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11th March 2019

 Mute Swans

A pair of Mute Swans turned up in the North Voe in the late afternoon today. Still a very scarce visitor to the isle and nowhere near annual.

3rd March 2019


The White fronted Goose still at Challister after two months being photobombed by a Starling.

Pink footed Geese at Challister

Little bird news at the moment. An early Chiffchaff has been at Skibberhoull since 1/3 and the European White fronted Goose and three Pink footed Geese are still at Challister.

25th February 2019


Male on fences around the red grind quarry

Female at Skaw

Frog at Isbister

Got a call from Brian in the early afternoon to say a male Stonechat was on fences just east of the red grind quarry and while I was taking a few pictures he called again having found a female at Skaw. Neither bird allowed a close approach so all photos are a bit dodgy. A Puffin close inshore below the trap area at Skaw was most unexpected and definitely the first time I have seen one in February.

19th February 2019

A Tengmalm`s Owl on mainland Shetland

A Tengmalm`s Owl turned up in a garden at Tumblin, Bixter this morning so went with Brian on the 11:15 ferry and had amazing views at quite close range. This is a first Shetland record since one at Unst in 1912!

11th February 2019

Colour ringed Snow Bunting

A flock of at least twenty one Snow Buntings were near the North loch of Skaw today with a colour ringed individual amongst them. A photo went on facebook and I got a prompt reply from ringers Helen and David Aiton who had caught it on the 25th of March 2018 on the North end of West mainland Orkney. A female of at least 2.5 years old. A Jack Snipe was in the same area with the long staying European White fronted Goose and three Pink footed Geese still at Challister.

17th January 2019

European White fronted Goose

Oddly patterned Mallard drake at Skaw. Domestic escape?

Caught up with one or two scarcities since coming home. Three Pink footed Geese are commuting between Lea and Challister since 6/1, the above European White Fronted Goose is also still in the Challister area since 7/1, a Snow Bunting was at Hamister 9/1, single adult Iceland Gulls were at Skaw and Symbister on 9/1 and 10/1,eventually saw an overwintering Water Rail in Brians garden at Marrister 9/1 and a first winter Glaucous Gull flew north through Skaw Taing 11/1.

23rd December 2018 - 5th January 2019

Saas Fee Switzerland - a festive holiday

Bearded Vulture


Alpine Chough, loads around our hotel.

Just back from a splendid skiing holiday to Saas Fee Switzerland and although my dodgy left knee hampered my efforts at least I avoided injury and Angela got on well. The bairns tried snowboarding and were getting good towards the end of our stay going much faster than the "old gits".  The main bird highlight was undoubtedly the discovery of a Bearded Vulture on a hike up the mountain to Hannig. I managed a few reasonable photos before it spiralled upwards and was lost to view. Nutcracker was a target bird and I was delighted to see up to four together in one garden eventually getting decent photos before my fingers fell off! Didn't see Alpine Accentor or Snow Finch this time but you cant have it all. A few different Tit species were seen, Coal, Willow, Crested and Great were pretty  common. I missed one of the main wildlife highlights unfortunately.

 Me and Angela were out for an early evening stroll along the road through dense trees lit by street lights when she heard a wildcat snarling sound . She looked up and could see a large cat with ears sticking up on a snowy mound above us.  It  jumped down and was gone within seconds and I missed the whole episode!  Angela was spooked by what she had seen and heard and refused to follow the trail further into the forest.  This was an area where Roe Deer and wild Goats roam.   Large cat prints were found the next day and a bit of googling could tell us it had been a Lynx the only large-ish cat in the region.

19th December 2018

Whalsay bird review 2018


The year began with a female King Eider at the Symbister salmon cages 2/1 found by the SNH Seabird counters but unfortunately not seen by any of us. Single Waxwings were at Whitefield and Skaw, an Iceland Gull at Symbister and a Water Rail at Skaw on 4/1.  Another Water Rail was at Vatshoull 16/1.  Six European White fronted Geese rounded off the month at Pouster 30/1.


Single Glaucous and Iceland Gulls were at Skaw Taing 2/1.  A smart male Coues`s Arctic Redpoll was in a flock of up to sixteen Mealy Redpoll at Skibberhoull 7/2 remaining all month. A Water Rail was in Brians garden at Marrister 12/2 and two female Common Scoters were off Skaw Taing 19/2.


The Coues`s Arctic Redpoll remained at Skibberhoull with the Mealy flock until 17/3. A good few Jack Snipe were seen early in the month in snowy conditions with five seen together in one ditch at Skaw on 3/3. An adult White tailed Eagle was seen at Skaw then Isbister also on 3/3 before it was last seen on 9/3 flying west over our house at Hamister adding another species to the house list. Two Mistle Thrushes were together at Hamister 11/3 with singles at pouster and Skaw 15/3 and another at Skibberhoull 25/3.

Coues`s Arctic Redpoll





White tailed Eagle



Jack Snipe

Mistle Thrush


Myself and Brian were both away early in the month coinciding with prolonged SE winds with apparently Hawfinches, Ring Ouzel, Yellowhammers etc widespread through Shetland. We got back on 19th and 20th respectively just as the winds swung to the west again. A female Ring Ouzel was at Hamister 19/4 with male Shelducks at North Voe and the houb the same day. A Lesser Whitethroat was at Skaw 22/4. A female Scaup on Isbister loch 26/4 was a first island record in a number of years with a female Kestrel photographed at Skibberhoull the same day. A Goldfinch was at a feeder at Isbister 29/4.


Fourteen Pink footed Geese at Isbister 2/5 were the first of the year. Shetland had a good influx of Tree Sparrows in May with ten in the Skaw plantation 5/5 increasing to twelve on 7/5. Two Black tailed Godwits flew south over Challister 6/5. A Sand Martin was at Skaw and a Goldfinch at Gardentown 9/5. 12/5 was a bit better with a very early Marsh Warbler, male Bluethroat and the years only Sedge Warbler all seen at Skaw. A Wood Warbler was at Symbister 13/5. A juvenile male Bluethroat was caught in the Skaw trap 14/5 and a Long Eared Owl and Tree Pipit in the Skaw plantation 15/5. A female Red backed Shrike was in the Lubba plantation 16/5. A House Martin was at Skaw 21/5 with a Marsh Warbler trapped in the heligoland 22/5. Two Swifts and a House Martin were hawking in the Hamister valley 26/5 with a single Barnacle Goose at Vatshoull loch 27/5. A Wood Warbler was at Skaw and a male Red backed Shrike in the Lubba plantation 30/5. An Icterine Warbler was at Grunitaing 31/5.


An Icterine Warbler was at Isbister adding to the still present Grunitaing bird 1/6. A very elusive Marsh Warbler sang occasionally in the Skaw plantation 7-8/6. A Curlew Sandpiper was at the Houb from 10-11/6. Little else was seen until a female Red necked Phalarope was on Vatshoull loch from 24-27/6.

Curlew Sandpiper

wood Warbler


Red necked Phalarope


Usually the quietest month for migrants, 2018 was to be a bit different! Three Sandwich Terns flew north over Symbister and a Swift was at Skaw 1/7. On 7/7 Brian found an adult Long tailed Skua on his walk around Challister Ness. It joined the local Arctic Skuas at West loch of Skaw and I was delighted to add it to my Island list. The next few days went mental with up to six!! Long tails present (three adults, a sub adult and two juveniles). The main excitement surrounded the discovery of a dark morph adult on 8/7. There has been debate on the existence of this plumage with only a handful of reports worldwide and apparently no photographic evidence until now! The six birds were last seen 10/7. Our third and fourth Sand Martins were at Symbister 14/7 and past the Houb 25/7.   A Magpie Moth in the Skaw plantation 16/7 was a change from bird records. A Sandwich Tern was heard in the mist below Marrister 17/7 with a Minke Whale off Skaw the Same day. A Pectoral Sandpiper was at Vatshoull loch 23/7 with a Ruff there later in the day. A Black Redstart was at Sandwick and a Kestrel at North Park 28/7.  30/7 saw a Icterine Warbler at Isbister, Reed Warbler at Skaw, Bar tailed Godwit at the Houb, Sand Martin at Vevoe and six Swifts at Vatshoull.  A male Black Redstart at Brough 31/7 ended our best ever July.


Two Greenshanks were at Vatshoull loch 1/8 with three there 5/8. An early Whinchat was trapped at Skaw 5/8. A Peacock butterfly was at Symbister 8/8. A Hawfinch was at Symbister 18/8 with a Little Stint in the Symbister meadow 22/8. A Common Rosefinch at Skaw 28/8 ended a poor month.


A Barred Warbler was at Skaw 4/9. The first Yellow browed Warbler was at Sandwick 8/9 in what was to be a poor year for the species. Two Common Rosefinches were at Symbister plus one at Skaw with a Wood Warbler and a Barred Warbler at Symbister 9/9. I made it nil out of three by missing our third Kestrel at Vevoe 10/9. A House Martin was hawking in the geos on the east side of the golf course 15/9. With steady NW to SW winds migration was non existent until a first winter Yellow breasted Bunting somehow found its way to Vatshoull from 22-23/9.  Sadly this bird is now classed as critically endangered due to hunting in its eastern breeding grounds. It was twitched by most of the visiting birders over its two day stay. A Spotted Redshank was on Vatshoull loch on the same two dates.

