Incredibly quiet at the north-east end of the isle today. After a night of torrential rain and south-easterlies, one might have expected better of the day. Out at lunchtime for a wander around in warm, calm conditions, and just a Robin kicking around the house and a Chiffchaff in the plantation to show for my efforts. Significantly fewer Blackbirds around after days of plague proportions – the tattie yard peaked at 11 birds on Sunday.

Little Bunting still at Sandwick, and BM reported a possible second bird nearby. My bird from the weekend having moved down the isle? My hens have discovered where I am seed-baiting for buntings, and clean it out in the space of 15 frenzied minutes. I shall just have to start somewhere else away from their prying eyes.

Got an informed opinion about my snipe earlier in the autumn. Interesting!

More hot Little Bunting and pussy action

Now there’s a blog title. If that shameless attempt at luring sad wankers (and frustrated adolescents) to my swell my blog’s visitor-roll doesn’t work, I don’t know what will. Enjoy.

Covered most of the isle today, though not I think seeing an enormous amount that was actually new in – but plenty of recycled birds from previous days. A Brambling in my tattie yard first thing had presumably relocated from a few hundred yards away (and had moved on to the heligoland kale yard later on); and the Black Redstart JLI found yesterday on my drive was still there, mainly in the vicinity of the dead black feral cat by the foot of the drive. I feel a note to BB coming on…

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Working my way down the isle just turned up a few Goldcrests, Robins and yet more Bramblings, but the latter mainly still in the places and numbers I’d seen them a week ago. Feeling a little disillusioned (but obscurely heartened by the lack of news from elsewhere in Shetland) I went to see the Little Bunting JLI and I found a couple of days ago. The perfect antidote, it was showing well.

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Little Bunting doing straining

Little Bunting doing done a poo

Little Bunting doing a Holloway

Little Bunting doing being plain lovely

Also nearby the same Lesser Whitethroat we saw 2 days ago.

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Back home for lunch, and to dig some tatties I’d promised JLI and family for their Sunday lunch. Climbing into the yard, and there in front of me was a new Little Bunting. Result. Less resultful was it taking off, dropping briefly into a patch of weeds, and then going over the hill and towards the more sheltered heligoland yard. Heyho. A brief but significant bird for me – 102 on the house yearlist. Met up with JLI in the afternoon, delivered said tatties and some cabbagey stuff too, and after a beer to fortify ourselves it was back out into the field to give Brough a good going over. Brough delivered as usual, with a female Redstart and 2 Ring Ouzels (male and a female). All of which could easily be semi-residents, as have all been seen in Brough in the past week already. Oh, and a Chiffchaff, to which we didn’t need to play tristis calls in order to eliminate, er, tristis. 😉

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And so the day ended. Or rather, not quite… Back home for tea and crumpets, and time to get the dogs in from their dog-run for the night. And what should greet me when I went to the dog-run door? A hugely excited lurcher, and a freshly killed feral cat. Daisy Dingo clearly got a taste for pussy after the August feral cat kill, and had struck again with another of the small black feral numbers that have been lurking about the place recently, and this afternoon had shown the spectacular ill-judgement of slinking into the Dingo’s dog-run. That’s 2 down in the past 2 days – one road-kill, and one dog-kill – and given how attractive 1 dead cat was proving to be this morning for a Black Redstart, imagine what sort of chat 2 dead cats together might attract tomorrow…

Red-breasted Flycatcher

A somewhat frustrating day at the office today, knowing that the wind had eased a little, and there would be birds to find out there. Knowing there’d be no daylight by the time I got home, I needed to choose a sheltered garden en route to the ferry after work, and trust I’d get lucky while I had half an hour of sort-of-daylight to play with – by 5pm here on a cloudy day the light’s almost unworkable with now.

