Home ] A short history ] Latest News ] Decades ] Whalsay Bird List ] Contacts ]

27th September 2012

Red Flanked Bluetail

The Skaw plantation really is having a purple patch at the moment. After the Blyth`s Reed Warbler on the 24th and then Lanceolated Warbler on 25th BM turned up a Red Flanked Bluetail there this morning. The net went up and the bird was soon caught giving the plantation three BB rares in four days. The only other notable sighting concerned a Hawfinch which BM had found earlier in the morning in his garden at Marrister which I also managed to see.

26th September 2012

Calming down

Yellow Browed Warbler at red grind quarry, Brough

Teal at Skaw

With winds now Northerly it looks set to be a bit quieter for a while. Having said that eleven Yellow Browed Warblers was a decent day count and all nine Garden Warblers were new in so there may still be a good bird out there waiting to be found. Peter Stronach also had a flock of sixty five Barnacle geese at Skaw, unfortunately seen just before I joined him. This is a species I quite often miss for the year so was a bit annoyed that they headed off north before I got there.

25th September 2012

Lanceolated Warbler


Knot at the houb

Peter Stronach arrived at our house about 10am so we immediately set off to the Skaw plantation to see if yesterdays Blyth`s Reed Warbler was still present. On entering the plantation literally the first bird found was a small brown Locustella Warbler which came out of the grass and dived low into a bush. I went around the back and stuck my fat head into the tree, this prompted the bird to appear halfway up the bush on Peters side. "Its a Lancy" Peter said in an amazed voice. BM was called and the mist net erected though we held out little hope of driving such a skulking species the thirty or so yards required.  A few incoming birders appeared and suddenly the bird was in the net without anyone having seen it prior to its capture. Sure enough it was a Lanceolated Warbler a second record for the island. A reasonable scatter of common migrants as a support cast with six Yellow Browed Warblers best of the rest.

24th September 2012

Blyth`s Reed Warbler

The last few days on Whalsay has been quite frustrating with seemingly everywhere else in Shetland turning up good birds but a single Yellow Browed Warbler on 22nd ( with 24 on Foula the same day) and a Rosefinch and Barred Warbler at Brough on 23rd all we could muster.  Today looked like producing  more of the same with Yellow Browed Warblers at  Sandwick and Symbister the sum total for the morning. Luckily things improved in the afternoon with a Blyth`s Reed Warbler mist netted in the Skaw plantation. This is a third record for Whalsay and with top rarity finder Peter Stronach on the isle tomorrow hopefully more quality will be turned up soon.

20th September 2012

Buff breasted Sandpiper gallery

with a Dunlin on this photo

With the winds easing a bit and the sun out I thought I would have another bash at photographing the Buff breasted Sandpiper on the golf course.  I found it almost immediately on the first fairway in company with two Dunlins and this time allowed quite a close approach. I rattled off a flurry of shots only for the battery to die on me so I had an anxious wait to see if any had come out.   Luckily one or two are okay.

Little else to report at the moment though BM had another Red breasted Flycatcher, this bird turning up in his own garden at Marrister yesterday.

18th September 2012


Red Grouse north of Vatshoull

Common Redpoll in the Skaw plantation

Not been out much today but had a Greenshank on the small roadside pool near the west loch o Skaw. The Buff Breasted Sandpiper is still on the golf course though not seen by me. A couple of Common Redpoll are in the Skaw plantation and a party of seven Red Grouse were on the hill north of Vatshoull.

17th September 2012

Buff Breasted Sandpiper

Perseverance paid off today as a stroll around the golf course with BM turned up this smart Buff Breasted Sandpiper. A bird I had never found (or co-found) so this was exciting stuff. Hopefully it will hang on a few days and I can get better photos than the above.

15th September 2012

Red Breasted Flycatcher

Despite the ongoing westerly's a Red Breasted Flycatcher turned up in the Skaw plantation today. I only saw it very briefly and a photograph through the trees appeared to show a greyish upper breast and a white throat giving hope of a Taiga. Better views in the afternoon soon ended that nonsense however. Next time.

