Saturday 31 October 2009

The Witching Hour!

At last, a nice calm day with a light SSE'ly wind. Jack trapped another Long-eared Owl before breakfast. I was on South census while Jack had the North. I thought it might have gone with the calming of the weather but the Woodlark was still faithful to Neder Taft, where a Barred Warbler also popped up! The recent thrush theme continued with over 1,100 in the south, but fewer in the north and there was a noticeable clearout, of Blackbirds in particular, at around 4pm with the traps suddenly devoid! Woodcocks too were evident and I flushed a total of 72 on my census. There was another Barred Warbler at Haa and a Common Rosefinch at Lower Leogh, a Yellowhammer at Schoolton and Lesser Whitethroat at Shirva - a very brown bird with a much-reduced grey hood but still with a distinct eye mask, of which we get quite a few each autumn, and what we used to call 'blythii' but perhaps may be 'halimodendri'? Meanwhile Jack finally caught up with the Shorelark at Dronger!

Hollie took our three wee ones and Lowri out on Storm, with Bijoux dutifully tagging along. All the kids enjoyed their little ride, although the ponies were both in 'a funny mood' and Fyntan got a shock when Storm's fast trot suddenly turned into a couple of strides of canter and a wee buck before he was halted. Fyn did superbly well to stay onboard and remain 'fairly' calm!
Kids all went out 'trick or treating' as soon as it got dark, followed with everyone meeting at Auld Haa for some ghoulish food and a few pints of Witches Brew!

Friday 30 October 2009


A return to gales and although Thursday started out very mild with clear skies, by mid-morning we had been consumed in thick fog resulting in the abandonment of trying to count anything and having to resort to wandering around in the hope of tripping over a good bird! Friday arrived and the fog had cleared but the SE'ly wind was just as strong. Thrushes are still moving through in good numbers - over 3,000 counted in total. More Woodcocks have also arrived with over 100 flushed by myself and Jack - so the actual number present must be many times more than this! Both Woodlark and Shorelark are still present whilst the only other new things were a male Yellowhammer, male Red-breasted Merganser and a female Long-eared Owl - a delightful reward for Jack on the early morning trapround!

We had Iain & Ruth from Setter for tea on Thursday as it was Ruth's birthday. It was a very relaxed affair involving lots of pizza and cous-cous but as they were leaving, a spark shot out onto Iains leg! It turns out Lubo has, for the third time, chewed through the wire to the storage heater in the porch. He knew he'd done wrong too! He's lucky he hasn't electrocuted himself and he was reprimanded for it (again).

Later on, I played some of my worst darts ever at Darts Club........and then out of the blue scored a maximum ooone hundred and eeeiighteey!!

Ponies are looking decidedly hairy again in preparation for the winter!

Kids are preparing for Halloween tomorrow!

We're out to Kenaby for tea tonight......another birthday celebration for Ruth!!!

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Larking about!

Just a breath of SW'ly today made census very pleasant. My thrash around the North once again produced lots of thrushes (350 Blackbird, 240 Fieldfare, 215 Redwing & 20 Song Thrush) but highlight was a nice Shorelark at Wester Lother. A couple of Chiffchaffs at the Peat Cuttings were of the very clean grey & white variety and therefore do not fit the current criteria for Sibe Chiff but where they fit in is open to debate!
In the south, Jack had the Woodlark again and arrivals of Collared Dove and Wheatear but thrushes dominated here too - 235 Blackbird, 1,300 Fieldfare, 600 Redwing, 13 Song Thrush.

Hardly any wind but low cloud delayed planes 'til the afternoon. This meant that first day back at school was disrupted for the Primary bairns (who never got their day-trip to the Science Fair in Lerwick) and non-existent for the High School eens whose plane departed Tingwall just as the bell sounded!


Tuesday reads pretty much the same as Monday with thrushes the main meal with 250 Blackbird and 220 Redwing. The Woodlark was once again star bird but two Black Redstarts, 7 Jackdaw, a handful of Dunnocks, Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests and a couple of Redpolls were also seen. Adult male Peregrine and juvenile female Merlin kept them all alert!

Monday 26 October 2009

Bye Bye Simon!