Still masses of thrushes as I drove to the garden of choice, with Redwings erupting from the roadside ditches, and small flocks of Fieldfares flying across the fields parallel to the road. The garden was still, unlike my speculative visit earlier in the week, and crawling with Blackbirds – mainly males, in a 3:1 ratio to females – 12 in view simultaneously at one point as they dug in the leaf litter, yopped fuchsia berries, and paced the lawns. 3 Robins also, mostly doing the skulky chat-thing through the borders and momentarily raising your hopes. This one wasn’t:

Robin doing not Siberian Blue

Far more interesting though was the bird I could hear calling non-stop in the depths of the undergrowth. Red-breasted Flycatcher… I was sure of it, but where was the bird? I kept going around the outskirts of the garden, hoping to find it flycatching from the trees at the edges, but after 20 minutes was beginning to give up any views as a lost cause. Finally, it flew out in front of me, perched on a fence-post, giving me a split second to lift the camera and shoot before it shot back into the thickets. Not enough stability, time or light by now to make much of it, but you can tell what it is!

Red-breasted Flycatcher doing not a fucking RB Flicker unless you're an irritating twat

On to the ferry with seconds to spare, and home feeling pretty pleased with myself. Red-breasted Flycatchers are always quality birds, even skulky bastard ones like this. At least it had plenty to say for itself until it came out into the open. Am now very much looking forward to tomorrow and Sunday – it’ll be dawn to dusk birding.

Bunting hunting

Had a really good hour out with JLI at lunchtime wandering around Sandwick – given the atrocious conditions, (south-easterly gales still, with persistent rain showers – horrible to bird in, but promising for when it finally eases), I dared to hope for a Reed Bunting at the least. And the first bird we clapped eyes on as we got out of the car was a passerine in flight, white outer tail feathers… Reed Bunting. And landed next to a Common Redpoll. All very promising.

Five minutes later, and we’d flushed another bunting from the edge of a garden. This one looked small though. It dropped into a nearby ditch, and on creeping up we found a smart Little Bunting bathing in a small pool in the base of the ditch. BM and JA phoned… BM on his way, JA in Lerwick. Heyho. By the time BM had arrived, the bunting had done a flit, and it took a little while and a fair amount of ground covered (and re-covered. And covered again) until we’d pinned it down. Following was taken through a gate, so you’ll have to excuse the blurry bits above and below the bird.

bunting doing little

With a little time remaining before I had to get back to my laptop, we pressed on through Sandwick, refinding the male Yellowhammer JLI initially found yesterday, a Water Rail, and a Lesser Whitethroat. I think it’ll be a bit manic in Shetland when the wind finally does drop. Or at least, I hope so. Final bird of the day was a Jackdaw beside the road at Challister. Best find of the day – one of the small black feral cats dead at the foot of my drive. Presumably hit by a car. Heyho again – the birds won’t mourn its passing.

Surfin’ to Bressay

Surely the lamest punning headline to date. Apologies. But no apologies for a glut of photos of one of my favourite ducks of all, a male Surf Scoter. They are just such funky beasts… For once, despite the silly range, I managed a few shots I’m not too unhappy with – which may well have had something to do with the fact that I for once had a nice stable support for the lens – namely the Bressay lighthouse!

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Here comes the big one

Now there’s an optimistic blog title if ever I wrote one. But you have to hope. Some people forecast imminent changes in the weather using seaweed. Some refer to pine cones. Me, I swear by the occurence of anchor-handlers. The more of them moored offshore from us and not out plying their trade in the open North Sea, the worse the weather is going to be. (For worse, read absolutely splendid as it’s going to be a really snorty south-easterly).

Yesterday’s anchor-handler forecast was a whopping 3 on the Big Rusty Tug-thing Scale, which should mean we’re in for a decent spell of rarity-friendly weather. Yesterday’s efforts still failed to yield anything of note, with just a Chiffchaff spanging around Skaw. Try as I might, I couldn’t make it into a tristis. Not that I cared particularly. Bird of the day was a rather sad affair – a Yellow-browed Warbler on the edge of the planatation. Or rather more accurately, on the ground on the edge of the plantation. To be absolutely specific, the remains of a Yellow-browed Warbler – some wings, and a bit of head. Catted, presumably, as there are 3 unpleasant small black feral numbers mooching about the place. Daisy Dingo has her instructions…

No sign in the afternoon of the Bluethroat reported from Brough. Elusive wretch.

not tristis

It’s oh so quiet…

…but not for long, I suspect.

