Monday, 7 November 2016

Unst, Shetland Islands Autumn 2016


All the photographs in this report were taken by myself and David Cooper with the exception of the Siberian Thrush which was taken by Richard Somers Cocks.

17th-18th September, 2016
After leaving Burgess Hill around 2.00 pm on the 17th and drove throughout the night having two longish breaks we finally arrived at Aberdeen during the morning of the 18th. We briefly visited the Cove area but much of this area appeared to have been cleared and several large factories had been built. We were due to leave on the ferry to Shetland at 5.00 pm and spent an hour on the nearby headland but with a strong SW wind just a few Sandwich Terns, plenty of Shags a few common waders and 1 dark phase Arctic Skua.

After checking on the ferry, we did a sea watch as we were leaving port while the light was still good. A family party of 8 Goosanders were present along the River Don. Good numbers of Kittiwakes and Guillemots were seen with 1 Red-throated Diver and both singles of Manx and Sooty Shearwaters were flushed off the sea as the ferry past, giving excellent close views. We also past a large party of Kittiwakes and Gannets feeding and an interesting sea-bird flew through the flock which I was unable to identify. In size it appeared slightly smaller and slimmer wings to the Kittiwakes. Overall colouration appeared medium brown and the flight was quite fast passing the Kittiwakes but was not a Shearwater or Pterdroma, and didn’t strike me as a Long-tailed Skua.

19th September, 2016

Ferry arrived at Lerwick at 07.30 am and after picking up some shopping we were soon heading north to pick up the ferry to Yell at around 09.00 just making it, and the last car on the ferry. It was the usual fast drive across Yell and just made the next ferry to Unst again were were the last car to board this ferry.
We drove straight to Millfield where David and Brenda met us at their new home. After a welcome cup of tea and unpacked the car we were ready to start birding, but before we left Paul French (chairman of the BBRC) came along and introduce himself as he was staying on Unst for 2 weeks.
After Paul left, we visited a few local sites meeting up briefly with Rob.
Recorded the following:
Bonxie 20+
White Wagtail 2
Reed Warbler 1
Yellow-browed Warbler 3
Willow Warbler 5
Blackcap 3
Barred Warbler 2
Little Bunting 1-2
Common Redstart 1
Wheatear (several Greenlands) 12
Spotted Flycatcher 1
Twite 12
Common Snipe 20
Meadow Pipits – large numbers
Wigeon 1
Teal 4
Plus the usual Hooded Crows etc.

Little Bunting on Haroldswick's beach

1stW Barred Warbler at Norwick

20th September, 2016

Another fine sunny morning and David and myself made an early morning visit to Skaw and we walked right over the headland after checking the usual migrant spots. Unfortunately, very little seen although David could hear 3 Lapland Bunting calling, and with the clear night an obvious clear-out of birds.
Chiffchaff 1, Wheatear 8, Sanderling 4, Dunlin 1, Bonxie 25+ and 18 Lapwings appeared to come in.

After breakfast, we visited Valyie. A female Merlin flew over, otherwise 1 Brambling, 1 Dunnock and 1 Chiffchaff, also several of the endemic Shetland Bees.
A nice flock of Golden Plovers were feeding close to the road and we scanned the flock but no sign of any Dotterels etc.

We then received a call from Paul French to inform us that he had just found a Blyth’s Reed Warbler at Uyesound, although it was very elusive and they had lost it. Even so we decided to give it a go. We managed to obtain some brief views. It was very elusive just giving several brief views. A very pale uniform looking reed warbler with pale grey under-parts, a plain looking face with a good white throat and whitish crescents above and below the eye, and pale brownish upper-parts at times showing pale olive wings. It never showed any rufous at all. Bill was very striking not to dis-similar to a Hippolais bill. The wings appeared very short giving quite along tailed appearance. At one time it flew right around me and was extremely uniform pale with almost milky tea upper-parts and showing no rufous tones at all. It seemed to dislike a Willow Warbler and chased it away from its area.
 The following were seen in this area. Blyth’s Reed Warbler 1, Yellow-browed Warbler 1, Willow Warbler 2, and 4 Whooper Swans. Also a further flock of c40 Lapwings flew over.

Golden Plover-Flock of around 40 seen

Whooper Swan-Four were present at Uyesound


Shetland Bee at Vaylie
Agricolae subspecies of the Moss Carder Bee (Bombus muscorum). 
This form can be found on the Outer Hebrides, Coll, Tiree and Shetland  
and tends to have a much darker brick red thorax than southern populations.

21st September, 2016

Another fine and sunny morning with quite a strong S wind. We first visited Skaw and birded around the farm compound. A Whinchat was our first for the trip, but otherwise just plenty of Meadow Pipits and 4 Wheatears, but no warblers.
We then drove slowly down Lamba Ness checking some pools and the nettle patch. As we approached the Otter pool a party of 6 Lapland Buntings came flying along calling. and also 6 Wheatears and up to 20 Skylarks. After walking around the Headland enjoying the hundreds of Gannets and the Bonxies chasing them, we headed back down the road and the Laplands came flying low over us calling with Meadow Pipits. Nice flight views of one as it flew around us calling almost continuously.

After breakfast, the weather had now become overcast with light drizzle. We drove to Setters Hill Pines and found 2 Yellow-browed Warblers but little else. We then visited Clingera  and found another Yellow-browed with 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Willow Warbler. A walk around Halligarth proved unproductive with just 10 Wigeon on the small loch.

After lunch, the weather had improved although the wind had become stronger making birding more difficult. We first birded around Millfield walking a few ditches and the local gardens and then drove to Valyie where we had a further 2 Yellow-browed Warblers, making a total of 5 for the day also1 Lesser Whitethroat our first for the trip and another Whinchat. On our way back we stopped off at Haroldswick beach where 2 Common Sandpipers were on the rocks.

