Friday, 17 November 2017


You cannot get better than the recent 1st in Shetland a Pied Billed Grebe, this was followed a few days later by a superb Aurora then the day after a couple of Humpback whales in nearby Levenwick bay

This mother and calf had been seen on the previous afternoon and early in the morning reports came in that they had come back into the bay, just 10 mins away.

Arriving in the layby overlooking the bay just two cars parked with telephoto lenses stuck out. A few mins later more cars pulled in to view the Whales which now moved towards us from the Clumliewick side.

They started coming closer to the shore but were disturbed by a fishing boat which seem to cut off their movement, perhaps they were unaware on the boat. The boat moved down the bay while the whales moved the other way.

Still giving good views they stayed in the bay for around 2 hours before moving off south and we were unable to relocate them in a strengthening wind.

This was a whale species I have always wanted to see and with several sighting last year in the north isles it was only a matter of time until we caught up with them.

Humpbacks usually travel singly or in a small family group, like these two. They feed on shoaling fish such as Sandeel , Herring or mackerel as well as Krill or plankton

Sightings in British waters  have increased since the early 1980's although still rarely seen. There seem to be three main areas for sightings including Shetland, south - eastern Scotland and between southern Ireland and south Wales

Humpback Whales have been seen on a regular basis in Shetland since the 1990's 

These two Whales then moved up the coast to Gulberwick where they stayed for three days. I managed brief views of the whales between bouts of heavy rain.

                                                                   Later both were seen up in Yell

Its been a good 3 years since we moved to Shetland and have had views of Humpback, Killer, Minke, Pilot whales, White stripped, Common, Risso and possibly White sided Dolphin as well as many Neesicks(Porpoise).

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Pied Billed Grebe

I was on my way back from West Voe, having just photographed a small flock of Long Tailed Duck, when the news came in that a Pied Billed Grebe had just been found on Spiggie loch a few miles up the road

Before I made it back to the car news also came in the a drake King Eider had been found at Quarff  about 20 miles north, a bird I have been waiting to see for some years, the last male was at Tresta back in the 1990's

We headed up to Spiggie for the grebe, this was a first for Shetland but I was a bit apprehensive about getting any photos as Spiggie is very big with often distant views of birds.

Arriving at Setter, a small marshy area at the south end of Spiggie we just managed to park in the last space as another couple of cars pulled up. The majority of birders were locals with only the odd couple of visitors.

Roger Riddington had found the bird, he certainly has a knack for finding rare birds.

We found the Pied Billed Grebe close into the bank just south of the marsh, this was lucky it could have moved to a more distant part. Although the view was from the road it was still some distance away but even through binoculars it was evident that it wasn't the Little grebe that had been seen in the same area over the past few days.

This rare North American bird was a nice find as things had gone a bit quiet with lots of birds departing. This grebe has a large head with a deep sharp bill, yellow now but in the breeding season this would be white with  a thick black band about half way down.

It caught four fish while we watched it move south before suddenly turning back and heading north. At this stage it was like it had an outboard motor attached moving very fast and moving more towards the centre of the loch.

The grebe is still present in the same area a week later.

At this stage it started to rain so everybody left, I checked about the King Eider but this had been scared off by a motor boat and had flown west.

The following day, both birds were present, the King Eider again for only a short time as the person on the motor boat seemed to deliberately disturb the bird. The grebe although viewable was distant but in the same area

Just to show winter is on us, both Iceland and Glaucous gulls were present at the north end of Spiggie along with around 40 Whooper swan

Jut received the Shetland Bird Report and it was good to find that several of my photos have been used. This is an excellent report and well worth buying.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Black Redstart

It was nice to find a Black Redstart just down the road at Sandwick.  This male was probably the best marked individual I have seen

I didn't manage to see it on the first visit but I saw it within 5 mins on the second visit inside the cemetery

It jumped on the wall and down into the carpark but by the time I had moved round it had gone

I moved the car round and sat a while in the carpark and it didn't take long before it was seen on the wall, this time for a bit longer. It then moved onto the ground and quickly moved over it to longer vegetation before getting chased off by a migrant Robin.

As most birds do a circuit I found it to the west hopping around on some piles of earth , then back into the cemetery

I quickly re located the bird working its way down a fence line, flying up onto the wire fence every now and again. It seem to find plenty of food on the ground.

It was certainly a good looking male, its mostly female/ juv birds that I have seen in Shetland. Although a male turned Black redstart did turn up to the north side of Sandwick a year or so ago

Black Redstarts tend to be late migrants to Shetland and birds sometimes stop into the long winter months. This one stopped 6 days and I saw it on its last day. The first few days of its stay it was also joined by a second bird

Other Black Redstarts turned up in Lerwick, Hoswick, Sumburgh & Boddam as well as several birds in the north isles. The same day I also saw the Siberian Stonechat down at Swinister but it was very mobile so no photos

The fields  in Sandwick are full of Greylag geese and feeding with these are Golden Plover (350) along with numerous Redwing, Fieldfare and Blackbird.

Other waders in these flocks include Turnstone, Redshank, Curlew, Snipe and Lapwing. A couple of days later, again in the Sandwick area I missed out on the Dusky Warbler at Hoswick, also Blue tit here which is just as rare.