Sunday, 17 October 2010

Rough Justice!

Saturday was a great day! It started with an MDS from the Shetland Grapevine - the dynamic duo (RR & PVH) reporting a Rough-legged Buzzard over Toab, South Mainland Shetland. Twenty minutes later Mark Newell reported a Buzzard sp over Sheep Rock that drifted west. As I was going out the door I got call from Phil Harris "We've just ringed 57 Redpolls, mostly Mealies with a few Lessers!!!" Blimey - what a total! Birds in! I hurried out! I was on SE so ventured first to Haa and confirmed that the Blyth's Reed was still on the South Harbour beach, along with ten Chiffchaffs and three Blackcaps, a couple of hundred Starlings and a few common waders. I continued on census but there appeared to be nothing new in - apart from a few small parties of Redpoll flying over. I bumped into PAH at Schoolton and he told me the King Eider had been seen again off Buness and they had trapped a female Northern Bullfinch this morning. He was regaling his Redpoll-trapping exploits when Mark Newell rang again at 1000 hrs "I've got the Buzzard again! Its a Rough-leg! Over Burrashield!" Phil and I ran up to Aesterhoull and scanned the north but couldn't see it! Alan Bull then rang to say it was over him at the School, heading east....but we still couldn't see it!! We were then told it had drifted back to Hill Dyke and we eventually got on it, circling very high in the sky over Burrashield.....and climbing higher. I scoped it from the Kirk and clocked its shape and white tail base, before it disappeared into the cloud! At last! After 12 years and three dips, I can finally add Rough-legged Buzzard to my Fair Isle list!!! I thought that was the last we'd see of it, but half an hour later Mark Breaks had it over Meoness, heading north and I picked it up over Sheep Rock and watched as it drifted west again, dropping in height all the time. I had excellent views as it passed Setter, it even hovered a few times as it headed towards Hoini. It was last seen heading out to sea until it was a tiny speck at 1145. However at 1230 it was seen again over the shop.On census I saw two female Northern Bullfinches (one with a ring) at Klingers Geo. After lunch I went over to Buness to look at the King Eider - a nice, if slightly grotty, bird. As I arrived back at the Obs PAH had the Redpoll tape playing and a couple of birds flew in. One was large and white - a Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll! The Rough-leg was seen departing for North Ron (once more) at 1420, however at 1440 it was seen arriving there - impossible for it to be this bird! We deduced that there must have been two birds!!! Awesome! (Our second bird was reported at North Ron that evening). I spent half an hour that afternoon on the South Harbour beach watching and photographing the assortment of birds there, including the Blyths Reed. A really nice time.
With a Barred Warbler and seven Yellow-browed Warblers plus Little Bunting and an estimated 100+ Mealy and 15 Lesser Redpolls also on the isle it was turning out to be a great day! At 1630, Simon phoned to say there was a Red-flanked Bluetail at Vatnagaard!!!! For a few seconds I contemplated not going for it - it was our third this autumn! But I did. It was a nice bird, though not as obliging as the previous two. On the way up the burn I flushed a grey warbler which disappeared into the marsh and I couldn't refind it. Oh well!
Today was totally different - a strengthening SW'ly wind with few birding highlights to speak of although most people caught up with yesterday's Arctic Redpoll and the Blyths Reed was still faithful to a somewhat breezy beach and the Little Bunting to Haa. The cracking adult male Black Redstart at Busta was well-visited. Three Yellow-broweds were still around.
Its really nice to spend some time with my parents and Dad is enjoying seeing birds he doesn't normally see at home. The kids are already working through all the board games in the house with them and Lubo is quickly learning to accept my Mum!

Saturday, 16 October 2010


Its 11.20 pm and I've somehow just deleted the whole of todays blog entry. I am really annoyed! Its too late to retype it all so I'll have to tell you all about it tomorrow. In the meantime here are a few of my pics from today....

Friday, 15 October 2010

Mark's King!

Todays highlights in no particular order......Blyths Reed, Lois Smallwood, Little Gull, Little Bunting, Martin Culshaw, King Eider, my Parents,Yellow-browed Warbler.
Alan Bull arrived too!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Becca's Tick! Becca's Pic!

