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15th December 2012

Shetland storm

A driver chances it as breaking swell throws stones onto the road

JCB clearing away debris

Two terrible record shots of a male Goosander at the Houb

The first real storm of the winter hit us last night with 80mph winds, business as usual. Quite a high sea running today with the ferry service cancelled and a large swell breaking over the north beach, tossing stones across the road. A male Goosander turned up at  the Houb adding another bird to the year list with two Greenland white fronted Geese at Skaw and a Glaucous Gull at Vatshoull.

21st November 2012


Iceland Gull at Symbister

Tonight's sunset looking south from our garden.              Photos by Angela Irvine

You know winter is here when the white winged gull photos start to appear. The Iceland gull above was at Symbister today with a Woodcock at Skaw and a Robin and Blackcap still at Symbister. Also on the white winged front, a first winter Glaucous Gull was at Hamister on 19/11.  Little else to report, a single Blue and Great Tit are still doing the rounds with both birds seen together on 17/11 in Caths garden at Symbister, with a Waxwing also there the same day. A Peregrine was at Brough also on 17th and was an addition to my year list. As I am still six species behind last years total its not looking good as December approaches.

8th November 2012

Blue Tit again

With news of large numbers of Pine Grosbeaks passing through Norway at the moment I spent a bit of time looking in some likely areas on the isle today. This was always unlikely to succeed but a Blue tit at Saltness was quite nice. Whether its a new bird or the one found last month still raking around, who knows. A couple of Waxwings were at Gardentown, Blackcaps at Saltness and Gardentown and seven Chaffinches at Skibberhoull.

4th November 2012

Hoopoe back in the garden

Waxwing on our garden wall

This one was at Symbister

Fighting over apples at Hamister

I decided not to bother going out bird watching today, its much easier when the birds decide to come to you!  A very photogenic Waxwing was in the garden giving me a few decent photos at last of this species. I went out on the balcony a bit later to  have another go only to flush the Hoopoe from point blank range. After a bit of a yomp around I eventually got a few reasonable shots as it fed in a neighbours garden.  Six Waxwings were at Hamister today with another five seen at Symbister when en route to the shop.

3rd November 2012


Hoopoe at Norrendal.  Photo by Stewart Simpson

Waxwing at Saltness

The Hoopoe turned up around the Norrendal council houses today and thanks go to Stewart Simpson for emailing the very good photos he took out his sitting room window. I was on the mainland  but did manage to refind the bird in the same area in the afternoon. A few poor quality pics were taken at long range but my attempts to get closer only flushed it back in the direction of our house so I may yet get its photo in the garden.

1st November 2012

Garden tick

Waxwing at dusk

Had two birds new for the year list today bringing the total up to 144, seven behind last years effort. The second of these was perhaps predictable with a female Pochard on Vatshoull loch but the other one certainly wasn't on the radar.

I was coming back into the house after mucking out our guinea pigs cage and rounded the side of the house only to come face to face with a Hoopoe twenty feet away on the centre of the lawn! With both camera and binoculars indoors I had to attempt to sneak past it at fairly close range but surprisingly it didn't seem bothered, only moving up the garden a few feet. A photo of such a nice bird in your own garden at point blank range would have been outstanding but on my return it had lobbed off somewhere and I never refound it. Hopefully its still in the area and every effort will be made to track it down tomorrow.

Loads of Waxwings on the move in Shetland at the moment. Eighteen were reported at Gardentown today by J L Simpson and this is the biggest flock seen on Whalsay so far.

28th October 2012

Great Tit


I was having a look in one of the Saltness gardens this morning when my uncle Bobby Irvine pulled up with the news that he'd had a tit in his garden earlier in the morning. Potentially even more interestingly there had been a pair of Redpoll a bit later with  one "a bit  bigger and whiter" than the other. I caught up with the Great Tit at lunch time but didnt see any Redpolls.

27th October 2012

Eagles and Whales

Juvenile White Tailed Eagle Selje, Norway 26/10/12.

An adult too. Crap angle unfortunately.

Killer Whale off Ronas Voe 21/10/12, one of at least 50.

Just back from the mackerel fishing. Little to report bird wise, a single Sooty Shearwater off Ronas voe on 21st was my only sighting of this species in Shetland waters this year with at least fifty Killer Whales also in attendance. On our last landing at Selje in Norway on the 26th three juvenile and one adult White tailed Eagle were on view. After baiting them with mackerel a few reasonable photos were obtained.

While  I was away BM had a Hornemans Arctic Redpoll at Vatshoull from 18 - 22/10 plus a few Waxwings and various other bits and pieces. A walk along the Skaw road this afternoon with Angela and the dog produced a Slavonian Grebe on the north loch. A good few years since I last saw one on here and I cant recall ever having one on a loch before. The light was going so my photos were pretty dire, will have to hope its still there in the morning.

16th October 2012

Blue Tit

Got a call this morning from Peter Stronach and Andy Seth, they had found a Blue Tit at Saltness. This is the first record for a good few years so I set off quickly. The bird was quite mobile and was in four different gardens in the short time I got to see it. It soon disappeared and BM missed it by seconds. Other news concerned a Waxwing seen briefly by Linda Marshall at Marrister and the tail-less Red Backed Shrike first seen at Hamister on the 14th was refound at Symbister.

Am off to the fishing at 10pm tonight so there will be no more updates for a bit.

15th October 2012

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker twitch

News came out about 2:40 pm that a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker had been found in Scalloway. BM and myself caught the 3:30 ferry and just as we appeared to be out of luck the bird was refound at about 5:40 in the now fading light, allowing a few dodgy pics to be taken. OK not a Whalsay bird but when a first for Scotland turns up you kinda have to give it a mention.

12th October 2012

Dusky Warbler

After a very lean period we now have perfect conditions which seem set to continue for a few days yet. Things looked promising this morning when opening the curtains a flock of forty plus Redwing lobbed into next doors garden. After a period of mist netting common migrants in the plantation with BM and JA I decided to try the south end of the island.  This paid off handsomely with a Dusky Warbler in the Maillands garden at Symbister. Although quite vocal it was hard to get decent views but was finally mist netted in the afternoon. This was a ringing tick for Jason and will hopefully be some compensation for a very birdless weeks holiday.

6th October 2012


Wren at Skaw

Since the Bluetail on the 27th of September all has fallen quiet on Whalsay again. A Hawfinch was in BMs garden 1/10 and was considered a duller individual to the one seen there a few days previously. Another Red Breasted Flycatcher was in the Skaw plantation on 3/10 and bird of the period was a Grey Plover on the shore at the north end of the golf course 5/10. I was quite happy with this as bizarrely this was a bird I had never found before and a few years since I had last seen one. My good humour was short lived however as a Little Bunting had been seen at Vevoe the same day. To find out about a bird not annual on your home island on the local website at midnight is more than slightly annoying and needless to say was not to be found the next morning.  This is understandable of course as incoming birders are never going to rush to put out something like that. Oh well plenty of time for another one.