Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Unst, Shetland Isles Blog 2

Our Second blog relating to our month's trip to Unst, Shetland Islands

10th October, 2016

With news breaking late yesterday afternoon of a Siberian Accentor the first record for the UK on Mainland Shetland, we booked ourselves onto the first ferry off Unst at 6.30 am and with a second ferry from Yell to the Mainland and then an hours drive south to the quarry near Boddam, we arrived on site at 8.30 am and the Siberian Accentor was immediately on view. Superb and we spent the next 2 hours watching and photographing this stunning vagrant. It was very active moving around the quarry and not really taking any notice of all the birders.We then went and got ourselves a hot drink and nearby a Buff-breasted Sandpiper and a Ruff were showing in a nearby grassy field.
As the sun was now out and it was now a lovely calm sunny morning, we returned back to the quarry although the Siberian Accentor had flown to a nearby second quarry where after a short wait it re-appeared and we enjoyed further extensive views this time with the sun on our backs, making the yellow throat even more striking. It seemed to become a little unsettled and flew off back to its original quarry. After further watching we felt it was time to leave and after an enjoyable fish dinner and a  tour around western Yell with views of Out Skerries we arrived back at Unst at around 6.00 p.m. and on the journey home an Otter swimming close in at Haroldswick and then came up onto the beach was a fine ending to an exciting day.

Siberian Accentor on Mainland, Shetlands
Just some of the 300 pictures I took of this exciting vagrant.

9th October, 2016

Another beautiful calm sunny morning with just a little frost at dawn. We visited Skaw and on the way we had a party of 10 Redwings on the road, but little new at Skaw with 1 Song Thrush, 1 Brambling, 1 Robin and 1 Chiffchaff. We then visited the newly dug field at Newark and the Red-backed Shrike was showing well with 40 Bramblings and 4 Little Buntings. A Reed Bunting (first for the trip) flew over calling.
After breakfast we walked the Burrafirth burn with 1 Mealy Redpoll, and then onto the walled garden where 2 normal Chiffchaffs and 1 Blackcap were present. We then walked around the fields and gardens at Haroldswick where 2 Yellow-broweds, several Redwings with the odd Blackcaps and 1 Siberian Chiffchaff and a Water Rail heard calling at the marsh.

During the afternoon we visited Lund but just the odd migrants seen including 2 Chiffchaffs and 3 Blackcaps and a nice view of a Merlin chasing pipits. We next stopped off at a couple of quarries but just 1 Yellow-browed seen by David. Our final visit was to Lamba Ness but again no joy with any migrants, but a lovely sun-set.

Burrafirth beach

Two views looking south from Burrafirth burn

Looking north from Burrafirth

Doreen overlooking the beach at Lund

Looking north at Lund

Overlooking the thistle patch at Lund-site of many rare birds over
the years-we had amazing views here of a Little Bunting.

Another view looking north at Lund

Red-backed Shrike at Valyie
Unfortunately, we were unable to turn it into a Brown Shrike

Haroldswick Beach
(Spring of last year we found a very small type Canada Goose
feeding on sea-weed on this beach, it was only a little bigger than
a Mallard)

Twite at Haroldswick-These are fairly common on Unst.
The rock it is stood on is also quite impressive

Sunset over Lamba Ness.

8th October, 2016

Another beautiful sunny warm calm morning with virtually no breeze. Back to our usual early morning visit to Skaw and North Dale. No sign of yesterday’s White’s Thrush. We saw 2 Robins, 1 Song Thrush, 3 Chiffchaffs, one of which was a Siberian tristis type. Also 2 Bramblings, and a Merlin. Very little seen at North Dale, other than 4 Goldcrests.
After breakfast we visited Valyie and on the way a Bluethroat showed briefly. Fair numbers of migrants seen at Valyie including 3-4 Yellow-broweds, 8+ Blackcaps, 50 Bramblings,  4 Goldcrests 8 Redwings, 1 Robin and 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Kestrel and the highlight being a Red-backed Shrike. The Osprey again flew over Lamba Ness.

During the afternoon we first visited Houlland area where we saw a Yellow-browed on the road-side, 4 Whooper Swans 40 Redwings, 2 Goldcrests 10 Blackcaps and 2 Siberian Chiffchaffs. We stopped off at the school clump where 7 Mealy Redpolls including a fine pinkish male and 2 Goldcrests and 1 Blackcap. Clingera held 3 Yellow-broweds, 1 Robin and the odd Redwing. During the early evening we walked the fields and pines at Valyie as these have just had the potatoes dugout today and we had 3 Little Buntings together, 50 Brambling still and we flushed a Woodcock from the pines.

Happy Memories-In this church yard we had gripping views
of the Cape May Warbler in 2013

Houlland croft situated on the west side of Unst and was home
to a Blyth's Reed Warbler this Autumn for 2 weeks

Song Thrush at Skaw-but of which race does it belong to.
We only saw the odd Song Thrush during our stay and one of
the great identification challenges are the various races you can
see of various species. 

Rock Dove at North Dale
Unst being the most northern isle in the Shetlands and the UK
the population of Rock Dove is quite large and there are still
no feral pigeons on the Island to inter-breed with.

