Tuesday 30 May 2023

30th May 2023 Unst W4 Overcast

Burrafirth: Swallow.

Norwick: Pink-footed Goose & Swallow.

Pink-footed Goose south over Norwick

28th May 2023 Unst NW4 Overcast

Norwick: 2cy Iceland Gull.

Burrafirth: Swallow & Lesser Whitethroat.

Golden Plover chick

27th May 2023 Unst SW6 Overcast

Norwick: Sparrowhawk.

Sparrowhawk with prey in our garden

Friday 26 May 2023

26th May 2023 Unst W5 Overcast

 Norwick: 2 Swallow, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff & Common Redpoll.

Thursday 25 May 2023

25th May 2023 Unst W5 Overcast

Haroldswick: 4 Barnacle Geese flew west.

Norwick: Willow Warbler

Tuesday 23 May 2023

23rd May 2023 Unst WSW5 Overcast

The presumed intergrade flava x thunbergi was again present on our lawn and was briefly joined in flight by a second individual. I managed a few sound-recordings of the intergrade calling. There was unfortunately no sign of the Bluethroat or Subalpine Warbler.

Norwick: Kestrel, 3 Collared Dove, 2 Swallows, 2 flava Wagtails, Common Whitethroat, singing Willow Warbler & 2 Tree Sparrows.

presumed flava x thunbergi intergrade

Monday 22 May 2023

22nd May 2023 Unst WSW3

Fate often seems to play a huge part in rarity finding. Alarm set, I left for another day's work on mainland on time only to glimpse with my naked eye what appeared likely to be a female Bluethroat 'jump' up onto our wall, cock its tail and disappear down the other side. I dropped what I was carrying, jumped the wall and anticipated/hoped to see the Bluethroat the other side, but no, nothing. I quickly walked the length of the wall... no sign... the adjacent burn... no sign... I'd effectively missed my ferry, but in all honesty, on JFC telling me the news of the Pallas's Reed Bunting on Utsira I'd been in two minds whether to go to work today anyway! Instead I popped indoors, told Brenda to keep an eye out for a Bluethroat and that I'd decided not to go to work! I re-walked around the garden, down the burn and then off towards Norwick. I'd seen very little when I reached Leawart and on seeing a movement in the rosa, there was my first BB rarirty find of the year... a Subalpine Warbler... albeit a(nother) female! Disappointingly it remained silent, but I put the news out and was soon joined by Steve and Marion. The Warbler started to show better but still remained silent. Brenda then pinged through an image of the Bluethroat... it was back in our garden! I elected to stay with the Warbler but Steve & Marion left and by the time they reached our garden an interesting male flava Wagtail was strutting its stuff around our lawn! I took a look at Valyie seeing my first 2 House Martins of the year, a Chiffchaff, a singing Redwing and a Brambling. I then joined Mike who had elicited a strong response from the Subalpine Warbler to calls of a Western but it had remained silent. He kindly gave me a lift home where we saw the Wagtail and were soon joined by Chris and Tracey and 2 Collared Doves but the Bluethroat failed to show again. The afternoon proved quieter with Brenda photographing a Tree Sparrow in our garden, seeing another Collared Dove at Burrafirth and a Long-eared Owl.

Female Bluethroat in our garden

Female Subalpine Warbler sp. at Leawart, Norwick

at times its primary projection appeared quite long and pointed (pro-eastern)

tail pattern in accordance with what was formerly considered pro-Western/Moltoni's

very worn primaries ('unhelpful' for Moltoni's)

'Yellow' Wagtail on our lawn
Tom Gale had recently drawn my attention to an interesting 'Yellow' Wagtail present on North Ronaldsay recently (pics herethat he's been busy researching and putting together some very informative montages of the various forms and intergrades from across the range of both Yellow Wagtail and Eastern Yellow Wagtail. Today's bird looks very similar to the North Ronaldsay individual albeit showing a slightly less well-marked supercilum. With regard to thunbergi 'Grey-headed Wagtail' Shirihai & Svensson (2020) state 'in general there is no white supercilium, but a minority (possibly the result from inter-breeding with flava) have 'remnants' of white above or immediately behind or (rarely) in front of eye. 

