2021 - 2030

Whalsay Bird Review 2021

Jack Snipe

Snow Bunting

Blue Tits


The year began with 9+ Blue Tits still raking around from last years influx including a bird with a ring on the left leg at Sandwick, the ring code was never determined unfortunately. A Carrion Crow was around the Hillhead/Symbister area for a few weeks from 3/1 with two Dunnocks in one Symbister garden around the same time. Two Glaucous Gulls were at west loch of Skaw 9/1 with a Jack Snipe at Traywick 29/1. Belated news of a Great Tit at Houll for most of the month came after its departure and was the only individual for the year.


A Jack Snipe was in a roadside ditch at Symbister 5/2 with a Glaucous Gull at Skaw 13/2. A small party of three Blue Tits at Symbister included a Stavanger ringed bird, though again the whole ring code could not be seen. A Sparrowhawk was at Whitefield 21/2, our first Skylark at Hamister 23/2 and the only Snow Bunting of the spring at Pouster 25/2.


Little was seen till a female Velvet Scoter was off Skaw Taing 12/3. A couple of Risso's Dolphins off Symbister 29/3 was also notable.



Nothing of note was seen early in the month with our first Wheatear back on the late date of 14/4. A surprisingly scarce island bird was the Rook at the Burns 17/4 (my first in nine years!) with Goldcrest, Willow Warbler and Siskin making their debuts the same day. A male Hawfinch was at Saltness 18/4 with a female trapped at Marrister 20/4 and another male at Skaw 26/4. A Water Rail was at Skaw 18/4 with an early(ish) Whimbrel on the golf course 20/4. The first Minke Whale was also off Skaw Taing 23/4 with a Black throated Diver in the voe below the Skaw trap for a week from 24/4. A Green Sandpiper was in various ditches at the burns 30/4.

Tree Sparrow


The Green Sandpiper at the burns was joined by a male Grey Wagtail 1/5. A brief male Linnet at Hamister was the sole record for the year. The first Arctic Tern was quite late on 8/5 at Vatshoull loch. A better scatter of common migrants appeared from 9/5 headlined by a Wryneck at Symbister and supported by five Ring Ouzels, two Hawfinches and a House Martin. A Great spotted Woodpecker was at Symbister 10/5 with Cuckoo at Symbister, Kestrel at Sandwick, Greenshank at Skaw and Common Tern at Symbister 11/5. A Wryneck at Isbister13/5 and a Hawfinch at Marrister 14/5 was best of a decent scatter of common migrants mid month. The year's only Shelduck was at the houb for a matter of minutes 19/5. Likewise the years only Icterine Warbler at tripwell 24/5, identified from a photo six days after the event! A Marsh Warbler was at Skaw 25/5 with two Tree Sparrows at Skaw 27/5 and another three at the burns 29/5.

Lesser Grey Shrike, photo by Peter Stronach

Rosy Starling

Whooper Swans


Bird of the spring was a brief early morning Lesser Grey Shrike found at Skaw by Peter Stronach 3/6. Annoyingly it was flushed by a car towards Vevoe and not seen again. This is a fifth island record. A female Red backed Shrike was some compensation at Skaw 5/6 with six Common Scoters off Challister 6/6. A Cuckoo was at Skibberhoull 10/6. A nationwide influx of Rose-coloured Starlings reached Shetland and singles at Challister 12/6 and Houll/Brough 24/6 were most welcome. Our second Marsh Warbler was, like the last one, in the Skaw plantation 16/6. Excitement towards the months end concerned two new island breeding records - The Whooper Swan pair on Vatshoull loch hatched out four chicks 28/6, though only one survived.


The quietest month as usual. The Tree Sparrow pair were successful with three young birds seen flying around early in the month. A small colony of Manchester treble Bar moths were found at Skaw with at least ten in one small field. A Green Sandpiper was at west loch of Skaw 28/7.

Hen Harrier


A Cuckoo was at Newtoon and a Long eared Owl at Skaw 3/8. A Convolvulus Hawkmoth was at Hamister 6/8 and single Red backed Shrikes at Grunitaing and Brough 13/8. A small flock of four Common Rosefinches were at Isbister 23/8 with single Barred and Wood Warblers. A juvenile Hen Harrier flew north through Skaw 24/8, landing briefly before being driven off by Hooded Crows. a Long eared Owl was at Skaw and a Wood Warbler at Brough 25/8. A Minke Whale was off Skaw 28/8.

Red flanked Bluetail



A Sparrowhawk was at Skaw 5/9. Barred Warblers were at Skaw (2) and Isbister with twelve Ruff at Skaw 10/9. A Wryneck was at Skaw10/9 and a Grey Wagtail at Houll loch 20/9. Forty Pink footed Geese flew South over the isle in two small flocks 22/9. A decent migrant appeared 26/9 with a Red flanked Bluetail in the Skaw plantation. This was our 6th in the last fifteen years and 5th for Skaw! Yellow browed Warblers turned up late this year with our first at Skaw 27/7. It was a poor year for this species with four 29/9 the best day total. 29/9 proved a better day with a Rustic Bunting, Red breasted Flycatcher and Grey Wagtail in and around "Frankies" at Skibberhoull.

Rustic Bunting


What may or may not have been the same Rustic Bunting from Skibberhoull turned up in the small reed bed at Symbister 1-2/10. A very flighty and camera shy Little Bunting was around the ditches below Whitefield 5/10. A Hoopoe spent the day of 7/10 hoovering up earwigs from the newly cut grass at Vatshoull. A Long eared Owl was at Skaw and a Hawfinch at Brough 19/10. A Yellowhammer was at Brough 24/10.

Black throated Thrush


Two Glaucous Gulls were at Skaw 1/11. Mackerel shoals around the island attracted three Humpbacks around the east isles 3/11 with another two off Skaw 9/11 and again there 14-15/11. A Black throated Thrush was among some Blackbirds and Redwings at Skaw 15-16/11 and was a second island record and bird of the year. A Water Rail was at Marrister 15/11. A Peregrine north over Symbister 28/11 was the only record for the year. Two Jack Snipes were at Hamister and three Glaucous Gulls at Skaw 29/11.



A Long eared Owl was at Skaw 8/12. Whalsay's third Bittern was at north loch of Skaw 15-18/12, the last two were hit and killed by cars. Sadly this one also died, it was found to be a first year male and severely underweight. The last notables for the year were a Jack Snipe at the houb 28/12 and a Woodcock at Skaw 30/12.

In 2016 I had a terrible year with only 129 species for the year and not a single national rarity on the island! At the time I said " I will never have a worse year unless I go blind or die"! Well for such a long time 2021 seemed to be heading for an all time low - month after month with absolutely no migrants at all. So many common species went unrecorded this year - White fronted Goose, Barnacle Goose, Black and Bar tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper, Iceland Gull, Sedge Warbler, Black Redstart etc... I missed a few species as usual, most notably the Lesser grey Shrike in June. I ended the year on 130 just about crawling past the 2016 total and with Black throated Thrush and Bittern adding two more species to my island list. We live in hope that 2022 will be better but the days with big falls of migrants are getting to be a distant memory.