Following a weekend of Easterly gales and driving rain with no hope of finding any birds (tho' we did try!) this morning arrived much calmer - a light but cool N'ly. After the morning plane, carrying our Chairman, the Architect and AW Simon away, I headed off round the North. It was a pleasant walk but other than thrushes (130 Blackbird was top species) there was little to report; a single Jackdaw and a Black Redstart at the Mast being the highlight.
Meanwhile AW Jack covered the entire South himself where he had far more thrushes (eg 400 Redwing, 363 Fieldfare and 180 Blackbird). The Woodlark lingers at Neder Taft and a scattering of Robins, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Reed Buntings were noted.

Much of my weekend was taken up going round the New Obs room by room with Hollie, Roy Dennis and David Russell finalising layouts so that the electricians, plumbers and joiners can assemble them. It was a really productive couple of days and whilst the workmen get on with that we can start to think about raising some funds to furbish the place. Yet more fundraising! Anybody know a generous furniture store owner?

Friday 23 October 2009

Arrivals & Departures

The wind is calming down making it more birdable! Bird of the day must go to the Woodlark at Neder Taft. A Stock Dove was new for the autumn and a Richard's Pipit was also a new arrival whilst Jackdaws have reached double figures. Thrushes once again were the main meal with over 1,000 each of Redwing and Fieldfare with 600 Blackbird but just two Ring Ouzel spotted. Woodcock was the next most abundant bird logged with 37 counted. A Shelduck on Easter Lother is on Simon's radar for tonights dazzling foray! Oh, and yesterday's bunting was indeed just a Yellowhammer - Jack had one at Quoy.

Other news.....Planes got in for the first time since Monday!!! The in-laws got out and were replaced with our Chairman and the Obs architect who have come to have a look around and iron out a few minor details.

Thursday 22 October 2009

One Bright Spark!

A couple of days of 50mph SE'ly winds has severely hampered census. Everything got covered in salt spray yesterday but this has been diluted a little today by almost constant rain!! Lovely!

As has been the way lately, its thrushes that dominate the counts, although actually counting them has been tricky but 2,000+ Redwings have been logged and a few hundred other species combined, including 6+ Ring Ouzels. The one flash of inspiration has been a smart wee Firecrest in Gunnawark on Wednesday afternoon whilst this afternoon five Jackdaws dropped in, some with partial white collars.......and Simon trapped three of them at the Chalet!! I flushed a Bunting out of Raeva which called like a Yellowhammer but with rain-soaked shaking 'bins I couldn't get anything on it! So, if a Pine Bunting is found tomorrow........

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Oooh! Its Nice!

A strengthening SE'ly wind brought in lots of thrushes but very little else. In excess of 2,000 Redwings were logged and a few hundred Fieldfares and Blackbirds and at least six Ring Ouzels. The ringed Neder Taft acro was confirmed by Simon as a Reed Warbler and as we haven't ringed one for weeks, it must be a control but it was just too windy to even attempt to put a net up to catch it!

We took Hol's parents round the new obs and had a chat with Raymond. Work has started on downstairs now and with many room partitions in we could picture it better and we were also able to make a few suggestions for improvements......and now is the best time to do it!! Its looking good! Alistair & Pat were impressed too!

Monday 19 October 2009

Clear Out!

Things have really quietened down the past couple of days with far fewer thrushes in evidence and many of the smaller passerines having also cleared out. A few Chiffchaffs of varying degrees of eastern-ness provide the main talking point, joined in the notebook by a scattering of Dunnocks, Robins and finches. An 'acro' bearing a leg ring appeared in the Neder Taft crop late on and although I felt it looked Reed-like, it really was too dark to be sure. Something to look for tomorrow!

Saturday 17 October 2009

Burkle Tattie Harvest

Whilst having a cup of tea first thing, I scanned the garden with the kitchen binoculars and spied yesterday evening's interesting Lesser Whitethroat. Wellies on, grabbed my Leicas and camera and rushed outside (making sure Lubo did not follow me). It still looked very interesting, small and pale with hardly any contrast between head and mantle and a very short primary projection and a very white outer tail. I called 'the boys' and proceeded to try and get some snaps as it fed in the rough grass next to our tattie/cabbage/kale patch. The boys arrived and after field views and photographs, we erected a net and caught it. A whole suite of measurements were taken and it seems to fit Desert Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca minula) best of all. The Yellow-browed Warbler was flitting around the garden too.

And that was as good as it got today! There were very few thrushes and the only other bit of interest was provided by a dozen or so 'eastern' Chiffchaffs.