Dark morph adult Long tailed Skua

"normal" adult Long tailed Skua

Yellow breasted Bunting


A female Eastern Subalpine Warbler was in the Isbister plantation with a Yellow browed Warbler and a Barred Warbler at Grunitaing 6/10. A Hawfinch was at Symbister and a Grey Wagtail at North Voe 12/10. A Great Grey Shrike at Brough, Bluethroat and two Greenfinches at Skaw  and sixty two Barnacle Geese at Symbister 13/10. A record day count of five Hawfinches were seen on 14/10 with two at Isbister, one at Grunitaing, one at Marrister and one at Skaw. Also on 14/10 a Red breasted Flycatcher was at Grunitaing and a Long eared Owl and Moorhen at Isbister. The Whalsay list increased to 304 with the discovery of a female Blue-winged Teal on Houll loch 17/10. It spent two days at this site before relocating to Vatshoull loch and was last seen there on 29/10. A female Ring Ouzel was in the Skaw plantation 17/10 with a Long eared Owl at this site 18/10. A Great grey Shrike was at Skaw 19/10 with a Waxwing at Vatshoull 20/10.  Our only Yellowhammer of the year was a female at Vatshoull 21/10 with two Rooks at Skaw and a Grey Wagtail at Hamister the same day. Another Waxwing was at Saeter 22/10 with two more at Vatshoull 28/10. A Goldfinch at Whitefield, Black Redstart at Grunitaing and Glaucous Gull at Skaw rounded off the month 30/10.


Little of interest was seen until a very late Barred Warbler was in the Skaw plantation and forty+ Snow Buntings were circling around the Wirlie quarry 11/11. A Tundra Bean Goose joined the Greylag flock at Skaw and a Black Redstart was at Symbister 18/11. A Common Scoter was off the Buid 29/11.


Three Pink footed Geese were at Brough, fifty+ Chaffinches at Hamister and fifteen Snow Buntings at Skaw 1/12.  A female Velvet Scoter was off the Buid for a few days from 3/12 and was a first Island record since 2013 and you have to go back to 1993 for another so quite a good local record. 2018 held one last huge surprise when Brian turned up a first winter male Dusky Thrush on the first fairway of the golf course at Skaw. An unforgettable sight on a sunny calm morning but only seen by the two of us as it flew off after two hours and was never seen again. A fourth Shetland record after singles on Fair Isle in 1961, Skaw Whalsay found by my grandfather Johnnie Simpson on 24/9/68 and Firth near Mossbank in 1975. I have the excuse of only being three years old for missing the other Whalsay record! This individual is potentially the 15th record for Britain if (when) accepted. A look around the golf course on 6/12 in a SE gale with heavy rain only produced a single Jack Snipe. A Moorhen photographed in a Symbister garden 22/12 was the last bird of interest for the year.

Eastern subalpine Warbler

Yellow browed Warbler


Blue-winged Teal

Long eared Owl


Dusky Thrush

This years personal Island total of 143 species is a bit better though still way short of the 151 seen in 2011. A year which certainly wont be regarded a classic in Shetland but seemed to have its moments on Whalsay. There were long birdless periods but a good enough scattering of surprises to keep up the motivation. The Coues`s Arctic Redpoll and White tailed Eagle in Feb/March, the midsummer Long tailed Skuas and Yellow breasted Bunting, Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Blue-winged Teal and especially the Dusky Thrush in autumn/winter was pretty good.  I had three new birds for my island list this year in the form of the Long tailed Skuas, Blue-winged Teal and Dusky Thrush. If I can keep up that yearly average I could yet reach 300 for Whalsay without having to be sprung from an old folks home! As usual a few common species went unrecorded this year - Common Sandpiper, Common Tern, Cuckoo, Little Auk and Common Crossbill to name a few. I didn't miss as many species as usual - Kestrel, Moorhen, Little Stint, Rook and Short eared Owl is all I can think of.

5th December 2018

Dusky Thrush

It has been a bonnie calm day on Whalsay today so in the morning I went down below the North Park houses to look amongst the Eider flock hoping for a King Eider or such like in there midst when my mobile rang... It was Brian - "get your arse to Skaw theres a Dusky Thrush on the first fairway" Bloody Hell, panic!! Miles from the car I ran/hobbled up the hill and had a hot drive North. Luckily Brian had the bird staked out in the same place and we had splendid views as it hopped around quite unconcerned. It then decided to roam around a bit and was down near the holm of Skaw for a while before flying south  onto the third fairway. At 1:30pm it flew off in a SE direction and was not seen again today but I would imagine there will be a few more eyes looking tomorrow. As far as I know there are only three previous Shetland records - Fair Isle in 1961, Skaw, Whalsay on 24/9/68 Found by my grandfather Johnnie Simpson (4th for the UK at that time) and Firth near Mossbank in 1975. An additional probable was on Fair Isle in 1937 (Birds of Shetland).

3rd December 2018

Velvet Scoter

A couple of long range and crap photos of the female Velvet Scoter Brian found off the Booth (or Buid as we would say) today. The last island record was of a male on 27/7/13 off Skaw and you  have to go back another twenty! years for the next sighting so quite a good local record. A female Common Scoter had been in the exact same spot 29/11/18. Not much else to be seen - three Pink footed Geese were at Brough on 1st Dec.

18th November 2018

Black Redstart and Tundra Bean Goose

Brian found a Tundra Bean Goose at Skaw this morning among the Greylag flock taking my year list up to the 140 mark. As usual they were pretty unapproachable so had to make do with some long range dodgy photos. A Black Redstart was more obliging in a garden at Symbister in the afternoon.

11th November 2018

Winter Warblers

Female Blackcap, one of four at Skaw today

One of the two Chiffchaffs at Skaw today.

As is normally the case things have quietened down considerably as winter closes in. The Blue-winged Teal was last seen on Vatshoull loch on the 29th of October. There was a few migrants on 30th October with a Goldfinch at Whitefield, Black Redstart at Grunitaing and Glaucous Gull at Skaw. Little else has been seen till a very late Barred Warbler appeared briefly in the Skaw plantation today which may well be the latest autumn record for Shetland but I am not certain of this. A flock of at least forty Snow Buntings circling around the Wirlie quarry was a welcome sight!

28th October 2018

Two Waxwings and a Moose

A fine day for a change today so me and Angela went for a bicycle run to Skaw in the morning. I almost ran over a Moose at Vatshoull so we stopped and took a few photos as it sunbathed at the roadside. It was hard to get a decent pic as it kept running towards me! A pair of Waxwings landed in a tree next to us for a short time leaving me spoilt for choice as to where to point the camera. The Blue-winged Teal was also still on Vatshoull loch for day twelve but I thought I better stop boring people with photos so left it in peace.

26th October 2018

Ten days

The Blue-winged Teal spent its tenth day on the island today and is still on Vatshoull loch. A few other migrants are still about - Long eared Owl, Great grey Shrike, Yellowhammer and Waxwing on 22/10. A Chiffchaff is in the Lubba plantation today showing characters of Siberian with a late-ish Lesser Whitethroat at Saltness.

21st October 2018


The Blue-winged Teal is still on Vatshoull loch today and as I went down to try for a few more photos a female Yellowhammer flushed onto a fence adding another species to the year list. I missed a pair of Rooks Brian found at Skaw which was annoying as they are absurdly rare on Whalsay, my last was in 2012!

20th October 2018

Some more Blue-winged Teal photos

A few more photos of the Blue-winged Teal from the Vatshoull loch. The light was poor so they are a bit dull. A Waxwing was also at Vatshoull today with possibly the same one a bit later in the Skaw plantation.

19th October 2018

Great grey Shrike

After two days at Houll loch the Blue-winged Teal relocated to the Vatshoull loch today. Two birders had spent the whole morning tramping around Houll loch in the rain without success and were halfway across on the ferry going home when it was refound just after 2pm. On reaching Laxo they turned around and came back and luckily saw the bird the second time. A Great grey Shrike was best of the rest at Skaw with my first Woodcock of the autumn also there.

17th October 2018

Blue-winged Teal

The Whalsay bird list went up to 304 with the discovery of a female Blue-winged Teal from North America at the Houll loch today. This is apparently the 8th Shetland record and first since 1995. A very wild and flighty bird so I hope to get closer and hopefully better photos if it is still present tomorrow.

15th October 2018

Another Common Rosefinch

Bit of a clearout on the island today with five Reed Buntings about the only new migrants seen. The Great grey Shrike was still at Brough and still skillfully avoiding the camera. There was a Common Rosefinch at Symbister today and is likely to be one of the two regularly seen in this garden for the past week or two.

