Saturday, 22 October 2016

Unst, Shetland Islands Blog 6

This is my 6th and last Blog on our month's trip to Unst, Shetland Islands.

23rd September, 2016

Sunny periods with heavy scattered showers and the wind had now gone to the W and calm at first but steadily got up. Our first visit was to Skaw where the highlight was a Little Bunting (our 4th for the trip so far), also singles of Whinchat, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat (our first for the trip), Chiffchaff. We then visited North Dale where our first Redwing, also Blackcap Willow Warbler, Brambling. On arriving back at Millfield, a Yellow-browed was showing in David’s roses, a garden tick for him.

After a late breakfast, we first visited Vaylie and quickly connect with the Common Rosefinch and a superb Red-breasted Flycatcher. Also 3 Yellow-browed Warblers, 3 Blackcaps, with singles of Willow Warbler, Whinchat, Kestrel and Goldcrest also 3 Chaffinches. We then walked the Post Office track and the pines without success. Other birds seen during the morning included 1 Shoveller, 45 Teal, 25 Twite, 30 Skylarks and 50 Rock Doves. The number of Bonxies were fewer than the previous days.

During the late afternoon we checked the School clump but no joy so we moved onto Clingera where we had 2 more Yellow-broweds also 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Willow Warbler  and a Blackcap. Stopped off at Haroldswick beach and had brief flight views of a Little Bunting. Arriving back at Millfield the Yellow-browed showed well around the garden.

Millfield-David's and Brenda's new home on Unst

Looking from Millfield across Norwick Bay to Lamba Ness

Looking from Millfield to Norwick Bay

Looking from Millfield towards Valyie

The migrant gully at Valyie

Doreen and Brenda leaving Valyie

Little Bunting in the early morning at Skaw

Skylark at North Dale - Numbers quickly built up to 40 here
but then decreased to just a few during our stay.

Female Shoveler with a huge bill at Haroldswick

1stW Red-breasted Flycatcher showing from down to 10 ft
at Valyie

Common Rosefinch  just beginning to show some reddish tinge
at Valyie. 

22nd September, 2016

Early morning visit to Skaw in overcast conditions with light rain and calm conditions. Very quiet on the migrant front with a Peregrine which flew high over and was our first for the trip. On the drive to North Dale a single Whinchat was seen. At North Dale a superb Little Bunting showed very well around the pines, unfortunately because of the rain we had left the cameras in the car. Also a single Chiffchaff was seen.

After breakfast, it was still raining so we decided to visit nearby Valyie. Parked at Norwick Bay and a Yellow-browed was showing well on the fence by the road closed sign, also a fine White Wagtail. Walk along to Valyie and in the gully a second Yellow-browed was also showing and calling nicely in the bottom trees. As we were making our way up the gully we picked out a further 2 Yellow-browed arriving from high up and dropped down into the gully. David and myself ventured into the main clump and another Yellow-browed was calling. Three Blackcaps and our first Goldcrest of the trip. David also had a brief view of a Brambling and we had 3 Chaffinches on the walk back to the car and a Chiffchaff flew past us and 2 Whinchats were on the fence with the odd Wheatears. A brilliant experience seeing 2 Yellow-browed’s arrive from out of the sky and a total of 5 Yellow-broweds in this area.

During the afternoon, we first birded the ditch and other sites around Norwick. A Yellow-browed Warbler flew down the lane and was re-located in one of the gardens. A single Barred Warbler gave brief but close views in a garden also a Blackcap was seen. Frank stopped to let us know that a Short-eared Owl was sitting on a fence post at North Dale and we quickly drove there for a photographic shoot. After enjoying the Short-eared Owl for some 20 minutes and as it had stopped raining we decided to drive to Uyesound to see if the Blyths Reed Warbler was showing any better than on our previous visit. We soon located it and obtained some satisfactory views although it was still very elusive and skulking and proved extremely difficult to obtain some good pics. A Merlin briefly showed and there was also yet another Yellow-browed showing in the same clump of bushes and we had a second bird as we were leaving Uyseound, making a total of eight different Yellow-browed’s for today.

Gannets (just part of the flock) all circling over Norwick Bay

Some of today's Yellow-browed Warbler

Short-eared Owl at North Dale


Blyth's Reed Warbler at Uyesound 
The top 5 were taken in shadow of the tree, whereas the bottom
4 were taken out of shadow.

21st September, 2016

Another fine and sunny morning with quite a strong S wind. We first visited Skaw and birded around the farm compound. A Whinchat was our first for the trip, but otherwise just plenty of Meadow Pipits and 4 Wheatears, but no warblers.
We then drove slowly down Lamba Ness checking some pools and the nettle patch. As we approached the Otter pool a party of 6 Lapland Buntings came flying along calling. and also 6 Wheatears and up to 20 Skylarks. After walking around the Headland enjoying the hundreds of Gannets and the Bonxies chasing them, we headed back down the road and the Laplands came flying low over us calling with Meadow Pipits. Nice flight views of one as it flew around us calling almost continuously.

