Friday, 28 October 2022

Back in Sussex (20-28 October)

It is always nice to be home but I find it increasingly hard to be too enthused by local birding although, as I was soon to appreciate, it has it moments!

Thursday 20 October. Mill Hill with Megan and Cookie. 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Blackcaps, 25 Redwing, Bullfinch (heard) , 4 Linnets and a Clouded Yellow. 

Friday 21 OctoberMill Hill with Cookie. Kestrel, PeregrineChiffchaff (3 heard) and 2 Goldfinches.

Saturday 22 October. As soon as I knew it was still there I went over to Beachy to see the Radde's Warbler found the previous day above the Whitbread Hollow. It gave surprisingly good views considering the route of the Beachy Head marathon went right past the bushes it was in. It didn't seem too concerned by the runners although most of the time I was there was during the lull between the slower 10k runners and first full marathon competitors. Simon gave me a lift to Shooter's Bottom where we stumbled across Sara who had just found another Radde's. This one wasn't anything like so obliging and I only saw it twice in flight and heard a couple of calls in over an hour although perhaps I should have persevered. Birds seen at Beachy (rides above Whitbread Hollow and Shooter's Bottom only) were SparrowhawkRaven, 2 Radde's WarblersStonechats and 15 Goldfinches. 

Radde's Warbler above Whitbread Hollow, Beachy Head

Sunday 23 October. Megan and I took Nessa and Cookie to Pulborough where we walked the woodland fungi trail. I saw 2 Redwings and 3 Nuthatches.

Monday 24 October. I seawatched from Widewater for an hour or so seeing 4 Brent Geese, a Red-breasted Merganser and 23 Gannets before meeting Megan and Cookie at Harbour Way. Walking to the Ferry Bridge and back by the Boardwalk and Fort I saw Common Snipe, 2 Turnstones, 7 Little Egrets and 20 Greenfinches.

Little Egret opposite Harbour Way

Tuesday 25 October. Between 09:25-12:15 Cookie and I walked the Beeding Hill triangle seeing 2 Ravens, 23 Skylarks, 2 Redwings, 26 Stonechats, 31 Meadow Pipits, 5 Linnets, 38 Goldfinches and 3 Yellowhammers.

Stonechat along the Monarch's Way
Stonechats at Truleigh Hill

Wednesday 26 October. Megan and I took Cookie to Lancing Ring and walked around Steepdown seeing Buzzard, Green Woodpecker, Jay, Skylark, Swallow, House Martin, 4 Meadow Pipits and a Corn Bunting. The hirundines were my first for a month, not having seen any on Shetland. The very low Corn Bunting count might have been due to almost complete scrub clearance on the eastern side of Steepdown.

Buzzard at Steepdown

Thursday 27 October. I was at Beachy from 07:30-13:00 visiting Shooter's Bottom (Ring Ouzel), the Cliff Path, Cow Gap, Whitbread Hollow (a Swallow and 2 Firecrests), the Hotel Garden, the Old Trapping Area (3 Goldcrests), Birling Gap, Michel Dene and Belle Tout Wood (3 Goldcrests). During that time I also saw 2 Sparrowhawks, 3 Peregrines, 2 Jays, 2 Ravens, 8 Stonechats, Rock Pipit, 4 Linnets and over 900 Goldfinches. I returned via Cuckmere Haven were 2 hours with the gull flock produced 2 Brent Geese, 76 Wigeon, 700+ Great Black-backed, 50+ Herring, 2 Caspian, 3 Yellow-legged and 50+ Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Chiffchaff, Stonechat and 50 Goldfinches.

Green Woodpecker at Beachy
Lesser Black-backed Gulls in the Cuckmere

adult Yellow-legged Gull in the Cuckmere
first-winter Caspian Gull in the Cuckmere

it quickly walked behind a Great Black-back,
and looked around before sitting down and going to sleep
15 minutes later an adult appeared by it

at the time, based on structure and mantle colour, I thought the right-hand bird most likely a 3w Caspian Gull but took my eye of it and it promptly disappeared
I 'found' it again that evening at the edge of a subsequent image which rather reinforced my initial feelings

Friday 28 October. I took Cookie up to Mill Hill where we saw Peregrine, 2 Ravens, Chiffchaff, Mistle Thrush, 2 Meadow Pipits and 13 Goldfinches. We continued to the Beeding Hill car park and walked down into Anchor Bottom where we saw 3 Ring Ouzels (and probably heard a fourth), Sparrowhawk, Red Kite, Raven and Stonechat.