Common Sandpiper on Haroldswick beach

22nd September, 2016

Early morning visit to Skaw in overcast conditions with light rain and calm conditions. Very quiet on the migrant front with a Peregrine which flew high over and was our first for the trip. On the drive to North Dale a single Whinchat was seen. At North Dale a superb Little Bunting showed very well around the pines, unfortunately because of the rain we had left the cameras in the car. Also a single Chiffchaff was seen.

After breakfast, it was still raining so we decided to visit nearby Valyie. Parked at Norwick Bay and a Yellow-browed was showing well on the fence by the road closed sign, also a fine White Wagtail. Walk along to Valyie and in the gully a second Yellow-browed was also showing and calling nicely in the bottom trees. As we were making our way up the gully we picked out a further 2 Yellow-browed arriving from high up and dropped down into the gully. David and myself ventured into the main clump and another Yellow-browed was calling. Three Blackcaps and our first Goldcrest of the trip. David also had a brief view of a Brambling and we had 3 Chaffinches on the walk back to the car and a Chiffchaff flew past us and 2 Whinchats were on the fence with the odd Wheatears. A brilliant experience seeing 2 Yellow-browed’s arrive from out of the sky and a total of 5 Yellow-broweds in this area.

During the afternoon, we first birded the ditch and other sites around Norwick. A Yellow-browed Warbler flew down the lane and was re-located in one of the gardens. A single Barred Warbler gave brief but close views in a garden also a Blackcap was seen. Frank stopped to let us know that a Short-eared Owl was sitting on a fence post at North Dale and we quickly drove there for a photographic shoot. After enjoying the Short-eared Owl for some 20 minutes and as it had stopped raining we decided to drive to Uyesound to see if the Blyths Reed Warbler was showing any better than on our previous visit. We soon located it and obtained some satisfactory views although it was still very elusive and skulking and proved extremely difficult to obtain some good pics. A Merlin briefly showed and there was also yet another Yellow-browed showing in the same clump of bushes and we had a second bird as we were leaving Uyseound, making a total of eight different Yellow-browed’s for today.

Gannets (just part of the flock) all circling over Norwick Bay

 Some of today’s Yellow-browed Warblers

Short-eared Owl at Norwick


Blyth’s Reed Warbler at Uyesound .
This bird was extremely skulking and we spent several hours trying to get some
decent views and decent photographs. The top four pictures were taken when
it was more in the open at the top of the bushes and the bottom seven were
taken more within the bush.

23rd September, 2016.

Sunny periods with heavy scattered showers and the wind had now gone to the W and calm at first but steadily got up. Our first visit was to Skaw where the highlight was a Little Bunting (our 4th for the trip so far), also singles of Whinchat, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat (our first for the trip), Chiffchaff. We then visited North Dale where our first Redwing, also Blackcap Willow Warbler, Brambling. On arriving back at Millfield, a Yellow-browed was showing in David’s roses, a garden tick for him.

After a late breakfast, we first visited Vaylie and quickly connect with the Common Rosefinch and a superb Red-breasted Flycatcher. Also 3 Yellow-browed Warblers, 3 Blackcaps, with singles of Willow Warbler, Whinchat, Kestrel and Goldcrest also 3 Chaffinches. We then walked the Post Office track and the pines without success. Other birds seen during the morning included 1 Shoveller, 45 Teal, 25 Twite, 30 Skylarks and 50 Rock Doves. The number of Bonxies were fewer than the previous

During the late afternoon we checked the School clump but no joy so we moved onto Clingera where we had 2 more Yellow-broweds also 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Willow Warbler  and a Blackcap. Stopped off at Haroldswick beach and had brief flight views of a Little Bunting. Arriving back at Millfield the Yellow-browed showed well around the garden.

Millfield-David's and Brenda's new home and where we stayed for 4 weeks.

Looking towards Lamba Ness from Millfield

Looking towards Norwick Bay from Millfield

Looking towards Valyie from Millfield

The lane leading up to North Dale

Views at North Dale

Doreen and Brenda at Vaylie looking up the Norwick valley

The Migrant Gully at Vaylie

The Little Bunting which we found at Skaw this morning.

Skylark at North Dale

Female Shoveler with what appears to be an enlarge bill  at Haroldswick

A showy 1stW Red-breasted Flycatcher catching Blue Bottle flies at Valyie


1stW male Common Rosefinch at Valyie.
Some red plumage tones of a male are showing on the neck and tail.

24th September, 2016
Rain during the night and had become very windy SW. The Yellow-browed was still showing in the garden at Millfield.
Yellow-browed Warbler in the garden at Millfield and next to the small sycamore
which we had brought up from our garden in Burgess Hill.

We first visited Skaw which was nicely sheltered from the wind but just the Common Whitethroat and Chiffchaff were seen. We then visited North Dale but quite windy here and just the usual Rock Doves, Skylarks etc.
Skaw farm leading down to Skaw beach-migrant trap

North Dale haystacks stage 1-old ways still practised on Unst.

After a late breakfast, the rain and wind had now worsened. We made our way to Clingera and in difficult windy conditions we saw 1-2 Yellow-browed Warblers and a Blackcap. Close by in a field were 30 Golden Plover and several Snipe of the Faroes race.

This afternoon, Rob phoned to inform us he had just found a showy Icterine Warbler in the Setters Hill pines so we quickly made our way there and it was showing very well on the sheltered side, but even so I found it difficult to keep the camera still in the strong wind, but an excellent looking bird.

We then visit the School clump but not a single migrant could be found here, so we moved onto Burrafirth and walked the ditch and the walled garden, but the only migrant seen was a Willow Warbler. On our drive back to Millfield, we stopped and birded the gardens at Norwick where a Willow Warbler and Blackcap were seen. On our arrival back at Millfield, the Yellow-browed was again seen.

Common Snipe probably of the large Faroes race.

 Icterine Warbler at Setterfield pines

25th September, 2016

The strong wind had dropped although still breezy from the S. Otherwise an overcast morning but still very mild. Our Yellow-browed was still showing in our garden at Millfield. Early morning visit to Skaw produced the usual Chiffchaff and also a Willow Warbler. We then tried Haroldswick area but again just 1 Willow Warbler also 1 Grey Heron with 20 Snipe and 40 Rock Doves.

