 Wintry showers

As I drove out to Lamba Ness a 2cy Glaucous Gull was patrolling the cliffs near the point. I sea-watched for 30 minutes but it proved very quiet  I’d seen very little so I returned to my car seeing a 2cy Iceland Gull sat alongside Loch of Lamba Ness. I then decided to head for Skaw and walked to the beach and checked the sea... the light was good, even with a little sun from the south… and as I scanned from the tideline, the first bird that I saw sat on the sea was a monstrous White-billed Diver with its large, uptilted pale-yellow bill gleaming in the strong sunlight! Superb! It was at quite a distance, but I quickly secured a few DSLR images and faffed around with my mobile phone to put the news out. The Diver had commenced diving, remaining underwater for long periods, had become a little more distant and appeared to be being taken by the current/tide towards Inner Skaw. I walked the clifftops to Inner Skaw but despite regularly scanning the sea I could find no sign of the Diver but there was a female Common Scoter on the sea off there. I found a sheltered spot, sat down and carefully scanned the sea only to see the White-billed Diver now sat alongside 2 Great Northern Divers just off the cliffs of the headland that runs out to the Holm of Skaw - I'd effectively walked in the wrong direction! Too distant to photograph I simply enjoyed watching it occasionally diving. I walked back to Skaw into the cold wind and a heavy snow shower, but by the time I arrived back, frustratingly I couldn't refind the Diver! As the individual seen at the same site on the 5th January 2021 was a large individual, given the loyal site-fidelity shown by some wintering individuals, it would seem most-likely that it is the same individual involved. On arriving home there was a 2cy Glaucous Gull flying back and forth along the shore.

Lamba Ness: female Common Scoter, 2cy Iceland Gull & 2cy Glaucous Gull.

Skaw: 2 Great Northern Diver, White-billed Diver, Redwing & 2 Fieldfare.

Holsen's road: Moorhen.

Norwick: Great Northern Diver, Purple Sandpiper, 2cy Glaucous Gull, 2 Redwing & 3 Fieldfare.

2cy Iceland Gull at Lamba Ness

White-billed Diver off Skaw
An enormous looking individual being larger than both of the Great Northern Divers present. Large, uptilted, yellow-washed bill gleaming in the sunshine so immediately noticeable. Its pale face seen to encapsulate its eye, Crown and hindneck brown as was its large, deep half-collar at the base of its really thick, tubular neck. Breast gleamingly white and contrasting with its dark brown upperparts. 

White-billed Diver off Skaw
Its profile appears somewhat Goose-like in this image and its giant size didn’t too dissimilar either! Something of a forehead’ bump is just evident and there’s still no hiding its large, long, up-tilted ivory-coloured bill! Its dark eye is again set against its pale face, pale but patchy, dusky-looking brown head and neck-sides with its contrastingly darker, broad half-collar and upperparts contrasting strongly with its pure white breast.

White-billed Diver off Skaw
Despite its size it was surprising how it would all but ‘disappear’ into the troughs of the choppy sea. It’s just possible to discern how long-billed it appeared being palest towards its tip and duskier at its base. As so often described, at times its pale bill would almost ‘disappear’ against the background of ‘pale sea’.