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27th June 2012

Arctic Warbler

Today has been a day of sunshine and a warm easterly breeze so at 6pm I decided on a visit to the Skaw plantation. I was hoping that yesterdays Hawfinch might still be present or perhaps a late Marsh Warbler could have come in. On reaching Skaw an unfamiliar high trilling call was belting out from the plantation and was a sound completely new to me. Warblers in full song are rarely heard in Shetland and therefore my knowledge is very poor. A song new to me doesn't mean its going to be rare so I sat down and waited for a view. After two hours of staring into a bush and being devoured by midges I got a fleeting glimpse as it flitted into deep cover. At this point I decided to bite the bullet and call BM and JD, I was sure if it turned out to be "something shit" they would likely get over it. Both arrived quickly and the net went up. The first two drives produced nothing but the third effort saw the bird flit into the bush next to the net. All three of us surrounded it and the bird was soon hanging in the net. On approaching the net Brian said " looks like a Willow Warbler" and on getting hold of it "no its an Arctic Warbler!". Deflation to elation in five seconds. It was quickly rung, a description taken and a few pics taken. The ISO having to be cranked up to 2500 in the gathering gloom. I wonder when the plantations going to realise that the migration seasons over! 

26th June 2012


Another addition to the year list appeared today with a Hawfinch in the Skaw plantation. This was most unexpected as midsummer records are quite unusual. Although it stayed in the plantation, decent photos proved impossible as the little swine refused to show itself apart from one visit to the top of a bush with me miles away. Everything was tried from sneaking around to the sit quietly method and even the sit in the middle of a spruce with the lens sticking out ploy!

Other news in the last few days concerned a male Red Backed Shrike also in or near the plantation since the 23rd. Its still present this evening and like the Hawfinch is keeping me at long range. Another Black Redstart turned up at Hamister yesterday to join the adult male which has been present for a while. This bird is possibly a first summer male as it is showing a bit of white in the wing.

22nd June 2012


Dunlin at Skaw

Curlew at Vatshoull

Whimbrel at Skaw

A smart male Stonechat was at Skaw this morning but was terribly flighty and I couldn't get near it with the camera.  BM solved the problem by coming home from a days wader ringing on the mainland and caught it in the heligoland trap. Quite a scarce migrant on Whalsay these days and a bird I didn't see at all last year. It sported a very pure white rump but with extensive orange on the underparts and a shortish neck collar it was never going to be a bird from the east.

Our only Stonechat breeding record concerned a pair first found at Hamister on 5th May 2004 and then seen feeding three immatures on 17th June. 2004 proved to be a good year on Whalsay for unusual breeders with Common Redpoll and Linnet pairs both raising broods at Skibberhoull. Unfortunately this has yet to be repeated with all three species.

17th June 2012


Breeding Dunlin at Skaw

Spring migration is now all but over with little hope of any more excitement. Our second Icterine Warbler of the spring was in a Symbister garden on the 10th but was decidedly camera shy. Likewise the male Black Redstart at Hamister on 13th which is still present and  avoiding pics today. A Reed Warbler was singing from deep cover at Skibberhoull on 15th before showing itself briefly. Crossbills are usually better subjects and the bird above was in the Skaw plantation this evening.

9th June 2012

Life in the freezer

breeding Redshank at Skaw on a rare warm day

Summers in Shetland of late seems to consist of constant Northerly weather. Spent today at a Jazz garden party in Brae which was little more than a "freeze your nuts off party" but at least the entertainment was good.

We did have a few days of Easterlies midweek but little of interest was found, a few Spotted Flycatchers, Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. This morning a Sparrowhawk came out of the Skaw plantation where there was also a late Common Redstart amongst the usual suspects. BM had a brief Marsh Warbler in his garden which wisely kept moving to avoid death by hypothermia. Another week of this shite is forecast so further updates seem unlikely. Moan ,moan.