14th October 2018

Long eared Owl

A very enjoyable days birdwatching today and a lot like I remember it as a bairn - nothing incredibly rare just a good volume of migrants with a scattering of decent birds here and there. Five Hawfinches were seen, two at Isbister and singles at Marrister (yesterdays ringed bird), Grunitaing and Skaw. This must be an island record as you used to go years without seeing one though they are pretty much annual these days.  A Red breasted Flycatcher was at Grunitaing though very skulking and only really seen in flight. The above Long eared Owl was at Sanshoull, Isbister and even allowed me to take a few photos unobscured by trees for once. Yesterdays Great grey Shrike at Brough and the Skaw Bluethroat also reappeared and although I didn't get any decent photos I was pleased to see them at least.

13th October 2018


Bedraggled Reed Bunting at Skaw

Brambling at Sandwick, one of many

After a few days of SE winds a decent scatter of common migrants are on the island - Redwings, Song Thrushes, Bramblings, Chaffinches, Goldcrests etc.. Not too much in the way of rarities so far, a Grey Wagtail was at the North Voe yesterday with a Hawfinch at Symbister. Brian trapped what may well be the Symbister bird in his garden today with two Greenfinches and a Bluethroat at Skaw and a Great grey Shrike at Brough though I managed to miss the last two birds!

6th October 2018

Eastern Subalpine Warbler

A female Subalpine Warbler was in the Isbister plantation today. Once upon a time when you identified the bird as a "Subalp" your work was done, now with  the three different races being split into distinct species your work is just beginning! Females are particularly hard to separate - call is important but our bird was silent. The best clincher is to trap the bird for a DNA sample (shit of small feather) but again our bird avoided Brians net! Pretty much the last chance is to clearly see the amount of white on the tip of the 2nd outermost tail feather and the chances of picking that up in the field are almost zero. Digital photography saved the day, my own photos are not really helpful but Jon Dunn captured two pics showing a white wedge from the tip of this feather running up the shaft making our bird an Eastern Subalpine Warbler. We now await to see if this satisfies the rarities committee. A Yellow browed Warbler was in the same place with a Barred Warbler at Grunitaing and the first Jack Snipe of the autumn at Skaw.

23rd September 2018

Yellow breasted Bunting 2

A good few birders have been in twitching the Yellow breasted Bunting today and yesterday. It was showing well in the morning but not seen after early afternoon so looks to have moved on. With this species classed as "critically endangered" will we have another of these ever again? A Spotted Redshank was seen by birders at Vatshoull loch last evening and I was pleased to catch up with it today as it is a first island record in six! years.

22nd September 2018

Yellow breasted Bunting

Despite constant West or North Westerly winds a Yellow breasted Bunting found its way to Vatshoull today. A very rare and critically endangered bird so it caused considerable interest. One appeared on Out Skerries last autumn and was the first UK record for (six?) years prompting twitchers to hire the ferry in order to see it! Pretty awkward to get a good photo in strong NW winds so will be out again in the morning if it hangs on.

19th September 2018

Wood Warbler

Horribly blurred photo of a very late House Martin at Skaw 15/9.

With the winds permanently stuck in the west the last week or so has been really poor for mid September. At least today a Wood Warbler was in the Skaw plantation and Common Rosefinches were at Symbister(2) and Skibberhoull.

9th September 2018

Yellow browed Warblers

Redstart at Skaw 7/9

An early rush of Yellow browed Warblers on Shetland began on the 6th of September with our first one at Sandwick on 8th. There were three seen today - two at Sandwick and one in Brians garden at Marrister. Having missed a Barred Warbler at Skaw on the 4th I was pleased to catch up on one in Cath Simpsons garden today with two Common Rosefinches. Another Rosefinch was at Skaw with a Wood Warbler also there.

4th September 2018

Common Rosefinch

Just back yesterday from the herring season and have apparently missed little in that time. A Common Rosefinch has been roaming around Skaw for a few days and I managed to catch up with it in the trap yard today.

15th August 2018

Black tailed Godwit

Still quiet. A couple of Black tailed Godwit photos from north loch of Skaw today.

8th August 2018


Whinchat trapped at Skaw 5/8.

After none last year it was fine to catch up with a Peacock butterfly which Cath Simpson phoned about from her Symbister garden today. Gone a bit quiet on the bird front - four Black tailed Godwits were at Challister 2/8, three Greenshanks were at Vatshoull loch and a Whinchat trapped at Skaw 5/8 was about as exciting as it got.

1st August 2018

Painted Lady

This has been by far the best July for migrants that I can remember with TEN new birds for the year which is ten more than usual! A Black Redstart along the shore south of Sandwick loch and a Kestrel at North Park were seen on 28/7. 29/7 was waders day with two Green Sandpipers at Skaw and a Greenshank on Vatshoull loch. An Icterine Warbler at Isbister, Reed Warbler at Skaw and Green Sandpiper, Sand Martin and six Swifts at Vatshoull 30/7. Also  0n 30th I had a Dragonfly sp. zigzag past me in the Skaw plantation, this was hugely frustrating as it was against the light so I didn't even get a hint of colour before it looped over a tree and vanished! Looked big and chunky so feel it was unlikely to be a Damselfly sp. which are more regular in Shetland.  A Bar tailed Godwit at the houb and a Lesser Whitethroat at Symbister 31/7 rounded off the month.

27th July 2018

Golden Plover family


Brian ringed his first Golden Plover chick of the year with one at the roadside south of the Vevoe junction today. Little else to report apart from our third Sand Martin of the year bombing north past the houb 25/7.

23rd July 2018

Odd Tirricks and a rare wader

A normal young Arctic Tern

The Long tailed Skuas were never seen again after 10/7. A Sand Martin was only our second for the year in the Symbister meadow with two Swallows 14/7. A Magpie Moth was in the Skaw plantation 16/7. Brian heard a Sandwich Tern calling in the mist below his house at Marrister 17/7 and a Minke Whale was off Skaw later the same day. A very odd looking young Arctic Tern was at Vatshoull loch today with a carrot orange bill, lacking any scalloping on the wings and generally very pale. While watching this bird a Pectoral Sandpiper landed briefly, playing hide and seek amongst the vegetation at the edge of the loch though it came out long enough to show off the pectoral band and white underparts. With the value of hindsight I should have taken a quick photo as it flew South as I was calling BM. A Ruff was at the same loch later on (and no it wasn't the same bird!).

10th July 2018

Long tailed Skua gallery

A few more photos of one of the adult Long tailed Skuas. Numbers incredibly rose to five yesterday when another immature bird was found, a dark bird to add to the pale one already present. The ultra rare dark adult was seen briefly this morning but went into hiding for the rest of the day until all were refound by Roger Riddington on what turned out to be the last sighting around 6pm .  A few days later Unst birder Dave Cooper was checking through his photos from Skaw  from 10th and discovered a sixth!! bird which he considered a third summer. Incredible.

8th July 2018

Four Long tails

Pale immature from below

As they almost say about buses "you wait 53 years for one then four come along at once".  Amazingly two normal pale adult Long tailed Skuas, a dark phase adult and a juvenile were together at the west loch of Skaw tonight. The dark phase bird is very rarely encountered anywhere bringing to life what is usually a very quiet time of year. An amazing day really.

7th July 2018

Long tailed Skua

Top photo by Brian Marshall

Brian found the above Long tailed Skua today when out dog walking on Challister Ness. It sailed past and seemed to go down in the west loch of Skaw area so I was summoned and luckily the bird reappeared which was a big relief for me as I still needed this for my Whalsay list. It was keeping company with a few of the local Arctic Skuas though a few long range and poor quality  record shots were all I got today. I was off the island later in the day but received a text from Brian to say it was hanging around the same area with a party of about ten Arctics so there must be a chance it will hang on for a bit. Brian captured some much better pics later on.

1st July 2018

Sandwich Terns

Adult Swallow at Hamister. One of the family party from Huxter (6 birds).

Fledgling House Sparrow admiring its reflection in our car at Hamister.

Three Sandwich Terns flew North over Symbister today and is the first island record since 2013 and the first time I have seen more than two together on Whalsay. A Swift was at Skaw Taing and a summering Chiffchaff is in the Skaw plantation. The Red necked Phalarope was last seen at Vatshoull loch on 27/6, unfortunately one day before Brian got back from holiday.

24th June 2018

Red necked Phalarope

My parents found this bonnie female Red necked Phalarope at Vatshoull loch today.

16th June 2018

Swallows nest

Common Gull chick, one of two along the shore south of Huxter.

Black rabbit at Skaw

Checked the Swallows nest today at Huxter and although you cant see into it without a ladder there were a couple of tails poking out suggesting the chicks are a bit of size now.

10th June 2018

Curlew Sandpiper

Not much bird news lately after a bout of Northerly winds.The Icterine Warbler at Grunitaing was still present 1/6 with a second bird in the Isbister plantation. Another Marsh Warbler was at Skaw from 7th till 8th, singing in the plantation. I was quite pleased to find a pair of breeding Swallows in an outbuilding at Huxter on 9/6 when out doing an Arctic Tern breeding survey. Brian went one better tonight with the discovery of a Curlew Sandpiper at the houb when he was also out counting terns.