Ring Ouzel in Anchor Bottom

Wednesday, 26 October 2022

UNST Autumn 2022: part 3 (13-19 October)

Two weeks down and we'd not left Unst but that was about to change ... 

Thursday 13 October 2022Dave had been offered 7 hours of survey work on Yell and didn't like to turn it down. I'd not birded on Yell since looking for a Pained Bunting in July 1978 and thought it would be interesting to compare it with North Unst. Dave told me of some nice areas in East Yell and would drop me off on his way through. We just had time to drive down to Norwick and walk along to Valyie before heading to the ferry. In half an hour at Valyie we saw the juvenile Whooper Swan, the ringed Chiffchaff, Blackcap, the blythi Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Bramblings and 10 Greenland and the Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll. We drove to Belmont and caught the 08:20 ferry to Yell (Great Skua, Red-throated Diver). Dave had to collect his survey maps in Cullivoe and dropped me off at the Black-winged Stilt on the way. It was distant and we were against the clock so no time to get closer before Dave returned and then we had to be off. An adult and 4 juvenile Whooper Swans were on Sand Water, most probably those we’d seen on a small pool by the road north of Uyeasound a week earlier. Dave dropped me at North Aywick on his way to Ulsta and I walked to the White Wife and back checking some nice looking gardens along the way. It was good for Shetland Wrens (I saw 7) but otherwise very quiet with 2 Blackcaps and 2 unidentified Redpolls (probably Lessers) in North Aywick, 3 Long-tailed Duck in Otters Wick and Great Northern Diver and Merlin in Ay Wick. Dave finished his survey, I met him on the road and we made it to the Unst ferry at Gutcher with 5 minutes to spare. Back on Unst we had time for a quick look at Easter Loch (15 Whooper and 8 Mute Swans, all adults, 20+ Tufted Duck and a Goldeneye).

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll at Valyie

note the clear white borders to the right tertials, unbroken white edges to the 4th visible left primary and dark heavily streaked upper-tail covers, the relevance of which will soon become apparent

Black-winged Stilt distantly at Cullivoe, Yell
Yell's White Wife, much too pious for me
Great Northern Diver in Ay Wick

Friday 14 October 2022. With strong SW winds forecast and the prospects on Unst not looking hopeful Dave decided to fit in one of his October surveys on North Mainland. This would give me a chance to look around Brae, where Nick had found a Red-eyed Vireo the previous autumn. We left again on the 08:20 ferry seeing a couple of small flocks of Redwings on the way down. About 20 Fieldfares and 300 Redwings flew south over Bluemell Sound as we were waiting for the ferry and from it. Also from the ferry 4 Great Skuas, Black Guillemot and for Dave a Glaucous Gull I was too slow to get onto. Crossing Yell we saw the adult and 4 juvenile Whooper Swans on Sand Water, 400+ more Redwings, some in fields but most flying south, and 2 Bramblings. The crossing to Mainland added a Razorbill and 7 Black Guillemots. Dave dropped me just south of Brae and returned to Sullom Voe for his survey. He’d offered to pick me up and relocate me nearer to Sullom at lunchtime but in the event I found enough to do in Brae, spending over two hours in the Community Woodland failing to see a Great Spotted Woodpecker. I heard it calling, four times from almost directly overhead in dense conifers, but only once caught it disappear out of the corner of my eye. I did see 5 Collared Doves, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, 95 Fieldfares, 150+ Redwings, Tree Pipit and some Redpolls (some only heard, 7 together in flight and 3 single birds perched briefly a Greenland, a Mealy and the other most likely a Lesser – how dodgy is that!). Dave picked me up and we returned to Unst seeing (and stopping for a decent view of) the 5 Whooper Swans on Sand Water, Red-throated Diver, 3 Black Guillemots and a few Redwings.

