THE SEASONS move on and another month has begun, this one with the potential to introduce some exciting bird sightings.
For the moment though, migrants still arrive in the North Isles in just small numbers, the last week of August being no exception.
Warblers were represented by a barred at Burrafirth, Unst, on the 24th, reed and garden on Fetlar on the 30th and the long-staying chiffchaff at Skaw, Unst.
Several wheatears are still to be seen, probably migrants from further north as most of our resident ones will have now gone. A wryneck at Norwick on the 26th was a good find, while another was found at Burravoe, Yell, on 1st September.
Birds of prey consisted of a kestrel at Mid Yell on the 23rd, a peregrine at Westing, Unst, the following day and a common buzzard seen in flight between Norwick and Lambaness, Unst on the 31st.
A few waders moved through, with up to four ruff at Baltasound during the week. Two each of black-tailed and bar-tailed godwits were in south Yell on the 28th with three black-tailed in Whalsay on the 23rd when a common sandpiper was also on the isle. A greenshank overflew Skerries on the 27th. Offshore, four Manx shearwaters along with a sooty shearwater flew past Skaw Taing, Whalsay, on the 24th, with another Manx off Heoga Ness, Yell, the following day. Three more sooty shearwaters were also seen off Lambaness, Unst, on the 27th. Always exciting birds to see, sooty shearwaters belong to a family of amazing travellers. Breeding colonially on sub-Antarctic islands off southern South America, most notably the Falkland Islands, as well as off New Zealand and Tasmania during our winter, outside the breeding season they wander the oceans of both the southern and northern hemispheres, mostly occurring off our coasts during August and September.
Slightly larger than Manx shearwaters, with mostly sooty-brown plumage, this slender-bodied species has long, narrow wings sporting a variable amount of white on the under wing which comes over as a white flash during the characteristic strong and direct flap and glide flight. Manx shearwaters, on the other hand, breed in the northern hemisphere with even very small numbers in Shetland. They mostly spend the winter off the coast of Brazil.
A couple of common seals were hauled up closer inshore than usual at Haroldswick last weekend – were they nervous about the presence of a small pod of killer whales seen off Lambaness in midweek?
This was likely to be the same pod seen passing north through Bluemull Sound last Saturday, which appeared to consist of three probable females and a calf. Far less reported this year have been minke whales; two were also off Lambaness around midweek.