31st May 2018

Wood Warbler

A thin scatter of migrants in the last week - Two Swifts and a House Martin hawking in the Hamister valley 26/5, single Barnacle Goose at Vatshoull loch 27/5, and Wood Warbler at Skaw and male Red backed Shrike at Brough 30/5. The Wood Warbler posed for a few photos tonight with an Icterine Warbler at Grunitaing an added bonus.

23rd May 2018

Marsh Warbler again

Collared Dove at Hamister

After being released at the plantation yesterday the Marsh Warbler decided to revisit the trap today so I took a quick photo or two.

22nd May  2018

Marsh Warbler

Still fairly quiet with the above Marsh Warbler caught in the Skaw trap today. A female Pied Flycatcher at Isbister was new for the year also.

16th May 2018

A few more scarcities

Juvenile male Bluethroat

A few more scarcities have been seen in the last few days, Cath Simpson photographed a Wood Warbler in her Symbister garden 13/5 which we narrowly missed,  Brian trapped the above juvenile male Bluethroat in the skaw plantation 14/5, John Fishwick had a Long eared Owl in the skaw plantation 15/5 and a female Red backed Shrike was briefly at the Lubba plantation 16/5 though wasn't allowing me near enough to photograph it. 

12th May 2018

Marsh Warbler and Bluethroat

A few migrants arrived today at last. A Peregrine was at Skaw in the afternoon and better was to follow in the evening. A Sedge Warbler kicked things off in the Skaw plantation then a Marsh Warbler was among the rose bushes in the lower yard at Roadside. It was seen well initially and had very yellow legs and feet. Once the ID process was over the camera came out and needless to say it disappeared so Brian missed it though we live in hope for tomorrow. According to "The Birds of Shetland" this bird equals the earliest Shetland date with one seen on Noss in 2001. On walking over to the trap a male Bluethroat appeared on the wall and even entered the heligoland. Unfortunately when Brian got it to the catching box end it doubled back on him and escaped and in his efforts to head it off ended with him upside down in a tree, a photo opportunity missed!

2nd May 2018

Pink footed Geese

Not much about when you have to resort to flight shots of Pink footed Geese in early May! Its been a fairly poor goose year so far with these fourteen at Isbister being the first "Pinks" recorded this year.

29th April 2018


Philip Laurenson phoned this morning to tell me there was a Goldfinch on his feeder at Isbister. A good bird to see as they are not annual on the island.

26th April 2018


Female Scaup

Red Grouse

Shelduck, one of three males on the isle atm.

Recently back from five weeks at the Blue Whiting fishing. Not a great deal about at the moment with SW winds - Swallow, Whimbrel and Arctic Skua all making there first appearances on the island today. A female Scaup may be a bit underwhelming to some but is the first Whalsay bird I have seen since another female was on Vatshoull loch on 20th November 2011!! so the Isbister loch bird was most welcome today.

15th March 2018

Mistle Thrushes

Our Blue Whiting fishing season has been delayed by a SE gale and we are now leaving early morning on 17/3. The said gale has at least brought in a few few migrants which are new for the year - White Wagtail and Snow Bunting at Newpark plus a couple of Dunnocks at Skaw. The Coues's Arctic Redpoll remains at Skibberhoull and there were single Mistle Thrushes at Newpark and Skaw.

11th March 2018

Gone Fishing

Coues`s Arctic Redpoll still at Skibberhoull for over a month now.

Iceland Gull at Skaw.

Whooper Swan pair on north loch o Skaw.

Long range and crap Mistle Thrush photo at Hamister today.

A last update before we head away for a month+ to the blue whiting fishing.  The Coues's Arctic Redpoll is still at Skibberhoull today after a month on site. The adult White tailed Eagle toured the island and was last seen be me flying west over our house at Hamister on 9/3, it may well still be somewhere on here. A pair of Mistle Thrushes were on the big rig at Hamister just in time before we go.

3rd March 2018

White tailed Eagle

Jack Snipe, one of five! in this ditch at Skaw.

The Coues's Arctic Redpoll again.

Willie Hutchison phoned today having seen an Eagle flying from Skaw towards Isbister. BM picked it up on the hilltop NW of Isbister and through the telescope could be identified as an adult White tailed Eagle. Our attempts at stalking wasn't very successful as it flushed from quite long range. It seemed to come down near Marrister so we hope to encounter it again. Five!! Jack Snipes were in a single ditch at Skaw with two Common Snipes giving good photo opportunities. With the Coues's Arctic Redpoll still at Skibberhoull this was a very good days for the start of March. 

1st March 2018

Coues's still present after three weeks

Slightly blurred undertail shot

Bloody photographers!!

Robin attracted to the seed at Skibberhoull also.

A few Song Thrushes with the Fieldfares and Redwings now.

Water Rail at Marrister through a window.             Photo  Brian Marshall

The Coues's Arctic Redpoll is still at Skibberhoull after three weeks. Hope to eventually post a photo of something different!

19th February 2018

May be the last time I don't know

Undertail photo by Jon Dunn

The Coues's Arctic Redpoll remains at Skibberhoull and as you can see I cant resist putting on more photos of it! Brian has had two attempts with the mist net trapping seven Mealies the first time then three plus a Blackbird the second try. A third attempt is planned for the 21st if its still about. Brian found two female Common Scoters today on his daily dog walk around Skaw Taing.

16th February 2018

Coues's still at Skibberhoull

The Coues`s Arctic Redpoll is still at "Frankies" Skibberhoull  today with a minimum of sixteen Mealy Redpolls. The blurred bits on some of the photos is the fence I had to peer through!

7th February 2018

Coues's Arctic Redpoll

A Coues's Arctic Redpoll was at Skibberhoull today with at least ten Common Redpolls. A novelty to have a good bird in early February

30th January 2018

Humpbacks North of the Outer Hebrides


The usual Orcas around the boat too.

Just home from three mackerel trips from north of the Outer Hebrides. The sight of Humpback Whales is very unusual so to see them on all three trips is unprecedented. Four on 18/1, two on 21/1 and four again 26/1. The photos above were of the two seen on 21/1 twelve miles NW of Sula Sgeir which lies to the north from the Butt of Lewis. As usual there was always a few Orca pods in attendance though I think the 20+ on 26/1 was probably the most seen. Eleven Pilot Whales also visited on this date. Best bird on Whalsay for January was undoubtedly the female King Eider found by the SNH Seabird monitoring team at the Symbister salmon cages 2/1 but sadly this bird has not been seen by any of us. Single Waxwings were at Whitefield and Skaw on 4/1 and three different Water Rails have been seen throughout the month. Also managed to catch up with six European White fronted Geese at Pouster that Brian found a couple of days ago.

31st December 2017

Whalsay bird review 2017


A first winter Glaucous Gull was off Skaw Taing 2/1. Three Common Scoters were off Vatshoull 5/1 with a Peregrine bombing through at the same time. An Iceland Gull was in the north voe 6/1. Two Common Scoters were still off Vatshoull 7/1 with another two off Symbister. Little else was seen till 27/1 when three Glaucous Gulls were at Skaw and two Iceland Gulls at Symbister. Seven European White fronted Geese were at Challister 29/1.


A quiet month with a Water Rail at Hamister 7/2 and the first Red throated Divers back on north loch of Skaw 18/2 the only notable sightings.


Two Mistle Thrushes were at Hamister and five Pink footed Geese at the Burns 6/3. The Hamister Mistle Thrush numbers doubled to four on 7/3. A male Stonechat was at the Burns 8/3. A Mistle Thrush at Skaw 9/3 pushed the island numbers up to five with the Hamister birds still present. A male Yellowhammer was at Whitefield 17/3. The first Dunnocks of the year were at Saltness 24/3 and Skaw 25/3. A pair of Shelducks flew north past Vatshoull 27/3 and a Woodcock was at Skaw 28/3.

White fronted Geese at Challister

Stonechat at the Burns

Yellowhammer at Whitefield



I was away fishing for the whole of this month. Brian had a Black tailed Godwit at Vatshoull 20/4 and a Hawfinch was photographed at Skaw 29/4 and were two species I never did catch up with for the rest of the year.






A female Subalpine Warbler sp. was at Skibberhoull and a Grasshopper Warbler at Skaw 3/5 with a Goosander on Vatshoull loch 6/5. A Sand Martin was at Vatshoull 12/5. A Thrush Nightingale skulked around in a Hamister yard 13-14/5 with a Stonechat at Skaw also on 13/5. The years only Common Sandpiper was at Skaw 14/5 with a male Red backed Shrike there 15/5. A female Stonechat joined the male at Skaw 16/5 with a very brief Dotterel on the golf course 17/5. A Long eared Owl at Skibberhoull 22/5 later self trapped itself in a Saltness shed before being trapped, ringed and released by BM. The last week was quiet with the years only Bar tailed Godwit at the houb 27/5 the only remotely interesting record.