After breakfast, we first visited Valyie with 4 Blackcaps, 3 Yellow-browed Warblers and then onto Halligarth but just 1 Chiffchaff. Next stop was the school clump where 2 Willow Warblers were seen and the Setters Estate pines where the Icterine Warbler was seen but much more flighty and poorer views than yesterday.

Late afternoon news broke of another Blyth’s Reed Warbler this time at Houlland. We quickly made our way there and after 15 minutes located it. Just like the Uyesound bird it was extremely skulking and elusive. I manage one clear view and David managed one picture. We also saw yet another Yellow-browed and 1 Blackcap.

Female Blackcap at Valyie

Blyth’s Reed Warbler in its banana posture at Houlland

Grey Heron at Haroldswick-just odd Herons seen during our stay.

26th September, 2016

Our usual early morning visit to Skaw but again not to many new birds seen which included 1 Whinchat, 1 Grey Wagtail (our first for the trip) and the usual moulting Chiffchaff. Onto North Dale where a Redwing, 40+ Skylarks, 47 Rock Doves and some fleeting views of what was probably the Blyth’s Reed Warbler. 2 Blackcaps were seen along the Holsens Road. The Yellow-browed was again in the roses at Millfield.

After breakfast we visited Haroldswick and went for a walk around the fields and gardens. Saw our first Fieldfare of the trip also a Redwing, Blackcap and Chiffchaff.
Then to the Setters Estate pines and David saw the Icterine again but little else. We then visited Clingara where 1 Yellow-browed, 2 Willow Warblers and 1 Chiffchaff were seen.

Setters Estates Pines

Rainbow taken from Setters Estate Pines

Redwing at Haroldswick


Fieldfare at Haroldswick

Wheatear at Haroldswick

Good numbers of Hooded Crows present.

Ringed Willow Warbler at Clingera

This afternoon we first covered the gardens around Norwick but only the odd Blackcaps seen. We then visited Vaylie where the Red-breasted Flycatcher was again seen although it was more flighty today. Also 2 Yellow-broweds up to 6 Blackcaps and 1 Tree Pipit (the first for the trip). We then visited the School Clump where a Yellow-browed was chasing a Chiffchaff also 1 Blackcap. We then met up with Robbie who had just seen a very confiding Little Bunting at Lund so we quickly made our way there and had some stunning close views also 2 Willow Warblers.

Looking across from Valyie to Norwick Bay

Tree Pipit at Valyie

Red-breasted Flycatcher still at Valyie

Twite at Valyie

Little Bunting at Lund

During the evening there was a superb showing of the Northern Lights. I took these
Pictures with my standard lens hand holding my camera on its usual settings.

Northern Lights looking from Millfield over to Lamba Ness.

27th September, 2016
An overcast cool morning with rain spreading in around 10.30 am. We decided to visit Skaw early morning and a pale Acro. Came flying along the brook and landed
in the vegetation in front of the car parking area. No further sign after some 20 minutes so we searched around the local area and had it again come flying past and dived into the same area. Luckily we manage to obtain some poor record shots and the back of the camera we were able to identify it as a Paddyfield Warbler. It proved to be extremely elusive during our stay but we quickly put the news out and a number of other observers including Rob and Paul French and with the onset of rain we left the other observers to it. Also saw 1 Common Whitethroat and 1 Yellow-browed Warbler.


Paddyfield Warbler at Skaw

After lunch the wind had now increased to gale force and a Brambling was feeding in our garden at Millfield. In Norwick Bay we saw a single Arctic Tern (our first for the trip). We decided to visit Halligarth and we stopped briefly at Haroldswick and watched an Otter in the bay.
Halligarth was very windy and we had a Lesser Whitethroat and a Wood Warbler which quickly disappeared before I could photograph it. After doing some shopping, news broke of a Raddes Warbler at Valyie. It showed well a couple of times and we also saw the Red-breasted Flycatcher and we could also hear calling what sounded like a Blyth’s Reed Warbler.

Brambling at Millfield

Otter at Haroldswick

Golden Plover at Haroldswick

Raddes Warbler taken in poor evening light at Valyie

28th September, 2016
Our usual early morning visit to Skaw produced a distant view of an Osprey, 25 Pink-feet flew over high S, 1 Yellow-browed, 1 Common Whitethroat, 1 Chiffchaff, and 1 Whinchat. Drove down Lamba Ness where 2 Lapland Buntings, 1 Pintail, 2 Knot and a short sea-watch produced 2 Puffins (first for the trip).
After breakfast we birded around Norwick and had 4 Blackcaps and also the Brambling which showed well in our garden. We then headed to Burrafirth where we had 10 Whooper Swans and some poor views of a Dusky Warbler. We then headed to Clingara but little of interest was seen and onto Setters Hill pines but again very little seen. We stopped at Halligarth and had 3 Yellow-browed Warblers, 1 Wood Warbler, several Blackcaps and the Icterine Warbler. We decided another visit to Burrafirth and obtain better views and some pics of the Dusky Warbler and 1 Whinchat and on our way home a Short-eared Owl was seen from the car.

A distant Osprey at Skaw being mobbed by a Raven

Pink-feet flying high S over Skaw

Knot on the end of Lamba Ness

Brambling at Millfield

Blackcaps at Norwick

Danish ring

Whooper Swans near Burrafirth

Icterine Warbler at Halligarth

 Yellow-browed Warblers at Halligarth

 Wood Warbler at Halligarth

Dusky Warbler at Burrafirth

29th September, 2016
 Wet and windy night and cleared for 3 hours giving us time to check out Skaw where we had 1 Little Bunting, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Common Whitethroat, 1 Blackcap and our first Song Thrush of the trip. We then picked up Doreen and Brenda and visited Valyie where we had up to 5 Yellow-browed Warblers, 6 Blackcaps, 1 Red-breasted Flycatcher and 1 Common Rosefinch. The wind suddenly picked up from the west and heavy drizzle started so back to Millfield for a late breakfast.
Heavy rain and gale force winds prevented us going out until mid-afternoon and we  mainly drove around the area checking for waders with the Golden Plover parties. We did visit Halligarth also Clingara and Setters Hill pines where 1 Yellow-browed, 1 Blackcap and 2 Song Thrushes were seen during this period.

