2011 - 2020

Whalsay Bird Review 2011

Black Redstart 17/2/11

January

As usual fairly uneventful with an Iceland Gull at Isbister 1/1 and Waxwings at Hamister 12/1 and Marrister 26/1.

February

Two Mistle Thrushes were at Hamister 15/2 increasing to five on 22/2. An unseasonal Black Redstart was at Hamister 17/2 with a Black Throated Diver and Iceland Gull at Skaw the same Day.

March

Only a male Grey Wagtail at the Kirk beach, Brough on 16/3 was vaguely notable.

Woodlark 10/4/11

April

A short walk to east Hamister on 10/4 produced our first spring record of Woodlark since 1969. It was seen on many occasions till 12/4 before going missing for two weeks then returning to the same rig for the last time 26/4. A male Lapland Bunting was at Skaw 22/4. A Short Eared Owl and an early Sedge Warbler were at Skaw 24/4 with Wrynecks at Skaw and Hamister on 30/4.

Icterine Warbler 27/5/11

May

A Little Bunting was in BMs garden at Marrister 7/5. Bird of the spring was a flypast Black Kite at North loch which unfortunately didn't linger for the other island birders to see it. A Wood Sandpiper was at the West loch 11/5 with a male Crossbill at Saltness the next day. All fell quiet until a Tree Sparrow put in a brief appearance at Skaw 26/5 being replaced by an Icterine Warbler 27/5.

June

A male Red Backed Shrike in the Sodom plantation 9/6 was to prove to be the only sighting for the year with a female Quail picked up dead in the same area. This was particularly annoying as this was my third corpse from the valley and am still waiting to see a living one! 12/6 produced single Little Stint at the Houb and Common Rosefinch at Skaw. On 13/6 a female Common scoter was in the North Voe and better still a Red Breasted Flycatcher was in BMs garden. A female Crossbill was at Hamister 15/6 and an unseasonal Glaucous Gull was in the North Voe 29/6.

July

A flock of 30+ Knot at the Houb was as exciting as it got!

Little Stint 28/8/11

August

A Green Sandpiper was at the west loch 4/8. On 5/8 both Icterine and Wood Warblers were in the Skaw plantation. Little of note was seen until 25/8 with a Curlew Sandpiper at the Houb, Wrynecks at Isbister and Skaw, Wood Warbler at Isbister and Barred Warblers at Creadyknowe and Whitefield. The Houb scored well towards the months end with the Curlew Sandpiper being joined by up to four Little Stints 28/8 six Sanderlings 27/8 and single Ruff, Bar Tailed Godwit and Common Sandpiper logged.

Little Bunting 25/9/11

September

A Corncrake seen briefly flying across the upper yard at roadside Skaw kicked off the month 1/9. BM had a Grey Plover at the Skaw Taing 12/9. The first Yellow Browed Warblers turned up at Marrister and Brough 17/9. A Peregrine was terrorising the waders at the Houb 18/9. A Little Bunting was at Vevoe and a Barred Warbler in the Skaw plantation 25/9 with a mystery Locustella Warbler playing hide and seek at Isbister the same day. Another Little Bunting was at Isbister 28/9 with the Vevoe bird still present. A Hawfinch rounded off a poor month 30/9.

Great White Egret 24/10/11

October

On 1/10 our record day count of twelve Yellow Browed Warblers was well and truly smashed with twenty! logged, and with only three areas properly checked this total could well have been doubled. BM found our third Little Bunting of the year at Marrister and probable bird of the day escaped with a calling Pipit at Skaw escaping detection, Olive Backed Pipit being strongly suspected. An Ortolan Bunting was at Marrister 4/10 and an Olive Backed Pipit at Skibberhoull 9-11/10, both seen while I was away. A quiet period followed until two Great White Egrets turned up 24/10, both birds were present till 5/11 with one still touring the island and looking set to bring in the new year. A Hen Harrier flew east past Hamister 23/10 and a Common Buzzard was in the Challister area 29/10. A few Long and Short Eared Owls were also seen towards the months end.

Tundra Bean Geese 15/11/11

Hume`s Warbler 15/11/11

Great Crested Grebe 19/11/11

Black Throated Diver 19/11/11

Rough Legged Buzzard 21/11/11

Kumlien`s Gull 5/12/11

November

Usually a quiet month with perhaps one good bird in the first few days, this year was to be a bit different! At least four Black Redstarts were around one Symbister garden in the first few days. A Waxwing was at Saltness 5/11. A Grey Wagtail and Yellowhammer at Sandwick and Mistle Thrush at Challister were seen 6/11. A female Bullfinch was identified from a video recording at North Park 8/11. 14/11 added six European White fronted geese to the year list. 15/11 proved to be a big day with Hume`s Warbler at Symbister, Seven! Long Eared Owls in one Skibberhoull garden with two more seen later at Skaw and thirteen European White Fronted geese and four Tundra Bean Geese at Challister. Common Scoter and Pochard were on Sandwick loch 17/11. Our good raptor year continued with both Common and Rough Legged Buzzards turning up at Whitefield and Isbister respectively 18/11. A Great Crested Grebe was sharing Symbister harbour with a Black Throated Diver 19/11 and a female Goosander was on the pool also at Symbister the next day. The Rough Legged Buzzard reappeared at Vatshoull 21/11 giving better views and a Hen Harrier also at Vatshoull the next day rounded off an amazing month for good birds.

December

A Long Eared Owl was at Hamister 2/12 rounding off a big Owl year. An adult Kumlien`s Gull was at Hamister 5/12 and was very likely the returning Ist winter of January 09. Like the Egret it looks set to remain into next year.Peregrines were seen at Skaw 6/12 and Hamister 15/12. The Great Crested Grebe reappeared in the harbour on 7/12 for a few days. An Iceland Gull was around Symbister for most of the month with two seen on 15/12.

Quite a good year with four additions to my Whalsay list - Black Kite, Great White Egret, Great Crested Grebe and Rough Legged Buzzard. There were many birds I could have gone for elsewhere in Shetland but my limited interest in twitching meant I only added Squacco Heron, Alpine Swift and Siberian Rubythroat to my completely unimpressive Shetland list. My Whalsay year list ended on 151 which I reckon is OK.

Two new birds for Whalsay were seen this year Black Kite and Great White Egret and (assuming both are accepted) this takes us on to 298 species.

Whalsay Bird Review 2012

First winter Glaucous Gull, Symbister 19/1

Adult Iceland Gull, Symbister

2nd winter Iceland Gull, Symbister

January

On new years day the overwintering Kumlien`s Gull was still present at Hamister where it was to be seen till the end of March. Also on 1/1 a Long Eared Owl was at Hamister, a Common Buzzard over Challister and a single European white fronted Goose and a Bean Goose were leftovers from 2011. 5/1 saw the start of what was to be an unprecedented influx of Iceland Gulls into Shetland. Highest numbers for the month was 41 at Symbister fish factory on 23/1 with 7 Glaucous Gulls at the same location 25/1. A ringed juvenile Herring Gull was photographed in the melee at Symbister on 19/1, and had been rung as a chick at Orndalen, Tromso in Norway on 6th of July 2011.

First winter Little Gull, Symbister

February

The highest white winged gull count at Symbister was on 7/2 with an amazing 54 Iceland and 5 Glaucous Gulls on this date. A first winter Little Gull joined the Symbister flock from 13-17/2 and 3 Common Scoters were off Vatshoull 28/2.

March

A quieter month with gull numbers slowly dwindling. The Vatshoull Common Scoter flock increased to a possible island record of 9 birds on 17/3.

Female Bullfinch, Skaw, 18/4

April

A Great Grey Shrike was at Marrister 17/4 with 3 different individuals seen a few days later (2 at Skaw and 1 at Isbister). 18/4 saw a decent fall of migrants with Long Eared Owl at Brough, Bullfinch and Yellowhammer at Skaw and a Peregrine at Symbister. A Green Sandpiper was on a roadside pool at Skaw 23/4 and a Wryneck was identified from a photo taken at Hamister 29/4.

Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Skibberhoull, 21/5

Male Red Backed Shrike, Isbister, 22/5

May

A male Black Redstart was at Hamister 4/5. An island tick passed me by on 9/5 with BM having a brief Avocet at Houll loch, though male Ortolan Bunting and Red Backed Shrike at Skaw later the same day was some consolation. A cracking male Eastern Subalpine Warbler spent the evening at Skibberhoull 21/5 with another Red Backed Shrike at Isbister the next day. Single Icterine Warbler and Cuckoo were at Skaw 23/5. A Grey Headed Wagtail was on the rig above the Houb 24/5 with 4 different Red Backed Shrikes seen the same day. A Turtle Dove was at Hamister 25/5 and is getting to be a rare sight these days.

Arctic Warbler, Skaw, 27/6

June

A Marsh Warbler put in a brief appearance in BMs garden at Marrister 9/6. The second Icterine Warbler of the spring was at Symbister 10/6 and the first of two unseasonal Black Redstarts was at Hamister 13/6, the second bird turning up in the same area 25/6. Less exciting but year ticks were Reed warbler at Skibberhoull 15/6, Common Crossbill at Skaw 17/6 and male Stonechat also at Skaw on 22/6. A latish male Red Backed Shrike was in the Skaw plantation 23-26/6 with a Hawfinch also present on the latter date. 27/6 produced the biggest surprise of the spring with a singing! Arctic Warbler trapped in the Skaw plantation in the evening.

July

Quiet as ever with another Common Crossbill in the Skaw plantation 1/7 and only small numbers of Knot and Sanderling plus a single Greenshank at the Houb at the months end vaguely notable.

Wryneck at Skaw 16/8

August

A few waders were passing through early in the month with a Green Sandpiper 2/8 plus Spotted Redshank and Ruff 4/8 all seen at Skaw. The first Barred Warbler of the year was in the Skaw plantation 13/8. An evenings mist netting there on 16/8 was quite productive for Brian with single Wryneck, Icterine Warbler and the years only Sedge Warbler caught with good numbers of common migrants. A Red Backed Shrike was at Vevoe and another Wryneck above the Houb the same day. On 18/8 2 Grasshopper Warblers were at Skaw and the years only Wood Warbler at Symbister.

Buff breasted Sandpiper at Skaw 17-20/9

Red Flanked Bluetail at Skaw 27/9

September

The first three weeks of the month produced steady Westerly winds. Despite this a Red Breasted Flycatcher was in the Skaw plantation 15/9 with another in BMs garden at Marrister 19/9. A Buff breasted Sandpiper rewarded daily walks around the golf course and was present from 17-20/9. Winds went East after this and the years first Yellow Browed Warbler was at Hamister 22/9. The Skaw plantation had a purple patch after this with Blyth`s Reed Warbler 24/9, Lanceolated Warbler 25/9, and Red Flanked Bluetail 27/9!! The years best Yellow Browed Warbler count was on 26/9 with 11 logged.