The ponies were taken out yet again as it was so calm and dry and even Hollie was onboard for a short time today!
We lifted our tatties - two whole fish boxes worth! Should keep us in mash for a few weeks!
I can't believe Celtic only drew against lowly Motherwell!!.......and Newcastle lost to Forest!

Friday 16 October 2009

Dodge misses out!

I felt dismay and a touch of disbelief when Jack texted early this morning to say that the Blackpoll Warbler was not in the Plantation! I was sure it would stay. Ex-Warden Roger Riddington was coming in for it on the plane and I was hoping to just meet him and take him the 200 yards to the Plantation and share his joy at seeing the bird. I was sure it would not have left but could we find it in time for Roger's plane at 11.15? If there was no sign, he wasn't coming! There wasn't! He didn't come and at 2pm the bird Skerryholm. It showed incredibly well to the small crowd that gathered before relocating to the beach, where it remained on and off until late afternoon at least, feasting on the myriad of insects there. Hopefully that should keep it going for a while longer!

The Blackpoll Warbler was the undoubted main prize today, but there were a whole list of goodies to be seen with lingering Rustic Bunting at Lower Stoneybrek, Little Bunting at Pund, Short-toed Lark on Meoness, Bluethroat at Neder Taft and late on a probable Desert Lesser Whitethroat at Burkle, where a Yellow-browed Warbler appeared at the same time, but barely got a glance at! The DLW suddenly took off and flew up the road toward Quoy but we failed to relocate it in the rapidly disappearing daylight. That'll have to be tomorrows mission!

Aside from birds......ponies were out again, with Fyntan, Raven, Ythan & Pat (Hol's mum) all on board Storm at various times!

Thursday 15 October 2009

Gad Bless America!

He! He!

The Craib Workparty!

A couple of birds to lift the spirits came in yesterday. Firstly, Jack had a very bedraggled Short-toed Lark on Meoness and in the afternoon a nice Rustic Bunting appeared first at Quoy then at Stoneybrake crop.

North was pretty fog-bound though I could hear lots of thrushes! The Bluethroat was still at the Obs. Other sightings from the south included Yellow-browed Warbler and Bluethroat.

The main arrival however was that of Hollie's parents, here for a week of playing with grandchildren and completing a long list of 'little' jobs around the house!! Hurrah!

Tuesday 13 October 2009


A brisk SE'ly is what we want, but not accompanied by constant rain!! Although there were birds around birding was almost impossible as binoculars got soaked as soon as they were lifted. Still lots of thrushes, many Robins and Dunnocks too. A few Bramblings and Chaffinches and at least three Greenfinch were seen too. A Yellow-browed Warbler kicked out of the grass in Da Water was probably the best sighting, if you don't count another brief view of the River Warbler! A probable Siberian Stonechat was reported at Schoolton but had disappeared into the rain by the time I got there! The day ended with the now customary late Loco chase, but yet again it disappeared in the gloom! From the couple of flight views obtained it looked quite long tailed so was probably one of the Grasshopper warblers from previous days.

Simon was at his dazzling best this evening and brought me a Golden Plover to ring!!

Hollie has spent most of the day in bed!!!!

Monday 12 October 2009

Owls That!

Unfortunately the rarest thing in today's report was the lack of wind!! It made slogging the isle much easier, but decidedly warm!!
Birding highlights were the same ones that have been around for days - River Warbler, 2+ Little Buntings and 2 Bluethroats. A couple of Yellow-browed Warblers were new though but yesterdays elusive 'Loco' turned out to be just another Gropper (while our neighbours to the north AND south were finding Lanceolated Warblers!!!). My personal highlight was flushing a couple of Short-eared Owls and a Long-eared Owl, all roosting together in the rough grassy bank below the school. An influx of Chiffchaffs (13 in total) included three grey-brown individuals lacking in any obvious green or yellow, certainly of eastern origin - but how far? Thrush numbers were much lower but 75 Fieldfare is an increase, Blackcaps have risen to 21 and 3 Greenfinch were totally new!

Hollie took one pony, Storm, out again with the two Kenaby girls but I'd say it was the other one that needs the exercise!!!

Lubo doesn't need any extra exercise and I dared to leave him at home this afternoon. As the saying goes "absence makes the hard grow fonder" and he was mightily pleased to see me later on. I rewarded him with a worming tablet and even though I hid it inside a veggie sausage, he found it......but ate it anyway! And Yes, he ate the sausage too!!!!!

Sunday 11 October 2009

Loco! Loco! Loco?