Bird of yesterday should have been mine! I was on SE census and had reached as far as Schoolton with not alot to report, apart from several hundred Greylag Geese doing their utmost to confuse anybody trying to count them! A warbler hopped up on teh wall in the corner of the garden and immediately disappeared over the other side. I had a brief flash of a cocked tail, revealing warm, light orangey undertail coverts. "Was that a Raddes?" I muttered to myself. I (and Lubo) shot round the other side of the garden but could see nothing. I spent the next 20 minutes thrashing Schoolton Ditch and the Quoy veggie patch (except of course I wasn't 'thrashing' any vegetables, Triona!!!) but to no avail. I then got an emergency call from the Obs "There's no power!!" I gave Hollie a few things to try but she phoned me back a few minutes later to say nothing's worked. "Damn!" I asked her to pick me up from Aesterhoull. Ten minutes later she phoned me to say she was parked at Easter Lother but couldn't see me!! "I said Aesterhoull!!! Not Easter Lother! Ya Numpty!" Anyway this delay gave me time to head over to the Shop where the Shetland Wildlife group were photographing a Long-eared Owl sat right out in the open on the windowledge of the Stackhoull Greenhouse.
After lunch and with powere restored to the Obs, I was on plane duty at 3pm so did some office work then after the plane was returning home in the car to change out of my fire kit when Becca phoned to say she had "a probable Dusky at Quoy!"
I was just round the corner so quickly arrived just in time for it to disappear. I dropped off Phil (who was with me in the car) and went home to change. Ten minutes later Becca relocated it behind Quoy and on first views it appeared to be a Raddes, although in the poor light, a very dull one!! It was typically highly mobile ranging between Quoy and Kenaby, but unfortunately never ventured into Burkle garden! I was pleased for Becca - a self-found lifer!

The OBP was still present at Schoolton and Simon (yet again) reported an Arctic Redpoll!!!
The Raddes was still present today and was much more obliging, showing well at Schoolton although the OBP seems to have gone. The Blyths Reed on the other hand has resurfaced on the beach at South Harbour, showing exceptionally well to a small crowd assembled there. A Little Bunting at Haa seems to be the only new arrival today!
Hol's Mum also departed yesterday, leaving the children having to almost fend or themselves at the Obs as I am out all day and Hollie is cooking. They have had fun playing in the new Warden's house so even though we will not now be moving in, at least they can say they were there!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Cold Shower!

Another calm day but a bit cooler than of late as the light wind moved into the north. Highlight of the day was the arrival of Mark Newell bringing news of the first Little Auk of the autumn from the Good Shepherd. He also had a Sooty Shearwater. Bird of the day could have gone to Simon's Arctic Redpoll, if anyone else had managed to catch up with it. Most people had to be satisfied with great views of the OBP as it wandered around Schoolton garden! My north census was curtailed by a call from the Obs "There's no hot water!!" I dutifully returned to the Obs and several hours later managed (thankfully) to get it all working again! With a couple of hours left of afternoon daylight, I headed north once more but hardly saw a thing. It was nice to be out though - and I'm sure Lubo appreciated it too. He is really loving this 'double census' at the moment, but it doesn't seem to be tiring him out one bit.......unlike me!! With no new rares to photograph today, I've included a few of Becca's nice shots of various-colours of Chiffchaff, Mealy Redpoll and a nicely composed Yellow-browed.
This evening I sneaked home to watch Scotland giving a very reputable performance against the current Football World Champions and although we lost 3-2, we were within ten minutes of clawing back a draw. Fyntan was on the edge of his seat and was really disappointed when Spain scored the winner! A good game nevertheless and better than watching Boring, Boring England!

Monday, 11 October 2010

The Late Milvus!

A bright, sunny day with a light NE'ly breeze made it very pleasant to be out, with or without any birds! Thankfully, there were lots to be seen and it was Simon's turn to claim 'Bird of the Day'. I was working my way up Malcolm's Head with Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Robins flitting about on the cliffs when I got the call.....a distorted message about 'a probable Blyth's Reed at the Haa'.....'I've left Micky with it. I'm on the way to twitch the OBP at Schoolton!' Simon already has several Blyth's Reed Warblers on his Fair Isle list, but Olive-backed Pipit was strangely missing! Its not now! Anyway, I descended Malcolm's Head and ventured over to the Haa. The bird had gone missing, but a walk along Walli Burn relocated it. I had good though fairly brief views before it flew and was lost again. I birded my way back to the Obs for lunch (with Becca & Phil for company, picking up a Barred Warbler at Midway.
After lunch I lugged a carpet around for a bit then headed back to the SW cliffs. There were lots of birds but limited to a handful of species, with nothing rarer than a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers and the Treecreeper, which has now moved to Hjukni. I was on Hoini late afternoon when Micky Maher phoned to tell me about a Red Kite being mobbed by two Ravens. I turned round and spotted them travelling up the east coast. I phoned round to tell everyone and continued on my way. I met Jack at Gunnawark who reported that North was pretty quiet. He did clock the Kite though.

Some good totals were achieved (see the website for numbers) and it looks fairly settled tomorrow so hopefully some more rares will turn up....

Sunday, 10 October 2010

So Much for Optimism!

