Wednesday 30 September 2009

Get well soon ?

The last day of September, thank god ! Its not been a classic by any stretch of the imagination, at least its October tomorrow and with it renewed optimism that it cant be any worse than the month previous. Today was pretty much like every other day on isle this autumn ? Poor. There was no sign of yesterdays possible ...., no surprise really. The Whooper Swans still occupy Vats-houll Loch and 2 Tufted Ducks and a female Goldeneye were new on West Loch. Hopefully tomorrow wont be the same, but it probably will.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

(chant) Sheephead

After yesterdays high excitement it was back to normal today, well for the most part anyhow ? Decided to give the isle a check today, so after walking the dogs around patch and seeing nothing headed north to Skaw, were again i saw nothing. Passing Vats-houll 5 Whooper Swans were new on the loch and a check of Isbister heralded the first Chaffinch of the autumn. Back on patch i added the Whoopers to the patch list, visible from the quarry. The male Blackcap is still in residence and a Whimbrel was also noted. A check of the south of the isle was planned but shelved due to a possible catharus thrush ? Seen badly 3 times but enough to get the adrenaline pumping. A further check with Mr Marshall drew a blank but there's no doubt i will be checking it first thing, fingers crossed.

I first thought the sheep was buried until its head started rolling around, being washed in by the tide.

Monday 28 September 2009

Easy Taiga !

Its amazing how the winds can blow from the West for what seems like an eternity, yet an Arctic Redpoll can end up on Foula and more importantly a 1w Taiga Flycatcher on Fetlar. Prior to this being positively id'd, yesterdays counts on Whalsay were 3 flocks on Pink-feet totaling c.150. The early ferry over to Fetlar this morning meant taking up the offer of a bed (well couch) for the night at Dougie's on Yell. Once on Fetlar in the company of south mainlands finest ! Messrs Minton, Fray & Bell the bird showed well but all too briefly inside the garden of The Manse. The light was poor as are most of my photos, but more important was the constant id input from the more experienced around me which helped in distinguishing this from just another Red-breasted Flycatcher, would i have picked up these features alone, probably not. This bird is certainly an education and makes you wonder how many do slip the net, so subtle are the differences.

Saturday 26 September 2009

How long is a piece of string ?

Hot news from Shetland is it wasn't there ?? Spent most of the day indoors and when i did get out it wasn't worth it, the Song Thrush is still on patch. Any birders that want any more info on this message me. My god its grim !

Friday 25 September 2009

Back to Basics

Back to the reality of birding the Shetland autumn today, with nothing worthy to show for my limited efforts. First up today was a small matter of doing some work ? After fitting Dougie's hallway carpet a probable trip to Unst was cancelled with home being a better option. On the way back to Laxo called in at Voe hoping for Yellow-browed Warbler but best i could do was Goldcrest and Grey Wagtail. Before home decided to check the pig field below the house, good choice as there was a Pink-footed Goose wandering around it. A welcome patch tick and later a garden tick. Not the highs Orkney are enjoying at the moment mind you, with a pair of AGP's, Sandhill Crane and now a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, surely there must be a good yank lurking around here somewhere ? Better have a look tomorrow.

Thursday 24 September 2009

End of transmission !

The title is not a pretense to the end of the blog but to the events of yesterday ? The news of a Sandhill Crane on Orkney (eluded to in Tuesdays post) meant leaving the birding abyss that is Shetland (only at the moment) yesterday morning to make the 25 minute flight to Kirkwall in the company of Messrs Preston, Minton & Dunn. On arrival at the airport we met up with Paul Higson, and after the handshakes and 'well done's' we were led to our complimentary wheels for the day. A short drive down to South Ronaldsay and we were met by Tim Wootton and after the pleasantries spent the majority of the day at various sites watching the 'always quite distant' Sandhill Crane.

The assembled crowd enduring an 'Orkney standoff'
Some of the crowd make a bid for freedom
This way lads ! Look, its over there ? Throughout the day we visited the Adult American Golden Plover at Deerness, had a good breakfast in Kirkwall and had an eventful time with our 'wheels' ?