Skaw beach-when the tide comes in.

Little Bunting in flight at Skaw




Little Bunting at Skaw

Chiffchaff with pale legs in moult at Skaw.

Common Rosefinch at Valyie

30th September, 2016
Another wet and windy night but soon improved becoming sunny but with a cold W wind. We first visited Skaw but very few birds seen other than a couple of Wheatears on the drive over. We decided to pay an early visit to Burrafirth but the walled garden was quiet and we then walked the burn with a surprise a female Tufted Duck (a Unst tick for us) and 1 Whinchat. So back for breakfast.
After breakfast we visited Valyie and had the Red-breasted Flycatcher, 1 Whinchat and 2 Blackcaps but no sign of any Yellow-browed Warblers. About 20 Twite were feeding in the crop field and on the walk back to the car a Osprey flew over heading towards Haroldswick.
After a short break we headed out again first called into Setters Hill pines where the Icterine was again showing very well also 1 Blackcap and 1 Goldcrest. We then went out to Baliasta area and visited Houlland and again saw the Blyth’s Reed Warbler which showed fairly well although always at a distance, also 1 Common Whitethroat, 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Blackcap. We then visited the ruined church and had an interesting Lesser Whitethroat. We then drove around the area. The school clump was unproductive and news then broke of a Hornemanns Arctic Redpoll briefly at Valyie. We checked out Valyie and saw a Common Rosefinch, flushed a Little Bunting and about 30 Twite but no sign of the Arctic Redpoll. While we were looking for the Redpoll we saw Paul French and his colleagues waving to us from Norwick. They had just found yet another pale acro. warbler which they had photographed. We quickly saw the warbler and managed some poor pictures, which proved to be a Paddyfield Warbler, although from its appearace it was a different bird to the one we found at Skaw.

Tufted Duck at Burrafirth

Whinchat at Valyie


Red-breasted Flycatcher at Valyie

 Osprey going over Norwick

Icterine Warbler back at Setters Hill pines.
Not often do you get the chance of photographing an Icterine in flight.

Blyth’s Reed Warbler at Houlland

Shetland Wren at Baliasta



Record shots taken in the early evening light of a Paddyfield Warbler at Norwick

1st October, 2016

Woke to a beautiful calm morning with a very light NE-SE breeze. A perfect morning for birding. We made our usual early morning visit to Skaw also the upper portion of Lamba Ness and the crofting fields around Valyie. Just a Chiffchaff at Skaw, Yellow-browed, Willow Warbler, Whinchat, 4 Blackcaps, Red-breasted Flycatcher and David had the Rosefinch. Also 20 Twite but still no sign of the Arctic Redpoll.
After breakfast we walked around the Norwick but very quiet,we then walked around the fields and gardens at Haroldswick and had some distant views of a Bluethroat, 4 Yellow-browed Warblers, 1 Willow Warbler 1 Blyth’s type Lesser Whitethroat and several Blackcaps. We then visited the school clump and a nearby garden and 2 more Yellow-broweds and 2 Goldcrests and then onto Clingara and yet a further Yellow-browed and 1 Chiffchaff.

After a short break we returned to Haroldswick and had some better views of the Bluethroat and we next visited North Dale but little seen so we moved onto Norwick Bay where the Osprey was sitting on the cliff towards Lamba Ness and a Long-tailed Duck was close in, David had an immature Glaucous Gull fly over whilst I was photographing the Long-tailed Duck also 4 Harbour Porpoises were in the bay. We walked down to Valyie and at least 3 more Yellow-broweds (making a total of 10 for the day) and 4 Blackcaps, also 40 Twite were now feeding in the fields.

Sunrise over Skaw

Millfield from Lamba Ness

Whinchat at Valyie

Blyth’s type Lesser Whitethroat at Haroldswick

1stW Bluethroat at Haroldswick

Juv. Long-tailed Duck Norwick Bay

Yellow-browed Warbler at Valyie ten were seen today.

Harbour Porpoise 1 of 4 seen in Norwick Bay

2nd October, 2016
A stunning sunny calm morning, with the first Autumnal frost. Our usual early morning visit to Skaw and Lamba Ness produced just the usual Chiffchaff, 1 Redwing and around 5 Wheatears. Small flock of 12 Twite on Lamba Ness but no Bonxies seen and Meadow Pipit numbers much reduced. A Blyth’s type Lesser Whitethroat briefly in our garden at Millfield.
After our late breakfast, we first visited Valyie and had 3 Yellow-browed Warblers, 1 Grey Wagtail, 4 Blackcaps and our first Robin of the trip. We then visited Burrafirth and walked the burn and also visited the walled garden. The highlight was finding a Little Bunting, also saw the Tufted Duck and 4 Goldfinches (first for the trip) The walled garden held 3 Siberian type Chiffchaffs also 1 Yellow-browed. We then drove to Houlland which produced another Yellow-browed as well as 2 Chiffchaffs, 3 Bramblings and 1 Blackcap and a flyby Merlin. We the moved onto the school clump which held 2 Goldcrests and a nearby garden held another Yellow-browed. At Clingera the ringed Willow Warbler was still present with 3 Blackcaps, 3 Yellow-browed. Returned to Millfield for a cuppa and received a text from Mike who had just found the Hornemanns Arctic Redpoll at Hamar, Baltasound. We quickly drove there and as we arrived the Redpoll flew off calling giving prolong flight views. In flight it looked like a real stunning bird.

