Monday, October 5, 2015

Shetland day 6 - many non-sibe thrushes

Woke up early in the morning and the weather conditions were ideal. Walked out with Pierre and immediately we had a flock of Redwings overhead. We both said: today is a day for a Sibe Thrush. We were so right and so wrong. 
We headed off to spend the day on Whalsay. In the morning the weather was quite nice - sunny with a moderate easterly wind, but during the day the wind picked up considerably (now there is a gale outside). We first checked the famous plantation - it had a few Redwings, a Brambling and little else. When we returned there around noon it was packed full with fresh migrants - several yellow-brows, many Goldcrests, Pied Fly and a few others.

Redwings - when it was still sunny

The plantation

During my week on Shetland I probably saw more than 100 birds but I just cannot have enough of these stunning little sibes:

Yellow-browed Warbler


We then continued checking iris beds, crop fields and gardens all around the garden. The wind made birding more difficult. We came up with nothing of real interest. Another Pied Fly, Whinchat, Lesser Whitethroat etc. I had three flyover Redpoll thingies and a flock of about 30 Twite: 

'Shetland' Wren

Hedgehog - introduced like all mammals on Shetland. Rather sinister-looking.


Around noon news broke of a Siberian Thrush on Fair Isle. Classic. Pierre immediately started calculating how to get there on time before the winds were too strong, and to get off on time for his connections to Corvo. After a few phone calls we figured out that flights for the day were cancelled because of the wind, and anyway the bird wasn't really playing ball over there. So we gave up the idea and continued birding in more leisure. We finished up on Whalsay and went on to check some sites on the east coast. More thrushes, yellow-brows etc. but that's it.
Today was my last full day on Shetland. It was a good day despite not seeing anything rare. By the sound of the wind outside I doubt if I get any birding done tomorrow morning before I head back home. We'll see. Good night.

Shetland day 5 - Lap Bunt but not there yet

Winds dropped today and it was an exceptionally calm day, sunny at times. This raised hopes for new arrivals. Well, that hope was almost completely false. I spent most of the day with the Dream Team, Roger and Paul. We started off with the Sumburgh circuit. Some stuff moving about up in the air - several Lesser Redpolls, Siskin and quite many geese. In the bay several Slav Grebes and Long-tailed Ducks:
Long-tailed Ducks - juveniles

Slavonian Grebes

Then we had a thorough look around Quendale. Also today the iris beds did not deliver. One Common Sandpiper and a Whitethroat were new. There were two Great Northern Divers there as well. I did play around with the Fulmars a bit.

Amazing scenery off the end of Quendale head

After lunch the news about Swainson's Thrush broke. I decided not to go because it would have been a mad dash, and I preferred to stay in the south and look for my own birds. Mistake? 
In the afternoon we checked Sumburgh head. A very showy Lapland Bunting (adult male?) was at the carpark. Lots of admirers there. Stunning bird! 

The view off Sumburgh Head was stunning:

Fair Isle was visible in the distance:

Last place we checked was Scatness. Roger found a very unsettled Sibe Chiffy but by the time I joined him it had evaporated. 
Lovely evening with all the team - certainly pumped me up with energy for tomorrow. Weather is looking promising. Hope my last day on Shetland delivers.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Shetland day 4 - Red-throated Pipit and more

Had another great day today on Shetland. Headed out early onto Scatness. Paul dropped me off and just a few minutes after I had started walking I heard a familiar call - Red-throated Pipit! I quickly located the bird flying overhead. The wind was blowing hard from the southwest so it quickly flew northeast, and it gave another 2-3 calls before I lost it flying in the general direction of Sumburgh. While watching it I reached for my phone and tried to sound record it but all I got was the wind... Luckily I am well familiar with this call - common species in Israel. Nice one.
Otherwise it was still pretty quiet. I had one nivalis Snow Bunting and about 8 Northern Wheatears. There were many skylarks and Meadow pipits around but I couldn't relocate the red-throat or find anything else. On the wetland there were 8 Whooper Swans and a nice selection of scarcish Shetland ducks - singles of Pintail, Gadwall and Shoveler. Also 1 Jack Snipe.