Earlier that morning we all stood in front of our complimentary wheels wondering what the slick was covering 'half the car park'. Paul didn't know and didn't look too worried either so we headed off. All was fine with the car, it happily accepted £30 of petrol and travelled between South Ron, Deerness & Kirkwall that was until it thought 'enough was enough' and that's were the problems started ? First the stubborn gearbox then the heavy clutch, over the next hour we stalled and crunched our way back to South Ron and that was were our 'wheels' died. The unfortunate slick over the car park was transmission fluid which eventually led to the gearbox seizing up and the poor car being left abandoned, fortunately Jon Dunn in his hire car was on hand to ferry us around for the remainder of the day. A very enjoyable day in good company and good to see friends from south up to. Massive thanks to Paul for all his help and his car, sorry ! Also cheers to Steve for putting us up on Tuesday and good to see top artist Tim Wootton again, look forward to the images. Check Tim out here :

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Western movements

With all the Atlantic winds over the last ... well autumn today produced the first real vagrants, unfortunately not on Shetland. A Solitary Sandpiper in Eire but more important a Sandhill Crane on Orkney. News to follow ? Shetland bird wise a rather hasty check of Brough this afternoon produced a Blackcap and the first Song Thrush of the autumn.

Monday 21 September 2009

Move along, nothing to see (literally)

Unfortunately the wind seems stuck again blowing from the west, which means non of the eastern goodies are getting through. A check of patch proved fruitless. Skaw managed a Lesser Whitethroat and there was no sign of the Arctic Warbler. Birds of the day went to 19 Pink-footed Geese that flew over Isbister heading south, god i'm easily pleased !
As there are no birds to photograph or see thought i would go through my old digiscoped galleries and post some pictures of past birds from Shetland and around the UK.

Sunday 20 September 2009

97 minutes ?

A mixed day today ? The winds were back to SW'rly and check of patch produced just a Willow Warbler (no surprise) and a female Red-breasted Merganser. Chatting with Mr Marshall at the Houb he informed me the Arctic Warbler had returned after yesterdays no-show, so popped up to Marrister to try for better photos but that proved fruitless as it was being very flighty and elusive. Before i knew it the highlight of the day was upon me ? 1.30pm and the chance for City to show United what all the fuss is about. 97 minutes later its all over City losing 4-3. Bastards. Back to Marrister to calm down and brilliant in the window reflection views of the Arctic Warbler to top the day off. Better luck tomorrow.

Saturday 19 September 2009

Oi Beaky !

Yesterdays southerly wind was still in situ and with it renewed optimism for the day ahead. A check of Brough this morning produced a very elusive Willow Warbler and a very flighty Garden Warbler ! So after a couple of hours of fitting a new dog flap and joint filling plasterboard it was back out. A probable Barred Warbler was eluding views in the plantation up at Skaw, a Redpoll sp was around the heligoland with 3 Twite and my first Redwing of the autumn was logged. A Great Northern Diver was at the Houb as were c.25 Golden Plovers. Just above the Houb was this Golden Plover feeding alone with a slightly deformed bill, maybe prejudice is not just a human problem ?

Friday 18 September 2009

At last !

Autumn 2009 is still stuttering along but at least today was a major improvement on the last 4 weeks. A text just after 7.30 this morning alerted to me to a Greenish or Arctic Warbler in Mr Marshall's garden. 5 minutes later i arrived at Marrister as did John Laurie, no sooner were we out the car a warbler whizzed into the sycamores beside the house. I tentatively said it would be a Greenish but thankfully John Laurie's id confirmed Arctic Warbler. Also a welcome life tick. Decent views were had this morning with it becoming very mobile and elusive by early evening and successfully twitched by 6 visiting birders. With the good start, myself and John Laurie decided to give the isle a check but unfortunately migrants are still very thin on the ground with a Willow Warbler still around Brough and Lesser Whitethroat at Isbister and Sandwick.

Thursday 17 September 2009

Deja Vu

Its like i was never away? Another (pretty much) birdless day. 1 Willow Warbler and 3 Great Northern Divers. It feels like the end of November. Making Chicken Mushroom Curry, now theres a highlight !