View from Lamba Ness looking south

View from Lamba Ness towards Norwick

View looking towards Fetlar with the Out Skerries in the distance

The corner house at Norwick Bay

Showing the extensive white outer tails of Blyth’s

Blyth’s Lesser Whitethroat at Millfield

Doreen outside Millfield

Most people take their dogs for a walk on Unst they take their ponies

Couple of dressed up scar-crows at Norwick.
Now who do they remind me of??


Some of today’s Yellow browed Warblers at Valyie

Autumn Crocus at Valyie in exactly the same place where we saw the in 2007

David working the Valyie Gully

Doreen checking her tablet at Valyie

Little Bunting at Burrafirth

Siberian type Chiffcaffs (not heard to call) at Burrafirth walled garden
(Seven seen on Fair Isle today)

Goldcrest the the school clump

The ringed Willow Warbler still present at Clingera

Yet another Yellow-browed at Clingera

Early evening view at Baltasound

3rd October, 2016

Another fine calm morning, just wonder how long this Indian summer will last for. Early morning visit to Skaw was somewhat disappointing with just a Blackcap and the usual Chiffchaff. 2 Bonxies were also seen. We next visited Burrafirth burn and 1 Yellow-browed and sadly we found a dead Short-eared Owl which was caught up on the wire fence but otherwise very quiet.

This poor Short-eared Owl caught on the fence at Burrafirth

After breakfast we checked the Arctic Redpoll site at Hamar, Baltasound but sadly no sign of it. We then went to Halligarth and again had the Wood Warbler, also a party of  17 Redwings arrived whilst we were there, also 1 Blackcap, 2 Yellow-broweds, and 1 Goldcrest. At Setters Hill pines just a Goldcrest. Back to Norwick 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Yellow-browed.
During the afternoon, we walked the fields and gardens around Haroldswick and also walked the beach area. We saw 2 Bramlings with a party of Twite and 1 Willow Warbler. Then drove out to Burrafirth walled garden but no sign of any migrants and then back to Norwick but other than the odd Chiffchaff little was seen. The wind had become quite strong SE and a lot cooler.


Wood Warbler at Halligarth

Redwing at Halligarth

4th October, 2016
A bright morning with a strong SE but not as cold as yesterday, and as we were leaving Millfield a flock of 35 Barnacle Geese flew over calling. Usual early morning visits to Skaw and North Dale.  Some new arrivals at Skaw where a Goldcrest appeared to come in off the sea, 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Redwing, a Little Bunting flushed from behind the compound and seen briefly on top of a hut, and a Stonechat (first for the trip) showed well. Onto North Dale where the usual flock of Rock Doves, 1 Blackcap and the surprise was the Blyth’ Reed Warbler was still in situa in the bushes. Back at Millfield a further flock of 66 Barnacles came flying over moving S.
After breakfast we decided to visit Lund and Westing with c15 Redwings on the drive out and we walked the thistle patch at Lund but only a few Blackbirds seen. We then drove to Westing beach but no Otters seen but we did have a 1stW Curlew Sandpiper feeding with a few Ringed Plovers. On the drive back a second flock of 20 Redwings were seen.
During the afternoon a party of 32 Woodpigeons flew over Millfield, we then visited Setters Hill pines but little of interest, we moved on to Clingera and saw 2 Goldcrests, the ringed Willow Warbler, 2 Chiffchaffs one of which was a Siberian Chiffchaff but the highlight was a superb Hornemanns Arctic Redpoll which showed well for 5 minutes before departing.

Second stage of the Haystacks at North Dale

Barnacles going S over Millfield at dawn

Stonechat at Skaw

More Barnacles on the move S

Views on the drive out to Lund

The thistle patch at Lund.
After we had left Unst, David found an Siberian Accentor here

The beach at Lund

Sanderling and Ringed Plover on the beach

The beach at Westing

1stW Curlew Sandpiper at Westing

Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll at Clingara

5th October, 2016
Another fine sunny morning with a strong SE wind which made birding difficult in the bushes. Our usual early morning visit to Skaw, also North Dale and Valyie. Increase in the numbers of finches seen today and David had a Siskin and a dull looking Redpoll atValyie. Very little seen at Skaw, with just a single Blackcap. and North Dale although a number of Brambling flew out of the crop at North Dale, at Valyie I again saw the Red-breasted Flycatcher and 3 Goldcrests, whilst David had a Little Bunting, with the odd Redwings were seen on the drive.

After breakfast we first visited Setters Hill pines but just 1 Blackcap, and the odd Redwings. We then visited Houlland and once again had several views of the Blyth’s Reed Warbler along the burn and several more Redwings. Five Whooper Swans were on Loch of Cliff. Very little seen at Clingera apart for the ringed Willow Warbler although the wind was very blustery making birding now very difficult. As we past Haroldswick Bay an Arctic Tern was present.

Most of the afternoon was spent looking for a Great Snipe in the Norwick meadows. Unfortunately, no sign of this but we did see plenty of Common Snipe and 2 Jack Snipe (our first for the trip) also a male Merlin flew past. A quick visit near Halligarth produced a third Jack Snipe for the day and at the school clump another Redwing and our first Yellow-browed for the day was seen. We must hope that the wind decreases overnight.

Blyth’s Reed Warbler at Houlland

Jack Snipe at Norwick Meadows

6th October, 2016

A fine almost calm morning with just a light SE breeze. First visited Skaw a  Little Bunting showed well also 3 Blackcaps, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Redwing 5 Goldfinches and 2 Bramblings, onto North Dale where a Yellow-browed was showing well, but no sign of the Blyth’s Reed Warbler. 2 Goldcrests in our garden.

After breakfast we had superb views of a Bluethroat at Norwick. We then visited Burrafirth and walked the burn and the walled garden but the area was quiet. Then  we then went to Houlland Goldcrest2, Redwing 3, Blackcap 1 and Swallow 1, Song Thrush 1.

