Friday, 20 October 2017

18th October, 2017. St. Aldhelms Head, Dorset

With early morning news that the Two Barred Greenish Warbler was still showing in the quarry on St. Aldhelms Head, Dorset and as I have only seen one before in Thailand probably 25 years ago and sadly I can no longer remember that sighting, Doreen and myself decided as it was around 120 miles from home we had plenty of time to drive there.

We arrived at the parking field and walked the mile to the quarry. Around 100 birders present and we quickly found out the behaviour of the bird. After around 10 minutes, I quickly spotted it when it flew along a row of bushes in front of us and landed on the edge of the bush about 15 metres from us.  Very striking and a real stunner. Very white underparts, with a greyish back, darkish green wings and one long narrow white wing-bar and no whitish edges to the tertials. A good white supercilium but I did not see the small second upper whitish wing-bar, but this was clarified by RJF that it only had two wing-bars on one wing and just one on the other wing.  Unfortunately, just after a few seconds it flicked away and during the 2.5 hours we were there, this was its typical behaviour. It showed well to us on five occasions, and on five other occasions it was seen moving through the bushes. On the third occasion we saw it very well and we were looking down onto the bird at close range but again for just a few seconds. It was on this occasion I could clearly see the wing with the two wing-bars. Doreen picked out the next good view when it was high up in one of the sycamores and showed for around 10 seconds.

I love Phylloscopus warblers, having found a superb collection over the years including the first Mainland UK record of Dusky Warbler in 1964 with Doreen in Lincolnshire, when this was a true mega rarity with only three previous records all on islands, but today's warbler was so striking it must rate as one of my favourites. I was unable to photograph it, as it was so active but the birder standing behind me got an excellent back of the camera shot which he kindly showed me.

Good to meet up with several other Sussex birders including Chris Ball, Richard Fairbank, John King, and Richard and Ann Kelly.

taken by Mike Morse
Two-barred Greenish Warbler at St. Aldhelms Head, Dorset.

Thursday, 19 October 2017


9th October, 2017 (Day 24 ) Overcast misty with drizzle becoming fine later. SW 1 to 3

Very dull wet morning but at least very calm morning. We first visited Skaw, but just the usual migrants, 1 Tree Pipit  1 Blyth’s Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Whinchat, 1 very wet Mealy Redpoll, 2 Blackcaps, 1 Chiffchaff. Onto Valyie area 4 Blackcaps the Coue’s Redpoll had joined the Twite flock otherwise just the odd Chiffchaff.

After breakfast, we visited a number of sites around Baltasound but these were very quiet although a surprise find was a Blue Tit at the School clump (a Shetland tick for me). As we were passing Haroldswick we met Al. who had seen a Bluethroat on the beach and we quickly walked the beach area and soon located it.

During the afternoon with the weather turning fine we walked around Norwick and Valyie and DC had a Yellow-browed at Valyie. During the evening a Bat was flying around Millfield.
Mealy Redpoll and Coue's Arctic Redpoll in flight at Valyie.

Male Bluethroat feeding amongst the sea-weed on Haroldswick beach.

10th October, 2017 (Day 25 ) Early morning rain clearing with heavy showers SW4-6
Another wet early morning, so different to this time last year. Our usual early morning visit to Skaw but just a couple of Redwings, the Blyth’s Lesser Whitethroat and a Blackcap. On the drive back from Skaw we had a Snow Bunting close to the road. Little seen at North Dale other than a Blackcap. Back at Millfield, there was a Siberian Chiffchaff in our garden.
After breakfast we walked the Haroldswick loop but other than the odd Blackcap and Chiffchaff with 2 parties of Bramblings flying over little else was seen. The School Clump was quiet. With heavy rain,  we stopped briefly at Houlland where 2 Ruff were seen before we returned to Millfield for lunch.
After lunch, we visited Valyie in the strong wind. Around 70 Redwings flew out of the bushes, also 30 Bramblings in the fields and 1 Common Rosefinch. also 1 Yellow-browed Warbler showed nicely in the plantation.
Shags resting on the cliff top at Skaw.

Blyth's Lesser Whitethroat still present at Skaw.

Common Rosefinch found in the weedy field at Valyie

Snow Bunting along the Skaw road

Siberian Chiffchaff taken in shade at Millfield

The same Siberian Chiffchaff taken in sunlight at Millfield

Redwing along the road near Norwick

11th October,2017 (Day 27) Early rain clearing to a fine day with showers. SW 4-6.
Our last full day, early morning visit to Skaw but fairly quiet with singles of Blyths Lesser Whitethroat and Whinchat, 2 Bramblings. Onto Norwick and Valyie with 12 Mealy Redpolls, 1 Coue’s Arctic Redpoll, 6 Bramblings, 1 Blackcap, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff.
We then went looking for a Blyth’s Reed Warbler at Halligarth but no joy, although a Merlin briefly seen and the odd Chiffchaffs. After lunch we decided to twitch the Thrush Nightingale on Mainland but again no joy.
During the evening a good showing of the Northern Lights, and the Milky Way. 
Mealy Redpoll with the Coue's Arctic Redpoll at Norwick.

Coue's Arctic Redpoll at Norwick.

Undertail coverts of the Coue's just showing one black streak.

Mealy Redpoll present with the Coue's for comparison.