4/6 saw a Barnacle Goose at Vatshoull loch and a Male Red backed Shrike at Symbister. A Greenish Warbler trapped at Isbister 7/6 was the third individual in three consecutive Junes never having had a spring bird on the isle previously! An Icterine Warbler shared the same garden. A female Nightjar was in the Skaw plantation 10/6 our first record since 2009. A Common Swift was at Symbister 18/6. Away from birds briefly a Hummingbird Hawkmoth was at Hillhead 23/6. A Mute Swan on Vatshoull loch 27/6 and an unseasonal Black Redstart at Skaw 28/6 rounded off the month.

Long eared Owl trapped in a shed at Saltness

Thrush Nightingale at Hamister

Pied Flycatcher at Skaw

Greenish Warbler trapped at Isbister

Red Grouse chicks north of Vatshoull



As usual very few birds of interest. A juvenile Cuckoo was at Skaw 21\7. Brian had a couple of male Two barred Crossbills in his garden 29/7 which was only a third island record.



A very early Pied Flycatcher plus a Common Swift were at Skaw 3\8.  I was away for the rest of the month at the herring fishing and missed out on an island tick in the form of a female Marsh Harrier around Isbister from 20-21\8. A Black tailed Godwit was at Skaw 20/8. BM went away as well after this and with a good range of scarcities throughout Shetland who knows what was missed.



A Sooty Shearwater was off Skaw 2\9. An Icterine Warbler was at Isbister 9\9 with early Yellow browed Warblers at Saltness and Skaw the same day. 10\9 saw Barred Warblers at Hamister and Symbister and a Red backed Shrike at Brough. An adult American Golden Plover in a flock of its european cousins at Skaw from 12-13\9 was only a second island record. Another Barred Warbler was at Hamister 15\9. Considerably rarer was the Golden Oriole at Saltness from 17-20\9. Red breasted Flycatchers were at Isbister and Hillhead 25\9. On 27\9 a Great Grey Shrike was at Skaw, Little Bunting at Brough plus Grasshopper Warblers at Skaw, Vatshoull and Brough. On 30/9 a Stock Dove was at Hamister, Short eared Owl at Skaw, Little Stint at Symbister plus Little Buntings at Brough, Burns and Skaw(2).





Two barred Crossbill at Marrister       photo by Brian Marshall




American Golden Plover at Skaw

Great Grey Shrike at Skaw

Icterine Warbler at Isbister

Little Bunting at Brough



A Turtle Dove was at Saltness briefly on 1/10 with a Lesser Redpoll at Isbister 2/10. A Great Grey Shrike was at Marrister  3/10. There was a quiet period till the discovery of a Steppe Grey Shrike at the roadside near Vevoe on 14/10. This was a first island record, fourth for Shetland and the first since 1994. A very tame individual which entertained quite a few visitors till 31/10. A Stock Dove at Hamister 18/10 may or may not have been the same bird seen two weeks earlier. A Stonechat was at Houll also on 18/10. 20/10 saw Ring Ouzels at Creadyknowe, Challister, Skaw and Brough, Water Rail at Skaw and a Black Redstart at Hamister. A Pallas`s Warbler was a first island record for a good few years on 22/10 at Creadyknowe, unfortunately for me one day after heading to sea! A Mistle Thrush was at Skaw the same day. A Blue Tit was at Marrister 24/10 with a Long eared Owl at Sodom 25/10. A Blue Tit was at Gardentown at the months end.



A Blue Tit was at Skibberhoull 11/11 (the Gardentown bird?) A Glaucous Gull was at Brough 18/11 with single Blue and Great Tits together in the same Symbister garden 19/11. Another Glaucous Gull was at Skaw 27/11. A Jack Snipe was at Pouster and a 3rd winter Iceland Gull at Symbister 28/11.




A Water Rail was in a Vatshoull garden on 13/12 with a female Common Scoter off Skaw Taing 15/12. An Iceland Gull was at Symbister 16/12. A Glaucous Gull was at Skaw Taing 18/12 with two Mealy Redpoll at Brough. A Glaucous Gull joined the Iceland Gull at Symbister 24/12.

Steppe Grey Shrike near Vevoe

Water Rail at Vatshoull

Another poor year with 137 species recorded by me. Last years low of 129 was beaten and thankfully we didn't go the whole year without a national rarity like 2016 but this was still my second poorest total in the seven years I have done this. The October Steppe Grey Shrike was the first addition to the island list for a few years raising the total to 303. The adult American Golden Plover at Skaw in September was a 2nd record and the Two barred Crossbills at Marrister in July a third. As usual a few common species went unrecorded on Whalsay - Tundra Bean Goose, Storm Petrel, Little Auk, Greenshank, Waxwing, Linnet and Common Crossbill. Species seen but missed by me were - Goosander, Sooty Shearwater, Moorhen, Dotterel, Black tailed Godwit, Marsh Harrier, Turtle Dove, Subalpine warbler, Pallas`s Warbler, Short eared Owl, Hawfich and Two barred Crossbill. Some good stuff missed but never mind, all the best for 2018!

13th December 2017

Water Rail

A couple of slightly grainy images of a Water Rail in Lowrie Patons garden at Vatshoull today. Having missed one at Skaw earlier in the autumn I was pleased to add it to the year list. Very little news since last post - a Great Tit and Blue Tit were at Symbister and a Snow Bunting at Skaw on 19/11 and the odd Iceland and Glaucous Gull seen but very little else.

11th November 2017

Blue Tit

Whooper Swan at north loch o Skaw

Juv. Whooper

White tailed Eagle at Selje, Norway.

Home for a couple of days mid mackerel season and was pleased to catch up with the above Blue Tit on Magnus Polsons feeder at Skibberhoull today even if my photos were poor. Best bird since I went away was  the Pallas`s Warbler Brian found in the Creadyknowe garden on 22/10. The Steppe Grey Shrike was last reported 31/10 when it moved further north to the plantation area at Skaw though with Brian also away it could quite easily have been around a bit longer. BM had a Blue Tit in his garden 23/10 with another ( today's bird?) around Gardentown at the months end.

16th October 2017

A  few more Shrike photos

Blurred flight shot

Even worse photo but shows the tail pattern.

The Steppe Grey Shrike is still in the Vevoe area so I went for a few more photo seeing as it has been a bonnie day for once.

14th October 2017

Steppe Grey Shrike

A Steppe Grey Shrike turned up on a roadside fence between Vatshoull and Vevoe today and is the first addition to the island list for some time. This is only the fourth individual recorded in Shetland the last of these being in 1994. It disappeared only to be refound among the Vevoe houses in the late afternoon so there could be a few birders on the go tomorrow!

27th September 2017

Great Grey Shrike and Little Bunting

Kestrel at Skaw

A good day today with best birds being a Great Grey Shrike in the Skaw plantation and a Little Bunting at Brough. A carload of birders were on the isle so a few more things were found - 3 Grasshopper Warblers, 2 Barred Warblers, Red breasted Flycatcher and a good spread of common migrants. The other highlight in the last two weeks was the Golden Oriole which was at Saltness from the 17 - 20th but was incredibly wild and would bomb off for miles at the least disturbance so there was no chance of any photos unfortunately.

13th September 2017

American Golden Plover gallery

Blurred shot of the dusky underwings

The American Golden Plover gave itself up today, showing well in the field just north of the heligoland trap.

12th September 2017

American Golden Plover

Whinchat in the rain.

Leucistic House Sparrow at Skaw.

Got a call from Brian just before 2pm today to say he had found an American Golden Plover among a flock of its european cousins near the Skaw airstrip. By the time I got up there I met Brian coming along the road as the flock had flown off to the south. We soon refound them in fields just north of the heligoland and had very good views through the telescope. It was nice to see that it was an adult in partial summer plumage as the only other Whalsay record was of a juvenile around Challister on 2/10/06. Typically the AGP was the bird farthest from the road and I only managed a single photo before the flock got up and disappeared. Despite much looking it wasn't seen again today so I am hoping it stays around long enough to get a better photo than the above. Not a great deal of news in the last few days - Red backed Shrike at Brough and Barred Warblers at Hamister and Symbister on 10/9 was about all.

9th September 2017

Icterine warbler

Just back from three and a half weeks at the herring fishing. Not a lot to report bird wise, the usual scatter of Sooty Shearwaters and a flypast Green Sandpiper a few miles south of fair Isle 2/9 was about all I saw. While I was away a female Marsh Harrier was around Isbister from 20 - 21/8 and remains the commonest bird missing from my island list. Although the winds are northerly today an Icterine Warbler was in the Isbister plantation and early Yellow browed Warblers were at Saltness and Skaw.

29th July 2017

A pair of Two barred Crossbills

Male Two barred Crossbill            photo by Brian Marshall

Today is the 3rd of August and I am just home from a trip to Denmark as the boat has been on the dock in Hirtshals. I got a particularly gripping text from Brian on 29/7 when a pair of male Two barred Crossbills briefly visited his Marrister garden. There has only been two previous records from Whalsay - a male found by my grandfather Johnnie Simpson on 19th July 1972 which I didn't see and a really grotty juvenile in the Gardentown/Setter area from 25th - 30th September 1999 which I did. Hope to find one in the next week or so before the herring fishing but am not holding my breath!