We then visited Uyeasound and saw Pintail 1, Scaup 1, Whooper Swan 10, of which 2 were displaying and calling giving a superb performance, something which I have never seen before, Chiffchaff 1, Blackcap 1 and Yellow-browed 1, 32 Tufted Duck. Late afternoon we called into Clingera and saw 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff, 3 Yellow-broweds, 4 Goldcrests and the Hornemanns Arctic Redpoll showed for about 3 minutes. News then broke of a 1stW male Siberian Thrush at Uyeasound, so we quickly drove back there and after some 20 minutes it suddenly flew out of the garden and past us at close range clearly showing its superb underwing. It landed down by the harbour and Doreen and Brenda had reasonable views of it on the ground but David and myself were in a different place. It then flew back to the garden but would only show occasionally. I saw it twice briefly out on the lawn, but no further views and the light went. Also saw 2 more Yellow-broweds.

 Views taken around Uyeasound

Redwing at Skaw.

1stW Bluethroat at Norwick

Whooper Swans displaying and calling at Uyeasound

Scaup with Tufted Ducks at Uyeasound

Female Pintail at Uyeasound

Female Blackcap at Uyeasound

First-winter male Siberian Thrush at Uyeasound (Richard Somers Cocks)

7th October, 2016

A beautiful calm sunny day with just a light NE breeze, couldn’t be better for birding. We decided to go to Uyeasound for dawn in case the Siberian Thrush was still present but no sign but a Olive-backed Pipit was found nearby and we quickly went and saw it before it disappeared. Also 2-3 Yellow-broweds and a Long-tailed Duck with 2 Black Guillemots. As we were leaving Millfield after breakfast, an Osprey was flying over Lamba Ness (a useful garden tick for David). At Norwick 7 Brambling and several Goldcrests and another interesting Lesser Whitethroat. A late visit to Skaw meeting up with Rob,  paid rich dividends with a dream find of a magnificent White’s Thrush which flew out behind one of the sheds in the compound and then was chased for a couple of miles by a Hooded Crow. We were jubilant, a mega find, but then it came flying back being chased by a Merlin. It dived back down behind the same shed and as we carefully approached this area and David found it hunched up in the corner behind the shed. After several minutes it then flew around the compound giving excellent views and was present for the rest of the day. Also seen were 1 Robin, 3 Blackcaps and 1 Chiffchaff.

 We then walked the burn at Burrafirth a party of 6 Mealy Redpolls showed very well, and in the walled garden a pale looking Willow Warbler and 1 Chiffchaff. Also we had some closeviews of an Otter as we approached the walled garden. We then went to Haroldswick and walked around the fields and gardens, several more Goldcrests, and Redwings also 1 tristis type Chiffchaff and 2 Blackcaps. The pines at Setters Estate just held 2 Goldcrests, 1 Blackcap and 1 Chiffchaff with the nearby clump held Blackcap. Just a quick visit to Huolland produced 5 Whooper Swans. Our final visit of the day was to Saxa Vord headland where 1 Mealy Redpoll was seen and some superb scenery views.

Looking towards Saxa Vord headland

Burrafirth Cove

Looking towards Hermaness Visitors Centre (left) and Saxa Vord Headland (right)

Burrafirth burn looking south. 

Distant view of the most northern lighthouse in theUK-Muckle Flugga

Muckle Flugga lighthouse

Olive-backed Pipit at Uyeasound

Long-tailed Duck at Baltasound.

Brambling at Norwick

Lesser Whitethroat at Norwick


White’s Thrush in flight over the Skaw

The Merlin chasing after the White's Thrush

Trying to skulk through the grass

Quite well camouflaged against the bank 

White’s Thrush at the Skaw

Most of these birders came over to twitch the Siberian Thrush which had gone
but ended up seeing our White's Thrush.


Mealy Redpolls at Burrafirth

 8th October, 2016

Another beautiful sunny warm calm morning with virtually no breeze. Back to our usual early morning visit to Skaw and North Dale. No sign of yesterday’s White’s Thrush. We saw 2 Robins, 1 Song Thrush, 3 Chiffchaffs, one of which was a Siberian tristis type. Also 2 Bramblings, and a Merlin. Very little seen at North Dale, other than 4 Goldcrests.
After breakfast we visited Valyie and on the way a Bluethroat showed briefly. Fair numbers of migrants seen at Valyie including 3-4 Yellow-broweds, 8+ Blackcaps, 50 Bramblings,  4 Goldcrests 8 Redwings, 1 Robin and 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Kestrel and the highlight being a Red-backed Shrike. The Osprey again flew over Lamba Ness.

During the afternoon we first visited Houlland area where we saw a Yellow-browed on the road-side, 4 Whooper Swans 40 Redwings, 2 Goldcrests 10 Blackcaps and 2 Siberian Chiffchaffs. We stopped off at the school clump where 7 Mealy Redpolls including a fine pinkish male and 2 Goldcrests and 1 Blackcap. Clingera held 3 Yellow-broweds, 1 Robin and the odd Redwing. During the early evening we walked the fields and pines at Valyie as these have just had the potatoes dugout today and we had 3 Little Buntings together, 50 Brambling still and we flushed a Woodcock from the pines.

Happy Memories in 2013 we saw the Cape May Warbler first here around the

Houlland croft-home to one of the long-staying Blyth's Reed Warbler

Song Thrush at Skaw but what race??

Merlin at Skaw

An interesting looking Yellow-browed Warbler at Valyie with a very indistinct
upper wing-bar. Could this be a Hume's, unfortunately, not heard to call and quickly
moved on.

 Red-backed Shrike at Valyie

Siberian Chiffchaff at Houlland

Mealy Redpolls at the school clump

9th October, 2016

Another beautiful calm sunny morning with just a little frost at dawn. We visited Skaw and on the way we had a party of 10 Redwings on the road, but little new at Skaw with 1 Song Thrush, 1 Brambling, 1 Robin and 1 Chiffchaff. We then visited the newly dug field at Newark and the Red-backed Shrike was showing well with 40 Bramblings and 4 Little Buntings. A Reed Bunting (first for the trip) flew over calling.
After breakfast we walked the Burrafirth burn with 1 Mealy Redpoll, and then onto the walled garden where 2 normal Chiffchaffs and 1 Blackcap were present. We then walked around the fields and gardens at Haroldswick where 2 Yellow-broweds, several Redwings with the odd Blackcaps and 1 Siberian Chiffchaff and a Water Rail heard calling at the marsh.

