Sunday, November 15, 2009


A few random pics from Shetland - most are from Unst -

the 3 birds in my scope are Two Hornemann's Arctic Redpolls and a Common Redpoll!

The bird on a wire fence is an Arctic Warbler (that was on the Mainland)

Friday, November 13, 2009

A "Gull" for Paul!

A seal at Sumburgh watching a dog on the beach!

Well they may be noisy but they love one another!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Marine and Coastal Access Act

Today, 12 November 2009, is the day the Marine and Coastal Access Bill receives Royal Assent and becomes law. The UK's marine wildlife above and below the waves surrounding England and Wales, and in offshore waters around the whole UK, should now be afforded the level of protection that it so desperately needs.

Under this new law, the UK Government gains exciting new powers to protect marine wildlife and manage our seas effectively. These include:

* The creation of new Marine Conservation Zones, to ensure important areas for our marine species and habitats are properly protected
* A new marine planning system that will allow Government to take a strategic and co-ordinated overview of the range of human activities in our seas, and ensure that we are not pushing the marine environment to or past its limits
* In England and Wales it also allows for improved management of inshore fisheries that will consider the needs of our sealife, and marine conservation

Friday, November 06, 2009

Fan-tailed Warbler in Kent

Finally the FTW, I do prefer "Zitting Cisticola" as this is how I was first introduced. In Espana in 2005.
However the UK list and Kent list were begining to be an embarrassment.
Leaving home later than I intended I didn't get on site until after 9. Worried that the pager had said "showing well at 8am" would I dip?

Well the bird then proceeded to show briefly with quick hovers which I managed to miss!

At this point I decided that I really ought to look at the waders on show. I then recommenced attempting to connect with the FTW. I spied a birder further away from the assembled twitchers.
A nice chap (who had informed me where the bird had shown prior to my arrival) pointed out that said birder was "a local". A loudmouth "tw**" then proceeded to annoy me with his loud voice whose contents hardly added to anyones knowledge. Concentration ruined, I joined the local birder checking that I was ok to do so. Sensible Corinna - he turned out to be friendly, helpful and informative. I enjoyed the Merlin spooking the assembled waders several times, Dylan (for it was he) pointed out a small flock of Twite - which whilst I had seen dozens in Shetland recently are a bird I love to see.
Then after about 30mins, Dylan suggested moving towards the hide and as we did so the FTW decide to fly out of his previous hiding place into some cover - result! Then again after a little while, a longer flight into the bank close to the seawall.Good bin sights.

Dylan went into the grassy knoll and I stayed with 2 other quiet birders searching (with bins!) in the reeds and salt marsh. We noticed there were many passerines about in the small trees and bushes that surround the "GK", when Dylan indicated he had the bird, not using any path I walked across the grass careful not to disturb the bird along with the other 2, but the dudes almost used the path but were stopped by a quick call and arm waving!

The FTW had again dropped down but I knew where and it flew up and perched on the Tree right in front of us! Dylan made sure everyone was on the bird.

This time I had scoped brilliant views.

I turned to thank Dylan for his help and he was grinning, he finally had his photo and not a bad one at all.

It was now 11 and a cupof tea and bacon roll were calling. A happy "Eagle" left the GK - as D went off home.

Not a bad priced breakfast at the Dog Walker's Cafe.

Photo is here on Dylan's blog

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Shetland Wildlife

I went to Shetland for two week at the beginning of October. (If you have been reading my blog you know all this anyway...and my friends do!)
When I booked I was hoping to see migrating birds and some rarer birds as well. Maybe even a mega! I decided to go with a birding(wildlife) company as I hadn't been to Shetland before and I wanted to glean as much info as I could from the experts!
I have been following a few blogs from birders on Shetland for a while now and realised it was very different birding - it is different!
I had been with Hugh Harrop on a Company of Whales trip - from Portsmouth to Bilbao - 4 days watching for cetaceans and birds from just below the Bridge on a special platform at the bow- spectacular views.(if you have been- just above the helicopter landing deck).I had a great time.I went to the Guggenheim Art Gallery when we got to Bilbao as I had done quite a bit of birding earlier that year in Espana.A culture vulture!Think this was 2005 - ???????? (i will date this later!)
Hugh's Company Shetland Wildlife is obviously based in Shetland (locals always know best places and would have a network of other birders who might find good birds).

I went full of expectation and hope and returned and booked again for next year!
Yes - it was that good! Loved Shetland, loved the locals (Shetland people are warm, friendly and welcoming)loved the birding and loved being near the sea - almost all the time!I might add that Hugh ensured that everything went as smoothly as it could and we got to see the best birds in the best way. Our guide for the two weeks was David(Dave)Fairhurst - tip top birder and a top bloke. He went out of his way to seek out our own birds- Hornemanns Arctic Redpolls and the Unst birds.(another post for these). He also got us quickly and safely to any rare, scarce or mega that anyone else found!
We also looked at the local resident birds - Starlings(defo bigger here) well I did in case of a Rosy (none)I expect he did too but didn't say.Bonxies, Fulmars (I looked closely at a lot of these!)and Gulls - Dave spotted a Little Gull(I think he said it was the first he'd seen since moving up to Lerwick)which I was able to get onto quickly.
Common gulls were everywhere which was good as we dont see as many down south,oh yes and the Wrens - Shetland Wren and Fair Isle Wrens are sub species and do look different to our usual (English)Wrens.