Dusky Warbler, Symbister 12/10

October

A Hawfinch at Marrister 1/10, Red Breasted Flycatcher at Skaw 3/10 and a Grey Plover on the north shore of the golf course 5/10 was the pick of the first week. Winds were unhelpful for a while after this with only a single Yellow Browed Warbler at Challister 11/10 till a SE blow brought in a Dusky Warbler, mist netted at Symbister 12/10. A Red Backed Shrike minus most of its tail was at Hamister 14/10 and our first Blue Tit for a number of years was at Saltness 16/10. The years first Waxwing was at Marrister also 16/10. I was away at the mackerel fishing after this with BM finding a Hornemanns Arctic Redpoll at Vatshoull 18-22/10. On my return a Slavonian Grebe was on the north loch of Skaw 27/10 and a Great Tit was at Hamister 28/10. I caught up with my first Waxwings at Hamister 29/10 with the same garden hosting a male Common Crossbill 31/10.

Hoopoe, Hamister 1-4/11

Waxwing at Symbister 4/11

November

The month began with a most unexpected sight, a Hoopoe wandering around on our lawn at Hamister! with a good flock of 18 Waxwings at Gardentown plus one at Sandwick and a female Pochard on Vatshoull loch. The Hoopoe was last seen 4/11 and was the only real surprise for the month. A Peregrine was at Brough 17/11 with perhaps the same bird at Skaw 29/11. The first white winged gulls appeared with a Glaucous Gull at Hamister 19/11 and a Iceland Gull at Symbister 21/11. The previous months Blue and Great Tit were raking around all month and were often seen together on a Symbister feeder.

winter sunset over Hamister

December

A pair of first winter Glaucous Gulls flew west past Skaw Taing on 1/12. Little else of note was seen till 15/12 when 2 Greenland White fronted geese were at Skaw, a Glaucous Gull was at Vatshoull and a male Goosander was at the Houb. The year was to end in style with the discovery of a male King Eider among the common Eider flock off the Symbister salmon cages on 31/12. A nice surprise as I was idly scoping the flock whilst cooking the new years eve pig out.

The King Eider was to be the last addition to my year list which finished on a disappointing 147, four species down on last year. Things like Water Rail, Mistle Thrush, Jackdaw and Sand Martin went unrecorded on Whalsay this year as did Bluethroat for the second year in succession . I seemed to miss a few more species than usual - Bean Goose, Common Rosefinch, Marsh Warbler, Barnacle Goose, Wood Sandpiper, Short Eared Owl, Little Bunting , Arctic Redpoll and Avocet and likely one or two more I have forgotten. For the first time since 2001 I had no new birds for my island list as I missed the Avocet in May. This all sounds a bit depressing but 2012 did have its moments, notably the winter gull influx, also the Subalpine and Arctic Warblers in spring and Blyth`s Reed Warbler, Lanceolated Warbler and Red Flanked Bluetail all trapped in the Skaw plantation over four outstanding days in September. Here's to loads of rare birds for 2013.

Aa the best JLI.

Whalsay Bird Review 2013

King Eider at Symbister

White tailed Eagle over Skaw

Blue Tit and Great Tit at Gardentown

January

The second winter drake King Eider which was found on New Years Eve 2012 remained around the Symbister salmon cages until 19/1. A dark bellied Brent Goose is a decent bird for the isle and was at the houb 3/1 and last seen at Skaw 15/2. The long staying second winter Iceland Gull remained at Symbister all month and the first of at least three Glaucous Gulls was at Skaw 5/1. A Pink footed Goose was at the houb 10/1 and was a species I missed last year. Bird of the month was a juvenile White tailed Eagle which flew South over Skaw 10/1. This proved to be a ringed bird first seen on Unst and a vagrant from Norway. A Water Rail was in a Vatshoull garden 15/1 and a Juvenile European White fronted Goose was at Pouster 17/1. A Peregrine flew East past Hamister 18/1 and with a Blue Tit and Great Tit both overwintering at Gardentown 2013 was off to a flying start.

February

The most interesting sighting of the month wasn't a bird at all, two Humpback Whales spent about half an hour off the East side of the golf course at Skaw 6/2. An adult Kumlien`s Gull was at Symbister from 12-14/2 and unlike last years bird was a poorly marked individual. Three adult European White fronted Geese were at Skaw 18/2 with the first Red throated Diver back on fresh water the same day.

March

A ringtail Hen Harrier flew North through Hamister 5/3. Two Mistle Thrushes were at Skibberhoull 18/3 then a Moorhen visited a Vatshoull garden 20/3. The long staying Great Tit was last seen 23/3. BM had a Blue Tit in his garden at Marrister from 25/3 and with two birds together at Symbister 29/3 there must have been a minimum of three birds on the island. A Sparrowhawk was eating a Starling at North Park 31/3.

April

The King Eider reappeared at Symbister 8/4 and stayed around all month. A Waxwing was at Marrister 11/4 with a Mistle Thrush at Brough and a Jack Snipe at Skaw the same day. A Sandwich Tern was at the Houb 13/4 with an early Sanderling also there 15/4. A Linnet at Marrister 16/4 was the first for a year or two. A small influx of Goldfinches began with one at Whitefield 18/4 increasing to four by 23/4 with one or two elsewhere on the isle after this.

The Symbister King Eider again

Collared Flycatcher at Skaw

Singing Bluethroat at Sandwick

May

The long staying King Eider was last seen 8/5 with a good fall of migrants the same day. Sedge Warbler, Short eared Owl and Yellowhammer were all recorded at Skaw. On 9/5 an Osprey flew South over Skaw and a female Linnet was at Isbister. BM really got spring migration going 10/5 with the discovery of a cracking first summer male Collared Flycatcher at Skaw, the only other island record being on the 11th May 1947! (incidently shot by my wife's grand uncle). It was last seen on the evening of the 16th after a splendid seven day stay. Grasshopper Warblers were at Skaw and Vatshoull 11/5, then I missed the years only Hawfinch in the Skaw plantation 12/5. The first Red backed Shrike was a female at Challister 13/5 with the maximum day count being five on the 29th. Things quietened down a bit from mid month with a smart male Bluethroat at Sandwick 19/5 being top bird of the second half. A Cuckoo was at Hamister 23/5 then a Bar tailed Godwit and Short eared Owl were at Skaw 26/5. A Barnacle Goose was another year tick at Vatshoull 28/5 with two present on the 31st. A Black tailed Godwit was at Skaw 29/5 and a Common Sandpiper was on the North shore of the golf course 31/5.

Tree Sparrow at Skaw

June

Quiet at the start of the month with only a few waders on the move. Two Common Sandpipers were at Huxter loch 1/6. A Curlew Sandpiper is a good spring record and one was at Vatshoull loch from 2-4/6 before relocating to North loch of Skaw 6/6. A male Ruff in full breeding dress joined the Sandpiper at Vatshoull 4/6 and was the first time I had seen one in this plumage. A second Curlew Sandpiper turned up at Vatshoull loch 13/6, this bird showing no traces of red in its plumage unlike the earlier record. Mute Swan remains a very scarce visitor to Whalsay so two juveniles on Vatshoull loch from 19/6 was a decent record. Likewise the Tree Sparrow which turned up amongst the local sparrows at Skaw for a few days from 20/6. A Common Crossbill was also at Skaw 20/6 with 20+ at Symbister 23/6. Shetland and the UK's fifth June Arctic Warbler turned up in the Skaw plantation 23/6 on a terrible evening of wind and rain. This was all the more amazing as the last one was in the very same place on the 27th of June last year! Due to weather conditions this bird was not photographed meaning I will have to actually write a description without lazily using the words "see accompanying photo"!

July

The Mute Swan pair were last seen at Vatshoull 4/7. A Common Swift was another year tick and seen on the golf course 7/7. Little else was seen till a Common Sandpiper flew in off the sea at Skaw 25/7. A drake Velvet Scoter was offshore below the heligoland trap area at Skaw 27/7 and was a first island record in twenty years. A Goldcrest at Hamister 29-30/7 was highly unseasonal and very likely a first Whalsay record for the month.

Greenish Warbler at Isbister

Booted Warbler at Symbister Photo Brian Marshall

August

A Wood Sandpiper at Symbister 3-4/8 was belatedly reported by an incoming birder. The first of a few Greenshanks was at Vatshoull loch 4/8. Little else was seen till the years only Sand Martin was at Vatshoull loch 20/8. My first Black tailed Godwits were five seen at Skaw 22/8 with an Icterine Warbler in the Skaw plantation 23/8. 25/8 was a good day with two Common Rosefinches and a Wood Warbler at Skaw and our first Greenish Warbler for a number of years at Isbister. Bird of the month turned up while I was away at the herring fishing, a Booted Warbler at Symbister from 28-29/8, this being a second Whalsay record. A Little Grebe was on Vatshoull loch about the same time.

Western Bonelli`s Warbler at Hamister

Olive backed Pipit at Skaw

September

My only Barred Warbler of the year was at Skaw 8/9. BM had a pair of Little Stints on the golf course 9/9 which I missed but managed to score a consolation Kestrel in the same area 10/9. The first Yellow browed Warblers of the year were two seen at Skaw 18/9 with a maximum day count of nineteen on the isle 29/9. A first winter Little Gull was at Skaw 20/9. A Grey Plover was on a small pool near West loch of Skaw 27/9 with the first of a big influx of Great spotted Woodpeckers at Saltness the same day. BM found a Western Bonelli`s Warbler in his garden at Marrister 29/9 with Bluethroats at Isbister and Sandwick the same day. The warbler graced us with a twenty day stay relocating to Hamister towards the end and was a third island record. An Olive backed Pipit in the Skaw plantation 30/9 rounded off the month.

Isabelline Shrike at Brough

Sabine`s Gull at Skaw Photo Brian Marshall

October

Our second Olive backed Pipit of the autumn was at Hamister 4-5/10. A Turtle Dove flew South past Marrister 7/10 and a Black Redstart was at Skaw 10/10. Two incoming birders turned up an Isabelline Shrike at Brough 17/10. This was a new bird for the island list and our 300th species. I came home from the mackerel fishing 27/10 and was very lucky to find the bird still present. It was last seen on the 28th. In my absence Brian had a Treecreeper at Hamister 19/10 and a very photogenic juvenile Sabine`s Gull on the North shore of the golf course 24/10, the latter being a bit painful as it is a species still missing from my island list. A Little Auk off Skaw 28/10 was a year tick.

November

Quite often a month with some decent birds but unfortunately this year proved a complete non event. Five Waxwings were at Symbister 3/11. A first winter Little Gull was at Vatshoull 5/11 and may have been the individual seen at Skaw in late September. Potential bird of the month flew past me calling at Skaw 11/11. I would put a considerable wager on Pechora Pipit but without any basic plumage details had to relegate it to the ranks of "ones that got away".