A light ENE'ly overcast day but with far, far fewer birds. Jack found the best birds today on his southwest census. He first texted me about a Dotterel that had joined the Grey Plover on Hoini, then an hour later he sent me an SOS message asking me for help to relocate a probable Olive-backed Pipit he had just flushed from Vaila's Trees. Phil & I ventured over and we refound it in Lower Stoneybrek garden. We got good but brief views before it flew again, enough to confirm the identity. Nice! It came back and we waited for everyone else to arrive, getting good views of a Yellow-browed Warbler in the meantime, however it flew again of its own accord and was lost. It was seen again briefly in the afternoon but there are still several Obs guests who haven't caught up with it - perhaps tomorrow! Rob found a new Red-breasted Fly on the Hoini cliffs and Si had a couple of Yellow-broweds at Easter Lother. The Barred Warbler lingered at Auld Haa and the Treecreeper at South Raeva. Other interest was provided by various flavours of Redpoll - including a couple of Lessers. Forgive me for perhaps sounding a bit greedy but considering the optimism felt last night, today was a little disappointing!!!

Saturday, 9 October 2010


The day started with a moderate SE'ly wind with a bit of low cloud and ended brighter with a gentle Easterly breeze - good conditions for a fall! And there was a sizeable fall - mainly of thrushes and Robins with a few Blackcaps and Goldcrests but, despite me receiving regular texts all day about rares elsewhere in Shetland as I stomped around the rarity-free North, the rarest bird on this isle was yesterday's Treecreeper which was still present in South Raeva. However, a Little Gull, a Red-breasted Fly, a Barred Warbler, a couple of Yellow-browed Warbler and a Hawfinch were seen. The biggest (and I mean BIGGEST ;-)))) arrival today was Phil Harris!!! He and Becca (Nason) have come to stay the last days of our 'reign'! Other well-known faces now here are: Tony 'Tickopoly' & Carol 'Jigsaw' Vials; Bert 'In 1975....' Mitchell; and Mark 'The camera' Breaks. We are sure some decent rarities will arrive over the next couple of days and with Phil, Becca & Mark here to help us, I am sure they will be found.......and well photographed!

Friday, 8 October 2010


This post could be entitled "Yet another one gets away" as Rob Hughes had a small thrush-type bird down the cliff at South Naaversgil this afternoon but without a phone (or a 'scope) he had to run all the way to the airstrip to find someone - Me! who was on plane duty. I sent him back up there and joined him, along with Simon, half an hour later. On the way there, I received a phone message from one of our birder guests, Andy Mears "Del, there's a Treecreeper in the Raevas!" Blimey! A real Fair Isle mega! The last one of those was back in 1998 - the year before I arrived! Unfortunately, Rob's bird had just disappeared before we arrived. We spent the next hour or so scanning the geo for it. There were lots of other birds; Rock & Meadow Pipits, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Robins, Dunnocks, Blackcaps, Chaffinches, Bramblings, Siskins etc but no sign of the bird in question. The temptation of another Fair Isle tick meant that I (and Simon) had to leave whilst there was still enough light. We motored to South Raeva but couldn't find the Treecreeper. Andy & Paul (Pearson) then arrived and found it for us, feeding on the almost sheer rockface!! Thanks guys. A nice cold, crisp looking bird, obviously of the continental race familiaris (as have all seven of the other Fair Isle records). Here is one of Paul's pics, plus my blurred effort!

There was a small arrival of birds this afternoon with more Redwings, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests around than during the (rather quiet) morning plus a few Yellow-browed Warblers, a Little Gull and a Hawfinch to spice things up a little. The weather forecast looks good for the next few days so we are expecting great things - and judging by what has been arriving elsewhere in Shetland this afternoon, I think we have just cause to be optimistic!

The schools broke up for the October Holidays today so most of the High School bairns came home but Lachlan didn't as he is on a Universities trip, seeing what its all about and seeing which ones he might like to go to, however as he wants to do Veterinary his choice is limited to Glasgow or Edinburgh.....and they are only visiting the latter. They get back to Shetland tomorrow, but he is then going to Orkney for a weeks veterinary volunteering!! I hope we will see him at home sometime!!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Raising the Barr's Hopes!

