Friday 31 March 2023

31st March 2023 Unst SE4 Overcast

With the southeasterly airflow continuing there was a nice influx of early-season migrants today making for enjoyable birding but alas no March Wheatear - again! For the first time this year there were a few Meadow Pipits at every site visited including some already displaying.

Norwick: Great Northern Diver, 5 Red-throated Diver, first-cycle Glaucous Gull, 2 Woodcock, Long-eared Owl, Water Rail, 2 Woodpigeon, 35 Blackbird, 2 Redwing, Song Thrush, 8 Robin, Dunnock, 6 Chiffchaff, 3 Goldcrest, Carrion Crow, 2 Siskin, Brambling, 30 Chaffinch & a female Yellowhammer.

North Dale: 3 Whooper Swan, 30 Skylark, Robin, 15 Blackbird, 6 Redwing, Mistle Thrush, 5 Chiffchaff.

Haroldswick: Great Northern Diver, 7 White-fronted Geese, 6 Robin, Chiffchaff, 3 Chaffinch & 3 Snow Bunting.

Burrafirth: second-cycle Glaucous Gull, Robin & 2 Chiffchaff.

First-cycle Glaucous Gull at Norwick

Chiffchaff at Norwick

Goldcrest at Norwick
The first that I've seen this year.

Brambling at Norwick
The first that I've seen this year.

Female Yellowhammer at Norwick
It equals my earliest ever Spring date to see one since living on Unst.

Thursday 30 March 2023

30th March 2023 Unst SE5 Rain clearing

The heavy rain and windy conditions overnight persisted for the morning. A Robin, Chiffchaff and Chaffinch in our garden suggested a few birds had arrived so I was keen to get out when the rain was easing. We then tried Norwick, North Dale, Burrafirth and Haroldswick but the only newly-arrived migrants seen were limited to a Long-eared Owl and a few Thrushes.

Norwick: 3 Whooper Swans, Long-tailed Duck, displaying Curlews, first-cycle Glaucous Gull, 3 Woodcock, Long-eared Owl, 6 Redwing, 2 Robin, 2 Chiffchaff, Siskin & 4 Chaffinch.

North Dale: 2 Fieldfare & 12 Redwing.

Haroldswick: 7 White-fronted Geese & a drake Wigeon.

Long-eared Owl at Norwick

Woodcock at Norwick

Chaffinch in our garden

Wednesday 29 March 2023

29th March 2023 Unst E5 Overcast

A cold easterly but apart from another wave of Blackbirds including counting 64 at Norwick alone, there seemed little suggestion of anything else newly-arrived.

Norwick: Great Northern Diver, 2 Whooper Swans, 2 Woodcock, 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, first-cycle Glaucous Gull, 64 Blackbirds, 3 Redwing & 3 Chaffinch.

Burrafirth: 11 Tufted Duck & first-cycle Glaucous Gull.

Tuesday 28 March 2023

28th March 2023 Unst SW3 Clear

The last two days have proved a classic 'Spring false dawn' with clear blue skies and near-calm conditions feeling ideal for migrants to arrive, but in the event, little to be seen. Whilst I was working yesterday a good look around the northern sites today proved quiet with the highlight being a flock of 7 Snow Buntings on Norwick beach. Hopefully the switch to a more southeasterly airflow combined with a splash or two of rain might yet deliver me a March Wheatear... we'll see...

Norwick: 3 Great Northern Diver, 'singing' Woodpigeon, 18 Skylark, singing Meadow Pipit, Scandinavian Rock Pipit, 2 Robins, 2 Redwing, 16 Blackbirds, 3 Chiffchaffs, Chaffinch & 7 Snow Buntings.

Haroldswick: 2 Pied Wagtails, Stonechat & Chaffinch.

Snow Buntings at Norwick

Skylark at Norwick

Scandinavian Rock Pipit at Norwick
Sporting such a prominent supercilium, greyish head and a pinkish flush to its upper breast I think there's enough here to know where this one's heading... that brings me nicely to Alan Curry very kindly recently sending me his 'ringing recovery' of a colour-ringed Rock Pipit present on Norwick beach on 10th April 2021 that Alan has seen at St Marys Island, Whitley Bay, Northumberland on the 14th March 2023 clearly migrating north along the east coast of the UK again. By coincidence, the last time I chatted to Alan was within a few meters of Norwick beach last Autumn!

Colour-ringed Rock Pipit at Norwick
It was ringed at Lista Bird Observatory, south Norway as a first-winter male on the 24th September 2018 and subsequently seen at Wimereux, Pas-de-Calais, France on 11th March 2019. Kjell Mork Soot added some additional thoughts ''I think this bird is colour marked on migration in Southern Norway. The bird has been wintering in France (they often return to the same locality every winter), and this spring it has gone to south-east  England (from France) and has flown along the east coast of UK to Shetland. From there it will go to breeding ground further north in Norway. 

