Sunday, 30 October 2011

Sodding Gulls

When most of the migrants have buggered off from the patch then what to do ? On Scilly it would probably be a seawatch from Peninnis, in England go through the returning wildfowl or check out the Gulls. On Shetland seawatching is crap, I checked all the wildfowl on the patch, which took about 2 minutes, to get 38 Barnacle Geese, a female Shoveler and 4 Wigeon, which now only left the Gulls... erm. Gull watching on Shetland is normally as bad as seawatching (apart from white-wingers), but today was a bit different, with a few odd looking beasts kicking about.
Bird A
I picked this thing up off Sanblister Beach (in front of the house), the first thing noticed was a virtually all dark tail and generally dark plumage - pointing towards a 'Smicker', however, the bird is clearly too small and on closer inspection looks sod all like a 'Smicker'. It does however superficially resemble a juv/1st year Lesser Black-backed (mega rare on Shetland in winter), but this doesn't seem to fit either, as the pale 'window' at the base of the primaries should eliminate LBBG, but if it's not a LBBG it's probably got some in it somewhere.

Bird A

Bird B
Again another dark looking bird but definitely not a 'Smicker', presumably it's a dark 'argentatus' with a lot of juvenile plumage still retained. Some photos of a similar looking bird (though a second winter) in Denmark - photos here

Bird B

Bird C
A pretty mad looking adult type Herring Gull, but the bird is in a late moult on the primaries and has an looking, parallel sided bill. the mantle shade and numerous white mirrors suggest 'Argentatus' (which it almost certainly is), but that bill, moult timing and fainter head streaking suggest maybe there's another influence in the genes of this bird - see here- a bold call, but Gulls do have a habit of interbreeding with anything that vaguely resembles themselves !

Bird C

Bird D
A bit of a doddle really - a big, monsterous, adult 'Argentatus', though it may not be a full adult as there does seem to be some brown flecking still in the wings.
Bird D

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Owl Town

At last the wind has died down a bit, only 25mph today as opposed to 45 yesterday. After noticing that the Great Tit was in the garden and flushing a Long-eared Owl out of the honeysuckle hedge, I set off around the patch. As soon as I got over the fence 6 Short-eared Owls came out of the field by the house, followed shortly afterwards by a Little Auk out from Scord Beach, and then the 'bastard bird' of the autumn - a locustella kicked up 3 times from the dunes by Scord, before it just disappeared into the marram grass, despite extensive tramping and thrashing the grasses with a stick, the bird was never seen again. Around the Old Scatness dig another 2 Short-eared Owls were put up, and anothe 3 came in off the sea down at the south end of Scatness - making 11 in total for the day ! Elsewhere around the patch were - 120 Barnacle Geese, a Robin, a Blackcap and a late Wheatear.

Short-eared Owls - inc a couple coming in off the sea

Great Tit

Barnacle Geese

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Tit Movement

After 2 days of south-easterly gales, birds are at last beginning to show up. I was a bit fired up yesterday after it was south-easterly all night, but all that was on the patch was 2 Fieldfare, a Redwing and a Skylark ! A bit better today, but still 40mph winds, with 100+ Fieldfares and 30 or so Redwings in the fields on the patch, but today the garden came up with the star bird - a Great Tit ! I know that may sound a bit crap to anyone from 'down south', but since I've been on Shetland, Great Tits have been rarer than Olive-backed Pipits ! And this is the second record for the garden, so I'm well overdue an OBP. Also in the garden were 2 Bramblings and a Blackcap.

Today's Great Tit

and the Great Tit from March 2006



Thursday, 20 October 2011

Ruby Porn

Finally went up to Gulberwick for the male Siberian Rubythroat, I would have gone straight away yesterday when news broke, but being has it was lashing down with hail and snow showers, I waited until today.
What a porn star of a bird ! especially with the sun shining on it as it fed around the track to the house, add to this close views of Pechora Pipit and a fly by Hen Harrier - a pretty good day.
This is now the third Rubythroat I've seen on Shetland, with birds on Fair Isle in 2003 and 2005. Plus a good few in India.
Pechora Pipit - Gulberwick

Siberian Rubythroat - Gulberwick

And another one - Fair Isle Oct 2005

And yet another, this time from Sattal, India in Feb 2008

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Belated Update

Now that the broadband seems to be moving a bit quicker, time for a quick update from the last few weeks.
A day out dipping the Alpine Swift at Laxo on the 29/9, was salvaged a bit with Lesser Grey Shrike nearby,
A Brambling and a Jack Snipe were patch year-ticks on the 30/9 and so was Greenfinch on 2/10, a day when there were Olive-backed Pipits all over the place, apart from Scatness that is, where I managed to find a Tree Pipit instead !!!
A quick dash up to Cunningsburgh on the 1/10 and Alpine Swift gripped back - putting me on 349 for Shetland !
The big 350 fell soon after with an adult Sabine's Gull in front of the house - county tick, patch tick and house tick !
Bits and pieces around the patch included 4 Grey Plovers and 7 Snow Buntings on 10/10, and another patch tick, Little Grebe on the 14/10 and 2 Short-eared Owls on the 16/10.
A few interesting Moths at the end of September, the best being Red Sword Grass and Dark Sword Grass.

Alpine Swift at Cunningsburgh and Lesser Grey Shrike at Laxo (Phots - Jim Nicolson)

Grey Heron


Grey Plover


Whooper Swans

Little Grebe

Short-eared Owl

Snow Bunting
Red Sword Grass

Dark Sword Grass