Great spotted Woodpecker at Symbister

Waxwing at Symbister

December

Raging Atlantic storms continued throughout the month and on the odd occasion you could venture out without taking flight, very few birds were on offer. A hardy Chiffchaff was around Hamister till 2/12. A Jack Snipe was at Skaw 7/12. A Glaucous Gull was around Skaw on several dates from 13/12 with a Waxwing at Gardentown the same day. A Woodcock was in the Skaw plantation 14/12 and an Iceland Gull at the North beach 22/12. At least eight Chaffinches were around various Hamister rigs all month. Likewise a Great spotted Woodpecker which ranged from Gardentown to Whitefield and will hopefully hang on into the new year.

My year list ended on 149 two behind the 151 of 2011. Despite being "ahead" for most of the year the last two months of sod all saw me fall short again. Inevitably I missed a few - Little Grebe, Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper, Sabine`s Gull, Black Redstart, Booted Warbler, Wood Warbler, Hawfinch and Greenfinch. Common birds unrecorded on Whalsay this year were - Shellduck, Goosander, Scaup, Green Sandpiper, Long Eared Owl, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Wryneck, Red breasted Flycatcher, Rook, Jackdaw and Bullfinch.

At certain times during the autumn Shetland seemed to be awash with Two barred Crossbills, Blyth`s Reed warblers, Arctic Warblers and Hornemanns Arctic Redpolls. Whalsay amassed a total of zero for all of the above. Ok that's the end of the grumpy old man rant. Good birds recorded this year were - White tailed Eagle, King Eider, Collared Flycatcher, Booted Warbler, Western Bonelli`s Warbler and Isabelline Shrike. The Eagle, Flycatcher and Shrike boosted my island list by another three species and the Shrike was also a Whalsay first, our 300th species.

Stay tuned for more boring shite next year! JLI.

Whalsay Bird Review 2014

Black Redstart, Isbister 14th January

Adult Little Gull at Vatshoull loch 24/1

Tundra Bean Geese at Brough in late January sometime

January

An Iceland Gull was at Symbister from 3/1 and a Pink footed Goose appeared amongst the Greylag flock at Skaw from 6/1. I caught up with the overwintering Great spotted Woodpecker at Gardentown 12/1 but missed an unseasonal male Blackcap at Marrister 13/1. Also unusual for January was the male Black Redstart at Isbister 14/1. A Shetland wide influx of Tundra Bean Geese began 20/1 with five at Vatshoull loch and a maximum of eight birds were at Brough the next day. A Little Auk was off Skaw 21/1. 23/1 produced a Long eared Owl at Gardentown after last years blank. An adult Little Gull was at Vatshoull loch 24/1 with female Common Scoter off Sandwick the same day. A Bar tailed Godwit was at Challister and a Waxwing at Hamister 30/1.

February

Four Barnacle Geese were at Brough 2/2 with a first winter Little Gull and a Short eared owl at Skaw next day. Two Brent Geese were at the north voe 8/2. Bird of the month in Whalsay terms was the male Gadwall at Vevoe 9/2. A few Tundra Bean Geese remained all month with a maximum of five 13/2. A Shelduck was at the houb from 16-25/2. A pale bellied Brent Goose was amongst the Skaw Greylags from 17/2. A first winter Glaucous Gull was at the Symbister salmon cages 22/2.

March

Long stayers were the Symbister Iceland Gull till 7/3 and the pale Bellied Brent goose at Skaw till 8/3. Little else was seen in a typically quiet month.

April

A female Yellowhammer at Marrister and a flypast Grey Wagtail at Hamister 6/4 were notable. Our first returning Wheatears were at Hamister and Skaw 7/4. A Greenshank at Symbister 12/4 was early and the first of a few Ring Ouzels was at Hamister 21/4. The 22nd saw a Black tailed Godwit at Symbister, Wryneck at Marrister and a very early Turtle Dove which was at Tripwell before heading off towards Brough. Three more Wrynecks were recorded for the month with birds at Skaw(24th) Pouster (25th) and Isbister (28th). A Green Sandpiper was at west loch of Skaw 25/4. A Moorhen was at Isbister loch briefly on 28/4. A colour ringed Whimbrel was at west loch of Skaw 29/4 and had been rung as an adult female on Fetlar in 2010. Interestingly it had been photogaphed on a beach in Guinea Bissau! a few months prior to its Whalsay visit.

Male Bluethroat at Skaw 20/5

Icterine Warbler, head of Clate, 26/5

Blyth's Reed Warbler trapped at Skaw 28/5

May

A Long eared Owl flew high over Skaw 2/5. A Sedge Warbler was at Skaw 9/5 with the only other individual seen in the Red Grind quarry 31/5. A Hoopoe played hide and seek at Skaw 12/5. Two Tree Sparrows were at Hamister 15/5 increasing to four birds on 25/5. A drake Pintail and Little Stint were at the houb 18/5. An elusive male Bluethroat was in the Skaw plantation 19-20/5 with a Cuckoo also there on the second date. An Icterine Warbler was in the geo at the head of Clate 26/5 with another bird at Skibberhoull 30/5. Forty one Barnacle Geese flew north over Skaw 27/5. Bird of the month was the Blyth's Reed Warbler trapped in the Skaw heligoland 28/5 and still present next day.

June

The year's only Red backed Shrike, a male, was in the Skaw plantation 3/6 with a brief and elusive Marsh Warbler in the same place 8/6. A Hummingbird Hawkmoth was at Hamister 8/6 and was the last interesting migrant in a desperately poor month.

July

A quiet month for migrants as usual. Our Arctic Terns fared better with Brian ringing 305 chicks as opposed to one! last year and hopefully this signals an upturn in fortunes for this species. A few common waders started moving through at the months end with Ruff (29th) and Bar tailed Godwit (30th) amongst the usual modest numbers of Knot and Sanderling.

Booted Warbler at Symbister 11/8

Peacock butterfly at Symbister 10/8

August

A Booted Warbler at Symbister 10-15/8 was a third Whalsay record and two in two years for Cath Simpson's garden. It also equalled the earliest UK date for the species. Also on 10/8 a Wood Sandpiper was at Symbister, a Green Sandpiper at Skaw and the first of a few Kestrels at Sodom. On 12/8 the years only Sand Martin was at Hamister and a Barred Warbler was at Skaw. A juvenile Shelduck was on the north loch of Skaw briefly 13/8 and a Common Sandpiper was at the houb 16/8. Thing were fairly quiet after this with a Manx Shearwater off Skaw on different dates from 20/8. A Cuckoo was at Sodom 21/8. Barred and Icterine Warblers were at Skaw 28-29/8 with the same combination at Symbister 30/8.

Greenish Warbler at Sandwick 20/9

September

September began in style with an Arctic Warbler at Sandwick and a Paddyfield Warbler netted in the Skaw plantation 1/9. The latter bird being a third island record. A Common Rosefinch was at Skaw 3/9 with two Kestrels also there 7/9. Our second Little Stint of the year was at the houb 9/9 with a Common Rosefinch at Vevoe 12/9. Red breasted Flycatchers were at Hamister and Sandwick 14/9 and were the first of six birds recorded for the month. The first three Yellow browed Warblers were at Hamister, Skaw and Marrister also on 14/9. A Peregrine flew south past the houb 15/9 with the years only Reed Warbler netted in the Skaw plantation 16/9. A Greenish Warbler was at Sandwick 19-20/9 with the years only Common Whitethroat at Skaw on the second date. A Hawfinch was in the Skaw plantation from 28/9 into October with the first of a few Jack Snipes at Skaw 29/9. A few parties of Pink footed Geese were moving through at this time with 150+ 29/9.

Siberian Stonechat at Skaw 6/10

Treecreeper at Skibberhoull 7/10

Blue Tit at Gardentown 8/10

October

Four pale bellied Brent Geese were at the houb 4/10 with 300 + Pink footed Geese over Symbister in three flocks the same day. A Siberian Stonechat was at Skaw Briefly 6/10. A Treecreeper was at Skibberhoull 7/10 with Short eared Owl at Brough, Little Bunting, six pale bellied Brent Geese, Long Eared Owl and Lapland Bunting at Skaw and a late Common Sandpiper at Sandwick the same day. An influx of tits began 8/10 with a Great and two Blues at Gardentown with two Goldfinches and a Linnet. A western Stonechat was on the golf course 9/10 with fourteen Barnacle Geese flying over at the same time. A Grasshopper Warbler was in a ditch near the Skaw plantation 11-12/10. A Linnet was at Skaw13/10 with a Mistle Thrush there 18/10. With BM and myself both away the local birdlife went unrecorded towards the months end.

November

Long eared Owls were at Isbister and Skibberhoull 6/11 with a late Garden Warbler at Skaw 7/11. A juvenile Pomarine Skua was at Skaw 10/11 with another bird off Symbister 20/11. Two Tundra Bean Geese were at Skaw for a few days from 14/11 with an Iceland Gull at Symbister from 15/11. A Short eared Owl was on the golf course 17/11 with a long dead individual found on the airstrip at the same time. Little else of interest was added towards the end of the month, a late Great Skua was off Symbister 23/11 and 30 Snow Buntings were at Skaw 26/11.

December

Both Pomarine Skuas were noted 3/12 as far apart as is possible with one north of Skaw and the other south of Symbister. 18 Snow Buntings flew over Hamister 4/12 with 30 in the same place 29/12. A pale bellied Brent Goose was at the burns 8/12 and ranged between Brough and Skaw for the rest of the month. First winter Iceland Gulls were at Hamister and Skaw on 23/12.

This is now my fourth time keeping a year list on Whalsay and again didn't manage to better my first effort of 151 species in 2011. It seems to be down to what happens in November as in that year I had ten new birds in that month. This year I had one new bird for November and December combined so could only muster 147, equalling my poorest effort in 2012. As will always happen I missed a few - Gadwall, Peregrine, Turtle Dove, Swift, Hoopoe, Waxwing, Mistle Thrush, Paddyfield Warbler, Arctic Warbler, Wood Warbler and Lapland Bunting. Common birds unrecorded on Whalsay this year were - White fronted Goose, Scaup, Pochard, Goosander, Sparrowhawk, Water Rail, Yellow Wagtail, Rook, Jackdaw, Greenfinch, Common Crossbill and Bullfinch. I also failed to add any new species to my island list, missing the male Gadwall in February which would have done me. Very little to crow about this season so here's to the Black throated Accentor in 2015! All the best JLI.

Whalsay Bird Review 2015

Great Tit

January

Birds hanging on from 2014 included a couple of Iceland Gulls in the Hamister/Symbister area, Great Tit at Symbister/Gardentown and a pale bellied Brent Goose moving between Skibberhoull and the Houb till 9/1. Two Goosanders were at the Houb from 2-18/1. A Waxwing visited Saltness then Symbister 3/1 with overwintering Dunnocks at Symbister and Hamister. Thirty Snow Buntings remained at Hamister from late 2014. A first winter Glaucous Gull was around the Symbister salmon cages from 14-17/1 with a Little Auk there on the latter date.