25th May 2012

Turtle Dove

Turtle Dove at Hamister

Grey Headed Wagtail at Brough

Spotted Flycatcher at Skaw

Fairly quiet today with  a Turtle Dove at Hamister the only "new" bird seen. Having said that its a few years since our last one, an increasingly scarce migrant these days. Yesterday we had four Red Backed Shrikes with the two still at Isbister and further birds at Skaw and Vevoe. A Grey Headed Wagtail was probably bird of the day though wasn't allowing a close approach, cue the above crap record shot.


23rd May 2012

Red Backed Shrikes

Another day of bright sunshine and light SE winds with the odd migrant trickling through. A male Red Backed Shrike found by BM at Isbister yesterday was posing on the fences today and a female was found nearby. A Cuckoo and an Icterine Warbler at Skaw were the only other notables today but both managed to avoid the local paparazzi. My year list  is gaining pace at last and am now on 109, two less than this time last year. Late May and early June was fairly poor on here last year so am hoping  to overhaul this total soon.

21st May 2012

Subalpine Warbler

After 24hrs of SE winds little birds seemed to have come in, with Common Sandpiper and Swift new for the year but little else had been found. A trip to Skibberhoull in the evening did the trick with a cracking male Subalpine Warbler at "Frankies". Well overdue on Whalsay with our last one sometime in the late 90`s (cant be bothered to look it up).

15th May 2012

More Westerly winds

Snow Bunting at Skaw

Knot also at Skaw

Ringed Plover at the Houb

We are back in the grip of yet another track of westerly winds so migration has all but dried up once again. A decent passage of Knot is underway in Shetland at the moment. BM found sixty seven on the 18th fairway  last night at Skaw but this paled into insignificance with news of a single flock of over 600 on Unst. Today a 2nd year Iceland Gull was at Hamister with an adult and possibly the Hamister bird later at Sandwick loch. Brian later found a cracking male Snow Bunting with seventeen Knot in the same spot at Skaw so never having seen a summer male I took a run north and took a few dodgy pics as they fed  around the 18th fairway.

9th May 2012

Two minute Avocet

Ortolan Bunting at Skaw

Pied Flycatcher at Brough

As a Liverpool supporter I would describe today as a bit like the cup final, terrible first half with a marked improvement in the second which didn't quite make up for it. The day started with an interesting Warbler with obvious yellow underparts which lobbed into a small garden at Challister. I got out of the car and thought I could see a pale wing panel through the small bush. At this point I was getting ready to celebrate the first Icterine Warbler of the year when it whipped over the wall and across about three fields before landing in a ditch. My attempts to give chase ended after falling head over bollocks over a barbed wire fence, narrowly avoiding ripping my waterproof breeks. Better news came with Brian finding an Avocet at Houll loch. A major rarity in Shetland, the third on Whalsay in my time and more importantly a bird I still needed for the isle. With no mobile signal BM had to move to higher ground to phone the news out and on our return the bird had flown. A large portion of the rest of the day was spent checking various lochs as well as the houb. News reached us in the evening that it had given a repeat performance on Out Skerries but had at least posed to have its picture taken there.

Winds eased mid afternoon and a male Pied Flycatcher at Brough was nice. A male Red Backed Shrike at roadside, Skaw was well worth a text though remaining elusive. BM only having one short flight view and no pics were taken. Bird of the day (for me) was found soon afterwards, a beauty of an Ortolan Bunting shuffling around on the road above the trap. A horsebox with surrounding straw was the attraction and a few passable photos were taken


8th May 2012

First Tirrick

Arctic Tern at Houb

Bar Tailed Godwit also at the Houb

"If you cant beat them". Angela the twitcher!