Tree Pipit in Brae community Woodland
disappointing it wasn't Olive-backed

Whooper Swans on Sand Water

Saturday 15 October. We walked down to Norwick Beach and Vaylie being out from 07:25-11:00. The wind was SE (at last) and started off light but soon picked up. There was evidence of the autumn’s first frost and it was quite cold. There were 2-3 Long-tailed Duck, 2 Guillemots and 4 Razorbills in the bay and the juvenile Whooper Swan was on the marsh. The weedy fields held more finches with at least 40 Bramblings, 50 Twite and 10 Greenland, 4 Mealy and the Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll commuting the 200m between Leawart and Valyie. A Hawfinch dropped into the pines (my view being awful) and a Chiffchaff, 2 Blackcaps, blythi Lesser Whitethroat (another poor view for me) and my first Robin this trip were also noted. After an early lunch we visited Skaw from 11:50-12:50 seeing the Glossy Ibis, a Guillemot and 2 Song Thrushes. The single-track Holsens Road was in the worst condition we’d seen it thanks to ongoing inadequate repairs to the damage caused by the constant use by commercial trucks delivering gravel/rocks for the Spaceport. By now the wind was gusting gale force and not ideal for the very exposed Brewery Marsh. We saw 2 Song Thrushes and 2 Bramblings. Burrafirth offered little more shelter and produced 2 Grey Herons, 15 Redwings and a Wheatear. We finished back at Valyie again where a Goldfinch and similar numbers of Bramblings, Twite and the three types of Redpolls were seen.

Greenland Redpoll at Leawart

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll in the field at Leawart

Greenland Redpoll at Valyie

Twite at Valyie

the juvenile Whooper Swan from Holsens Road

Mealy Redpoll at Valyie
Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll again on our return to Valyie
showing features mentioned against 13 October sighting

Sunday 16 October. What turned out to be a very good day didn’t start well with heavy rain around dawn delaying our departure. We left at 07:50 and walked down to Valyie. A Long-tailed Duck was in the bay and the juvenile Whooper Swan still on the marsh. The weedy fields at Lewart were virtually empty and Valyie held about 50 Bramblings and 40 Twite but no redpolls at all suggesting a significant clear out. No Hornemann's was disappointing but we had seen it twice the previous day. A Yellow-browed Warbler, our first for over a week, was a new arrival and we saw the ringed Chiffchaff, 4 Blackcaps, a Fieldfare, 40 Redwings and 2 Goldfinches by the beach. Back at Millfield at 11:00 where another Yellow-browed Warbler was in the garden. We were out again from 11:40-18:00 visiting Norrhdale (2 Blackcaps and 4 Goldfinches), Burrafirth (Black Guillemot, the blythi Lesser Whitethroat, 10 Redwings, 5 Twite and at the Shore Station allotment a Greenland and another Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll). Buoyed by our success at Burrafirth we visited Ungirsta pine plantation, with low expectations on my part as a Goldcrest was the best I'd previously seen there. We walked around three sides without seeing anything and I decided to try and work my way back through the plantation while Dave continued around the outside. I was about half way pushing myself through the plantation when I heard loud crossbill calls. Not being able to tell from which direction they were coming I assumed it was Dave playing recordings on spec, until he called Parrot Crossbill! I had disturbed a Parrot from almost directly above me without seeing it. It had flown and perched along the edge in view of Dave. By the time I emerged it and another had flown round the plantation calling and disappeared behind it. I walked back and looked from that side but was beginning to despair when the Parrot Crossbills came flying back, looking massive. They did another circuit and landed on some distant telephone wires before returning and diving back into the wood. A bit of judicious taping by Dave attracted one to the edge where it fed on pine cones directly above our heads. 450 photos later we headed to Haroldswick and finished the day walking our usual loop. That was better than usual too with an almost summer-plumaged Great Northern DiverBarred Warbler15 Redwings and 15 Bramblings. A brilliant day, the best of the trip, the only downside being the number of photos to sort out. Almost 1100 for me today, mostly of just two species!

Twite at Valyie

Yellow-browed Warbler at Millfield

Goldfinch at Norwick
Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll at Burrafirth
this individual showed a more clearly defined white band across the forehead, in the Valyie bird the black above the bill appeared more extensive and almost faded into the red

the white right tertial edges almost being broken, the small break to the white edge of the 4th left visible primary and whiter less streaked upper-tail coverts also differ from the Valyie bird

Hornemann's with Greenland Redpoll
Greenland Redpoll

Goldfinches at Burrafirth
blythi Lesser Whitethroat at Burrafirth

Barred Warbler at Haroldswick (photo: Dave Cooper)
Great Northern Diver at Haroldswick

