As migrating season ends, it is over to ghost moths

A HANDFUL of migrant birds, both large and small, were still around last week.

A white stork was seen in West Yell on the 16th, while a sparrowhawk, female marsh harrier and short-eared owl were all in Unst last weekend.

Three warblers were seen in Unst on the 22nd – marsh, willow and chiffchaff. Two swifts passed over
Baltasound midweek when a few crossbills were seen in both Unst and Yell.

Well done to the visitors who took the  trouble to report two gannets tied up in the same bit of fishing net on Burrafirth beach in Unst, on the Tuesday.

Then last Sunday a repeat performance when more visitors reported two more gannets in more green fishing net, this time just below the Shore Station at Burrafirth. Thanks to them all, four birds were able to be released and a large piece of fishing net removed from the beach. But another gannet, seen earlier in Burrafirth, this time wound up in orange net, was unfortunately not so lucky.

Plenty of flowers were coming out last week. The first yellow flag irises were out at Ulsta, Yell, on the 18th, with lots more by the weekend. The foliage of yellow flag is such an obvious feature of the landscape for several weeks before, that I always think when the flowers do eventually open, they are somewhat hidden by their own greenery.

One of my favourite flowers is marsh cinquefoil, which is now well in flower in damp areas, although after last week’s heavy rain, several of them looked really battered. The deep claret petals have a wonderful velvety quality.

Another plant now in flower is ragged robin, getting its name from the deep indentations in its pink petals. This is a plant that is apparently declining over much of its British range, but seems to be doing well in the north isles.

And finally, hay or yellow rattle, of which there are at least four subspecies in Shetland, is now opening its yellow petals. This plant is semi-parasitic on grasses and gets its name and other nicknames such as rattlebaskets from the fact that when ripe, the seeds rattle inside brown purse-like structures.

Last Sunday marked the start of National Whale and Dolphin Watching Week, organised by the Sea Watch Foundation, so it was appropriate that at least one and probably two harbour porpoises were in the Burra Firth last weekend.

Moths have been pretty scarce and the weather has not been very appropriate for trapping. But last Saturday night the first ghost moth of the year was in the Burrafirth trap, the yellowish forewing suggesting it was probably a female. And several silver Y moths have been seen flying during daylight hours.

Wendy Dickson


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