A light Westerly wind veered Northerly and picked up during the afternoon. There were more thrushes today with 2,300 Redwing, 170 Song Thrush, 170 Blackbird, 30 Fieldfare and 16 Ring Ouzel. Also, the White's Thrush was reported near the Mast. Excitement was provided by a Locustella warbler in the Houll crop but it turned out be just a Grasshopper Warbler. The 'resident' Loco was also seen - the River Warbler in Lower Stoneybrek garden. As the light began to fade, the third Loco of the day was flushed from the Shirva thistles but unfortunately disappeared almost immediately - perhaps tomorrow!? Little Buntings at North Haven and Neder Taft were added to by another at Springfield. The Bluethroat remains at the Obs. Other arrivals included a Yellow-browed Warbler in Furse, a Pied Flycatcher, 10 Dunnock, 23 Blackcap, 6 Reed Bunting and a couple of Water Rail.

Big news away from birds is that Hollie has at last re-acquainted herself
with the ponies! Hollie, Storm, Lachlan, Hannah, Bijoux and Alice all went for a plod around the road and returned home without any hitch!
All at Burkle are gripped by X-Factor and it was the first eviction from the final twelve tonight. The older half of the family were astounded that the annoying twins got through (though the younger ones liked them) but were not surprised that Kandy Rain were eventually voted out!

Saturday 10 October 2009

Its a Zoothera!!

Following a quiet day yesterday, despite the strong SE'ly wind, today was much better. The continuing near-gale force SE'ly meant that the majority of birds were sheltering down the west cliffs. It was a dull old day with frequent showers, some heavy. Thrushes were arriving throughout the day - Redwings led the way with 4,600 logged but 770 Song Thrushes, 46 Blackbirds, 37 Fieldfares and 15 Ring Ouzel added variety. The best however was left til late when at 16.45 Micky Maher stumbled upon a White's Thrush at Hjukni Geo. Pure quality!!! It waited around long enough, peeking out of a hole in the cliff before departing amid a torrential shower! Everyone got soaked but nobody minded!! Nice one Micky!
In-land the River Warbler was seen fleetingly a couple of times, the Richard's Pipit was at Quoy, the Little Bunting remained at Taft and three Bluethroats were logged. Other counts included a dozen Robins, 58 Brambling, 38 Snow Bunting, 41 Goldcrest and four Chiffchaff, two each of Sparrowhawk and Woodcock plus singles of Stonechat and Willow Warbler. The best day for long while!

The non-birdy bit: The kids (including Lachlan) are all on school holiday for a couple of weeks and Hollie had em all beavering away today with individual lists of chores and I'm told they all completed (and enjoyed!) them - even LC!?
Lubo has had his first (long overdue) bath and although obviously petrified he was as good as gold and sat in the bath whilst Hollie, LC and I doused him in warm water and doggy shampoo!! He smelt lovely for half an hour....before I took him out with me again and he found some more sheep poo to roll in!
Hollie (with help from LC) has made some potent Chilli Beetroot jam!

Thursday 8 October 2009


A blustery cold NW'ly wind made birding less than comfortable......not that I had a chance to do any as I spent the day at Sumburgh Airport on a Fire Service Refresher course - fighting a simulated aircraft fire. Five of us from the Fair Isle unit went across and all found it very useful......and wet!
We returned mid-afternoon having passed and I immediately contacted my AWs to find what I'd missed. The answer was "Nothing!" Little Bunting, Richard's Pipit (now tail-less) and Barred Warbler all remain but there was no indication of much movement. "An interesting Lesser Whitethroat was at Skerryholm, though perhaps not a Desert Lesser Whitethroat"
South-easterlies forecast for tomorrow........

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Two Little Bunts.....

After a seriously windy clear night (45- 50 knots) it had calmed down considerably by the morning and apart from some seriously heavy rain showers it was a pleasant day.
The majority of yesterday's thrushes had moved on but the River Warbler was still present (but elusive) in Lower Stoneybrek garden, down the road at Taft a smart Little Bunting was located and a Barred Warbler was new in to the Lower Leogh roses. The north was the place to be and in particular the Havens where two new Bluethroats showed well, yesterdays Little Bunting remains and a Slavonian Grebe was on the sea. At Easter Lother, a Yellow-browed Warbler flitted about the cliff.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Home Alone!

