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

28th May 2022 Unst NNW4 Overcast

A Short-eared Owl flew south over our house this evening. 

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

25th May 2022 Unst S3 Overcast

My early departure was rewarded with a Short-eared Owl hunting behind our house over the slopes of East Hill. 

Short-eared Owl over East Hill

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

24th May 2022 Unst

I arrived at Skaw just as Roger & Sue were leaving but they hadn't seen any migrants. I walked the headland but a single Swallow was my only reward. My usual circuit around Norwick had only produced a female Sparrowhawk, a Collared Dove, a Swallow and a Chiffchaff but just as I was approaching home a Common Rosefinch appeared briefly, flew to our garden and then off high south. Subsequently a male Sparrowhawk was briefly present in our garden.

Common Rosefinch at Norwick

Monday, 23 May 2022

23rd May 2022 Unst W4 Rain clearing

I braved the early morning rain to check some beaches in case any waders had been grounded but the best I managed to see were 6 Sanderling on Norwick, 7 Sanderling on Haroldswick and 5 Dunlin on the houb where the pair of Shelduck were still present. The rain eased so I completed my second visit for the Common Bird Census to a square centred on East Hill where the only migrant seen was a single Swallow! A walk around Norwick wasn't much more productive seeing just a Sparrowhawk, a Swallow, a Song Thrush, 2 Chiffchaffs and hearing a flyover Redpoll.

Out Skerries from East Hill

Sanderling at Norwick

Sunday, 22 May 2022

22nd May 2022 Unst SSE3 Light rain

The conditions flattered to deceive as the south-easterlies weren't really coming from very far so it was no real surprise that passerine migrants were again all but non-existent. At least I completed the second visit to one of my Common Bird Census squares centred upon Skaw that produced my first Sanderling of the year. When the rain eased a walk around Norwick proved equally uninspiring, producing nothing more than my first Common Tern of the year, a Lesser Whitethroat and a singing Chiffchaff. Even worse, the terrible scenes of birds presumably falling victim to bird flu continues... as both the four Dutch birders and Roger & Sue have all told me, it makes for very distressing/upsetting viewing. DEFRA public health advice available here.

Dead Bonxies at Skaw

Dead Greylag at Skaw
Its partner had not yet left its side and they presumably have a nest nearby.

Dead Gannet and Arctic Tern at Norwick
A dozen Gannets and a couple of Great Black-backed Gulls lay dead nearby.

Dying Kittiwake at Norwick
The first case I've suspected for this species, likewise I saw a dead Shag today.

Saturday, 21 May 2022

21st May 2022 Unst SW4 Overcast

An overnight return to westerlies didn't really inspire confidence but after Fair Isle's memorable day yesterday (and Out Skerries scoring again too) I made my way to Skaw hoping that something might just have filtered through in our direction. Such hopes were largely dashed on arrival as Roger & Sue were just leaving reporting no migrants present - it seemed the Chiffchaff was back singing to itself again! Four hours later I'd managed to see just 2 Common Whitethroats! Still, there's always a silver-lining, I was spending the remainder of the day off-island covering a friend's marine Diver survey and it didn't feel like I'd be missing too much. I timed my return home well this evening as one of the Marsh Harriers currently touring the island was flying over East Hill just behind our house.

Marsh Harrier at Millfield

Friday, 20 May 2022

20th May 2022 Unst SSE3 Clear

A noticeably warmer day with the haar occasionally drifting in off the sea. Whilst chatting to Bertie at Skaw a Black Kite overflew, gaining height whilst heading northeast, but it returned c.5 minutes later. After seeing a Sand Martin, a House Martin, 2 Redwings and the Chiffchaff I took a walk up the road and saw a Meadow Pipit frantically chasing another passerine that flew up onto the electricity cables - a female Bluethroat! A walk around Norwick added a Sparrowhawk, 35 Wood Pigeon, a Collared Dove, the Cuckoo, a Sand Martin, a House Martin, an overflying Fieldfare, a singing Sedge Warbler, a Blackcap and 2 Willow Warblers. NorthDale was quieter with just a single Blackcap seen. Burrafirth held a Peregrine, a male Ring Ouzel and a Song Thrush.

Black Kite at Skaw
Clearly missing a primary on its left wing, on chatting to Brydon, it was the second of yesterday's birds. It doubles the number that I've now seen on Unst with Black Kites now outnumbering Red Kites 2:1.