21st July 2017

Juvenile Cuckoo

A juvenile Cuckoo was in and around the Skaw plantation today and was a bird which went unrecorded on the isle last year. A Woodpigeon and Chiffchaff were also in the same place. The Chiff was in moult and is likely to be a summering bird rather than a fresh arrival.

18th July 2017

Breeding Whimbrels

Stopped in a lay-by at the west loch of Skaw today and was pleased to see a Whimbrel pair with two chicks near the roadside. Took a few photos out the car window.

16th July 2017

Holiday in Budapest

Large White Stork chicks in the nest.

Juvenile Bearded Tit.


Bee-eater at nest site.

Common Cranes, two of five present.

Crested Lark.

Juvenile Night Heron

Dragonfly  (Black tailed Skimmer maybe??)

Lizard thing.

Silver-washed Fritillary.

Just back from a ten day holiday in Budapest with Angela and Chloe which was splendid. We had a days guided bird watching in the Kiskunsag region and despite it not being the migration season threw up six new species for myself. Eastern Imperial Eagle, Stone Curlew, Bearded Tit, Pygmy Cormorant, Marsh Harrier! and Ferruginous Duck. Bee-Eaters, Rollers, Red footed Falcons and White Storks were breeding and I was vexed not to have got any decent pics of this but at least we saw them well which was the main thing.

28th June 2017

Black Redstart and Mute Swan

A Black Redstart was in and around the Skaw plantation today, a strange occurrence in late June. Much rarer in Whalsay terms was the Mute Swan which has been on the Vatshoull loch since yesterday.

10th June 2017

Nightjar avoids the camera

Went for a look in the Skaw plantation this afternoon and as I came around the back of the spruces down the north side I came face to face with a Nightjar sitting on a branch about half way up the tree. These birds quite often allow a close approach trusting their "tree bark" plumage to camouflage  them from predators/stupid birdwatchers. As I wasn't particularly close to it I froze expecting it to sit still when I would hope to get some nice photos but up it went over the bushes and around to the other side of the plantation. I was hopeful that it was still in the trees on the other side so I phoned Brian and sat down to wait. On Brian's arrival  we  flushed it again and it flew around for about thirty seconds being chased by a Meadow Pipit before heading off north towards the trap area. We are hoping to find it again tomorrow but this is probably a long shot. Anyway this is only the fourth individual I have seen on Whalsay and is the first record since one on a garden wall at the "auld haa", Symbister on 29th May 2008.

7th June 2017

Another June Greenish Warbler

A Greenish Warbler turned up in the Isbister plantation today, this is the third in June in the last three years having never occurred in spring previously! An Icterine Warbler was in the same place and also new for the year but managed to avoid Brians net as well as my camera.

2nd June 2017

Colour ringed Sanderling

White Wagtail on our balcony looking like it wants in out of the rain!   Kinda blurred through the glass.

Skarf at Skaw

Alls gone quiet on Whalsay again. Brian found the above colour ringed Sanderling on Easter Nettlar beach at the north end of the golf course at Skaw today.

22nd May 2017

Trapped Long eared Owl

Photos by Angela Irvine

Got a phonecall from Catherine Irvine up at Skibberhoull about a Long eared Owl so myself and Brian went along just in time to see it fly off. We were pleased to see it but also vexed to miss a photo opportunity. We needn't have worried as a bit later it had trapped itself in Willie and Janet Irvines shed at Saltness so me, Brian and Angela went along and caught it quite easily.

21st May 2017

Red Grouse chicks

My first experience of Red Grouse chicks today as me and Angela flushed the female off seven young birds. While taking a few hurried pics they came cheeping towards Angela and started trying to crawl under her backside which was both amazing and amusing. As she tried to move back three chicks were sitting on her shoe! Never seen the like before.

19th May 2017

A very brief Dotterel

First summer male Pied flycatcher in the Skaw plantation 19/5.

It has quietened down considerably since my last post with a male Red backed Shrike near the Skaw plantation from 15-16/5. Brian found bird of the period with a Dotterel wandering around up near the 18th tee on the golf course at Skaw on 18/5. Unfortunately it sneaked off while he was sending out the news and couldn't be refound but with a few doing the rounds on Shetland there's always hope of another.

13th May 2017

Thrush Nightingale

Redpoll at Symbister

Redstart keeping the Thrush Nightingale company at Hamister.

Bonxies having a Shalder for lunch. Not my favourite species!

Recently returned from a 5 week fishing trip. It has been fairly quiet birdwise in this time though a burst of SE winds early in the month saw Brian turn up a female Subalpine Warbler sp. at Skibberhoull from 3-4/5. The winds are back in the east now and the above Thrush Nightingale was skulking about in one of the yards at east Hamister today. The bird had a pretty obvious breast band which for whatever reason is not obvious on my photos.

24th March 2017

Pied Wagtails

Problems with the boats steering gear has seen our Blue Whiting season delayed for a week or so yet. Winds are fairly unhelpful for birds but our first Dunnock was at Saltness today regardless, a Meadow Pipit at Isbister and two Pied Wagtails at Symbister with another at Pouster.

18th March 2017


A nice male Yellowhammer was found by Bryan Sutherland outside the byre at Whitefield and has been present since yesterday. Probably my last post for a while as we head away on monday for a month+ at the blue whiting fishing.

9th March 2017

Mistle Thrush

Redwing at Pouster

Mistle Thrush numbers went up by one today with the above bird at Skaw adding to the four still on the big rig at Hamister. The Stonechat was still at the Burns, the five Pink footed Geese were at Challister and single Glaucous and Iceland Gulls were in a mixed gull flock on the point at Vatshoull loch.

8th March 2017


Another long gap between posts on here as there has been little news. A Water Rail was at Hamister 7/2 and a pair of Red throated Diver were back on North loch of Skaw for a few days from 18/2 which was quite early. There has been a period of SE winds adding a few things to the year list in the last few days - five Pink footed Geese at the burns, male Siskin at Skaw and two Mistle Thrushes at Hamister/Skibberhoull on 6/3. Mistle Thrush numbers doubled to four 7/3, all on the big rig at Hamister with a cracking male Stonechat at the Burns the same day. Today has been sunny for the most part and Mr. Stonechat allowed a close approach for a few photos.

29th January 2017

European White fronted Geese

In keeping with recent times January 2017 has been fairly quiet, a few Iceland and Glaucous Gulls have been seen with Brian having a good count of eight Glaucs following a fishing boat south past Symbister 11/1.  Three Common Scoters were off Vatshoull 5/1 with a Peregrine doing a flypast at the same time. Two of the Scoters were still present 7/1 with a further two off Symbister, all female type birds. Seven European White fronted Geese were in a park at Challister today and are the only Geese recorded so far apart from the local Greylags.

31st December 2016

Whalsay bird review 2016


After a good November/December for the species four Little Auks were still off Symbister 1/1. A dark bellied Brent Goose was at Skaw 2/1 before relocating to Brough 6/1 and then Newpark 11/1. The previous years three Pink-footed Geese were around Brough all month. A Glaucous Gull was at Hamister 4/1 and an Iceland Gull at Symbister from 6/1. Three Tundra Bean Geese were at the Burns from 24-27/1. An immature gull at Hamister from 28/1 caused much debate, showing characters of American Herring Gull and as such a potential first for Shetland. To cut a long story short even the experts weren't sure and so it will likely be relegated to the ranks of maybe/maybe not... annoying!!


Overwintering Dunnocks were at Marrister and Skaw early in the month. A flock of 25+ Snow Buntings were at Hamister and a Woodcock at Skaw 6/2 with a Jack Snipe at Hamister and a Sparrowhawk at Skaw 7/2. A Taiga Bean Goose was in the Brough/Burns area from 10-24/2 and was a first confirmed record of this race on the island. An adult Glaucous Gull was at Hamister 22/2 with two first winter birds at Symbister salmon cages next day. A Black throated Diver was off Vatshoull 28/2 and was a first island record since 2011. Six Iceland Gulls were at Symbister salmon cages the same day with another at Huxter loch with a Glaucous Gull.


Little was seen until 17/3 when a Mistle Thrush was at Isbister, three Pink-footed Geese were at the Burns and two Iceland Gulls and a Glaucous Gull were at Symbister. A Pied Wagtail was at Hamister 18/3 with a juvenile Sparrowhawk at the burns 23/3. A Tundra Bean Goose was at Skaw 24/3 and the first three Goldcrests were at Skaw 28/3.


the gull thing at Hamister

Taiga Bean Goose at the burns


A Black throated Diver and Wheatear were at Huxter 6/4 with a Black Redstart briefly at Hamister 18/4. A quiet month and unfortunately a sign of things to come!


Two Black tailed Godwits were at Skaw 2/5 with three at Vatshoull 16/5. A female Subalpine Warbler sp. was briefly at Hamister on the evening of 8/5. An Icterine Warbler was at Skaw 11/5 and was the sole record for the year. Three House Martins were at Skibberhoull 21/5 with a Common Rosefinch at Skaw and a smart male Ruff at Vatshoull 22/5. An early-ish Marsh Warbler was singing in the Isbister plantation 28/5 with a male Red backed Shrike at Skaw 30/5.