Redstart at Pouster

A day of strong Easterly winds with ten Ring Ouzels seen in two parties of 4 and 6 respectively, at Skaw and Hamister. There was a good fall of Redstarts today with 12 scattered around the island.  Our first Arctic Tern appeared at the Houb and likewise the Arctic Skua over our house at Hamister. Also new for the year was a Bar Tailed Godwit at the Houb since yesterday, Tree Pipits at Symbister(3) and Skaw and a Lesser Whitethroat in the Skaw plantation which I missed. Quite a good scatter of common migrants so hopefully the quality bird will appear tomorrow when winds ease.

4th May 2012

Black Redstart

Meadow Pipit at Hamister

Great Northern Diver off Skaw

What in the world could be better than a large pile of shite?  Yes I agree just about anything, that is unless you are a small insect eating passerine. Local crofter Andrew Hutchison has a dung heap outside his byre just above our house and it seems to be forever alive with Starlings, Meadow Pipits, a few Chiffchaffs and the odd White and Pied Wagtail. I have been hoping this would attract a Black Redstart or Stonechat with a nice male of the former appearing this afternoon.

There has been little to report for a while, a Wryneck was Id`d from a photo taken at Hamister on 30/4 and the Green Sandpiper reappeared on the small pool at Skaw 2/5. Today is yet another day of raw Northerly winds with the odd sleet shower and looks set to continue this way till Monday with rumours of more favourable conditions after that. Heard that one before!

23rd April 2012

Green Sandpiper and two Shrikes

Green Sandpiper at Skaw

Weary Goldcrest at Gardentown

A He-jug

After a weekend in Orkney I missed three Great Grey Shrikes on Saturday and a Wryneck on Sunday. I headed for Skaw this afternoon and was delighted to find a Great Grey Shrike first bird up though out of camera range. Fifty yards further on a Green Sandpiper was on a pool by the roadside adding another good bird for the year. The rest of my day was quieter with another Great Grey Shrike at Skaw, Sparrowhawks at Skaw and Hamister and the Common Buzzard soaring above the Whitefield "toons".

18th April 2012


Female Bullfinch at Skaw

long range female Yellowhammer

Had a good days birding today and though I didnt manage to find anything to excite the countries twitchers it was nice to actually see a few birds for a change. Best birds found were - Long Eared Owl at Brough, two Ring Ouzels at Hamister and Bullfinch and Yellowhammer at Skaw. The Skaw plantation in particular was heaving with at least 15 Chiffchaffs, 8 Robins, 3 Siskins, and single Goldcrest, Redpoll and Brambling. A Peregrine had apparently spent an hour in a Symbister garden in the morning which would have been good to have known about at the time.

Winds look set to stay in the east over the weekend and with me in Orkney from Friday to Monday the chances of missing something good is a bit worrying.


17th April 2012

Easterly winds at last

A windswept Moorhen at Saltness

Starling on our garden wall

After a night of strong easterly winds our planned trip to Lerwick today was perhaps poorly timed. My mother phoned about a Moorhen outside their house at Saltness which I managed to see before heading to the ferry. Main news of the day was Norman Polesons report of a Great Grey Shrike at the Booth (pronounced Buid locally). He saw it in the afternoon and of course there was no sign at 6pm when I got home. Its still blowing from the east tonight so a day in the field beckons tomorrow.

7th April 2012


Snow Bunting at Skaw 22/3/12

The latest news from Whalsay is that there isn't any. My last optimistic "signs of spring" post has really jinxed it with winds wandering from SW to N and no birds to be seen anywhere. BM had a Goldcrest in his garden 25/3 and two Rooks were in the same area 27/3. There were still some white winged gulls 28/3 with 13 Icelands between North Voe and Symbister, one Glaucous at Symbister and a well marked 2nd year Kumliens Gull joining the adult in North Voe but I haven't written down a single thing since! Poor.

I have recently unearthed some more of my grandfathers notebooks from the 60s and 70s and he apparently had a Garganey on west loch of Skaw from 25 -27/9/1966. So what I hear you say, well..... Garganeys not on the Whalsay list thats what! I will have to see if BM knows anything about it when he gets home but it looks like we are on 299 now.