Female Bluethroat at Skaw

Fieldfare over Norwick

Cuckoo at Norwick

Wood Pigeons at Norwick
part of the largest flock that I've seen on Shetland

Thursday, 19 May 2022

19th May 2022 Unst SSE5 Rain clearing

In what felt like a repeat of yesterday's weather, sadly there was no repeat in yesterday's excitements, at least, not for me. Skaw was still playing host to the blue-headed Wagtail but otherwise I only saw a Swallow and a Chiffchaff during the early morning rain. A walk around Norwick only added a Sparrowhawk, a Swallow, a Blackcap, a Garden Warbler and a Common Whitethroat so I decided to take the lawnmower for a walk keeping an eye to the increasingly blue skies! Sadly, none of the various large raptors (a Marsh Harrier and a couple of Black Kites) that were seen on the island during the afternoon chose to grace the skies above Norwick, or if they did, I missed them!

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

18th May 2022 Unst S5 Rain clearing

Awoke to heavy rain but headed to Skaw where after sitting in the car for a while the rain eased, I set off and promptly saw a Golden Oriole fly past me heading inland. Mike has the knack of finding Blue-headed Wagtails and his latest had over-nighted albeit was looking rather sodden in the rain! Steve & Marion's Sedge Warbler was also still present alongside 2 Swallows, 2 Willow Warblers and the Chiffchaff. It was good to see Roger Wyatt and his wife again at Norwick that added a Cuckoo, a House Martin, a Willow Warbler, 12 Tree Sparrows and a Siskin. On driving to Burrafirth I saw my first Black-tailed Godwit of the year as well as the Slavonian Grebe, a House Martin, 8 Swallows, a Whitethroat, my first Garden Warbler of the year and a Redwing. NorthDale had held onto the Lesser Whitethroat and I saw a Redwing and a Spotted Flycatcher there. A return to Skaw saw me bump into Roger Riddington leading a group for Shetland Nature. So after enjoying a chat, knowing that he wouldn't have missed anything, rather than follow in his footsteps up the valley, I set off for a long walk to check the geos.  It had proved largely unproductive until I was nearly back at my car, when my bird of the day flicked out of a cave and into view directly beneath me - a male Red-breasted Flycatcher!

Golden Oriole at Skaw

Sedge Warbler at Skaw

Blue-headed Wagtail at Skaw

Cuckoo at Norwick

Red Admiral at Millfield

Black-tailed Godwit

Swallows at Burrafirth

Slavonian Grebe at Burrafirth

Male Red-breasted Flycatcher at Skaw

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

17th May 2022 Unst SE5 Overcast

With a scatter of scarce migrants across Shetland (and elsewhere) yesterday, I felt sure that I'd find something of interest today... an overcast dawn, a light southeasterly, mid-May, Shetland... well, I did manage to find three yearticks, but that's probably a reflection of my Spring so far, and I only saw singletons of each... are the formerly common migrants the new scarce? For the first time this Spring I also met plenty of other birders (and there were others that I didn't meet working the island too), none of whom had seen very much, or at least not at the time that I met them, and most/all were wishing they were on Fair Isle or Out Skerries (so no change there!!). So, what were the 'three'... Sandwich Tern, Common Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat! 

Common Whitethroat at Norwick

Lesser Whitethroat at NorthDale

Sandwich Tern at Norwick
... whilst watering the garden I heard a familiar call. Sporting a white forehead, presumably a 3cy individual like last year's colour-flagged individual.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

15th May 2022 Unst WSW2 Misty

A walk around Burrafirth this evening produced a Slavonian Grebe, 2 Sand Martins, a House Martin and c.15 Swallows.

Slavonian Grebe at Burrafirth

Thursday, 12 May 2022

12th May 2022 mainland Shetland SW5 Overcast

Always nice to stumble across a scarcity whilst working...

Great Crested Grebe on Sand Water
the first that I've seen on Shetland

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

11th May 2022 Unst SW5 Light showers

It was no real surprise that a look at a couple of sites revealed that it's remained painfully quiet for migrants seeing just a single Swallow, a Willow Warbler, a Chiffchaff, a Spotted Flycatcher and 2 Jackdaws at Skaw. Norwick added nothing more than a Blackcap, a couple of Willow Warblers, a Chiffchaff and 5 Tree Sparrows.

Spotted Flycatcher at Skaw
the earliest that I've recorded a Spotted Flycatcher since living on Unst

Great Northern Diver at Skaw