Sunday, 4 October 2015

Shetland Week

Have just returned from a week in the Shetland Isles with The Captain, Bob, Tom and Julien. It all went well and we had a good week of birding. It wasn’t up to the high standard of last year but nothing was going to match the birds we saw in 2014.

It got off to a good start when a Lanceolated Warbler turned up at Vale of Walls but as we were within a mile of an American Golden Plover we went to see that first. There were around 40 birders present when we arrived at Vale of Walls, like a lot of places in Shetland it has more letters than houses. The bird was being pushed around a fair bit, but unfortunately that is the name of the game in Shetland! There is so little cover but the birds use it well. This bird was running around on the ground in amongst the long grass like a mouse! The next day (Sunday) we went south again to Toab where were saw Blyth’s Reed Warbler and this bird was being pushed as well and we only got flight views.

The garden of the house we were staying in had a Sycamore in the front garden “The Tree of Dreams” and it held a Lesser Whitethroat for the whole week, whilst the back garden had a Yellow-browed Warbler. In a way the bird of the week was Yellow-browed Warbler, every tree in Shetland seemed to have one and we must have seen in excess of 50 during the week, more than I have seen in 35 years of birding.

Monday saw us on Unst where our luck changed missing Arctic Warbler and Pallid Harrier, to compound things a Grey-cheeked Thrush turned up on Mainland! Unfortunately wrong place, wrong time.

Tuesday the wind had increased and we went for and missed the Grey-cheeked Thrush which had moved on overnight, we then missed a Eastern Subalpine Warbler then a possible Icterine Warbler, it was starting to be a recurring theme. In the afternoon with the wind blowing a gale The Captain and I spent a couple of hours at Quarff where we saw a couple of Red-breasted Flycatchers and several Yellow-browed Warblers.

Wednesday started with a trip north to look for a Pechora Pipit that was seen late last night, we were lucky and connected with the bird straight away. In the afternoon it was again very windy and birding was hard work, The Captain and I birded around Boddam where we were given a verbal volley from a women when we were in the garden of a derelict house! We found a Woodcock sitting in a field and there were bird coming in off the sea with Redwing, Snipe and Swallow all arriving looking knackered from fighting the wind. We did however catch up with a Bluethroat and a Pied Flycatcher further South.

The rest of the week drifted but we really enjoyed birding some of the settlements in the south we didn’t find anything rare but it was enjoyable just birding and not chasing rare birds (although a chance would have been nice).

There was a bit of a mix up with flights on the way back with one of the party missing an earlier flight and being stung over £300 to get home, but that is airlines for you.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

23 September

I have recently returned from 17 days in Tenerife. The first week was with three birding colleagues, we cleaned up on the endemics in three days leaving us scratching around for the rest of the week. It was good fun and we all enjoyed the experience. Highlights include: Bolle’s Pigeon, White-tailed Pigeon, Blue Chaffinch, Island Canary, Canary Island Blue Tit, Canary Island Chiffchaff, Plain Swift, Barbary Falcon, Barbary Partridge, Monk Parakeet, Spoonbill, Cattle Egret, Glossy Ibis, Long-tailed Glossy Starling, Spanish Sparrow, Lesser-short Toed Lark, Spectacled Warbler and Sardinian Warbler. Plus but by no means least 1,000’s of Cory’s Shearwaters.

I dropped the lads off at the Airport with Joy arriving on the flight they were returning on. She needed the rest having had a hectic week at work. We generally just relaxed although we did a little birding only really adding Knot and Common Sandpiper. In fact we didn’t even use the car for the last few days. But I really enjoyed it.

Today at Shustoke I had a year tick with a Little Egret, there was a bit of passage today with 50-80 hirundines a fly over Yellow Wagtail, 2 Blackcap, several Chiffchaff. It was good to see getting on for 50 species – to put it into perspective in the 17 days on Tenerife I only managed 55 species.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Wednesday 26th August

It was a bit bleak this morning more like October than August but I enjoyed it. Not long after I arrived a juvenile Arctic Tern flew through and just carried on going. There were really good numbers of Wildfowl which included

61 Shoveler
57 Gadwall
5 Wigeon
125 Tufted Duck
140 Mallard
48 Little Grebe
54 Great Crested Grebe
676 Coot although Steve Haynes counted 781!