12th October,2017 (Day 28 our last morning) Early rain clearing to a fine day with showers. SW 4-6.
We leave this morning on the evening ferry from Lerwick. With rain during the early morning, we decided not to visit Skaw and we departed Unst on the 9.45 ferry to Yell. Before leaving a Common Snipe put on a fine display in our garden. Whilst waiting for the Yell ferry, Doreen picked out an Otter fishing, and we were able to watch this for around 10 minutes during that time it caught several fish.
After arriving at Yell, we drove across Yell to catch the ferry to Mainland, and saw 7 Whooper Swans on the journey. We stopped off a Sandgarth on Mainland in the hope of seeing the Thrush Nightingale which has been present for several days in the grounds of a private nature reserve owned by Beth and Tony. The Thrush Nightingale showed well for a couple of minutes along a muddy footpath in poor light which made photography very difficult. Also seen 1 Mealy Redpoll.
We boarded the Lerwick ferry around 5.00 pm to arrive at Aberdeen at 07.00 am the following morning.
Both Doreen and myself would like to add a huge THANK YOU to both David and Brenda for making us very welcome and comfortable at their home at Millfield and for the effort they both made in order that we should have a very restful and enjoyable holiday.
David and Brenda outside Millfield, taken by Doreen


Thrush Nightingale at Sandgarth, just about make out
the 1st primary.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017


5th October, 2017 (Day 20)  wet and windy morning. NW 6-7

Another late start due to heavy rain. Very little seen at Skaw with 3 Chiffchaffs and 1 male Blackcap. We then drove slowly down Lamba Ness headland but virtually nothing seen from the car.

After breakfast we visited Lund and Westing but just a Whinchat and Chiffchaff seen. We then visited Easter Loch where 6 Whooper Swans, 3 Goldeneye and a female or juvenile Ring-necked Duck was present with a party of Tufted Ducks in very rough conditions. A single pink-foot flew over with 5 Grey-lags.

Our final visit was to Valyie where a Mealy Redpoll and Little Bunting were seen.

Female / juvenile Ring-necked Duck at Easter Loch.
In very difficult conditions with the duck sheltering along the far
bank in gale force winds with frequent heavy squally showers.

6th October, 2017 (Day 21)  windy morning with showers. NW 5

Our usual early morning visit to Skaw where the Red-throated Pipit and a Tree Pipit were seen, also Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Whinchat and Lesser Whitethroat. We then went and walked the field at Clibberswick where we had a Whinchat, 3 Bramblings, 3 Chaffinches and a Wood Pigeon.

After breakfast, we visited Setters Hill Pines where a Parrot Crossbill flew over. We then drove to Houlland but just a Robin seen. With news of a Hornemann’s Redpoll now at Skaw, we quickly drove there and had some close views of this superb snowball male Hornemann’s. which we watched for some time. Also 1 Kestrel seen.

As the light had now improved and the wind had dropped we decided to have another attempt to photograph the Ring-necked Duck at Easter Loch. Luckily the Tufted flock was now nearer us and the Ring-necked Duck was still present, also 7 Whooper Swans.
Early morning rainbow over Haroldswick

Living up to its name as a "snowball"


Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll showing well at Skaw.
What a stunner and for me bird of the trip.

Female/Juvenile Ring-necked Duck on Loch Easter.

7th October, 2017 (Day 22) Early morning light drizzle becoming fine and sunny E 3
Early morning visit to Skaw but already a number of birders present and some of them must have been there in the dark. We only bothered to cover part of the site and saw the Tree Pipit and probably flushed the Red-throated, also 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Whinchat, 2 Chiffchaffs, 3 Redpolls flew out and away. On our way back from Skaw a Merlin flew past the car.  We then visited North Dale, where a Yellow-browed was briefly seen, also a Dunnock and Reed Bunting.
After a break, we then walked 2 fields but other than the odd Brambling not a lot seen. As we drove through Haroldswick a large female Peregrine flew over the bay.  Onto Halligarth where a Spot Fly, 2 Chiffchaffs and another Yellow-browed were all seen and 5 Redpolls flew out and away. Onto Setters Hill Pines where another Yellow-browed showed very well, but little else seen. The School Clump was very quiet.
Back at Millfield we had a 1stW Iceland Gull performing in Norwick Bay. We then decided to go to Uyeasound to try to see the Olive-backed Pipit which had been seen earlier. As we arrived one other observer was already watching it so we managed some satisfactory views although at times it would disappear in the long grass.
Spotted Flycatcher at Halligarth

1stW Iceland Gull in Norwick Bay 



Olive-backed Pipit at Uyeasound
It was in exactly the same site as the one we saw last year.
8th October, 2017 (Day 23 ) Fine calm morning becoming overcast later  N 1
Early morning visit to Valyie but generally quiet. We also covered the field at Norwick. Male Coue’s Arctic Redpoll  showed briefly sat with a Mealy Redpoll, also seen 1 Tree Pipit, 1 Reed Bunting, and 2 Blackcaps. We then visited Skaw where the Red-throated Pipit showed in the long grass also the Tree Pipit, 2 Chiffchaffs, and 1 Blackcap.
After breakfast, we visited Burrafirth but the burn was very quiet. Onto Houlland where 1 Brambling and a fine Siberian Chiffchaff showed very well in the garden. We next visited Lund where an adult male winter plumage Long-tailed Duck on the loch but otherwise just 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Whinchat seen. Also 4 Harbour Porpoises. On the drive back, a fine Merlin sat on a wall close to the road.

Finally, a visit to North Dale produced a late Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff and a Blackcap.

Doreen enjoying her walk at Burrafirth

Harbour Porpoise off Lund

Twite at Norwick

Coue's Arctic Redpoll with a Mealy Redpoll at Valyie


Siberian Chiffchaff at Houlland

Drake winter plumage Long-tailed Duck off Lund.

Female/Juvenile Merlin along the road.