February

Very little of interest was seen, three Iceland Gulls were around all month with two at Symbister and one at Skaw. The Great Tit was in the Symbister area all month, a Woodpigeon was at Vatshoull 16/2 with the first Red throated Diver back on west loch of Skaw on 24/2.

March

A Great Grey Shrike and Mistle Thrush were at Skaw 18/3 with pretty much nothing else till a few Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs appeared in the last few days of the month.

April

Another absolutely dire month. A Pink footed Goose was at Challister 10/4 with a male Sparrowhawk at Skaw 18/4. A Hawfinch was at a garden feeder at Gardentown from 26-27/4.

May

The first of a few Ring Ouzels and a Tundra Bean Goose was at Skaw 3/5. A scatter of common migrants appeared 4/5 with a Hawfinch at Skaw, Kestrel at Isbister, a Sparrowhawk at Hamister and the first Arctic Tern on Vatshoull loch. The first Sedge Warbler was at Sandwick and Pied Flycatcher at Gardentown 5/5. Long eared Owls were at Skibberhoull 6/5 and Skaw 7/5. A Peregrine was eating a Red Grouse north of Vatshoull 8/5. Five Tree Sparrows were at Skaw 11/5 with one of these trapped 16/5. A pair of Linnets were at Sandwick 18/5 with a Black tailed Godwit at Vatshoull loch 22/5. A female Brambling at Hamister 26-29/5 was bearing a German ring from Heligoland and had been controlled a few weeks before. A colour ringed Turnstone 28/5 on Easter Nettlar beach, Skaw Taing had been trapped 22/11/14 on Heligoland seen regularly there till 18/5/15 and seen back there on 6th September. Our first Hobby for many years bombed past Easter Nettlar 28/5 while looking for the Turnstone.

Bluethroat at Isbister

Greenish warbler at Skaw

Female Red Necked Phalarope at Skaw

Male Red necked Phalarope

Common Rosefinch at North Park photo by Johnnie Simpson

Eyebrowed Thrush at Saeter Photo by Carolyn Simpson

Hobby at Symbister photo by Ian Reid

June

A male Ruff in breeding dress was at Skaw Taing and a Tree Pipit at Sodom 1/6. 2/6 yielded a singing male Bluethroat at Isbister, Icterine Warblers at Skaw, Lubba and Marrister and Red backed Shrikes at Skaw, Sandwick and Isbister. A bat sp. was seen briefly at Whitefield 5/6 with a Black Redstart at Brough 6/6. 8/6 was a good day with a Greenish Warbler at Skaw, a male Common Rosefinch at North Park and fifteen Mute Swans (eleven on Vatshoull loch and four on Sandwick loch). Two Red necked Phalaropes were seen briefly at Vatshoull 9/6 before being found again at Skaw a few days later. Amazingly a first breeding attempt was undertaken, a nest of four eggs was monitored from distance but unfortunately doomed to failure. Another breeding first was a Siskin pair which successfully reared one chick in the Skaw plantation. An Icterine Warbler was at Hamister 12/6. Bird of the year was a female Eyebrowed Thrush seen and photographed by Carolyn and Johnnie Simpson in their garden at Saeter on 20/6. This was an island first but missed by all birders. Just to rub salt in the wounds a Thrush sp. was flushed at long range the next day and was very likely the bird but was never seen again. The month was rounded off by a first summer Hobby roosting on a Symbister window sill at 10:45pm on 30/6.

July

The year's only Common Crossbill was in the Skaw plantation for a few days from 2/7. A Hummingbird Hawkmoth was at Gardentown briefly 3/7 and a Bar tailed Godwit visited north loch of Skaw 14/7. Bird of the month went to an unseasonal Golden Oriole 21/7 which visited a few gardens in the Hamister/North Park area but refused to sit out and have its photo taken.

August

The usual trickle of waders early in the month with quite a few Ruff, Greenshank 6/8 and five Bar tailed Godwits at the houb 7/8. An early Common Whitethroat was at Whitefield 9/8. A Hawfinch was at Saltness 14/8 with two together at Whitefield next day. A couple of Reed Warblers at Hamister 16/8 were the first of the year. A Cuckoo was at Whitefield 17/8 and a Wood Warbler at Marrister 18/8 with another at Houll 19/8. Also on 19/8 four Red backed Shrikes were seen with two at Skaw and two at Isbister, four Wrynecks, three at Skaw and one at Sandwick, an Icterine Warbler at Skaw and the years only Sand Martin at Sandwick. The first of a few Barred Warblers was at Skaw 21/8 and the years second Hummingbird Hawkmoth at Brough 22/8. On 24/8 a Cuckoo was at Skibberhoull and a Green Sandpiper and two Icterine Warblers at Skaw. I was away for a bit after this date though BM had a Spotted Redshank at Skaw 25/8.

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler at Skaw

September

The first two Yellow browed Warblers for the year were at Skaw 10/9 with a Barred Warbler. 11/9 saw a Red breasted Flycatcher and first winter Little Gull at Skaw and a Red backed shrike at Isbister. Another island first was found 12/9 and after the carry on with the Eyebrowed Thrush in June it was good that we all saw the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler which was seen then trapped in the Skaw plantation. It remained there till16/9 but was extremely skulking and usually heard rather than seen. A Little Stint on Easter nettlar beach, Skaw Taing 14/9 was the only record this year. Little of note was seen till 22/9 when a Red flanked Bluetail was seen very briefly in a Whitefield garden and a Turtle Dove at Sodom then Whitefield. An incredibly skulking Blyth`s Reed Warbler was in a few Symbister gardens 27/9. A Richards Pipit was at Brough 28/9 with presumably the same bird refound at Vevoe 30/9. A Little Bunting was at Brough 29-30/9.

Little Bunting at the Burns

Great grey Shrike at Creadyknowe

October

A Grey Shrike sp. bombed out of a Sandwick garden 7/10 but was lost. Cath Simpson's report of a "Pipit sized Thrush with Song Thrush markings" in her Symbister garden 8/10 sounded very interesting but was again relegated to the ranks of ones that got away. A flypast Stock Dove in the same area was the first for a few years but little consolation. A Short eared Owl was in the Houb area also on 8/10. The years only record of two Barnacle Geese was at Vatshoull 9/10 with a Little Bunting at the burns the same day. 12/10 saw a Great Grey Shrike on the wires at Creadyknowe with a Grey Plover amongst a Goldie flock on the Skaw golf course. Only another Short eared Owl on 17/10 in the Brough Quarry was notable before heading away for a month to the mackerel fishing.

Little Egret at Symbister photo www.jondunn.com

November

With Brian and myself away for most of the month this is going to be brief! Jon Dunn found Whalsay's second Little Egret on the pool at Symbister 9/11 and a Common Scoter on Sandwick loch 15/11. A Peregrine was at Skaw Taing 21/11 and a few Little Auks turned up towards the months end with twelve off Symbister 28/11 the best count.

December

An Iceland gull was at Symbister 3/12. Our second Waxwing of the year was at Gardentown 5/12 and like the individual in January didn't hang on till I got there to see it. A Glaucous Gull was at Symbister also on 5/12. An unseasonal Goldfinch was at Skaw 12-14/12 with three Pink footed Geese over Skaw the same day before taking up residence at Brough for a while. A huge count by Whalsay standards was that of fifty! Little Auks flying South past Brians house at Marrister in just thirty five minutes on 21/12. A Greenland White fronted Goose at Brough with a few Greylags was he last addition to the year list on 22-26/12. A Glaucous Gull was at Vatshoull and a Peregrine at Skaw on 23/13. A Jack Snipe was at Hamister 26/12. Three European White fronted Geese were at Brough 29/12 and will hopefully hang on for next year's list.

This is my fifth time of keeping a Whalsay year list and my first effort of 151 in 2011 is still the best. This years total of 144 unfortunately sets a new low but with no birds around for long periods what can you do? Birds seen on the Island but missed by me were - Common Scoter, Little Egret, Spotted Redshank, Sand Martin, Waxwing, Eyebrowed Thrush (woe), Common Rosefinch and Mistle Thrush. Common birds unrecorded this year were - Shelduck, Scaup, Storm Petrel, Water Rail, Moorhen, Common Sandpiper, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Stonechat, Jackdaw, Rook, Greenfinch and Yellowhammer. Eyebrowed Thrush and Eastern Olivaceous Warbler raised the Island list total to 302 species though all birders missing the former was depressing. Siskins bred successfully for the first time rearing a single chick in the Skaw plantation. One of the most exciting events was the discovery of four eggs in a Red necked Phalarope nest but this was doomed to failure which was a great shame.

Whalsay bird review 2016

The gull thing at Hamister

January

After a good November/December for the species four Little Auks were still off Symbister 1/1. A dark bellied Brent Goose was at Skaw 2/1 before relocating to Brough 6/1 and then Newpark 11/1. The previous years three Pink-footed Geese were around Brough all month. A Glaucous Gull was at Hamister 4/1 and an Iceland Gull at Symbister from 6/1. Three Tundra Bean Geese were at the Burns from 24-27/1. An immature gull at Hamister from 28/1 caused much debate, showing characters of American Herring Gull and as such a potential first for Shetland. To cut a long story short even the experts weren't sure and so it will likely be relegated to the ranks of maybe/maybe not... annoying!!

Taiga Bean Goose at the burns

February

Overwintering Dunnocks were at Marrister and Skaw early in the month. A flock of 25+ Snow Buntings were at Hamister and a Woodcock at Skaw 6/2 with a Jack Snipe at Hamister and a Sparrowhawk at Skaw 7/2. A Taiga Bean Goose was in the Brough/Burns area from 10-24/2 and was a first confirmed record of this race on the island. An adult Glaucous Gull was at Hamister 22/2 with two first winter birds at Symbister salmon cages next day. A Black throated Diver was off Vatshoull 28/2 and was a first island record since 2011. Six Iceland Gulls were at Symbister salmon cages the same day with another at Huxter loch with a Glaucous Gull.

March

Little was seen until 17/3 when a Mistle Thrush was at Isbister, three Pink-footed Geese were at the Burns and two Iceland Gulls and a Glaucous Gull were at Symbister. A Pied Wagtail was at Hamister 18/3 with a juvenile Sparrowhawk at the burns 23/3. A Tundra Bean Goose was at Skaw 24/3 and the first three Goldcrests were at Skaw 28/3.

April

A Black throated Diver and Wheatear were at Huxter 6/4 with a Black Redstart briefly at Hamister 18/4. A quiet month and unfortunately a sign of things to come!