A Greenish Warbler 5/6 made it two in successive Junes for the Skaw plantation. A female Red backed Shrike at Grunitaing 9/6 and a Reed Warbler in the Isbister plantation 12/6 rounded off a dire spring.

female Red backed Shrike


A Common Sandpiper with a single chick was at Huxter loch 4/7 and was a second island breeding record. A Bar tailed Godwit was at Skaw 18/7, a female Kestrel was at Vevoe 22/7 and another Common Sandpiper was at the Houb 27/7.


A first summer Hobby spent half an hour sitting on a post at Pouster in heavy rain on 3/8.  Two Greenshank were at Skaw 4/8 with a bat sp. (very likely Narthusius Pipistrelle) flying around the Skaw plantation for a few days from 5/8. A Whimbrel with a small chick at west loch of Skaw 10/8 was a bit late. Little else was seen till a Greenish Warbler was trapped in the Skaw plantation 30/8.


Single Common Swift and Sand Martin were at Skaw with five Black tailed Godwits on 2/9. A  Barred Warbler and Wood Warbler were at Skaw and a Common Rosefinch at the burns on 4/9. A Red backed Shrike was at Skaw 8/9 with another Barred Warbler there 11/9 and two seen 14/9. A Red breasted Flycatcher and the first of many Yellow browed Warblers were at Skaw 16/9. A Peregrine flew east over Hamister18/9. A Marsh Warbler was trapped at Skaw 22/9. A Buff breasted Sandpiper was briefly on the Skaw golf course 26/9.  A Little Bunting was in the red grind quarry, Brough 27/9 with another bird at Skaw the next day. A juvenile Storm Petrel was picked up and safely released at Symbister 28/9.

Common Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper chick

Marsh Warbler


A Common Rosefinch was at Skaw 1/10 with a Painted Lady at Isbister 2/10. A Peregrine was at Skaw 3/10. A few skeins of Barnacle Geese flew south over the island 4/10 adding up to just over 200 for the day. A Lesser Whitethroat of the Siberian "blythii" race was trapped at Skaw the same day. A Bluethroat and Red breasted Flycatcher were at Skibberhoull 5/10. Single Lapland Bunting, Long eared Owl and Grey Wagtail were at Skaw 6/10 with a Greenfinch two Goldfinches and a Water Rail there 7/10. A Blyth's Reed Warbler was in and around Jon Dunns garden at Skaw from 10-19/10. A Waxwing was at Marrister11/10. Barred Warbler and Common Rosefinch were at Skaw 15/10.  17/10 saw a mobile Hoopoe at Vatshoull before moving to the red grind quarry area then on to Isbister. A Grey Wagtail was also near the red grind quarry and two European White fronted Geese were at Hamister. A Lapland Bunting was at Skaw, a Hawfinch at Isbister and a male Yellowhammer at Symbister 18/10. A Waxwing was at Skaw 20/10. With regular Hoopoe reports at sites from Skaw to Huxter we were sure at least two birds were doing the rounds. Three dark bellied Brent Geese were at Sandwick loch 22/10 and five Tundra Bean Geese at Vatshoull 25/10. A Peregrine flew over Marrister 27/10.


With Brian and myself away for most of the month even less was seen. Six Waxwings were at Skaw 11/11. An Iceland Gull was at Symbister19/11, a Waxwing at Marrister 21/11 with a Water Rail there 23/11.


After a good few Humpback Whale records around Shetland a pair spent the day 5/12 off Skaw and Vevoe. First winter Glaucous Gulls were at Skaw 6/12 and Symbister 8/12. Single Chiffchaffs hung on at Hamister and Boothpark until at least 14/12 with two Iceland Gulls at Symbister the same day. A Water Rail was at Skaw Taing 15/12. An Iceland Gull was at Symbister 27-31/12.


Blyth's Reed Warbler

2016 has been by far the worst of my birdwatching life! The rest of Shetland had an amazing autumn with our neighbouring islands of Out Skerries, Fetlar and Bressay having outstanding national rarities pretty much every day in October - Whalsay didn't have a single one!!! the whole year - nothing despite much flogging around. The 27th September was a typical day - out all day for nothing only to find a Little Bunting in the red grind quarry with the last of the daylight. Came home happy-ish then had a look on the "nature in Shetland" website. Brown Shrike and Great Snipe on Out Skerries, Pallid Harrier at South Mainland, Paddyfield Warbler on Unst, cue birding tourettes!!! This went on  each and every day for the next month and was utterly soul destroying. I started keeping island yearlists in 2011 and my first effort of 151 still leads the way. In 2015 I reached a new low figure of 144. 2016 has well and truly blown that out of the water with only 129 species seen, there is no way I will ever do worse until I go blind or die.  I usually conclude this with a list of common birds I either missed or went unrecorded on Whalsay but I cant be arsed as I will be sitting here all day. Grumpy auld git rant over! Come on 2017 - things can only get better.

5th December 2016

Humpback Whales

Martin Shearer came across two Humpback Whales today while hauling  his creels. Originally off Skaw they worked there way south and were off Vevoe when Martin very kindly took myself and Brian for a run in his boat to get a few photos. Quite an experience though I missed one of them sticking its head out of the water close to the boat, this happened just before I got picked up. As usual there is zero bird news in the no fly zone though a Chiffchaff was still at Hamister today.

17th October 2016


Grey wagtail

Brian found a Hoopoe  between Vatshoull and Challister today and it led me on a merry dance before I caught up with it at the roadside east of the red grind quarry. A Grey Wagtail seen in the same area and two European race White fronted Geese at Hamister were also new for  the year. Am blaming the strong winds for the state of the above photos.

9th October 2016

Siberian Accentor twitch

Blyth`s Reed Warbler in bright sunlight

And in the shade.

A good day began with Jon Dunn finding a Blyth`s Reed Warbler in his garden at Skaw though things went mental when news of Britain's first Siberian Accentor in Mossy hill quarry at the South mainland came through just after 3pm. With only a single ferry running on Sunday  me, Brian and Jon went out on the 4:15 sailing and had a hot run down there as there is so little daylight now. We needn't have worried as the bird was ridiculously tame and had obviously never seen humans before. All we need now is something really good on Whalsay its high time!

5th October 2016



With Out Skerries and Fetlar wading knee deep in national rarities we are still struggling away with little reward. The day was a total washout until a visit to Skibberhoull in the early evening produced our first Bluethroat of the year and a Red breasted Flycatcher. With Peter Stronach here for a few days the Flycatcher was a ringing tick for him which was always something I suppose.

4th October 2016

Siberian Lesser Whitethroat

Lesser Whitethroat of the Siberian race "blythi" trapped at Skaw today.  photo by Jon Dunn

A Siberian Lesser Whitethoat of the race "blythi" was mist netted in the Skaw plantation today. Tail pattern, plumage tones and all measurements confirmed this though a few feathers shed in the ringing process are being sent away for DNA analysis just to make doubly sure. This race has real potential to be split into a full species in the future and is (I think) only the 2nd confirmed record for Shetland to date.

28th September 2016


Buff breasted Sandpiper              photo Brian Marshall

Yellow browed Warbler

Little Bunting in the red grind quarry, Brough.

With national rarities at both ends of Shetland and even on our neighbouring island, Out Skerries it is the usual wasteland on Whalsay. Brian found bird of the period with a Buff breasted Sandpiper on the golf course 26/9 which disappeared before I saw it. Little Buntings were in the red grind quarry, Brough and a Skaw today and that was about it despite flogging all over the place. Dire.

25th September 2016

Jack Snipe

Not a great deal seen today - Jack Snipe at skaw, the usual scattering of Yellow browed Warblers and my first party of Pink footed Geese (28) flying east over Vevoe. 22/9 saw us beating our best day count of Yellow browed Warblers with 25 seen and with rain for a good portion of the day quite a few areas went unchecked. Just need a good one now!

21st September 2016

Mist netting at Skaw

Yellow browed Warbler

Marsh Warbler

A most enjoyable afternoon mist netting with Brian in the Skaw plantation today. Three Yellow browed Warblers were caught out of five birds present with single Marsh Warbler, Common Redstart and Blackcap also caught.

18th September 2106

Red breasted flycatcher

Part of a Red backed Shrikes larder in the Skaw plantation today.

Just back from this years herring season and there's a Red breasted Flycatcher in the Skaw plantation today which is a second for the year with one at Sandwick 16/9. A Red backed Shrike has been in the plantation for a few days and has a "larder" of  two field mice and at least a dozen bees impaled on the branches. A Yellow browed Warbler was also at this location with Common Rosefinch at the burns and a Peregrine flying east over Hamister the only other interesting sightings today.

5th September 2016

A few migrants

Barred Warbler

Wood Warbler

White beaked Dolphin riding the bow wash in the Minch.