Monday 17 October. My last day on Unst. We woke to a light SE wind and a fairly clear sky although rain and an increasing wind was forecast for later. We left Millfield at 07:45 to make the most of the decent weather and walked across the fields to Norwick. The juvenile Whooper Swan had moved to the burn with 3 Long-tailed Ducks, 2 Guillemots and a Razorbill in the bay. The weedy fields at Lewart and particularly Valyie were still attracting finches with at least 55 Bramblings, 50 Twite and 6 Greenland and a Mealy Redpoll. Also seen at Valyie were 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Blackcaps, a superb Red-breasted Flycatcher and a Tree Pipit with a Siberian Chiffchaff briefly in Norwick. We walked back to Millfield for an early lunch at 11:15, heading out at 12:15 before the weather closed in. We were partly successful regarding the weather visiting Skaw and almost making it back to the car ahead of the rain. Birdwise it was hardly worth it with 55 Golden Plover and 8 Redwings best. We drove to Northdale and looked from the car seeing 3 Blackcaps and a Redwing through misty binoculars. We returned via Haroldswick and were back at Millfield at 15:15. Thoughts I had of walking up to East Hill were soon dismissed as the weather showed no sign of relenting.

Whooper Swan still at Norwick

Red-breasted Flycatcher at Valyie

Tree Pipit at Valyie
Mealy Redpoll at Valyie

Long-tailed Duck at Norwick

Fulmar at Skaw

Tuesday 18 October. My last day on Shetland and an early departure from Unst. I said a sad goodbye to Brenda, who had been a brilliant hostess, and Dave who took me to Saxa Vord for the 07:45 connecting bus. There were two others on board, going to a hospital appointment in Lerwick. There were at least 20 swans on Easter Loch but from a moving bus I only managed to identify the closest 2 as Whooper Swans. A single swan on Lock of Snarravoe was almost certainly a Whooper too. I saw a Great Skua from the Belmont-Gutcher ferry and 5 swans on Sand Water on Yell, presumably the adult Whooper Swan with 4 youngsters seen there on 14th. Another Great Skua and 10 Black Guillemots were seen from the Ulsta-Toft ferry but little from the bus down to Lerwick where I was dropped at the Northlink terminal at about 10:30. I put my larger bag in Left Luggage and walking through the town to Clickmin Loch, gravitating to the roads off Westerloch Drive where I saw Chiffchaff, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Goldcrests and a Robin. I headed to Voe of Sound and walked around Sound Ness seeing my first Oystercatchers of the trip, 13 Black Guillemots, 5 Twite and on Pullars Lake 2 female type Long-tailed Duck. I bought some supplies in Tesco and continued around the coast past the Knab seeing a flock of 20 Knot feeding on rock pools with Turnstone. Continuing into Lerwick I added 2 male Long-tailed Duck and 4 more Black Guillemots. I retrieved my bag, boarded and sat on the upper deck as the light went.

Black Guillemot from the Ulsta-Toft ferry
Black Guillemot with food?

Toft-Ulsta ferry
Hooded Crow at Clickmin
Oystercatcher at Sound
Ness of Sound
Kirkabister Ness, Bressay
Brei Wick
Long-tailed Duck on Pullar's Lock, Lerwick

Lerwick from the south
Common Seals in Lerwick
Knot in Lerwick
Black Guillemot in Lerwick

mainly argentatus Herring Gulls in Lerwick

Wednesday 19 October. After a good nights sleep in the lounge we docked at 07:00. Despite the Northlink ferry terminal having a large left luggage room I was told it was only for departing passengers and I, as an arriving passenger, was not allowed to leave my bag there. No reason was given and my being told it might be possible to leave luggage at the Premier Inn if booked online wasn't helpful (back home, looking for future reference, I found the Premier Inn was 2km away and their website made no mention of such a facility). As my flight wasn't until 16:10 I took my bags out to Girdle Ness with a couple of lengthy rest stops on the way. Once there I seawatched for an hour or so before slowly walking back. I saw 10 Eider, 2 red-head Goosanders, 11 Ringed Plover, 42 Purple Sandpipers, a Guillemot, 3 Red-throated Divers, 40 Gannets, 75 Shags, 3 Rock Pipits and in the harbour entrance 6+ Bottle-nosed Dolphins. I walked back at Union Square I caught a bus to the airport. My flight was on time and I was home before 21:00. A day or two later I received an email from Northlink 'As a valued customer, we would really like you to tell us about your experience ...' . My reply was along the lines of 'not valued enough to let me leave my bag in your left luggage room'.

Aberdeen Harbour from Torry

Goosander in Aberdeen Harbour

Aberdeen from EasyJet