With JLI unavoidably away at sea, and JA making his house waterproof, we were woefully underwatched today. God knows how we managed.  Not a great deal to be missed though, just the usual suspects left over from the past few days. I took it pretty easy after a blank day of unconsciousness yesterday with a flare-up of my neck and shoulder injury. Whoever said the drugs don’t work was both a liar, and wrong. Still, despite feeling considerably better today, I thought it best not to push it, so no iris-bed yomping for me today. Spent much of the afternoon scoping the flat-calm sea from the house, trying to get lucky with a Slavonian Grebe or an early Long-tailed Duck. No joy. Bird of the day (apart from a Rook in Brough, where it was doing my house yearlist no good whatsoever) was therefore a showy Goldcrest. You takes your pleasures where you finds them…

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The owl in a south-easterly came off the sea…

Working from home today, and so limited in the main to looking wistfully out of the window from time to time. Actually, not that wistfully as the weather was absolutely vile for a lot of the day – vile that is from a comfortable, desk-monkey perspective. From a birder’s viewpoint, it looks promising for the next few days. If the wind and rain ease off, there’ll be rare birds coming out of the woodwork all over Shetland. South-easterlies and rain in mid October are the dream ticket.

My window-gazing wasn’t completely fruitless, as mid-morning something large and brown went past at a hell of a clip, pursued by 2 Hooded Crows. Raptor, surely… I legged it outside and scanned the area desperately. The crows gave the game away, and there below the road was a Long-eared Owl on a drystone dyke, doing its very best to ignore the local hoodies. I had enough time to drive down and get a few photos at long-range before it noticed the plantation and dived in for cover. A shame I didn’t have longer, as I could have made an effort before it went into cover and skulked up a bit closer for some really nice pictures.

LEO! LE-E-E-O! I want a LEO and I want one now...

Strange that I wait nearly 5 and a half years to add Long-eared Owl to the houselist, and then I see 2 in the space of 6 months.

Owl doing looking

Some extremely good surprises in the post today as well – the latest British Birds (including the BBRC annual rarities report), and Birding World. Nice to see all my birds from last year duly endorsed, and a watercolour from my Hume’s Warbler submission had made its way into the rarities report too.  Birding World was particularly pleasing – 5 of my photos have been used this month – American Golden Plover and Sandhill Crane on Orkney, and Taiga Flycatcher here in Shetland. I’m delighted to see them in print – I can’t be making too bad a job of this point and shoot business!

Red-flanked Bluetail

After a failed attempt to see the juvenile Sabine’s Gull in Lerwick harbour this morning, I’d resigned myself to a birdless day. News then of one of the few species I’ll break my loose no-local-twitching-unless-it’s-a-lifer rule * for was most welcome – a Red-flanked Bluetail at Sandgarth. Went there on my way home this evening, and got brief but adequate views of the bird – a real skulker, lurking in the depths of an inaccessible thick stand of trees, and only occasionally coming out onto the perimeter fence. A bird then to enjoy watching, rather than trying to get a good photograph of.

As evidenced by the following 2 photographs, both poor if we’re being charitable, and absolutely dire if we’re being honest. You can (with a leap of faith) just about make out what the bird in question is. I shared it with 3 other birders. Any more and we’d have started to feel a bit crowded – rewind around 15 years and remember the blind chaos a Red-flanked Bluetail would elicit… but this evening, there were just 4 of us, and the bird (showing poorly, but let’s not allow that to stand in the way of a moment of reflection).

Bluetail doing perched blurry

Bluetail doing flappy blurry

* Or if I just fancy seeing a given species. It’s not a very good rule, frankly.

Tidying up the CF card

Came across a photo of another Yellow-browed Warbler this morning while doing some overdue housekeeping on my camera’s CF card. A photo I’d overlooked, as it was an opportunistic single shot taken of this bird in fairly poor viewing conditions – windy, and intermittently rainy too. And when things went a little mad the following day with Taiga Flycatcher, I somehow forgot to download this picture into the computer. So here it is – I like it.


Hoswick YBW 2009