Thanks to David and Jon Dunn (who also works for Shetland Wildlife but part-time
along with other job - the Local Council and runs his own croft!)we enjoyed a special day on Whalsay on our first full day. Two lifers - Pechora Pipit and a Veery. (see below)Nothing was too much for these guys.

David managed to put up with my stream of questions about the birds,whether it was what was usual here, specific ID questions, Shetland questions,he even managed to answer them all!

We had a great time birding and we laughed a lot as well.

Criticisms....well I never did see an Otter or an Orca but then neither did most of us!LOL! My fault for not getting up and going out on our first morning at Balta Sound Hotel,they (Otters)are there but not when I looked later in the day!
My tired legs - kicking through lily plants and walking miles on Fair Isle, getting mizzeled out - cant see through glasses when it mizzels - it was the combination of wind and mizzle!Dont mind the rain you can see through the raindrops!
Did I mention the wind?

Going out birding now...may go and see the Brown Shrike again...I need to see my local patch!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Another view of the Veery

Another view of the Veery - one I didn't get except in secs - then 20 sec bursts as it merrily hopped its way around the Ferrymans garden - feeding as he went! I didn't even try to get a record shot - I saw Jon was shooting, H was as well - pointless with the compact - tooclose for digi scoping or quick.
So with Hugh Harrop's permission here are a few shots taken when the Veery performed like the star he had become.

Ducks landing gear down!

My friend Pat took this image - which made us laugh! Thought I'd share it.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Fair Isle October 2009

Thursday 15th - in the afternoon one of the Assistant Wardens stopped the van and told us he had trapped a Blackpoll Warbler and was taking it to Chalet to be ringed and measured.
Fortunately is was not far and so we sped off on foot.A Fair Isle twitch then took place - Holly appearing with a car full of kids and parents(hers), "who else is there on the Island who we should ring?" - "anyone staying at the South Light?" -

Tommy, Liz and Henry arrived full of enthusiasm.(I was staying with them so no surprises there!)Several crofters including an ex Warden of the Obs.Two other birders who had been on the Island for a while.Everyone excited and swept up with the moment.
Eventually the beauty was brought out so we could all see him and pics were duly taken!

Then he was taken back to the area of the trap - good sycamores and other trees and shrubs there so he could rest and feed up.

Dave asked does anyone want to go and see him released? Yes I certainly did - no tick unless he was free! "Go on then", says Dave "Go"
Tommy said "I picked up a scope, is it yours- its in the car" "Great - thanks" I said
"I'll pick it up there", then one guy got out of Tommy's car into another car - Tommy said "Hop in with us" so I did!We whizzed up to the nets, in time to see the bird released and then settle on a twig to get its bearings.
I managed a good spot to watch and when I was able I got a couple of record pics hand held through the scope.
Liz had her video camera - pic of her in action another time! Henry aged 8 desperate to get a good view!
Much photography took place!

Then the others arrived - they had walked up - oh no I hadn't realised they were coming to as they had seemed hesitant. Felt better later when I arranged for Tommy to take D back to Auld Haa when they went home.

Eventually only Dave, H and I remained.We stayed until it got so dark we couldn't see the bird anymore.45 more mins. H trying to get that perfect photo! Pretty impossible with fading light and a mobile bird who perched with twigs in front of him.

We knew that Diner would be later that evening so were happy to take our time.Everybody was happy that evening. Our last Dinner at Auld Haa that night was asdelicious as ever, but the others said the Sticky Toffee Pudding was the best desert - I not having any disagreed as I thought the Carrot Cake of the night before the best!

Slept well that night.

We refound the bird next day opposite Auld Haa - and H was able to take much better photo's- as was everyone else(not me). More pics later of people taking photos!
Eventually BW flew into the neighbouring croft field and snuck away to the Beach were it was relocated much later that afternoon feeding on insects.One top lister on mainland Shetland was unable to get on a plane that afternoon(being full) so missed seeing it having been told no sign first thing(I think he was booked on the am flight but didn't travel) until Dave relocated it while chatting to Tommy outside, while waiting for me to collect my scope from Tommy's car. Misunderstanding here - car not locked so Tommy didn't realise I was waiting for a key!Only when the cry went up "Blackpoll Warblers here" did it dawn on me that Tommy was outside and not getting the key for me! So I was happy that my delay I caused us to see the bird again otherwise it might never have been seen again!

Pics are of The BW, A happy Warden and the 2 AW's. Diagnostic back, wingbars and tail "spots".The BW - after release.