Saturday 25 March 2023

25th March 2023 Unst NE6 Overcast clearing

We completed the monthly SOTEAG beached bird surveys for Norwick and Burrafirth. A flock of 20 tired Woodpigeons were the only obvious new arrivals.

Norwick: 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 20 Woodpigeon, 20 Skylark, Stonechat, 5 Redwing & 10 Blackbirds.

Haroldswick: Pied Wagtail, Stonechat, Mistle Thrush & Chiffchaff.

Burrafirth: 6 Whooper Swans, 18 Tufted Duck & Glaucous Gull.

First-cycle Glaucous Gull at Burrafirth

Whooper Swans at Burrafirth
Seen flying into a strong north wind it was no surprise to see them turnaround!

23rd March 2023 Unst SE2 Hazy sunshine

What a difference a week makes! It feels like a rapid transition from deep snow to hazy Spring sunshine with backing vocals continually provided today by displaying Black-headed Gulls, Ringed Plovers, Lapwings, Oystercatchers and singing Skylarks pretty much everywhere we visited. Blackbird remains the 'migrant of the moment' with over 50 seen whilst touring north Unst.

Norwick: 2 Whooper Swans, 8 Black-headed Gulls, Wood Pigeon, Pied Wagtail, 3 Robins, Song Thrush, 12 Redwing, 21 Blackbirds, 4 Chiffchaff & 3 Chaffinch.

North Dale: 8 Redwing, Fieldfare & 30 Blackbird.

Haroldswick: 7 White-fronted Geese.

Ringed Plover at Norwick

22nd March 2023 Unst SE5 Showers

A walk around Norwick during the afternoon after the worst of the rain had stopped proved quiet apart from a small arrival of 20 Blackbirds (mainly males) being evident.

Blackbirds at Norwick

Monday 20 March 2023

20th March 2023 Unst N2 Occasional showers

Overnight northwesterlies seemed unlikely to produce too many migrants but at least it was calm and there was less rain than forecast. In the event there was an obvious grounding of Ringed Plover today the first Dunnock I've seen this year had been seen by Freda yesterday and the first Pied Wagtail I've seen this year had been seen by Mike yesterday. However, it was enjoyable to watch and listen to the displaying Lapwings and the Song Thrush was in song today.

Norwick: 2 Great Northern Diver, 3 Whooper Swans, Long-tailed Duck, 10 Ringed Plover, 10 Skylark, 3 Stonechat, 3 Robin, Song Thrush, Dunnock, 5 Chiffchaff & 4 Chaffinch.

Haroldswick: Sparrowhawk, 30 Ringed Plover, 2 Stonechat & Pied Wagtail.

Singing Song Thrush at Norwick

Dunnock at Norwick

Stonechats at Norwick

Sunday 19 March 2023

19th March 2023 Unst NW3 Overcast

A nicer day than forecast with a tour of the north sites producing my record day count for Stonechat since I've lived on Shetland.

Norwick: Great Northern Diver, Whooper Swan, Woodcock, 3 Skylark, 3 Stonechat, 3 Robin, Song Thrush & 3 Chiffchaff.

North Dale: 2 Merlin, Fieldfare & Redwing.

Skeggie: 2 Stonechat.

Twite at Norwick

Stonechats at Skeggie

18th March 2023 Unst E5 Overcast

With little time to spend birding combined with a perishingly cold easterly wind ensured that I didn't venture far with Norwick producing a Lesser Black-backed Gull, a first-cycle Glaucous Gull and a Stonechat.

Friday 17 March 2023

17th March 2023 Unst WNW3 Occasional showers

Yesterday's combination of rain and southeasterlies had clearly grounded some migrants. There was a Robin in our garden being the first we've seen on the island since the 4th January. A walk around Norwick produced the 2cy Whooper Swan still going strong, a Woodcock, a first-cycle Glaucous Gull, my first Song Thrush of the year, another 3 Robins and my first Chiffchaff of the year. A look at NorthDale added my first Mistle Thrush of the year, 3 Fieldfares and 2 Redwings. During the afternoon we took a drive down south seeing our first Lesser Black-backed Gull of the year at Uyeasound and our first Stonechat of the year at Westing.

Robin at Norwick
a relief to see the snow receding at last!

2cy Whooper Swan at Norwick
good to see that it had survived the recent weather!

Common Chiffchaff at Norwick
the earliest that I've seen in a year on Unst by a couple of days

Song Thrush at Norwick

Mistle Thrush at NorthDale
the earliest that I've seen in a year on Unst by a day

Stonechat at Westing

Merlin at Westing

16th March 2023 Unst SE5 Overcast

With overnight southeasterlies I managed a 75 minute walk around Norwick from 6.30am just ahead of the forecast rain that duly arrived and persisted for the rest of the day. Rather disappointingly I only saw 3 Skylarks for my efforts, although with the amount of black ice and laying snow. I shouldn't really have been hoping for much more!

this stretch of road to Norwick was impassable yesterday