Bird News:
A moderate SW'ly wind gradually increased through the day, making birding difficult by mid-afternoon and it was a severe gale by the evening.
Having said that, birds were arriving - most notably Redwings and Bramblings with around 2,000 of the former and 90 of the latter. Accompanying the Redwings were c200 Song Thrush, 50 Blackbird and five Ring Ouzel but just two Fieldfare. Other highlights were a Yellow-browed Warbler in Klingers Geo, a Little Bunting at North Haven (which was almost certainly seen briefly yesterday by our resident Yankee, Auld Haa Tommy!), a Common Rosefinch with a flock of 60 Bramblings at Quoy and the ringed Bluethroat again.
There was another Great Snipe shout but yet again we were left without verification! There were a fair few of its mini cousin around though, with at least 15 Jack Snipe logged.

Burkle News:
Today, the house smells of cabbage, Red Cabbage to be exact!!
The three young bairns have all come down with a lousy cough/cold so calpol, hot-water bottles and early beds for next few nights.
Hollie can't walk properly - keep fit started again last night!
Lubo has started to shred yet another of his beds and we have also had to remove all the hat/glove boxes from the porch to prevent them befalling the same fate!
Chickens have started to decrease their laying rate so we are now down to six eggs a day.
Courgette plants are however still producing.
One of the Chillies has turned red!
I think the ponies may have forgotten who Hollie is!!!
Its been really great having Becca, Phil and Martin staying with us and its now rather strange to have the house to ourselves for a while!

Monday 5 October 2009

The Loco - motion!

A few more Redwings and Song Thrushes and a couple of Fieldfare were indication that birds were arriving, despite the continued westerly winds and a Bluethroat, trapped in the Gully was followed with another (unringed) bird at the Havens. Things really livened up on 4th when a large Locustella was disturbed by Simon in Da Water and it promptly flew over the cliff and disappeared. It was rediscovered back in Da Water a couple of hours later by Chas Holt. It was extremely flighty and from these brief views it was thought to be a River Warbler - mainly based on upperpart colouration. However from distant views on the ground it did not appear to show any breast streaking but did have a clean white throat and noticeably bright lower mandible. Frustratingly the undertail coverts could
not be seen. Photos scrutinised later however did show some undertail coverts and these suggest it may in fact be a Savi's Warbler - another of the eastern race fusca.

Monday dawned bright and sunny with a light SW'ly and though all were itching to get out and find birds, some (Chas & Alan - Steve & Mark having left on Friday) were due to depart on the morning plane whilst others (all Obs staff) were dutifully bound to help with the Hill Sheep Caa. Alan & Chas still found time to find what they thought was a Blyths Reed Warbler before they left. I couldn't go and check it out until after the sheep gather!! Micky Maher and Richard Schofield arrived to take Chas & Alan's place and Tim Sykes arrived in the afternoon - more keen eyes to scour the isle.

After an exhausting couple of hours chasing sheep we were searching at Lower Stoneybrek for the Blyths Reed, when what should pop up on the wall but a River Warbler!!!! Standing there proudly showing its grey streaked breast and throat, it stunned us all, before dropping down into the crop and somehow vanishing! Wow - both unstreaked large Locos in as many days!!? The Blyths Reed then appeared and was duly trapped and confirmed!

So, an eventful few days and if the unconfirmed reports of Great Snipe, Citrine Wagtail, Arctic Redpoll and Little Bunting all turn out to be true then maybe our autumn is only just beginning?

Friday 2 October 2009

Pocket Pechora

A cold Northerly breeze forced everyone to wrap up. Highlights yesterday were mainly left from the previous day with the Pechora, 2 Common Rosefinch and Richard's Pipit all still present......and all in my garden at Burkle......where the Pechora was mist-netted and ringed. A Barred Warbler was also caught by Jack in North Grind whilst a few Jack Snipe (6+), 2 Great Northern Divers and a Slavonian Grebe were non-passerine highlights. Single Blackbird, Redwing and Song Thrush were hopefully fore-runners of larger numbers to come very soon!

In the evening, had to watch Celtic being held to a disappointing 1-1 draw at home by Rapid Vienna in the Europa League, then went to the hall for an hour of disappointing darts.

Other news: It was International Day at school so kids all had to dress up in colours of different countries. Most did exactly that but Raven (as is her wont) went the whole hog and ran to school in a flamenco dress, clacking her castanets as she went!!

Lubo seems off his food but did eat his dinner eventually and has not touched his breakfast this morning - he seems okay otherwise though!

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