Snow Bunting

Northern Wheatear

Whooper Swans

Roger graciously picked me up and we went on birding. First we checked Durigarth. No White's Thrush in the famous garden - we had to settle with this handsome male Lesser Redpoll, rather scarce on Shetland:

Then we checked Rerwick  - nothing there apart for a Great Northern Diver in the bay.

In the afternoon a visit to Lerwick with Martin and Sharon. We first tried the OBP - there were many birders there, some stringing Meadow and Rock Pipits in the process of hanging around... We didn't fancy that activity very much, so we went to have another look in the harbour - again many Eider and about 20 Black Guillemots.

Dodgy OBP (Rock Pipit)

Shetland day 3 - Winds of change

Too late to blog so I will do it short. Hey, sleep is completely over-rated. Difficult weather in the morning. Force 7 westerlies but I headed out anyway. Walked through Clevygarth towards Virkie. Hoped for a Buff-breasted sand or something like that but nothing good. Few passerine migrants but plenty of snipe on the wetland. Among the 50 or so commons were at least 8 Jack Snipe - not bad. A pair of Bonxies followed me closely:

Then I went with Gary to Lerwick to do some stuff. There were about 200 Eiders in the harbour, and two sweet Black Guilelmots:

Whooper Swans on Clikcimin Loch:

Then suddenly the wind dropped, the rain stopped and the sun came out. It smelt like sibes in the air... We checked Hellendale and Seaview in Lerwick, there were some fresh migrants in - Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Lesser Whitethraot, Grey Wagtail and quite many yellow-brows, but nothing more than that. We decided to give the OBP a miss. There was this Purple Sandpiper roosting with knots on the shoreline:

Red Knots

In the afternoon a short walk with Roger in Exanboe produced very little, only a Merlin that flew past. In the evening following a lovely dinner with Becca and Phil (thanks!), I gave a talk to Shetland Bird Club - it was a fun evening!
The wind really dropped this afternoon and the weather from Sunday onwards looks much more promising. So with some new birds today I am optimistic towards the weekend. Good night.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Shetland day 2 - wind and hard work

A difficult day today with hard work and less reward compared to yesterday, but still pretty good. Bad weather today - strong SW west and sort of wet most of the time. Started off early. In Paul's garden 5 yellow-brows, they were really everywhere today. By 10:00 I already had about 25. 

Yellow-browed Warbler

I recorded these two in a duet:

The walk down to Roger's via Virkie was alright but hard work. Birds kept very low and quiet because of the wind. Highlight was a Bluethroat I found in a ditch above Virkie. I flushed it twice, enough to see it was a Bluethroat with the tail pattern etc. but honestly I don't even know if it was a male or female. Nice bird to find but I would trade it happily with a proper sibe. More pipits around today, plus several Redwings and a Fieldfare. Quite a few Pinkfeet went through in the morning, and some landed in the fields for a rest en route from Iceland to Norfolk:

Pink-footed Goose

Pool of Virkie had three Grey Plovers, some Barwits etc. Met up with Martin and we walked back to Roger's, more yellow brows...

Bring it on!

In the afternoon we were determined to see some birds despite the awful weather. We first made the mistake and tried the Arctic Warbler at Weisdale again. Stood around like idiots in horrible wind, watched a Sycamore shaking like crazy and glimpsed the warbler for a split second. We agreed this was not much fun so we went on to watch real, big, showy birds. We started off with gulling at the tip of Weisdale. There were several argentatus herrings, a Little Gull and this hybrid Glaucous X Herring type thing -interesting wingtip pattern, even the unmoulted P10 is odd: 

There was this group of Red-breasted Mergansers there, and also 7 Goosanders flew over:

Red-breasted Mergansers

Then we checked ducks on Tingwall Loch. No interesting aythyas among the tufteds, but this juvenile Goldeneye made us get out of the car and grab our scopes. Interesting bird, tiny with small bill, half-developed head shape, and dark eye:

Then in the late afternoon shorebird in Virkie again. More commoner stuff but nothing new. 
Hoping for some better weather in the next few days!