During the afternoon we visited Lund but just the odd migrants seen including 2 Chiffchaffs and 3 Blackcaps and a nice view of a Merlin chasing pipits. We next stopped off at a couple of quarries but just 1 Yellow-browed seen by David. Our final visit was to Lamba Ness but again no joy with any migrants, but a lovely sun-set

Haroldswick Beach (site of our Small Canada Goose last year)

Doreen overlooking Lund beach

Red-backed Shrike in early morning sun at Norwick.

Twite at Haroldswick

Brilliant sun-set over Lamba Ness.

10th October, 2016

With news breaking late yesterday afternoon of a Siberian Accentor the first record for the UK on Mainland Shetland, we booked ourselves onto the first ferry off Unst at 6.30 am and with a second ferry from Yell to the Mainland and then an hours drive south to the quarry near Boddam, we arrived on site at 8.30 am and the Siberian Accentor was immediately on view. Superb and we spent the next 2 hours watching and photographing this stunning vagrant. It was very active moving around the quarry and not really taking any notice of all the birders.We then went and got ourselves a hot drink and nearby a Buff-breasted Sandpiper and a Ruff were showing in a nearby grassy field, but to far away to photograph.
As the sun was now out and it was now a lovely calm sunny morning, we returned back to the quarry although the Siberian Accentor had flown to a nearby second quarry where after a short wait it re-appeared and we enjoyed further extensive views this time with the sun on our backs, making the yellow throat even more striking. It seemed to become a little unsettled and flew off back to its original quarry. After further watching we felt it was time to leave and after an enjoyable fish dinner and a  tour around western Yell with views of Out Skerries we arrived back at Unst at around 6.00 p.m. and on the journey home an Otter swimming close in at Haroldswick and then came up onto the beach was a fine ending to an exciting day.


Siberian Accentor-most of the above pictures were taken in the morning in
cloudy conditions and partly in the shade.
The following pictures were taken during the afternoon when the sun was fully out
and with little shade in the quarry. This shows the difference in the plumage when
the sun is out.


 Siberian Accentor at Mossy Hill Quarry, Mainland, Shetland.
The first record ever for the UK and a lifer for myself.

The views behind us were also superb, looking towards Geosetter

View of Foula in the distance

11th October, 2016

Yet another beautiful clear sunny morning with virtually no breeze and quite a heavy early morning frost. Pre breakfast vist to Skaw which was quiet with just singles of Goldcrest, Blackcap and Chiffchaff, 3 Bramblings and several Redstarts. Onto Valyie and checked both fields with 2 nice Little Buntings showing well, both the Red-backed Shrike and Red-breasted Flycatcher were seen, 30 Bramblings 6 Redwings, 2 Blackcaps, 2 Chiffchaffs. We also had 2 Woodcocks and 1 Hedge Accentor (after yesterday’s mega).
After breakfast, we covered Burrafirth and the walled garden but little seen of note and we  then walked the Haroldswick loop and saw 2 Yellow-broweds, 2 Chiffchaffs, 6 Redwings, 1 Goldcrest. A Red-throated Diver was in Norwick bay. In the afternoon we drove to Uyeasound and walked several stubble fields but strangely very little seen, we then went to the causeway lochs and had 7 Whooper Swans the usual 25 Tufted Ducks and 8 Goldeneye (our first for the trip). Returning we first stopped off at the school clump where an adult Bluethroat (with a blue throat) was seen briefly, also 1 Yellow-browed and 6 Mealy Redpolls. We then looked at the bushes behing the post office where 1 Siberian Chiffchaff and 1 ordinary Chiffchaff and 2 Blackcaps were seen. Our final stop-off for today was at Clingera where 1 Yellow-browed was seen.
Hooded Crow at Norwick-very common on Unst

Goldeneyes at Uyeasound

Siberian Chiffchaff at Haroldswick
Surprising that the last picture shows a good black eye-stripe whereas the
first three pictures only show an indistinct eye-stripe, according to what
angle it is holding its head.

12th October, 2016

An overcast morning, and was still mild and very calm. Our usual early morning visit to Skaw but generally very quiet with 1 Fieldfare 6 Redwings the usual Chiffchaff and we flushed a Jack Snipe. Onto Valyie where we had 1-2 Red-backed Shrikes, 4 Fieldfares, 10 Redwings, 1 Little Bunting, 3 Blackcaps, 3 Chiffchaffs, 30 Bramblings  2 Goldcrests 1 Robin and 2 Siskins.

After breakfast we visited the Setters Hill pines and found a new Red-breasted Flycatcher also 1 Blackcap, 1 Robin 2 Goldcrests and 2 Chiffchaffs. We then moved onto the school clump and had 1 Waxwing and then onto the Health Centre Garden where we saw an Arctic Warbler and a Yellow-browed. The Arctic Warbler was quite elusive but we managed some photographs. It had quite a yellow face and throat.

In the afternoon, we first visited Houlland and walked the burn but just the odd Chiffchaff and Blackcap with a few Redwings, 4 Fieldfares and 4 Whooper Swans. As the light had now improved with long sunny periods we decided to have further views of the Arctic Warbler in the Health Clinic garden. It showed very well in the sunshine and was often seen fly-catching. A final visit to the school clump produced 2 Goldcrests, 10 Bramblings and a Wood Sandpiper flew in calling to the pool.

A shy Red-breasted Flycatcher which we found today at Setters Hill pines

Road leading towards Baltasound Bay

Waxwing at the school.

Yellow-browed in the Health Centre’s garden.
During the time we have been on Unst, we must have seen around 200
Yellow-browed Warblers.