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Double Buff

After yesterdays disappointment up at Skaw decided to have another try for the Buff-breasted duo just after lunch/tesco. A good trudge over probably the most undulating golf course in the UK failed to produce the pair, so decided to chance my arm on patch whilst walking the dogs. Nothing on patch and on return home read the news of a Tufted Puffin in Kent, bloody hell. After diner gave Skaw another chance and took the wife for one of those 'nice walks' again ! This time we headed right, a good decision as thankfully we located the pair happily feeding, mainly in the rough grassy areas of the course. In true Buff-breasted Sandpiper fashion they showed ridiculously well down to a matter of feet, shame the light was crap and my technique of photographing birds that are constantly moving leaves a lot to be desired. Hopefully they will be around tomorrow so i can give it another go.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Path of the righteous man ..... (or not)

Arrived back home a whole day early and after a very tasty Lasagne decided to drag my other half up to Skaw for a 'pleasant walk!'. Upon parking a decision had to made, which way to walk ? Left or Right. So i decided left. Wrong. Should have gone right and would have seen the pair of Buff-breasted Sandpipers which Jon Dunn was obliterating ! The next 45 minutes was spent walking up to the Taing and back trying to relocate them, best guess was they went to roost so will try again in the morning, fingers crossed.

Thursday 10 September 2009

It will get better. Honest !

Another day of westerlies so another day of no new birds, i feel a theme occurring. Brough held onto a Blackcap, i say held it was probably the same male that was in my garden a few days ago. Skaw fared slightly better with 2 Willow Warblers and a Blackcap other than that, bobbins. Met up with 2 birders up from Doncaster who are on Whalsay for a week, i hope for their sake it improves ! Back in Cheshire tomorrow for a few days just enough time to get back for when it kicks off ? Wishful thinking.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Same sh*t, different day

Well the storm passed in the night, thankfully i slept through it. The winds still blow from the west producing nothing, so its befitting i am heading back to Cheshire for a few days on Friday, guaranteeing something will happen here. The wonder of Metcheck had me all optimistic for early next week with a good batch of SE'rly winds forecast, well its all changed again back to the now resident westerly winds. What bird i did see today wont blow you away, in fact it wont even generate a stirring ? A lone sanderling at the Houb, but i didnt get out until 7pm. May get out tomorrow then again maybe not.

Monday 7 September 2009

A storm's a brewin

A very blustery day to say the least which meant not a great deal of time out and about. A check of Isbister for yesterdays Wryneck drew a blank, no surprise there then. Met up with John Laurie fresh from his week or so away and checked a few sites for what it was worth. Skaw had one each of Garden and Willow Warbler, a Pied Flycatcher was at Isbister. 2 Knot were roosting at Symbister and a Whimbrel was at the top of my drive. With the weather set to deteriorate overnight and forecast 50+ mph winds don't expect anything here tomorrow.

If you like either Ray Charles, The Blues Brothers or just dancing Parrots check out this video. Class.

Sunday 6 September 2009

Theres more up north !

With yesterdays efforts of pretty much 'bugger all' i decided to have a change of scenery and take myself off to Unst for the day. An early start was called for and just after 9am i found myself up at Skaw and to my surprise not a single migrant in sight. Next stop Northdale, at last signs of life. A Barred Warbler, Garden Warbler and 3 Willow Warblers, a decent start. Next stop Northdale, a very obliging Common Crossbill fed alone amongst the harvested crop and 3 Willow Warblers were around the burn. Haroldswick boasted 2 Pied Flycatchers, Garden Warbler, Robin and a Willow Warbler, whilst Baltasound also had Willow Warbler together with 1 possibly 2 Common Rosefinches in the school plantation. A trip back up to Norwick produced a Whinchat and another Common Rosefinch at Vaylie, maybe more significant was the grey looking acro/hippo that was skulking along the burn here, with no decent views obtained i wouldnt like to say. All in all a good day that was soured with the selfish act from some bitch at Belmont ? Got home to news of a Wryneck this evening over at Isbister, so will check it out in the morning.

Saturday 5 September 2009

False hope

If i was back in Cheshire i would be writing about great views of Sabines Gulls on the Wirral and of a trip to Anglesey for a Baird's Sandpiper, but i am not i am in Shetland. At the moment we are stuck in a birdless zone and no matter how hard any of us up here try (and we are) we just cant dig out anything decent. Hopefully i wont be writing about our woes in the next few weeks because we should be eclipsing the rest of the UK with our eclectic mixture of rare and scarce migrants ? Anyway moan over, back to today. A Blackcap in the garden this morning was not only a garden tick but was a signal that maybe Brough would have some new birds around. A good check of patch produced 1 more migrant, a Willow Warbler. The Houb played host to a Sanderling and 2 Knot, together with the usual suspects. A call from Jon Dunn had me adding Green Sandpiper to my patch list with one very briefly on Houll. With autumn yet to really reach Shetland it was no surprise that the summers butterflies were hanging on with lots of Large Whites, 1 Painted Lady and a Red Admiral around Brough.