Long-eared Owl
a beautifully pale-faced individual

Sunday 21 May 2023

21st May 2023 Unst NW2 Clear

Spring-like weather at last today seeing Mike's male Blue-headed Wagtail on Haroldswick beach and 2 Common Redpolls in our garden this evening. 

Blue-headed Wagtail at Haroldswick

20th May 2023 Unst S4 Overcast

I spent the morning guiding cruise passengers around Hermaness in thankfully drier weather than forecast! A quick circuit of Norwick in the afternoon only produced a Blackcap and 2 Chiffchaff.

Friday 19 May 2023

19th May 2023 Unst SW4 Overcast

Norwick: Kestrel, Short-eared Owl, 3 Swallow, Sand Martin, Pied Wagtail, Chiffchaff and a flock of 10 Carrio Crows flying north.

Short-eared Owl at Norwick

18th May 2023 Unst SW5 Light rain

Norwick: Kestrel, Chiffchaff, Redwing & 4 Siskin.

Wednesday 17 May 2023

17th May 2023 Unst S2 Clear

Completing a survey started well finding a female Snow Bunting but afterwards little of note was seen. Haroldswick beach was playing host to 2 Sanderling and Brenda had enjoyed watching the antics of a Blackcap in our garden. A brief look around Norwick added nothing more than a Robin and a Chiffchaff!

Female Snow Bunting

Tuesday 16 May 2023

16th May 2023 Unst NW5 Overcast

Once the wind moderated this evening I took a look around Norwick with the highlights being my first Sanderling of the year and a brief encounter with a Shore Lark that flew off calling towards East Hill.

Norwick: 3 Great Northern Diver, Sparrowhawk, Sanderling, Collared Dove, Shore Lark, Redwing & Ring Ouzel.

Shore Lark at Norwick

Sunday 14 May 2023

14th May 2023 Unst S4 Overcast

With the wind from the west it was no real surprise that the lingering passerine migrants are now dwindling in number and the Sparrowhawks present probably aren't helping! After a look at Norwick and NorthDale a cold weather front arrived with a period of steady rain. As the rain cleared I scanned the wick and at range, I picked out a superb summer-plumaged Sabine's Gull circling over the cliffs of Lamba Ness. In switching from scope to camera that Brenda had quickly brought to me... I lost sight of it. With the sinking feeling setting in that I wouldn't see it again, I suddenly noticed it flying now low over the sea and much closer into the wick alongside 2 Kittiwakes. The Kittiwakes settled on the sea and were joined by the Sabine's but still at quite a range to obtain any images. I quickly put the news out and legged it towards the cliff edge. The trio took flight, and almost unbelievably, flew towards me and landed on the beach alongside a Herring Gull but soon joined by Kittiwakes! The flock spooked, and this time the Sabine's took a look at the taing before heading out to sea and rounding Clibberswick. I was joined by Mike who'd made it in time to see it and he told me it was somewhat surprisingly, the first confirmed record for Unst! Had the band of rain encouraged it to briefly stop migrating - we'll never know?

Norwick: 2 Great Northern Diver, 2 Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Sabine's Gull, Common Redstart & Song Thrush.

Northdale: Common Redstart.

the white tips to its primary coverts age it as an adult (Adriaens 2022)

Neatly splaying its primaries

Adult Sabine's Gull at Norwick
Given the location of Shetland the species enjoys something of an enigmatic status with only around 30 previous individuals recorded. The only previous one I've seen was found by Phil Harris whilst aboard the excellent Shetland Seabird Tours. It's the 360th species to be recorded on Unst.

Saturday 13 May 2023

13th May 2023 Unst SW4 Overcast

The north of the island is still playing host to a selection of lingering migrants with quite a good count of Kestrels albeit the highlight of the day was seeing my first White-tailed Eagle of the year flying northwest over Norwick.

Norwick: White-tailed Eagle, Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel, Swallow, Common Redstart, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, 2 Willow Warbler & Song Thrush.

Haroldswick: White Wagtail & Willow Warbler.

Burrafirth: Kestrel, Whinchat, Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat & Willow Warbler.

NorthDale: Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat & Chiffchaff.

Skaw: Grey Heron, Moorhen & Kestrel.

White-tailed Eagle over Norwick