After breakfast, the weather had now become overcast with light drizzle. We drove to Setters Hill Pines and found 2 Yellow-browed Warblers but little else. We then visited Clingera  and found another Yellow-browed with 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Willow Warbler. A walk around Halligarth proved unproductive with just 10 Wigeon on the small loch.

After lunch, the weather had improved although the wind had become stronger making birding more difficult. We first birded around Millfield walking a few ditches and the local gardens and then drove to Valyie where we had a further 2 Yellow-browed Warblers, making a total of 5 for the day also1 Lesser Whitethroat our first for the trip and another Whinchat. On our way back we stopped off at Haroldswick beach where 2 Common Sandpipers were on the rocks.

Common Sandpiper at Haroldswick

20th September, 2016

Another fine sunny morning and David and myself made an early morning visit to Skaw and we walked right over the headland after checking the usual migrant spots. Unfortunately, very little seen although David could hear 3 Lapland Bunting calling, and with the clear night an obvious clear-out of birds. 
Chiffchaff 1, Wheatear 8, Sanderling 4, Dunlin 1, Bonxie 25+ and 18 Lapwings appeared to come in.

After breakfast, we visited Valyie. A female Merlin flew over, otherwise 1 Brambling, 1 Dunnock and 1 Chiffchaff, also several of the endemic Shetland Bees.
A nice flock of Golden Plovers were feeding close to the road and we scanned the flock but no sign of any Dotterels etc.

We then received a call from Paul French to inform us that he had just found a Blyth’s Reed Warbler at Uyesound, although it was very elusive and they had lost it. Even so we decided to give it a go. We managed to obtain some brief views. It was very elusive just giving several brief views. A very pale uniform looking reed warbler with pale grey under-parts, a plain looking face with a good white throat and whitish crescents above and below the eye, and pale brownish upper-parts at times showing pale olive wings. It never showed any rufous at all. Bill was very striking not to dis-similar to a Hippolais bill. The wings appeared very short giving quite along tailed appearance. At one time it flew right around me and was extremely uniform pale with almost milky tea upper-parts and showing no rufous tones at all. It seemed to dislike a Willow Warbler and chased it away from its area.
 The following were seen in this area. Blyth’s Reed Warbler 1, Yellow-browed Warbler 1, Willow Warbler 2, and 4 Whooper Swans. Also a further flock of c40 Lapwings flew over.

Golden Plover-Flock of around 40 seen.

Whooper Swan-Four were present at Uyesound

Shetland Bee at Vaylie.

19th September, 2016

Ferry arrived at Lerwick at 07.30 am and after picking up some shopping we were soon heading north to pick up the ferry to Yell at around 09.00 just making it, and the last car on the ferry. It was the usual fast drive across Yell and just made the next ferry to Unst again were were the last car to board this ferry.
We drove straight to Millfield where David and Brenda met us at their new home. After a welcome cup of tea and unpacked the car we were ready to start birding, but before we left Paul French (chairman of the BBRC) came along and introduce himself as he was staying on Unst for 2 weeks. 
After Paul left, we visited a few local sites meeting up briefly with Rob. 
Recorded the following:
Bonxie 20+
White Wagtail 2
Reed Warbler 1
Yellow-browed Warbler 3
Willow Warbler 5
Blackcap 3
Barred Warbler 2
Little Bunting 1-2
Common Redstart 1
Wheatear (several Greenlands) 12
Spotted Flycatcher 1
Twite 12
Common Snipe 20
Meadow Pipits – large numbers
Wigeon 1
Teal 4
Plus the usual Hooded Crows etc.

Little Bunting at Haroldswick



Barred Warbler in the evening sunlight at Norwick

17th-18th September, 2016
After leaving Burgess Hill around 2.00 pm on the 17th and drove throughout the night having two longish breaks we finally arrived at Aberdeen during the morning of the 18th. We briefly visited the Cove area but much of this area appeared to have been cleared and several large factories had been built. We were due to leave on the ferry to Shetland at 5.00 pm and spent an hour on the nearby headland but with a strong SW wind just a few Sandwich Terns, plenty of Shags a few common waders and 1 dark phase Arctic Skua. 

After checking on the ferry, we did a sea watch as we were leaving port while the light was still good. A family party of 8 Goosanders were present along the River Don. Good numbers of Kittiwakes and Guillemots were seen with 1 Red-throated Diver and both singles of Manx and Sooty Shearwaters were flushed off the sea as the ferry past, giving excellent close views. We also past a large party of Kittiwakes and Gannets feeding and an interesting sea-bird flew through the flock which I was unable to identify. In size it appeared slightly smaller and slimmer wings to the Kittiwakes. Overall colouration appeared medium brown and the flight was quite fast passing the Kittiwakes but was not a Shearwater or Pterdroma, and didn’t strike me as a Long-tailed Skua.