Female Red backed Shrike

May

Two Black tailed Godwits were at Skaw 2/5 with three at Vatshoull 16/5. A female Subalpine Warbler sp. was briefly at Hamister on the evening of 8/5. An Icterine Warbler was at Skaw 11/5 and was the sole record for the year. Three House Martins were at Skibberhoull 21/5 with a Common Rosefinch at Skaw and a smart male Ruff at Vatshoull 22/5. An early-ish Marsh Warbler was singing in the Isbister plantation 28/5 with a male Red backed Shrike at Skaw 30/5.

June

A Greenish Warbler 5/6 made it two in successive Junes for the Skaw plantation. A female Red backed Shrike at Grunitaing 9/6 and a Reed Warbler in the Isbister plantation 12/6 rounded off a dire spring.

Common Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper chick

July

A Common Sandpiper with a single chick was at Huxter loch 4/7 and was a second island breeding record. A Bar tailed Godwit was at Skaw 18/7, a female Kestrel was at Vevoe 22/7 and another Common Sandpiper was at the Houb 27/7.

August

A first summer Hobby spent half an hour sitting on a post at Pouster in heavy rain on 3/8. Two Greenshank were at Skaw 4/8 with a bat sp. (very likely Narthusius Pipistrelle) flying around the Skaw plantation for a few days from 5/8. A Whimbrel with a small chick at west loch of Skaw 10/8 was a bit late. Little else was seen till a Greenish Warbler was trapped in the Skaw plantation 30/8.

Marsh Warbler

September

Single Common Swift and Sand Martin were at Skaw with five Black tailed Godwits on 2/9. A Barred Warbler and Wood Warbler were at Skaw and a Common Rosefinch at the burns on 4/9. A Red backed Shrike was at Skaw 8/9 with another Barred Warbler there 11/9 and two seen 14/9. A Red breasted Flycatcher and the first of many Yellow browed Warblers were at Skaw 16/9. A Peregrine flew east over Hamister18/9. A Marsh Warbler was trapped at Skaw 22/9. A Buff breasted Sandpiper was briefly on the Skaw golf course 26/9. A Little Bunting was in the red grind quarry, Brough 27/9 with another bird at Skaw the next day. A juvenile Storm Petrel was picked up and safely released at Symbister 28/9.

Blyth's Reed Warbler

October

A Common Rosefinch was at Skaw 1/10 with a Painted Lady at Isbister 2/10. A Peregrine was at Skaw 3/10. A few skeins of Barnacle Geese flew south over the island 4/10 adding up to just over 200 for the day. A Lesser Whitethroat of the Siberian "blythii" race was trapped at Skaw the same day. A Bluethroat and Red breasted Flycatcher were at Skibberhoull 5/10. Single Lapland Bunting, Long eared Owl and Grey Wagtail were at Skaw 6/10 with a Greenfinch two Goldfinches and a Water Rail there 7/10. A Blyth's Reed Warbler was in and around Jon Dunns garden at Skaw from 10-19/10. A Waxwing was at Marrister11/10. Barred Warbler and Common Rosefinch were at Skaw 15/10. 17/10 saw a mobile Hoopoe at Vatshoull before moving to the red grind quarry area then on to Isbister. A Grey Wagtail was also near the red grind quarry and two European White fronted Geese were at Hamister. A Lapland Bunting was at Skaw, a Hawfinch at Isbister and a male Yellowhammer at Symbister 18/10. A Waxwing was at Skaw 20/10. With regular Hoopoe reports at sites from Skaw to Huxter we were sure at least two birds were doing the rounds. Three dark bellied Brent Geese were at Sandwick loch 22/10 and five Tundra Bean Geese at Vatshoull 25/10. A Peregrine flew over Marrister 27/10.

November

With Brian and myself away for most of the month even less was seen. Six Waxwings were at Skaw 11/11. An Iceland Gull was at Symbister19/11, a Waxwing at Marrister 21/11 with a Water Rail there 23/11.

December

After a good few Humpback Whale records around Shetland a pair spent the day 5/12 off Skaw and Vevoe. First winter Glaucous Gulls were at Skaw 6/12 and Symbister 8/12. Single Chiffchaffs hung on at Hamister and Boothpark until at least 14/12 with two Iceland Gulls at Symbister the same day. A Water Rail was at Skaw Taing 15/12. An Iceland Gull was at Symbister 27-31/12.

2016 has been by far the worst of my birdwatching life! The rest of Shetland had an amazing autumn with our neighbouring islands of Out Skerries, Fetlar and Bressay having outstanding national rarities pretty much every day in October - Whalsay didn't have a single one!!! the whole year - nothing despite much flogging around. The 27th September was a typical day - out all day for nothing only to find a Little Bunting in the red grind quarry with the last of the daylight. Came home happy-ish then had a look on the "nature in Shetland" website. Brown Shrike and Great Snipe on Out Skerries, Pallid Harrier at South Mainland, Paddyfield Warbler on Unst, cue birding tourettes!!! This went on each and every day for the next month and was utterly soul destroying. I started keeping island yearlists in 2011 and my first effort of 151 still leads the way. In 2015 I reached a new low figure of 144. 2016 has well and truly blown that out of the water with only 129 species seen, there is no way I will ever do worse until I go blind or die. I usually conclude this with a list of common birds I either missed or went unrecorded on Whalsay but I cant be arsed as I will be sitting here all day. Grumpy auld git rant over! Come on 2017 - things can only get better.

Whalsay Bird Review 2017

White fronted Geese at Challister

January

A first winter Glaucous Gull was off Skaw Taing 2/1. Three Common Scoters were off Vatshoull 5/1 with a Peregrine bombing through at the same time. An Iceland Gull was in the north voe 6/1. Two Common Scoters were still off Vatshoull 7/1 with another two off Symbister. Little else was seen till 27/1 when three Glaucous Gulls were at Skaw and two Iceland Gulls at Symbister. Seven European White fronted Geese were at Challister 29/1.

February

A quiet month with a Water Rail at Hamister 7/2 and the first Red throated Divers back on north loch of Skaw 18/2 the only notable sightings.

Stonechat at the Burns

Yellowhammer at Whitefield

March

Two Mistle Thrushes were at Hamister and five Pink footed Geese at the Burns 6/3. The Hamister Mistle Thrush numbers doubled to four on 7/3. A male Stonechat was at the Burns 8/3. A Mistle Thrush at Skaw 9/3 pushed the island numbers up to five with the Hamister birds still present. A male Yellowhammer was at Whitefield 17/3. The first Dunnocks of the year were at Saltness 24/3 and Skaw 25/3. A pair of Shelducks flew north past Vatshoull 27/3 and a Woodcock was at Skaw 28/3.

April

I was away fishing for the whole of this month. Brian had a Black tailed Godwit at Vatshoull 20/4 and a Hawfinch was photographed at Skaw 29/4 and were two species I never did catch up with for the rest of the year.

Long eared Owl trapped in a shed at Saltness

Thrush Nightingale at Hamister

Pied Flycatcher at Skaw

May

A female Subalpine Warbler sp. was at Skibberhoull and a Grasshopper Warbler at Skaw 3/5 with a Goosander on Vatshoull loch 6/5. A Sand Martin was at Vatshoull 12/5. A Thrush Nightingale skulked around in a Hamister yard 13-14/5 with a Stonechat at Skaw also on 13/5. The years only Common Sandpiper was at Skaw 14/5 with a male Red backed Shrike there 15/5. A female Stonechat joined the male at Skaw 16/5 with a very brief Dotterel on the golf course 17/5. A Long eared Owl at Skibberhoull 22/5 later self trapped itself in a Saltness shed before being trapped, ringed and released by BM. The last week was quiet with the years only Bar tailed Godwit at the houb 27/5 the only remotely interesting record.

Greenish Warbler trapped at Isbister

Red Grouse chicks north of Vatshoull

June

4/6 saw a Barnacle Goose at Vatshoull loch and a Male Red backed Shrike at Symbister. A Greenish Warbler trapped at Isbister 7/6 was the third individual in three consecutive Junes never having had a spring bird on the isle previously! An Icterine Warbler shared the same garden. A female Nightjar was in the Skaw plantation 10/6 our first record since 2009. A Common Swift was at Symbister 18/6. Away from birds briefly a Hummingbird Hawkmoth was at Hillhead 23/6. A Mute Swan on Vatshoull loch 27/6 and an unseasonal Black Redstart at Skaw 28/6 rounded off the month.

Two barred Crossbill at Marrister, photo by Brian Marshall

July

As usual very few birds of interest. A juvenile Cuckoo was at Skaw 21\7. Brian had a couple of male Two barred Crossbills in his garden 29/7 which was only a third island record.

August

A very early Pied Flycatcher plus a Common Swift were at Skaw 3\8. I was away for the rest of the month at the herring fishing and missed out on an island tick in the form of a female Marsh Harrier around Isbister from 20-21\8. A Black tailed Godwit was at Skaw 20/8. BM went away as well after this and with a good range of scarcities throughout Shetland who knows what was missed.

American Golden Plover at Skaw

Great Grey Shrike at Skaw

Icterine Warbler at Isbister

Little Bunting at Brough

September

A Sooty Shearwater was off Skaw 2\9. An Icterine Warbler was at Isbister 9\9 with early Yellow browed Warblers at Saltness and Skaw the same day. 10\9 saw Barred Warblers at Hamister and Symbister and a Red backed Shrike at Brough. An adult American Golden Plover in a flock of its european cousins at Skaw from 12-13\9 was only a second island record. Another Barred Warbler was at Hamister 15\9. Considerably rarer was the Golden Oriole at Saltness from 17-20\9. Red breasted Flycatchers were at Isbister and Hillhead 25\9. On 27\9 a Great Grey Shrike was at Skaw, Little Bunting at Brough plus Grasshopper Warblers at Skaw, Vatshoull and Brough. On 30/9 a Stock Dove was at Hamister, Short eared Owl at Skaw, Little Stint at Symbister plus Little Buntings at Brough, Burns and Skaw(2).

Steppe Grey Shrike near Vevoe

October

A Turtle Dove was at Saltness briefly on 1/10 with a Lesser Redpoll at Isbister 2/10. A Great Grey Shrike was at Marrister 3/10. There was a quiet period till the discovery of a Steppe Grey Shrike at the roadside near Vevoe on 14/10. This was a first island record, fourth for Shetland and the first since 1994. A very tame individual which entertained quite a few visitors till 31/10. A Stock Dove at Hamister 18/10 may or may not have been the same bird seen two weeks earlier. A Stonechat was at Houll also on 18/10. 20/10 saw Ring Ouzels at Creadyknowe, Challister, Skaw and Brough, Water Rail at Skaw and a Black Redstart at Hamister. A Pallas's Warbler was a first island record for a good few years on 22/10 at Creadyknowe, unfortunately for me one day after heading to sea! A Mistle Thrush was at Skaw the same day. A Blue Tit was at Marrister 24/10 with a Long eared Owl at Sodom 25/10. A Blue Tit was at Gardentown at the months end.