Health Centre's garden home for the day for the Arctic Warbler.


Arctic Warbler in the Health Centre garden.
A number of the above pictures were taken in the morning when it was cloudy and
it kept low down and was skulking, we went back in the afternoon when the sun
had come out and it often went high in the trees and flycatch. In the sunny light it
appeared browner and yellower.

13th October, 2016

Overcast cool morning with a SE 3-4 breeze. We visited Skaw but just several Redwings, 1 Fieldfare, 3 Chiffchaffs. We then drove down Lamba Ness and walked around the headland. A small flock of Twite and 1 Waxwing feeding on thrift seeds.
Two Bonxies, most have now gone and no Meadow Pipits, a couple of weeks ago probably 1,000 were on the island.

After breakfast we visited North Dale but just the odd Redwing seen, we then went onto Burrafirth and had 18 Fieldfares going south, a Slavonian Grebe on the Loch of Cliff and found a Little Bunting along the burn. No sign of any migrants in the walled garden. We then walked the Haroldswick loop but other than Redwings 1 Blackcap and 2 Wheatears little else seen. On the way home we had a Yellow-browed at Skeggie.

This afternoon we first visited Uyeasound and looked at the eastern loch. About 10 Whooper Swans with c40 Tufted Duck 3 Scaup including 1 drake, c20 Goldeneye and 1 duck Common Scoter (first for the trip). All the duck seemed very uneasy and flew off several times only to return. We then stopped off at Lund, good numbers of Redwings are now on the island with also a number of Fieldfares. Lund was quiet with just 1 Blackcap plus Redwings and Blackbirds. Next stop was Setters Hill pines, no sign of yesterday Red-breasted Flycatcher and just 1 Robin seen. Our final stop of the day was the school clump where we flushed a Jack Snipe from the edge of the pool It seems like the weather is now on the change as it is noticeably colder this afternoon.


Slavonian Grebe on the Loch of Cliffe

Little Bunting at Burrafirth.
Its been an exceptional Autumn for Little Buntings and we have probably seen
up to 15 Little Buntings during our stay on Unst including four feeding together.

Female Common Scoter with Goldeneyes at Uyesound

Record shot of the drake Scaup at Uyeasound loch

Two Scaup in flight at Uyeasound loch

14th October, 2016

Our final full day as we leave tomorrow on the 9.30 ferry with a day on mainland, and what a month it has been for birding and the weather. Overcast this early morning with a E-SE breeze and a short period of light drizzle which soon cleared. On the drive we had reasonable numbers of Redwings and Fieldfares. We first drove Lamba Ness to the end but just a few Golden Plovers. The drizzle had now stopped so onto Skaw. Few more thrushes at Skaw otherwise I flushed a Woodcock and the Osprey flew over also 1 Brambling and 1 Blackcap.

After breakfast, we first visited Setters Hill pines and saw a late Willow Warbler, 2 Chiffchaffs, 1 Blackcap and 2 Goldcrests. Onto Clingera but very quiet with just a Robin and then onto School clump with nice views of the Wood Sandpiper also 2 Goldcrests,1 Blackcap and 1 Chiffchaff. Also nearby a recent report of a Hawfinch but no sign when we stopped off. During lunch we had a Long-tailed Duck fly into Norwick harbour and seen from Millfield.

In the afternoon we again visited Skaw and many Redwings and Fieldfares were present in the fields and some flying over. The long staying Chiffchaff was also seen and Doreen and Brenda went beach combing. We again drove down Lamba Ness but strangely virtually no thrushes seen there and we finished off at Norwick and Valyie where 2 Little Buntings, 40 Bramblings 2 Goldcrest, 2 Chiffchaffs, 3 Blackcaps, and both the Red-breasted Flycatcher and Red-backed Shrikes gave good views which was a nice end to our 4 week trip. Fingers crossed for Mainland Shetland tomorrow before we catch the overnight ferry to Aberdeen.
Just to say a big thank you to David and Brenda for a superb 4 weeks.


Wood Sandpiper on the school clump pool.

The road leading down to Skaw farm and beach

Doreen and Brenda beach combing on Skaw beach

Male Brambling at Valyie

Doreen, David and Brenda at Valyie on our final visit.

Red-breasted Flycatcher still showing well at Valyie

Red-backed Shrike was also still at Norwick

Cloud formation over Millfield

15th October, 2016

Time to leave Millfield and we all drove out to Baltasound to have a quick look for a Hawfinch, but no sign of it this morning. It was now time for Doreen and myself to go for the 9.30 ferry and sadly we said our goodbyes to both Brenda and David.

Packed and we are already to go. Had a fantastic time and must be one of the
best Autumn's ever on Unst for birds and weather.

 We arrived onto Yell and then had the usual drive across Yell seeing some Whooper Swans and we connected with the second ferry to Mainland. News of a Pied Wheatear on the beach near Sumburgh airport so we had an hours drive and arrived and quickly parked the car. Met up with David Britton who quickly pointed me in the right direction and I headed off along the beach. Had only gone a couple of minutes when I picked out two close Great-northern Divers, one of which was still in almost full summer plumage, so I spent sometime photographing these. Carried on along the beach for about 200 yards, and I then picked out the Pied Wheatear which was showing very well in good light. Whilst I was photographing this firstly a party of 6 White-fronted Geese flew over heading south and then a large flock of Barnacles approx 250 flew past Sumburgh Head. Time was now pressing so I returned to Doreen and the car in the hope of going to see the Black-faced Bunting on Bressay but unfortunately we just missed the ferry and next one was an hour later and the weather had now become very windy with rain so we had leave to catch the main ferry back to Aberdeen and the long drive home tomorrow, but even so a good ending to a wonderful month’s birding on Unst.


Two Great-northern Divers in the bay at Scatness


Female Pied Wheatear on the beach near Scatness

Party of 6 White-fronted Gesses flew south over Scatness beach.


Part of a large flock of Barnacle Geese flying near Sumburgh.