20th April 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Changing season draws in birds of all shapes and sizes

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BARELY was the ink dry on last week’s North Isles Wildernews when the wind went due east and brought with it Unst’s third paddyfield warbler, found along the Burrafirth Burn on the 9th by Rory Tallack.

This sprightly little waif, remaining until the 11th, delighted its small band of admirers as it fed through the bracken, occasionally landing on the fence for definitive views. And not content with that, a common rosefinch also briefly popped up onto the fence as part of a trio, the third being a willow warbler. Meanwhile, yellow-breasted bun­t­­­­­ings were seen at Aith, Fetlar, on the 12th and Brough, Whalsay, on the 13th and 14th. Single ortolan buntings were at Uyeasound on the 10th and Tresta, Fetlar, on the 13th and 14th, while Whalsay hosted a short-toed lark at Skaw, also on the 14th.

An icterine warbler passed through Baltasound on the 11th, a bluethroat visited Whalsay on the 11th with a red-breasted flycatcher there on the 13th and 15th; Skerries had a black redstart on the 13th.

Common rosefinches used to turn heads when seen but are no longer considered rarities; a few were seen across the isles. But those were the cream of a week which, although high in numbers of migrants passing through the North Isles, perhaps promised more than it delivered in terms of rarity. The bulk of the migrants were dominated by willow warblers and redstarts with quite a few whinchats. Numerous other warbler species were noted, while dunnocks, robins, and tree pipits also passed through in small numbers.

Thrushes were represented by several song thrushes along with redwing and fieldfare, while a scattering of chaffinches and both pied and spotted flycatchers were noted.

A turtle dove stood out from the crowd in north Unst on the 10th, while it is always pleasing to hear of yellow wagtails being seen – a much beleaguered bird on its breeding grounds these days.

One or two red-backed shrikes added interest and a few wrynecks are still being seen, while a great spotted woodpecker was in Whalsay last Sunday.

Moving up the size scale, five brent geese in Whalsay last Sunday were a reminder of the changing seasons.

The most unusual wading bird has to be the corncrake at Vatshoull, Whalsay, last Saturday, unfortunately now a very rare bird in Shetland.

In addition, both bar and black-tailed godwits were noted along with a few whimbrel, ruff, single greenshank and common sand­piper, with a curlew sandpiper at Westing, Unst, last weekend.

In among a scattering of sparrow­hawk, peregrine, merlin and several kestrels, an osprey was found at Ulsta, Yell, last Sunday. All in all quite a busy week.

Wendy Dickson