November

A Blue Tit was at Skibberhoull 11/11 (the Gardentown bird?) A Glaucous Gull was at Brough 18/11 with single Blue and Great Tits together in the same Symbister garden 19/11. Another Glaucous Gull was at Skaw 27/11. A Jack Snipe was at Pouster and a 3rd winter Iceland Gull at Symbister 28/11.

Water Rail at Vatshoull

December

A Water Rail was in a Vatshoull garden on 13/12 with a female Common Scoter off Skaw Taing 15/12. An Iceland Gull was at Symbister 16/12. A Glaucous Gull was at Skaw Taing 18/12 with two Mealy Redpoll at Brough. A Glaucous Gull joined the Iceland Gull at Symbister 24/12.

Another poor year with 137 species recorded by me. Last years low of 129 was beaten and thankfully we didn't go the whole year without a national rarity like 2016 but this was still my second poorest total in the seven years I have done this. The October Steppe Grey Shrike was the first addition to the island list for a few years raising the total to 303. The adult American Golden Plover at Skaw in September was a 2nd record and the Two barred Crossbills at Marrister in July a third. As usual a few common species went unrecorded on Whalsay - Tundra Bean Goose, Storm Petrel, Little Auk, Greenshank, Waxwing, Linnet and Common Crossbill. Species seen but missed by me were - Goosander, Sooty Shearwater, Moorhen, Dotterel, Black tailed Godwit, Marsh Harrier, Turtle Dove, Subalpine warbler, Pallas`s Warbler, Short eared Owl, Hawfich and Two barred Crossbill. Some good stuff missed but never mind, all the best for 2018!

Whalsay Bird Review 2018

Coues`s Arctic Redpoll

White tailed Eagle

Jack Snipe

Mistle Thrush

January

The year began with a female King Eider at the Symbister salmon cages 2/1 found by the SNH Seabird counters but unfortunately not seen by any of us. Single Waxwings were at Whitefield and Skaw, an Iceland Gull at Symbister and a Water Rail at Skaw on 4/1. Another Water Rail was at Vatshoull 16/1. Six European White fronted Geese rounded off the month at Pouster 30/1.

February

Single Glaucous and Iceland Gulls were at Skaw Taing 2/1. A smart male Coues`s Arctic Redpoll was in a flock of up to sixteen Mealy Redpoll at Skibberhoull 7/2 remaining all month. A Water Rail was in Brians garden at Marrister 12/2 and two female Common Scoters were off Skaw Taing 19/2.

March

The Coues`s Arctic Redpoll remained at Skibberhoull with the Mealy flock until 17/3. A good few Jack Snipe were seen early in the month in snowy conditions with five seen together in one ditch at Skaw on 3/3. An adult White tailed Eagle was seen at Skaw then Isbister also on 3/3 before it was last seen on 9/3 flying west over our house at Hamister adding another species to the house list. Two Mistle Thrushes were together at Hamister 11/3 with singles at pouster and Skaw 15/3 and another at Skibberhoull 25/3.

April

Myself and Brian were both away early in the month coinciding with prolonged SE winds with apparently Hawfinches, Ring Ouzel, Yellowhammers etc widespread through Shetland. We got back on 19th and 20th respectively just as the winds swung to the west again. A female Ring Ouzel was at Hamister 19/4 with male Shelducks at North Voe and the houb the same day. A Lesser Whitethroat was at Skaw 22/4. A female Scaup on Isbister loch 26/4 was a first island record in a number of years with a female Kestrel photographed at Skibberhoull the same day. A Goldfinch was at a feeder at Isbister 29/4.

Wood Warbler

May

Fourteen Pink footed Geese at Isbister 2/5 were the first of the year. Shetland had a good influx of Tree Sparrows in May with ten in the Skaw plantation 5/5 increasing to twelve on 7/5. Two Black tailed Godwits flew south over Challister 6/5. A Sand Martin was at Skaw and a Goldfinch at Gardentown 9/5. 12/5 was a bit better with a very early Marsh Warbler, male Bluethroat and the years only Sedge Warbler all seen at Skaw. A Wood Warbler was at Symbister 13/5. A juvenile male Bluethroat was caught in the Skaw trap 14/5 and a Long Eared Owl and Tree Pipit in the Skaw plantation 15/5. A female Red backed Shrike was in the Lubba plantation 16/5. A House Martin was at Skaw 21/5 with a Marsh Warbler trapped in the heligoland 22/5. Two Swifts and a House Martin were hawking in the Hamister valley 26/5 with a single Barnacle Goose at Vatshoull loch 27/5. A Wood Warbler was at Skaw and a male Red backed Shrike in the Lubba plantation 30/5. An Icterine Warbler was at Grunitaing 31/5.

Curlew Sandpiper

Red necked Phalarope

June

An Icterine Warbler was at Isbister adding to the still present Grunitaing bird 1/6. A very elusive Marsh Warbler sang occasionally in the Skaw plantation 7-8/6. A Curlew Sandpiper was at the Houb from 10-11/6. Little else was seen until a female Red necked Phalarope was on Vatshoull loch from 24-27/6.

Dark morph adult Long tailed Skua

"normal" adult Long tailed Skua

July

Usually the quietest month for migrants, 2018 was to be a bit different! Three Sandwich Terns flew north over Symbister and a Swift was at Skaw 1/7. On 7/7 Brian found an adult Long tailed Skua on his walk around Challister Ness. It joined the local Arctic Skuas at West loch of Skaw and I was delighted to add it to my Island list. The next few days went mental with up to six!! Long tails present (three adults, a sub adult and two juveniles). The main excitement surrounded the discovery of a dark morph adult on 8/7. There has been debate on the existence of this plumage with only a handful of reports worldwide and apparently no photographic evidence until now! The six birds were last seen 10/7. Our third and fourth Sand Martins were at Symbister 14/7 and past the Houb 25/7. A Magpie Moth in the Skaw plantation 16/7 was a change from bird records. A Sandwich Tern was heard in the mist below Marrister 17/7 with a Minke Whale off Skaw the Same day. A Pectoral Sandpiper was at Vatshoull loch 23/7 with a Ruff there later in the day. A Black Redstart was at Sandwick and a Kestrel at North Park 28/7. 30/7 saw a Icterine Warbler at Isbister, Reed Warbler at Skaw, Bar tailed Godwit at the Houb, Sand Martin at Vevoe and six Swifts at Vatshoull. A male Black Redstart at Brough 31/7 ended our best ever July.

August

Two Greenshanks were at Vatshoull loch 1/8 with three there 5/8. An early Whinchat was trapped at Skaw 5/8. A Peacock butterfly was at Symbister 8/8. A Hawfinch was at Symbister 18/8 with a Little Stint in the Symbister meadow 22/8. A Common Rosefinch at Skaw 28/8 ended a poor month.

Yellow breasted Bunting

September

A Barred Warbler was at Skaw 4/9. The first Yellow browed Warbler was at Sandwick 8/9 in what was to be a poor year for the species. Two Common Rosefinches were at Symbister plus one at Skaw with a Wood Warbler and a Barred Warbler at Symbister 9/9. I made it nil out of three by missing our third Kestrel at Vevoe 10/9. A House Martin was hawking in the geos on the east side of the golf course 15/9. With steady NW to SW winds migration was non existent until a first winter Yellow breasted Bunting somehow found its way to Vatshoull from 22-23/9. Sadly this bird is now classed as critically endangered due to hunting in its eastern breeding grounds. It was twitched by most of the visiting birders over its two day stay. A Spotted Redshank was on Vatshoull loch on the same two dates.

Eastern subalpine Warbler

Yellow browed Warbler

Blue-winged Teal

Long eared Owl

October

A female Eastern Subalpine Warbler was in the Isbister plantation with a Yellow browed Warbler and a Barred Warbler at Grunitaing 6/10. A Hawfinch was at Symbister and a Grey Wagtail at North Voe 12/10. A Great Grey Shrike at Brough, Bluethroat and two Greenfinches at Skaw and sixty two Barnacle Geese at Symbister 13/10. A record day count of five Hawfinches were seen on 14/10 with two at Isbister, one at Grunitaing, one at Marrister and one at Skaw. Also on 14/10 a Red breasted Flycatcher was at Grunitaing and a Long eared Owl and Moorhen at Isbister. The Whalsay list increased to 304 with the discovery of a female Blue-winged Teal on Houll loch 17/10. It spent two days at this site before relocating to Vatshoull loch and was last seen there on 29/10. A female Ring Ouzel was in the Skaw plantation 17/10 with a Long eared Owl at this site 18/10. A Great grey Shrike was at Skaw 19/10 with a Waxwing at Vatshoull 20/10. Our only Yellowhammer of the year was a female at Vatshoull 21/10 with two Rooks at Skaw and a Grey Wagtail at Hamister the same day. Another Waxwing was at Saeter 22/10 with two more at Vatshoull 28/10. A Goldfinch at Whitefield, Black Redstart at Grunitaing and Glaucous Gull at Skaw rounded off the month 30/10.

November

Little of interest was seen until a very late Barred Warbler was in the Skaw plantation and forty+ Snow Buntings were circling around the Wirlie quarry 11/11. A Tundra Bean Goose joined the Greylag flock at Skaw and a Black Redstart was at Symbister 18/11. A Common Scoter was off the Buid 29/11.

Dusky Thrush

December

Three Pink footed Geese were at Brough, fifty+ Chaffinches at Hamister and fifteen Snow Buntings at Skaw 1/12. A female Velvet Scoter was off the Buid for a few days from 3/12 and was a first Island record since 2013 and you have to go back to 1993 for another so quite a good local record. 2018 held one last huge surprise when Brian turned up a first winter male Dusky Thrush on the first fairway of the golf course at Skaw. An unforgettable sight on a sunny calm morning but only seen by the two of us as it flew off after two hours and was never seen again. A fourth Shetland record after singles on Fair Isle in 1961, Skaw Whalsay found by my grandfather Johnnie Simpson on 24/9/68 and Firth near Mossbank in 1975. I have the excuse of only being three years old for missing the other Whalsay record! This individual is potentially the 15th record for Britain if (when) accepted. A look around the golf course on 6/12 in a SE gale with heavy rain only produced a single Jack Snipe. A Moorhen photographed in a Symbister garden 22/12 was the last bird of interest for the year.