14th September 2012

Red Grouse

Four Red Grouse just north from Vatshoull

Female Mallard at Skaw

Yes it really has come to this, Mallard pics! The winds have been strong and westerly for over two weeks now and there's still little sign of change. A few Buff Breasted and Pectoral Sandpipers have been turning up elsewhere on the Islands so the golf course has been flogged daily by myself and BM without success so far. Took a trip to Unst yesterday with Brian and got reasonable views of Shetlands first Red Eyed Vireo which turned up at Norwick. Whalsay rarely gets anything from the west but the Veery of 2009 plus Scotlands first Blackpoll Warbler in 1985 proves that it can happen but its hard to stay motivated.

1st September 2012


Wood Warbler at Symbister 18/8/12

Just back from this years herring fishing which went well and saw almost constant sunny weather and calm seas. A distinct lack of Shearwaters this year with only the occasional Sooty off Orkney and none of the rarer species were seen.

 All has been quiet on the bird front at home during this period too. My first migrant yesterday was a Barred Warbler in my uncles garden next door which caused Brian to send a "jammy bugger" text after hoofing around for days seeing nothing. Winds seem set to be in the West for a while so there may be little to report for a while.

16th August 2012

Mist netting in the plantation


Icterine Warbler

Sedge Warbler

Another Wryneck above the Houb

Pied Flycatcher at Skaw

Reed Warbler at Skaw

Female Kestrel also at Skaw

A good spell of weather lately saw Grasshopper Warbler and Kestrel both added to the year list yesterday with a Barred Warbler also seen at Vevoe. Today a Wryneck near the Houb was another addition and a Red Backed Shrike turned up at Vevoe after tea. With overcast skies and the winds falling light Brian decided on an evenings mist netting in the Skaw plantation. This turned out to be an inspired decision with Icterine Warbler, Wryneck and Sedge Warbler all trapped with the usual suspects of a dozen or so Willow Warblers, Pied Flycatcher, Redstart and Garden warbler.

13th August 2012

Barred Warbler

With a stiff breeze now blowing from the SE a few migrants are starting to appear, with the Skaw plantation holding at least five Willow Warblers, two Garden Warblers (strangely a bird not seen on Whalsay this year up till now) a Lesser Whitethroat and best of all a Barred Warbler. My attempts to  get pics of the latter didn't work out and my best attempt might be ok for a mystery bird competition but I'm not showing it here. Maybe it will be more obliging tomorrow. The next few days look promising, we really are due a Greenish Warbler on the island.

4th August 2012

A few more waders

Ruff at Skaw

Me and Rory went for a few holes of golf this afternoon and I had no sooner driven off at the first (even hit the fairway for once)  when a chu-it call interrupted proceedings. As I have mentioned before bird calls are not my strong point but even I can remember Spotted Redshank. The bird almost landed on the shore at the North loch but a few approaching golfers flushed it high to the south with five Common Redshank, hopefully it can be refound in the next day or two.  After our round another year tick in the form of a Ruff was on the pool near the west loch and BM turned up the Green Sandpiper again also at  West loch.

2nd August 2012

Green Sandpiper

Willow Warbler, Skaw plantation  28/7/12

Not a lot of news yet but with light and warm SE winds am hopeful of a Warbler or two very soon.  An early Willow Warbler did appear briefly in the Skaw plantation on 28/7 and BM had a Chiffchaff in his garden the next day but that's all the small stuff seen so far. My efforts to find a decent late July wader at the Houb was unsurprisingly doomed to failure, five Knot and three Sanderling were seen on 23/7 and a Greenshank on 30/7 was as good as it got. A trip to Skaw today produced a Green Sandpiper on the same small pool near the West loch which hosted one in April.

21st July 2012


photo Angela Irvine

Arctic Tern chicks at various stages, Houb, 21/7/12

Knot at the Houb

Crossbill, Skaw plantation 1/7/12

Sanderling at the Houb

Just back from a splendid two week family holiday in Croatia which saw temperatures ranging from 32 to 40 degrees. Not particularly "birdy" but the sight of  loads of Alpine Swifts screaming around our hotel in the evening was impressive. Back home to a drop of 25 to 30 degrees in temperature which though not unexpected is a bit of a shock to the system. Went to the Houb today and was pleased to see that at least a few Arctic Terns had managed to breed successfully which ages ranging from a few eggs to birds capable of short flights. A single Knot and Sanderling were also present so will be trying to find a rarer wader before the months end.