The morning started with a full-scale search for yesterday evening's "possible PG" and although I did see a darkish-tailed 'loco', it had no other features of PG that I could see during the brief flight view before it disappeared. Seven of our guests also disappeared this morning, including that lovely Essex rabble - the bar seems incredibly quiet this evening!! After the 'loco' thrash, I headed north but the cliffs were pretty quiet but I did hear about a dark morph Honey Buzzard down south. I tried to spy it from Ward Hill, but failed!
This afternoon I was phoned up about (another) 'interesting loco' in Schoolton Ditch (where I had a Gropper two days ago). I ventured over and after a couple of flushes everyone (especially Mr Barr) was getting quite excited - it appeared to have a dark tail - but not much else was seen. To save it being constantly flushed, I decided to trap it. We set a net and caught it on the second push - a Gropper! Unlucky Dougie!
Two Little Gulls were also seen today - an adult in Hesswalls and a first-winter in South Haven. Were these the same birds as yesterday?
A charter plane came in today bringing in some much-needed supplies for the shop. Hurrah! The guests can have toast in the morning!
Hollie had another hard day in the kitchen again today as its Phil's two days off, but I think her evening might have been just as hard!!! It was nice however, with the slightly lower numbers, to be able to have Mum and the kids with us for dinner - and they all greatly enjoyed the chocolate sponge & chocolate sauce pudding.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

"The one that got away" (not another one!)

A brisk southerly wind picked up during the afternoon, to make birding quite difficult. Will Miles and a few others opted then for seawatching and it seems like they made the right choice. First of all an adult Little Gull drifted past South Light, then 15 minutes later a Grey Phalarope whizzed by. Nice! I meanwhile was slogging my way round southwest census for the second time of the day but apart from a few extra Blackbirds and some nice field mushrooms (guess what Hollie will be cooking for the veggies tomorrow?!), it was no better than this morning. As the late began to fade, Will Miles phoned to say he (and Micky Maher, plus the 'never to see a PG' Douglas Barr) had just seen a 'loco' which looked good for PG! I'd just reached Burkle to drop off my fungal hoard so grabbed a mistnet and jumped in the car. We set the net up at the end of the cabbage rig where it was seen to go in and walked it.......Nothing! A thrash of the surrounding area also produced nothing better than a Short-eared Owl. Maybe tomorrow!? This evening the aforementioned Dr Miles delivered an entertaining talk on 'St Kilda - the one that got away' and why there should be a Bird Observatory (and no Great Skuas) on St Kilda - so he's had a busy day!!!

Monday, 4 October 2010

Right Hand Search!

Wind moved into the south today but it didn't seem to have much impact on migration. Several visitors were pleased to finally get the Arctic Redpoll, on Lerness and some cracking photos were obtained. The ringed Bluethroat remained at Setter and one person reported a flyover Crossbill. I was on SE census where the highlight was a 'loco' in Schoolton Ditch which on flushing I assumed was the Lancey but it looked too big, too long-tailed. I flushed it again and confirmed it as a Gropper!! Bird of the day however did not come to light until the evening, when I was shown a photograph of a first-winter Little Gull!!!!
Another good sighting was a GBB Gull wearing a yellow darvic ring and black lettering, which reminds me that yesterday there was a Barnacle Goose with a faded green/blue darvic and black lettering.

The couple of hours before tea was spent fumbling around the village hall in a fire suit, heavy boots, big helmet, thick gloves and with breathing apparatus strapped to my back, trying to find a casualty. It was very hot and sweaty - and that's without a hint of a fire!! All in case one day there should be a fire!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Loco - motion! Woo-hoo!

October has started well with the first Lancie of the year on Saturday, however it could have been so much more......Simon called me from Da Water with a "possible Lancie!" I was at South Light at the time but quick-marched all the way to his side, receiving a text from Jack on the way reporting another 'loco' at Restens Geo. I tramped around Da Water for 20 minutes with Si, but to no avail - no sign at all! Damn! I returned to my SW census, turned up a pulse-quickening 'acro' at Meadow Burn which after good views was just a Reed Warbler. I'd got as far as Boini Mire and was enjoying nice views of the Little Bunting there when Si phoned again "I've got another one in Schoolton Ditch - it looks good for Lancie". I ventured over, picking up a few birders on the way. A line of ten or so waded through the reeds and flushed the bird - a tiny, grey, short-tailed loco, which in the few seconds flight view I had, was obviously a Lancie. But that wouldn't be enough for BBRC! So we had to get better views. Fortunately on the next push, it flew across to the Quoy veg patch where I had excellent views of all the salient features, except undertail coverts, but it was such an obvious Lancie I didn't need them!! Quality! At lunch, Jack had no further luck with his 'loco' and I heard about another one, that was lost, near Pund!

So, four 'Locos' - one nailed! On Sunday, I decided to trap the bird to stop it being pestered by birders desperate to get a decent view of it. This was easily achieved and Jack was pleased to get a very special ringing tick and the crowd delighted to see it at close quarters. Hopefully it shall now be left in peace! Yet another 'loco' was discovered near Dronger today. I was on north census and met the finders so went to check it out - just a Gropper! Disappointingly quiet today, despite good conditions - the Arctic Redpoll was seen by one lucky sole with a Barnacle Goose and Stonechat the only arrivals!
New week starts tomorrow........the wind switches to SW and there's a slight chance the boat may go!!!!

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