Yellow-browed Warbler at Valyie with upto 4 present at this site today This Autumn has seen another huge invasion of Yellow-browed Warblers and during our stay we must have seen around 200 of this exciting species. News of a Two-barred Greenish Warbler had been seen in the Orkneys and when I checked these pictures, I noticed that the upper wing-bar was very indistinct quite similar to that of a Two-barred Greenish and the first pictures do not show the pale tips of the tertials, so I was somewhat relived that the last picture shows one wing slightly raised and clearly shows the pale tips to the tertials eliminating Two-barred Greenish.

Red-backed Shrike at Valyie

Siberian (tristis) Chiffchaff at Houlland
During our month's stay we also had quite an influx, with around
twenty individuals seen. They arrived after the influx of Yellow-broweds
and I always enjoy watching these as over the years there has been
much debate over their identification. 

Common (Mealy) Redpoll at the school clump
Nearly every Autumn there is an influx of Redpolls onto Unst
which if you are lucky can include the stunning Hornemann's Arctic
Redpoll. Our own Lesser Redpoll is very scarce on Unst. On this
occasion we found a party of 7 at the school clump which included
this fine adult male which proved far more elusive than the other six
and quite difficult to photograph.

7th October, 2016

A beautiful calm sunny day with just a light NE breeze, couldn’t be better for birding. We decided to go to Uyeasound for dawn in case the Siberian Thrush was still present but no sign but a Olive-backed Pipit was found nearby and we quickly went and saw it before it disappeared. Also 2-3 Yellow-broweds and a Long-tailed Duck with 2 Black Guillemots. As we were leaving Millfield after breakfast, an Osprey was flying over Lamba Ness (a useful garden tick for David). At Norwick 7 Brambling and several Goldcrests and another interesting Lesser Whitethroat. A late visit to Skaw meeting up with Rob,  paid rich dividends with a dream find of a magnificent White’s Thrush which flew out behind one of the sheds in the compound and then was chased for a couple of miles by a Hooded Crow. We were jubilant, a mega find, but then it came flying back being chased by a Merlin. It dived back down behind the same shed and as we carefully approached this area and David found it hunched up in the corner behind the shed. After several minutes it then flew around the compound giving excellent views and was present for the rest of the day. Also seen were 1 Robin, 3 Blackcaps and 1 Chiffchaff.

 We then walked the burn at Burrafirth a party of 6 Mealy Redpolls showed very well, and in the walled garden a pale looking Willow Warbler and 1 Chiffchaff. Also we had some closeviews of an Otter as we approached the walled garden. We then went to Haroldswick and walked around the fields and gardens, several more Goldcrests, and Redwings also 1 tristis type Chiffchaff and 2 Blackcaps. The pines at Setters Estate just held 2 Goldcrests, 1 Blackcap and 1 Chiffchaff with the nearby clump held Blackcap. Just a quick visit to Huolland produced 5 Whooper Swans. Our final visit of the day was to Saxa Vord headland where 1 Mealy Redpoll was seen and some superb scenery views.

 Looking towards the Saxa Vord Headland

Most people take dogs for a walk but on Unst it is Shetland ponies

Muckle Flugga lighthouse, the most northern lighthouse in the UK

Olive-backed Pipit briefly in a car-park at Uyeasound looking very
tired, it then disappeared into the long grass and we never saw it again.

Long-tailed Duck at Uyeasound harbour and the departed.

Brambling at Norwick

An interesting Lesser Whitethroat at Norwick 
possibly of the eastern race Blyth's

White's Thrush at Skaw-An unbelievable find 

David, Doreen, Brenda and myself arrived at Skaw mid-morning as we went looking for yesterdays Siberian Thrush. We therefore arrived at Skaw later than normal and Doreen and Brenda were going to the beach,and we met up with Rob. David and myself were looking into the farm compound when suddenly a large Thrush came flying up from behind a large shed. Immediately we realised it was a White's Thrush and
I shouted as loud as I could to Doreen and Brenda. To find a mega White's Thrush and the feeling you have is quite unbelievable, and must rank as No.1 on the all time list  of finding a mega. The White's Thrush flew high and all the time a Hooded Crow was trying to force it down. We watched it as it disappeared some 2 miles from us with the crow still trying to knock it down. Much to our amazement, we again saw the Thrush heading straight back towards us this time being chased by a Merlin. It then dived down behind the same
 shed and we left it a couple of minutes before we went to look for it.

Huddled up in the corner probably relieved to have survived



When it moved over to the grassy bank it could be quite difficult to see

White's Thrush at Skaw

Both David and myself slowly and very carefully made our way around the back of the shed but to our surprise we were unable to locate it. David looking in the corner of the shed suddenly saw the Thrush crouching in some grass in a narrow gap, barley two metres away from us. We carefully took some pictures and I slowly moved back to fetch the others. It then moved more out in the open giving some stunning views before disappearing under a low lying tractor. We waited several minutes before it re-appeared and shuffled through the grass and then flew around some more farm buildings. We then split up to search for it and I located stood on a rock allowing me to photograph the back of it. We then decided to phone the news out and it wasn't long before the first birders arrived. It had now moved onto the grassy bank opposite and then made its way along a footpath. It showed well all day to many birder and we were pleased to hear that two West Sussex birders, Owen and Bernie who were staying on Mainland also made it.
For David and myself it was one of those finds that you dream about.

Common (Mealy) Redpolls at Burrafirth