This year's personal Island total of 143 species is a bit better though still way short of the 151 seen in 2011. A year which certainly wont be regarded a classic in Shetland but seemed to have its moments on Whalsay. There were long birdless periods but a good enough scattering of surprises to keep up the motivation. The Coues`s Arctic Redpoll and White tailed Eagle in Feb/March, the midsummer Long tailed Skuas and Yellow breasted Bunting, Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Blue-winged Teal and especially the Dusky Thrush in autumn/winter was pretty good. I had three new birds for my island list this year in the form of the Long tailed Skuas, Blue-winged Teal and Dusky Thrush. If I can keep up that yearly average I could yet reach 300 for Whalsay without having to be sprung from an old folks home! As usual a few common species went unrecorded this year - Common Sandpiper, Common Tern, Cuckoo, Little Auk and Common Crossbill to name a few. I didn't miss as many species as usual - Kestrel, Moorhen, Little Stint, Rook and Short eared Owl is all I can think of.

Whalsay Bird Review 2019

Stonechat

Mute Swans

Common Buzzard

January

Three Pink footed Geese and a European White fronted Goose turned up in the Challister area 6/1 and 7/1 respectively and were present all month. A Snow Bunting and 40+ Chaffinches were at Hamister and an adult Iceland Gull on Skaw Taing 9/1. Another adult Iceland Gull was around Symbister 10/1 on which date I caught up with the wintering Water Rail in Brians Marrister garden. The months only Glaucous Gull (1w) flew north past Skaw Taing 11/1. Five Mealy Redpoll were at Houll 27/1.

February

A Woodcock flushed from Skaw plantation 2/2. A flock of 30 ( yes I did count them!) Snow Buntings were in the field on the south side of north loch of Skaw 11/2 with a bird colour ringed on mainland Orkney 25/3/18 in their midst. A Jack Snipe was in the same field also on 11/2. A Meadow Pipit at Newtoon 14/2 could equally as well been an early migrant or an overwinterer? My first returning Skylarks were two at Skaw 18/2 with singing not noted till 27/2. Everything in the Shetland birdwatching scene stopped when a Tengmalm`s Owl turned up in a Bixter garden 19/2 for an extended stay. Back on Whalsay a male Stonechat was at Midfield and a female at Skaw 25/2 with an early Puffin close inshore below the trap area the same day.

March

An early Chiffchaff was at Skibberhoull 1/3. A pair of Mute Swans were in the North voe 11/3, another species unrecorded last year. A Common Buzzard and Sparrowhawk were in the Hamister valley 22/3, the Buzzard being a first on the isle since 2011.

Smew - first Whalsay record

Yellowhammer

Grasshopper Warbler

Female Serin - first Whalsay record

April

A Hawfinch was at Saeter 4/4 with possibly a different individual at Symbister for a week from 8/4. A female Smew on Vatshoull loch from 12-13/4 was a long overdue island first with two Barnacle Geese at Brough on the same dates. A Glaucous Gull was at Vatshoull loch 15/4. A Long eared Owl and Sparrowhawk were in the Skaw plantation and another Sparrowhawk at Midfield 16/4. A male Black Redstart and early flythrough Sand Martin were at Skaw 18/4 with a Goldfinch at Skibberhoull 19/4. A Yellowhammer was at the roadside at Hamister 20/4. On 21/4 the Skaw plantation held two Long eared Owls and a Goldfinch with a Sparrowhawk at Grunitaing and an early Greenshank north over Symbister. A Grasshopper Warbler was in a roadside ditch near the golf clubhouse at Skaw and a male Linnet at Marrister 23/4. There was a good fall of common migrants on 24/4 with over 70 Chiffchaffs alone! Three Ring Ouzels were at Skaw with another two at Pouster, a male Pied Flycatcher at Vatshoull starting a series of early records and a Tree Pipit at Skaw. Best scarcities on 25/4 were Grasshopper Warbler, Common Sandpiper and Black Redstart at Skaw, Hawfinch at Marrister and Kestrel at Vevoe. Whalsays first and Shetlands 7th European Serin, a female, was at Brough 26-27/4. A Wryneck and two Tree Pipits were at Skaw 26/4. I missed another Linnet at Skaw 27/4 with a female Black Redstart there 28/4. A winter plumaged Black throated Diver off Skaw and two Sand Martins at the houb rounded off an incredible month with two island firsts, a good selection of scarcities and loads of common migrants.

Great Reed Warbler - first Whalsay record

Bluethroat

Kestrel

May

Winds swung Northerly disrupting the migrant action with perhaps the same Wryneck from late April seen again in the Skaw plantation 1/5. An Iceland Gull 3/5 and two Shelducks flying north past the houb 7/5 were the only other notables in the first half of the month. After this we had a spell of SE winds with a Wryneck at Hamister 18/5. A first summer male Bluethroat was at Vatshoull, Sedge Warbler at the Lubba, Wood Warblers at Lubba and Skaw and a Kestrel at Skaw 19/5. Bluethroat numbers rose to three with the still present Vatshoull bird joined by a singing male at sandwick and a drab female at Isbister 20/5. Three Tree Sparrows were at Skaw the same day. A bonnie red male Common Rosefinch was frustratingly brief at Skaw and a Sedge Warbler at Isbister 21/5. Our fourth Bluethroat of the spring, a female, was at Fernlea and a Barnacle Goose at Vatshoull loch 22/5. Whalsay first Great Reed Warbler was at sanshoull, Isbister 23/5 and even sang for a short time in the evening. A Common Buzzard was at Skaw and a Cuckoo at Skibberhoull 24/5. Another Tree Sparrow was at Isbister and at least twelve Risso`s Dolphins off Lungi Geo 29/5.

June

Whalsay's second Sardinian Warbler was in the Skaw plantation 1-5/6. A singing male though incredibly skulking and camera shy. A Wood Warbler was at the Lubba and a Black Redstart at Isbister 2/6. A skulker at the Lubba plantation 5/6 turned out to be "just" a Reed Warbler. A Cuckoo was at Skaw 6/6. There was a quiet spell until a female Red backed Shrike was in and around the Skaw plantation 17/6. A male Ruff in full breeding dress was at north loch of Skaw 19/6. A female Teal with two small chicks were on a pool on Challister Ness 26/6 and was a first island breeding record. A Common Swift over Houll loch 30/6 rounded off the month.

Two barred Crossbill

Bedstraw Hawkmoth

July

A Sparrowhawk was at Hamister 4/7. A large Shetland wide influx of Two barred Crossbills reached Whalsay 10/8 with eight birds in the Sodom plantation (5 males, two females and a juv) staying till 12/7. A Basking Shark was off Skaw 14/7 with a very unseasonal Goldcrest in the Skaw plantation 17/7. Another six Two barred Crossbills turned up 18/7 with two females in the Sodom plantation and four (2 females, a male and a juv) at the Bothies. A Green Sandpiper was on a roadside pool south of the Vevoe junction 20/7. Three Crossbill sp. flew over our house at Hamister 23/7, one was a cracking male Two barred but the other two remained unidentified but very likely the same species. Another Green Sandpiper was on Skaw Taing and a very rare Bedstraw Hawkmoth in Brians Marrister garden 26/7. A juvenile Cuckoo was at Skaw 27/7 with a Peacock butterfly on the golf course 28/7 joining the impressive influx of Painted Ladies. A Sand Martin was at Challister and a Greenshank on north loch of Skaw 30/7.

Wood Warbler

European Bee-eater by Brian Marshall

August

2/8 saw an early Wood Warbler at Skaw and another Peacock at Vatshoull. A Green Sandpiper was at Vevoe 10/8 and 4-5 Orcas went south past Symbister 11/8. Three Bar tailed Godwits were at north loch of Skaw 13/8. A Basking Shark was in Linga sound 15/8 with another Wood Warbler at Skaw 16/8. 2019 was to be a really poor year for the humble Garden Warbler with my first two at Skaw and Saltness 17/8 with a good count of four juvenile Shelducks at the houb the same day. I was away for the rest of the month missing Whalsays third European Bee-eater at Isbister 30/8.

Barred Warbler

Red breasted Flycatcher

September

A Green Sandpiper was at Skaw 7/9 with a Common Rosefinch also there 8/9. Our first Barred Warbler of the year was at Isbister 15/9. I was away for a bit after this and missed a good day on 27/9 with a Red throated Pipit at Brough, Turtle Dove and Common Rosefinch at Challister and Red breasted Flycatchers at Isbister and Symbister. Our first Yellow browed Warblers were two at Skaw 28/9 with a Grey Wagtail also there. Our only Little Bunting of the year was at Skaw and a Barred Warbler at Isbister 29/9. A ringtail Hen Harrier flew north past Houll loch 30/9.

Lanceolated Warbler

October

A Bluethroat was at Skaw 5/10 with our only Lapland Bunting of the year at Challister 6/10. A Grey Wagtail was at Skibberhoull and a Kestrel at Skaw 8/10. A Lanceolated Warbler was trapped in the Skaw heligoland 9/10. A Stock Dove was at Skaw 11/10 with possibly the same bird relocating to Challister 14-15/10. A Red breasted Flycatcher was at Skaw 15-16/10. A Pale bellied Brent Goose was with some Greylags north of Vatshoull, a Waxwing at Skibberhoull and the first Woodcock of the autumn at Skaw 16/10. A male Black Redstart was a Vatshoull 17/10. A first winter Glaucous Gull at Vatshoull 19/10 and a an Iceland Gull at Symbiter 25/10 was indicators of the fast approaching winter.

Waxwing

November

Four Waxwings were at Marrister 4/11 with another single at Skibberhoull 16/11. A juvenile Pomarine Skua bombed north past Skaw Taing 18/11 with three Snow Buntings also there and a Siberian Chiffchaff in the Skaw plantation. Another Siberian Chiffchaff was at Symbister 21/11. a Glaucous Gull was at Skaw 22/11.

December

A Jack Snipe was at Hamister and four Mealy Redpoll at Skibberhoull 1/12. Two Glaucous Gulls (adult and 1w) were at Vatshoull loch 4/12. A Tundra Bean Goose was on the golf course at Skaw from 8-11/12. A long staying Bar tailed Godwit was still at the houb with a Knot and Jack Snipe 15/12. A female Common Scoter was off Vatshoull 16-17/12 with possibly a different female off Skaw Taing 18/12.

A mixed year with three island firsts in a very productive six week spell from mid April to late May - Smew, Serin and Great Reed Warbler. Whalsays second Sardinian Warbler turned up in early June and the July invasion of Two barred Crossbills was also pretty good. By contrast autumn 2019 was really poor with third records in the form of European Bee-eater and Lanceolated Warbler the only real highlights. My year list finished on a pretty poor 136. Common species not recorded this year were - Peregrine, Moorhen, Black tailed Godwit, Common Tern, Little Auk, Short eared Owl, Icterine Warbler and Common Crossbill. Species I missed on the Isle - Hen Harrier, Common Sandpiper, Pomarine Skua, Turtle Dove, Common Swift, European Bee-eater, Red throated Pipit, Mistle Thrush, Linnet and Little Bunting. Awa to Switzerland see you next Year!

