Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Northern (High) Lights!

On the 29th of October we had our first trip to Shetland! We were staying for 4 days on the island in a place called Lerwick. We expected the overall trip to take at least 5 or so hours but it took longer than that due to our Aberdeen plane being delayed for 2 hours! Once our plane was ready it took about an hour to land on Shetland. We headed straight over to our digs seeing many Hooded Crows and Ravens on our way. The short time we had was spent looking around the Lerwick area where we had a nice showy Black Guillemot and some distant Eider in the harbour.

Black Guillemot
A little further down the road we searched the area as it seemed a bit more remote and thankfully it was time well spent as my Dad came across 4 Otter!! There seemed to be 2 Adults with 2 young ones, it was a great experience watching them splash and play around in the water.

Day 2
Today was spent mostly trying to find something of our own around the area. We headed of to Sumburgh head but first we had a check at Sandwick to see if we could see a Great Grey Shrike which had been in the area but sadly we had no luck. Offshore though I managed to spot a distant flock of Long Tailed Duck which was nice. In every field we managed to look in you couldn't go away without seeing a Redwing or Fieldfare, there was tons! As we arrived at Sumburgh a Short Eared Owl flew over the car and then in front of the car distantly it was followed by 3 others!! 2 of them after a while landed on a wall which was nice to see.
Short Eared Owls
Once we arrived at the head, a good number of Twite were feeding on the ground right next to the car park! It was brilliant, they didn't seemed bothered one bit by us, Definitly the best views I have got of this species! In with the Twite was a single Brambling which was also nice to see.

Twite and Brambling
We had a little walk round Sumburgh Head but we didn't see much more than a few Chiffchaff, Gannets, Fulmars and another brambling.
Just outside Sumburgh on the shoreline we spotted tons of waders which included a few very nice Purple Sandpipers which showed pretty close at times plus just a little further down the road, on a little pool a good number of Turnstone showed well.

Purple Sandpiper
Afterwards we decided to visit Loch of Spiggie where on the loch there was good numbers of Whooper Swan, we had a count and we got about 70 in total. Also on the loch there was good numbers of Goldeneye and Wigeon. We then had a look on a beach where we spotted 2 distant Great Northern Divers and a few Kittiwake.
Whooper Swan
We then had a drive round to see if we could spot anything from the car. I am really glad we did this because from this I have got my best every views of Short Eared Owl. We were driving down the road when my Dad spotted it on a fence post and thankfully there was a layby right next to it! we managed to get out and get incredible views!

Short Eared Owl
After a while the Owl flew off and landed up on a hill just past the post where then we left it in peace. After another drive round we spotted a few Red breasted Mergansers which put a very nice end to the day!

Red Breasted Mergansers
Day 3
Today we decided to spend the day on Unst. We got two ferries across where on the first one we saw a Great Skua which was a very nice surprise. On both we also saw many more Black Guillemots. Once we arrived on Unst we headed to Hermanness as we heard there was a reserve there but unfortunately once we arrived we found out that it was closed! Although near the reserve we had a Twite and Brambling. We headed off towards another area when suddenly an Otter ran straight across the road! It ran across and posed nicely on a little hill where we got amazing views! after a couple of minutes it ran down into a ditch and into a pipe just under a small bridge. It was by far the best views we have got of one, a truly incredible moment!

We then moved on to Norwick to see what we could find. Firstly we went round a little coastal area where we had another Otter which was feeding fairly close to shore! But it didn't quite show as well as the other. Also we had a few Rock Pipits and Turnstones. After a while a woman very kindly let us have a walk round her garden as earlier that morning apparently she had Long Eared Owl, Yellow Browed Warbler and Firecrest in there. In a good hour or so search we didn't find anything other than a good number of Goldcrests.
We decided to spend the rest of the day on the mainland. We headed to Sumburgh to see what we could find. We saw 2 Brambling which briefly showed well in a few bushes on the head but other than that it was fairly quiet. Although it was nice watching the sun go down being surrounded by masses of seabirds.
Day 4
Today was our last day on Shetland. We spent most of the morning searching a few local areas but other than a Black Guillemot and lots of Hooded Crows we didn't see much else. I really enjoyed my time on Shetland and it is a place I will definitely visit again! I would say my overall highlight would either be the showy Otter or the showy Short Eared Owl as they were both amazing experiences!
About a week after we arrived back from Shetland a few nice birds had taken up residence in my area so the weekend after was spent trying to locate those. We had a couple of target birds, these were the Ferruginous Duck in Washington and the Arctic Warbler in Mardsen. Our first stop was the Ferruginous Duck at Washington. There is a bit of a debate on this bird being wild or not as it is in a pen full of captive Ferruginous Ducks but on the other hand the wild one is fully winged and has no rings so in my opinion it is wild. Once we arrived there was about 7 or so people looking including us. As you imagine it was quite hard picking out the wild one but after a while one of the males took flight across the small pool and you could clearly see no ring so thankfully we had our bird! It was a very small pool so as you imagine it showed really well.

Ferruginous Duck
After a good hour or so watching the Duck we moved on to Mardsen in hope of seeing the Arctic Warbler. When we arrived we got news that it hadn't been seen for a good couple of hours. We didn't give up hope and we continued our search around the area. After another good couple of hours we thought we didn't have much chance but suddenly some birders started waving us over so we quickly rushed over and then there it was! Sitting on a branch for a good 30 seconds or so!. I didn't get any pics as I was to busy watching it through my bins. I was very pleased considering I missed the one at Spurn a few weeks back. A very nice bird!