Passerines were thin on the ground and after the good numbers of Warbler on Monday I was down to 4 Chiffchaff, 4 Blackcap and a single Whitethroat – but it was windy.

There were a few butterflies around with Common Blue, Painted Lady and Small Copper the highlights.

Painted Lady

Small Copper and Common Blue

Monday, 24 August 2015

Monday 24 August

Med Gull at Shustoke last week
For the second time this year I have seen Greenshank at Shustoke Reservoir! For the second time this year I put the news out! And, for the second time this year the bird flew off just after I put the news out!!!

It circled for a while before landing on the carpet weed but within minutes it had gone. There were still two Common Sandpipers on the edge despite disturbance from dog owners who refuse to put there dogs on leads.

There were a lot of warblers around today with double figures of Chiffchaff and Blackcap, plus I saw a few Whitethroat and a single Willow Warbler. On Saturday evening I had only my second Garden Warbler for the year.

Two Wood Sandpipers, Middleton Lakes RSPB

Two Wood Sandpipers, Middleton Lakes RSPB

Friday, 21 August 2015

Thursday 20th August

Reaping the benefits of getting all my chores out of the way during the summer. Yesterday, though I was a bit pushed for time during the day, so I made a brief visit in the morning just to see if the Med Gull was still present, it was and with the farmers ploughing the fields locally the numbers of gulls have increased dramatically. I didn’t have time to walk around but a quick look from the car park saw really good numbers of Gadwall (30+), Shoveler (12+), Wigeon (3) plus over 60 Little Grebe when you add that there are two pairs and a few youngsters on the small pool there are getting on for 70 present.

Generally it appears to have been a really good breeding season. Two broods of Mute Swan, numerous Mallard, 1 of Gadwall and Great Crested and Little Grebe appear to have had a lot of success. There are at least two Gt Crest and one Little Grebe on eggs even at this late stage and two nests of Tufted Duck which tend to nest later in the season.

For a change Joy and I went to Middleton RSPB and amazingly had the place to ourselves apart from two lads on Trial Bikes buzzing around the reserve. Birdwise there were 2 Wood Sandpiper, 3 Snipe, 1 Green Sandpiper, 3 Ruff, 1 Dunlin, 1 Garganey and 2 Mandarin Duck.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Wednesday 19th August

Not a bad day again today, I walked around from 8.30 onwards but the Ruff were no where to be seen. I made my way to the Sheep Paddocks and there was still one Whincat. I heard Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but the highlight was my first Lesser Whitethroat for the site this year – a long time to wait.

With rain forecast for early afternoon I thought I would get over later and check the gulls as their numbers were starting to increase recently and in previous years there have been Med Gulls amongst them or maybe even a Yellow-legged Gull. I arrived, set up my scope and the first thing to grab my attention were the 3 Ruff, I could have could swear they weren’t there earlier.

Unfortunately most of the larger gulls had departed but there were good numbers of Black-headed Gull around, for something better to do I started to search through these until I came across a juvenile Med Gull, almost immediately the rain increased so I departed. Not a bad day though.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Tuesday 18th August

Not a bad day at all today. There were double figures of Gadwall and Shoveler plus four Wigeon. I also counted 80 Lesser Black-backed Gulls with half a dozen or so Herring Gull. I walked under the Railway to check out the Sheep Paddock and saw three Whinchat, I think it is only the second time that I have come across this species at Shustoke.

This evening Joy wanted to see the Whinchat so I found myself once more at the Reservoir, as we were walking round three Ruff flew in, landing on the carpet weed that is covering a large part of the Reservoir. Fortunately the Whinchat were still there.

Also this afternoon I had two Hobby an Adult and fully grown youngster from the garden.

Two Hobby near Shustoke