Whalsay Bird Review 2020

Merlin eating a Turnstone at Symbister

January

A fairly quiet start to the year began with an overwintering Bar tailed Godwit at the Houb remaining all month. A Pink footed Goose was at Brough for a couple of weeks from 4/1. A first winter Iceland Gull was at Symbister 6/1 with a female Common Scoter off Vatshoull 7/1. Another Iceland Gull was at the Houb 12/1. A single Snow Bunting at Skaw 21/1 was the only other notable sighting for the month.

February

A single Knot joined the Bar tailed Godwit at the houb 8/2 and a Sparrowhawk bombing north through Vatshoull 10/2 was the sum total.

March

Two Snow Buntings were at Skaw 4/3. An Iceland Gull was at Symbister 17/3. Two Siskins were at Saltness 19/3 with a Woodpigeon at Whitefield 20/3. A Glaucous Gull was at Skaw and a Pied Wagtail at Hamister 25/3 with a Chiffchaff at Skaw 27/3.

Hummingbird Hawkmoth at Skaw

Short eared Owl at west loch

Smew on Vatshoull loch

Dark bellied Brent Goose at Sandwick

Hoopoe at Harlsdale

April

Two Pink footed Geese were at Challister 9/4. A Barnacle Goose was also at Challister and a Woodpigeon at Skaw 11/4. All the isles birders missed a Coal Tit, photographed by John Dally in his trees at Gardentown 12/4. This was only a second island record after a pair also at Gardentown the year I was born (1965!). Pink footed Goose numbers at Challister rose to seven on 14/4. A Hawfinch visited our garden feeder at Hamister 18/4 with Shelducks at Vevoe(2) and the houb and a Mealy Redpoll at Skaw the same day. Two Common Scoters were off Vatshoull 20/4 with a Long eared Owl and our first Swallow at Skaw 21/4. A Grasshopper Warbler was in Brian's Marrister garden 25-26/4 but always stayed a step ahead of me! A Sedge Warbler and two Ring Ouzels were at Skaw 30/4.

May

The first of May started with a reasonable scatter of migrants with a Short eared Owl and a Reed Bunting both at Skaw pick of the bunch. A Tree Pipit was at Newpark 2/5 then three together at the burns 3/5. A dark bellied Brent Goose was at Sandwick 4/5 with our first Arctic Tern back at the houb the same day. A Pale bellied Brent Goose was at the houb 7/5 with a Tree Sparrow at Marrister for a few days from 8/5. An elusive Hoopoe toured various gardens around Gardentown/Harlsdale from 11-19/5. A Wryneck put in a very brief appearance at Skaw 17/5. Two House Martins were at Symbister 19/5 increasing to three 20/5 when there was also a Sedge Warbler at Skaw. A Cuckoo was at Creadyknowe 22/5 then a female Red backed Shrike at Skaw 23/5. The Skaw Shrike was joined by a female Bluethroat and a Sedge Warbler was at Sandwick 24/5. A female Black Redstart was at Sandwick and the years only Sand Martin at Skaw 25/5. A nice male Bluethroat was at the Red Grind, a Common Sandpiper at Vatshoull loch and a pair of Red Grouse with at least ten chicks near Vevoe on 27/5. A female Kestrel was at Isbister 28/5 with a flythrough Common Swift at Skaw 29/5.

June

An incredibly elusive Marsh Warbler was in the Skaw plantation 4-9/6. An immature Black throated Diver began an extended stay off Skaw from 13/6 hanging around into mid august. A Cuckoo was at Clate and a House Martin at Symbister 20/6. A very unseasonal female Smew appeared on Vatshoull loch 24/6 and may well be the same bird seen on the same loch the previous April? This was only a second island record regardless. A series of Hummingbird Hawkmoth records began with one at the Wirlie, Skaw on 26/6. A minimum of seven were recorded in the next few days including three together in one Escalonia bush at the North Park 27/6.

Yellow browed Warbler at Sandwick

Black throated Diver off Skaw

Greenish Warbler at Skaw

Grey Plover at the houb

Red backed Shrike at Hamister

July

A Cuckoo was at Whitefield 5/7 and a scruffy juvenile Common Crossbill at Skaw 7/7. What could only have been a pair of Red necked Phalaropes were described to Brian from muddy loch, Skaw Taing 8/7 but were never refound. Another Common Crossbill was at Skaw 9/7 before a possible Corncrake was reported calling and see briefly at Isbister 10/7. Unfortunately like the Phalaropes we never managed to confirm this. A Grey Plover turned up among a few Golden Plovers at North loch 21/7 before relocating to the houb and staying into November. A very young juvenile Goldcrest was in the Skaw plantation 23/7 and was likely to have been Shetland bred. A Common Sandpiper was at West loch 28/7 with a Common Crossbill at Skaw 30/7.

August

An unseasonal juvenile Hawfinch was in Brian's Marrister garden 2/8. A Greenshank was at Vatshoull 11/8 with a Reed Warbler at Skaw for a few days from 12/8. A juvenile Red backed Shrike was in various gardens at Hamister for a few days from 13/8. A Wood Warbler and another Greenshank were at Sandwick 18/8 with a Common Rosefinch at Isbister 19/8. Another Wood Warbler was in the Isbister plantation 20/8 with a much rarer and quite vocal Greenish Warbler. A Barred Warbler was at Skaw 21/8 with three Ruff at Symbister 22/8 (the only record of the species this year!). Another Greenish Warbler was at Skaw 23/8 joining the still present Isbister bird. A Convolvulus Hawkmoth was released from a porch at Sandwick 28/8. The only Icterine Warbler of the year was at Sandwick 30/8 with another Barred Warbler at Isbister the same day.

September

Four Sooty Shearwaters flew south past Skaw Taing 2/9 with a late-ish Common Swift at Skaw from 3-4/9. Another quiet period had to be endured with an Angle Shades moth at Hamister a welcome distraction from the "no fly zone" 16/9. Two Yellow browed Warblers and a Common Rosefinch at Skaw showed signs of improvement 17/9. 60+ Pink footed Geese flew south over Hamister 18/9. A Great spotted Woodpecker was photographed at a Norrendal feeder 19/9 and again 23/9 but missed by all of us. The first of a few autumn Jack Snipes was at Skaw Taing 25/9. Another juvenile Great spotted Woodpecker was at Symbister 28/9 allowing us to see it this time. Our best day count of Yellow browed Warblers was twelve on 29/9.

Radde`s Warbler at Skaw

Pallas`s Grasshopper Warbler at Skaw

Red flanked Bluetail at Skaw

Blue Tit at Brough

Great Tit at Isbister

Turtle Dove at Isbister

Olive backed Pipit at Isbister

October

A rare bird arrived at last on 1/10 with a Radde`s Warbler in and around the yards at Roadside, Skaw for three days. A Common Rosefinch was at Skaw and a Kestrel at Hamister also on 1/10. In a year pretty much devoid of quality rares Whalsays third Pallas`s Grasshopper Warbler turned up at Skaw 3/10 creeping though a small field for four days. Coincidentally the other two individuals were found within a couple of hundred yards of this bird. A Kestrel and thirty six Barnacle Geese were also at Skaw 3/10. A late-ish Wryneck was at Skaw with two Ring Ouzels and two Hawfinches plus another three of the latter species at Hamister 4/10. A large infux of Blue Tits into Shetland reached Whalsay 5/10 with eight on the island and seventeen seen the following day! A Bluethroat and Great spotted Woodpecker at Skaw were also seen 5/10. A Red flanked Bluetail was around the Wirlie quarry/skaw plantation area 6/10 with a support cast of another Bluethroat at Brough, a flythrough Peregrine at Skaw and the first of several Great Tits at Symbister. Winds swung around to the north after this and a gradual clearout began. An Ortolan Bunting and Tree Sparrow were at Skaw 7/10 with a Stonechat at Newpark 8/10. Isbister did best on 9/10 with an Olive backed Pipit, Turtle Dove and a Great Tit. A Common Rosefinch was at Sandwick and Jack Snipe at Newpark the same day. Another Tree Sparrow was at the burns and a good record of four Grey Plovers at the houb 13/10. A female Bullfinch was at Saeter and a Great grey Shrike at Fernlea 17/10, the Shrike hanging on till 20/10. Another Bluethroat and a European White fronted Goose were at Skaw 18/10 with eleven Snow Buntings on the golf course 22/10. A Goosander was on the pool at Symbister and a male Stonechat at Skaw 24/10 with a different Goosander on the north loch 25/10. A female Stonechat was at Skaw 27/10.

November

A Lapland Bunting was at Brough 2/11. A Great grey Shrike was at Skaw 10/11. Two Common Scoters flew south off Symbister and three Goldcrests and a Glaucous Gull were at Skaw 13/11. My first Woodcocks of the year were at Skaw and Isbister 17/11. A Black Redstart was in a geo at Skaw Taing and a Glaucous Gull in the North Voe 19/11. A Goldfinch at Skaw 24/11 was a year tick with Sparrowhawk at Brough and Snow Bunting and Jack Snipe at Skaw Taing. Another Glaucous Gull was at Isbister loch 25/11. A very close encounter with a pod of eight Orcas as they hunted south past the isle was exciting as the whole family got to see them.

December

A typically quiet month with a scattering of Blue Tits and lesser numbers of Great Tits still raking around. Two Glaucous Gulls were on Skaw Taing 5/12 with another at west loch 8/12. A Velvet Scoter off Challister 13/12 was new for the year with possibly the same bird off Skaw the next day. A hardy Goldcrest hung on in the Skaw plantation till 15/12 with a late Meadow pipit at Skaw 27/12 and a Chiffchaff at Vatshoull 28/12. A Woodcock flying across the road at west loch 29/12 was the last interesting sighting for the year.

A year that,on the whole, produced few surprises with Hoopoe and Smew standout birds in spring. Early autumn was also quite slow with two Greenish Warbers in August the first real birds of note. After a really crap September the first week of October went some way to saving the year with the islands fourth Radde`s Warbler at Skaw. This recalled a day of birding as an eleven year old with my grandfather Johnnie Simpson on 3rd October 1976 and finding Shetlands first Radde`s more or less in exactly the same place as the 2020 bird and his excitement at the finding of what was a real major rarity at that time is a really strong and happy memory. Whalsays third Pallas`s Grasshopper Warbler turned up two days later a couple of hundred metres from the still present Radde`s with our sixth Red flanked Bluetail also at Skaw three days after this. After ten years of keeping an island year list 144 species this time was my best since 2014, I will hopefully pass the 151 in 2011 some day. I had no additions to my Whalsay life list this year missing the spring Coal Tit which would have done me. Birds I missed on Whalsay this year were - Barnacle Goose, Sooty Shearwater, Grasshopper Warbler, Coal Tit and Lapland Bunting. Common birds unrecorded on the isle were - Storm Petrel, Water Rail, Moorhen, Common Tern, Little Auk, Grey Wagtail, Waxwing, Mistle Thrush and Linnet.