Monday, 25 September 2017

Unst 2017: Days 0-2

It can't quite believe its a year since I was last on Unst... time does indeed fly. However, I'm not complaining, as it's great to be back up here again, thrashing up burns and through iris beds. This year there are just the two of us, me and Paul Eele, staying in a cosy little two bedroom cottage in Baliasta, called Scraefield.

We left Newark promptly at 7am on Saturday morning, Paul having come across from Norfolk the previous evening. After an uneventful drive up, we arrived in Aberdeen in plenty of time for the ferry. For the first hour or so out of port we did some seawatching from deck, with 4 Arctic Skuas being the highlight, along with a couple of Harbour Porpoises. Retiring inside, we settled down in the bar, noting that there seemed to be only a handful of other birders on the boat, which was a bit surprising. We flaked out about 9.30 for a slightly unsettled sleep in the sleeping pods, not helped by some quite lumpy seas between Orkney and Shetland!

Leaving Aberdeen

Having arrived and picked up some bits in the Lerwick Tesco we headed north up Mainland, stopping for a couple of hours at Sandgarth, in Voe. This is a cracking looking site, although possibly with too much cover... We bagged our first Yellow-brows of the trip here, with three in evidence. A party of Redpolls gave us the runaround but eventually showed well enough to see they included at least two Mealies. 1 or 2 Goldcrests were the only other migrants here.


Paul bagging a YBW

Two ferries later, we arrived on Unst, and were out in the field by 2.30. Around our cottage in Baliasta we had a nice male Brambling, and single Garden Warbler and Blackcap. We failed to see anything at all at Houlland, in increasingly blowy conditions, so went round to Skaw, which was a bit more sheltered and where another Garden Warbler was accompanied by two Blackcaps. We rounded things off with our fourth YBW of the day in the burn at Burrafirth.

Scraefield. Bijou.

Today, we were up and out in reasonable time, and straight to Houlland, where there some birds unlike yesterday - one apiece of Reed Warbler, YBW, Chiff and Song Thrush. Back to Scraefield, and a Blackcap was knocking around but not much else. Next stop was Baltasound, where there were 2 YBW, 2 Blackcaps and a Chiff in the area around the post office. On to Halligarth, and after a chat with Brydon T we worked the site. Best here was a Common Rosefinch which popped out in front of me and sat up in a small sycamore for a couple of moments before vanishing - perhaps the bird seen in Baltasound most recently as Thursday? Single YBW, 2 Chiffs and 2 Blackcaps completed proceedings here.


A wander at Norwick was pretty quite, with single YBW and Song Thrush at Valyie, a flight-only Lesser Whitethroat and 8 Swallows south. There were a few waders on the beach, with around 20 Turnstone, a Sanderling, a few Ringos, and a Little Stint that dropped in for a moment before haring off south, calling. The small clump of trees in the valley at Northdale held a Barred Warbler, present for several days now, and another very skulking and flighty Lesser Whitethroat, with a Chiff and a YBW in the Rosa by the cottages. At Burrafirth, the YBW was still in the burn, and we kicked up a Jack Snipe. By now the weather was pretty grim, so we decided to have one last stop before calling it a day - Setters Hill Estate. This produced our eighth YBW of the day, along with 2 Chiffs and our first Robin.

YBW in typical habitat, on an Armco barrier.

With winds still set firm from the south-east, its all to play for over the next couple of days!

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Hard work in Lincs

The 16th was a productive day on the patch, with first two Ravens circling over the south, and then a young Red-crested Pochard on Ferry Lane Lake- bit new for the year. Other things included 3 Curlew, 6 Dunlin, 1 Oystercatcher, 14 Pochard, 40 Wigeon, 32 Teal, 9 Shoveler and 2 Pintail. A few days later, the number of Pintail has increased to three, whilst the only waders were two each of Dunlin, Green Sand and Snipe. 

In between, I had a visit to the Lincs coast with a few other guys. We began at Gibraltar Point, which was slow. We failed to find any Yellow-brows (although two were seen at Aylmer Avenue), and had to make do with a handful of 'common' migrants. Best perhaps were 2 Spoonbills which flew inland, and a couple of Arctic Skuas offshore, plus my first Pinks of the autumn. Similarly, a walk at Chapel Six Marshes and then along Wolla Bank to Anderby Creek again failed to produce much, but it was good to reccy another bit of the Lincs coast that I've not birded before. 

Thursday, 14 September 2017

No waders, and no seabirds

Over the last week or so I've been checking Mons Pool in the hope of a decent wader - a Pec would've been nice! Or even a just a Ruff... However, Hagg Lane Flash has evidently been intercepting all of them, and I had to make do with up to 2 juv islandica Black-wits, and up to 4 Dunlin... and that's been about it. Aside from waders, a juv or female Garganey was on Wharf Pit on the 10th with the Teal, and there has been a distinctly autumnal feel, with the first Meadow Pipits of the season, a small arrival of Wigeon (ok, just 6, but its a start), some big groups of House Martins - and still the odd Swift

Yesterday I checked Kilvington Lakes on the way home from work, in the vain hope of a windblown seabird. The best I could managed, however, were 6 Ringed Plover, 2 Greenshank, 2 Swifts and at least 3 YLGs. There was also what looked like an adult Caspian Gull amongst the LBBGs, but it was on the far side of the lake and into the sun. 

Monday, 4 September 2017

Catching up

Spotted Flycatcher is not a guaranteed species each year on the patch, although thus far during the PWC era I have managed to see one (or sometimes more) annually. I was beginning to worry this year, and to look enviously at nearby patches in Lincs which have recorded them recently. 

I'd been checking the usual spots at Collingham, especially the big ashes along Northcroft Lane, without luck. However, on Sunday I met John Ellis at the new hide on the north side of Mons Pool, and having had a good chat, was just about to leave when I noted something flick up onto the fence by the hide on the opposite side of the reserve - bingo, a Spotted Fly. I wandered round to get a photo just in time, as two horse riders came past, the bird flew, and I couldn't relocate it.

Spotted Flycatcher

One day I'll upgrade to a patch Pied Fly.