Monday, 14 May 2018

14th May 2018 Unst SW1 Clear

One of those unforgettable Shetland days... it started slowly for me with a Lesser Whitethroat and Willow Warbler at Skaw and a Pied Flycatcher at Lamba Ness. We then saw a male Red-backed Shrike at Skeggie found by Mark Warren and obtained a series of brief views of a Marsh Warbler at Setters Hill found by Al Conlin but then we stumbled across.... the first Marmora's Warbler for Shetland at Baliasta that we initially only saw very briefly. Not having any literature other than the first edition Collin's Guide with us, a quick call to JFC helped remind me of the salient features of Marmora's Warbler, and nothing seemed amiss. We'd had to drive to Houlland to get a phone signal from where our initial 'back of camera' images circulated on the Shetland WhatsApp system generated so many calls and texts (thanks for all the kind words everyone) that my phone battery quickly died! We were soon joined by Brydon, Casey, Robbie & Al and thankfully the bird, whilst elusive, was still performing in the warm evening sunlight. I then failed to see the Black-faced Bunting at Norwick found by Mark Warren but did see a Bluethroat whilst trying. After a tense wait in the company of those arriving from elsewhere in Shetland, fortunately the Marmora's Warbler then performed well until dusk, enabling some travelling from as far afield as Sumburgh to successfully see it... and whom are now effectively stranded so are staying with us overnight!

Female Pied Flycatcher at Lamba Ness

Male Red-backed Shrike at Skeggie

Marsh Warbler at Setters Hill
The above image rather sums up my series of frustratingly brief views when I was unable to appreciate any critical detail. Fortunately Al Conlin had enjoyed much better views on finding it and had also heard it singing prior to me arriving on the scene.

First-summer male Marmora's Warbler at Baliasta
Whilst we didn't have any literature with us to eliminate the (unlikely) possibility of it being a Balearic Warbler a call to JFC quickly reassured us that its dark-throated appearance and small white malar was consistent with it being a Marmora's Warbler. I could recall that the St. Abbs individual shared similar brown edgings to its wing feathers that I seemed to recall aged it as a first-summer male. Brydon kindly brought along a copy of Helm's Sylvia Warblers that reinforced our views as to its identity. A short playback of the song of Marmora's Warbler generated what two highly-respected ex-members of BBRC were quick to consider was 'a clear response' - it immediately emerged onto the top of some vegetation looking at the assembled observers. As so often, very many thanks to JFC, PVH, RR & BHT for openly sharing their expert opinions with me.

First-summer male Marmora's Warbler at Skagen, Denmark June 2005 (Erik Kramshoj)

Sunday, 13 May 2018

13th May 2018 Unst SE2 Clear

Another very early start but the Bluethroat had departed overnight and a quick check of a few sites suggested there was very few newly-arrived migrants in evidence albeit 3 Willow Warblers is my maximum daily count so far this Spring(!) but it was ideal weather for continued survey efforts.

Sunrise over Lamba Ness at c.4.30am

Juvenile Iceland Gull at Baltasound

Arctic Skua
Work is all the more enjoyable now that I am seeing these on a daily basis

Saturday, 12 May 2018

12th May 2018 Unst SE3 Clear

The Bluethroat in our garden was singing from at least 5.20am and even briefly displaying dancing circling a dead stalk. A sound recording of the Bluethroat can be listened to here. A quick look around Norwick only produced 2 Tree Pipits and 2 Chiffchaffs. A juvenile Iceland Gull was present in Baltasound. On Yell the Snake's-head Frittilary was the highlight of checking the Windhouse bod garden. Back on Unst this evening the 3 Wood Sandpipers were still at Baltasound.

Male Bluethroat singing at Millfield

Tree Pipit at Norwick

Snake's-head Frittilary at the Windhouse bod, Yell

Friday, 11 May 2018

11th May 2018 Unst SE3 Clear

Out from very early in morning but had hardly seen a migrant when on returning home a male Bluethroat flew from our rosa along our front garden wall - superb! Mike and Margaret successfully twitched it before it disappeared behind our house. Almost the next migrant I saw was a male Ring Ouzel at Norwick. Haroldswick added a Redwing and a Robin. A check of the School late in the afternoon added a Hawfinch and 2 Mealy Redpoll to the list of oddities and 2 Wood Sandpipers were seen in Baltasound. Thinking that the day's events were over, whilst driving home via Haroldswick, I noticed a summer-plumaged Little Grebe sat on the sea off the north beach - a Shetland tick for me!

Male Bluethroat at Millfield

Male Ring Ouzel at Norwick

Mealy Redpoll at the School

Little Grebe at Haroldswick

Thursday, 10 May 2018

10th May 2018 Unst S3

Haroldswick pools produced a pair of Collared Doves, 2 Sedge Warblers (my first for the year), a Lesser Whitethroat and a Chiffchaff. A flock of 10 Barnacle Geese were accompanied by a single Greylag flying high northeast over Saxa Vord Hill. An evening visit to Baltasound produced 3 Wood Sandpipers.

Sedge Warbler singing at Haroldswick

Collared Doves at Haroldswick

Wood Sandpiper at Baltasound

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

9th May 2018 Unst S2 Overcast

Not before time, this morning I saw my first Willow Warbler of the year at Norwick being a striking acredula-type individual. A small flock of hirundines at Haroldswick included a Sand Martin and 2 House Martins. A nice surprise this evening was finding a Wood Sandpiper at Baltasound.

acredula-type Willow Warbler at Norwick

House Martin at Haroldswick
Presumably a first-summer showing plenty of dusky markings on its rump, sullied flanks and an almost dusky breast-band.

Wood Sandpiper at Baltasound

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

8th May 2018 Unst SE3 Overcast

It felt like 'classic conditions' at dawn, and whilst the trickle of additions for the year continued, passerine migrants were disappointingly very thin on the ground and I was soon back to completing surveys. My first Common Tern of the year was seen in slightly bizarre circumstances flying in off the sea whilst I was leaving our house this morning. Skaw produced nothing more than a House Martin. On leaving the house for a second time I saw my first 3 Arctic Terns of the year and likewise a female Common Whitethroat at Norwick was my first this year.

 Common Tern passing Millfield

House Martin at Skaw

Female Common Whitethroat at Norwick