Home for a few days mid herring season and heading away again on 8th. A bit of easterly winds at the moment so have caught up with a few scarcities.  A Greenish Warbler found by John Fishwick 30/8 hung around long enough for me to see it. Sand Martin and Greenshank 2/9 were year ticks as was the Barred Warbler trapped at Skaw 4/9. Common Rosefinches were at the burns 4/9 and Skaw 5/9.

3rd August 2016

Bedraggled Hobby

Raining cats and dogs here today though on the plus side its blowing a strong easterly wind. A sorry looking and very bedraggled first summer Hobby was on a post at Newpark and obligingly stayed long enough for Brian to get there and see it too. First decent migrant in a while.

22nd July 2016


Not sure what these three were finding to eat on "beenies" boathouse at Skaw!

A Kestrel was in the Vevoe/West loch area today, perhaps not the rarest but a first for the year and any migrant in July is very welcome.

21st July 2016


Purple  Dropwing

Red knobbed Coot

Dunno yet!

Purple Gallinule

Broad Scarlet Darter

Audouins Gull eating tattie crisps on Alcudia beach

Clouded Yellow butterfly

Blacktailed Skimmer


Just back from ten days in Alcudia, Mallorca which was very nice and with the Albufera natural park a few minutes away by bus! Birds new to me were - Audouins Gull, Purple Heron, Little Bittern, Cetti`s warbler, Moustached Warbler, Purple Gallinule, Red Knobbed Coot, Eleanora`s Falcon, Night Heron, Glossy Ibis and Black winged Stilt  with other goodies like Bee-eater, Thrush Nightingale, Sardinian Warbler, Fan tailed warbler, breeding Kentish Plovers etc...

4th July 2016

Breeding Common Sandpipers

Brian found a Common Sandpiper with one chick at Huxter loch this evening. Although a few pairs breed annually in Shetland this is only a second record for Whalsay after a single chick was found at west loch of Skaw on 11th July 2001.

9th June 2016

Red backed Shrike

Mental looking Skarf (Shag)

A female Red backed Shrike was at Grunitaing this evening and was the only migrant seen apart from a few Chiffchaffs. Unfortunately the Greenish Warbler on the 5th proved to be a one day wonder so I never did manage a decent photo.

5th June 2016

Greenish Warbler

Marsh Warbler at Skaw 3/6.

Whalsays first spring record of Greenish Warbler turned up in the Skaw plantation last year on the 8th of June. We haven't had to wait long for our 2nd bird with the above turning up, also in the Skaw plantation today. Without thrashing around stressing the bird I quietly strolled around trying for photos. SIX hours was spent and the only decent pics were a couple of "arse on" shots as the bird played hard to get. Maybe tomorrow. Best birds in the last week and a half was a Marsh Warbler at Isbister 28/5, male Red backed Shrike at Skaw 30/5 - 3/6 and another Marsh Warbler also at Skaw 3/6, none of which allowed a decent photo.

26th May 2016

Breeding Redshank

A few pairs of Redshank breed on the island annually, the above was photographed North of Huxter on the 25th of May. Only one chick was seen but there were probably more sneaking around. The only migrant news concerned a Tree Sparrow found at Hamister today by new doctor/birder John Fishwick though I was in Lerwick and missed it. Another pair of eyes will be good.

23rd May 2016

Grey Heron

The winds have gone back north today halting migration once more. Took a few pics of a juvenile Grey Heron which has been in the Symbister meadow for quite a while now.

22nd May 2016

Common Rosefinch

The light trickle of migrants continues with a singing Common Rosefinch in the Skaw plantation and a smart breeding plumaged male Ruff at Vatshoull loch today.

21st May 2016

House Martins

Anyone who can take sharp photos of flying Swifts. Swallows or Martins has to be admired. I was waving the camera at three House Martins at Skibberhoull this evening with the usual results! After circling around laughing they eventually took pity on me and sat down on a garage roof for a bit. Single Spotted Flycatcher, Common Redstart and a few Chiffchaffs were the only other migrants seen today.

19th May 2016

Still quiet here

Female Subalpine Warbler sp. at Hamister, 8/5/16.        photo by Brian Marshall

There's good reason for the two month gap on this site, I have either been away or seen nothing when home. Three weeks at the blue whiting fishing west of St Kilda produced an adult Pomarine Skua 29/3 and a Great Shearwater 9/4. Best bird at home in my absence was the above female Subalpine Warbler sp.  found by Brian on the evening of 8/5 though it disappeared almost immediately. Been home a few days now but still very quiet, things must surely improve soon?

17th March 2016

Mistle Thrush

Mistle Thrush at long range through a fence!

A Mistle Thrush was at Isbister today though very wary, flying long distances at the smallest disturbance. Managed a few long range record shots through a fence but had no luck trying to sneak up on it. Not much else seen in the last few weeks with the exception being a Black throated Diver found by Paul Harvey and Brian off Vatshoull 28/2 which was a first island record since November 2011.

23rd February 2016

Same stuff different day

Adult Glaucous Gull at Hamister on 22nd.

The Taiga Bean Goose still in the Brough/Burns area.

Nothing new to report, the Taiga Bean Goose is still hanging around the Brough/Burns area and there are a few white winged gulls present. There were five Iceland Gulls and two Glaucous Gulls at the Symbister salmon cages today, all first winter birds with an adult Glaucous Gull at Hamister yesterday.

11th February 2016

More Taiga Bean Goose photos

A few more photos of the Taiga Bean Goose which is moving around the Brough/Burns area. Heading to sea at 10 pm for another mackerel trip.

10th February 2016

Taiga Bean Goose

With a Greylag for comparison.             photo by Brian Marshall

A Taiga Bean Goose was in a field just South of the SHOARD shop at Brough today and will be a first confirmed record of this race for Whalsay if accepted.

3rd February 2016

No closer to solving the Gull riddle

A gull!

Three Pink-footed Geese still at Brough

Iceland Gull still around Symbister

Still no nearer to resolving the issue of the Hamister Gull. Expert opinion suggests that there are to many anomalies in the plumage for the bird to be accepted as an American Herring Gull, (chequered rather than dark greater coverts, too much white in the tail etc...) but then again as one of the top guys said " it is an even poorer fit for Argentatus Herring Gull" !!! All very confusing and annoying. Unless it sheds a feather or two it is heading towards being a non bird.

1st February 2016

Hamister Gull

On 28th of January a dark  gull appeared outside our house at Hamister. Thinking it looked pretty good for an American Herring Gull I have been taking photos for the last few days and sending them off to various experts on the subject. As you can see above lots of pics have been taken in varying light conditions making the bird look different in nearly every shot.  Everyone agrees it is an "interesting bird" a few thinking it is a dark Argentatus type Herring Gull with others saying American and some fence sitting in between. There is no doubt it isn't a "classic" Smithsonianus but I still think that's where my money lies. I wait to be proved wrong as I admit to knowing little about it. Any American gull experts reading this with any comments whether yey or nay please email me at angela@geiranger.plus.com . American Herring Gull would be a Shetland first if proven as such!

24th January 2016

Tundra Bean Geese

Three Tundra Bean Geese were at the burns today. This species is now regarded as scarce instead of what used to be a fairly rare bird.

22nd January 2016

Orcas and Pilot Whales NW of the Hebrides


Pilot Whales

Glaucous Gull in Lerwick harbour 19/1/16

Back from a fishing trip and a pod of over forty Pilot Whales and twenty two Orcas were seen in a position roughly 33 miles NW from the Butt of Lewis on the 19th January

7th January 2016

Iceland Gull

Almost an ok photo if I hadn't taken its wingtip off!

Three Pink-footed Geese at Brough today.

A fairly typical day atm.      SE winds at Isbister  photo by Chloe Irvine

A first winter Iceland Gull was around Symbister yesterday giving me both the common-ish  white wingers for the year. A Woodcock was also at Skaw yesterday .

4th January 2016

Glaucous Gull

A first winter Glaucous Gull was at Hamister today, helping itself to the remains of our dinner. Caught up with the three Pink-footed Geese at Brough yesterday as well.

2nd January 2016

Dark bellied Brent Goose

A couple of long range and crap photos of a dark bellied Brent Goose which was at Skaw today. Good to get on the year list as they are not annual on the isle although we have managed to record at least one in all of the last four years . Four Little Auks were off Symbister yesterday though there is no sign so far of the White fronted or Pink-footed Geese which were around Brough a few days ago.

31st December 2015

Whalsay bird review 2015


Birds hanging on from 2014 included a couple of Iceland Gulls in the Hamister/Symbister area, Great Tit at Symbister/Gardentown and a pale bellied Brent Goose moving between Skibberhoull and the Houb till 9/1. Two Goosanders were at the Houb from 2-18/1. A Waxwing visited Saltness then Symbister 3/1 with overwintering Dunnocks at Symbister and Hamister. Thirty Snow Buntings remained at Hamister from late 2014. A first winter Glaucous Gull was around the Symbister salmon cages from 14-17/1 with a Little Auk there on the latter date.



Very little of interest was seen, three Iceland Gulls were around all month with two at Symbister and one at Skaw. The Great Tit was in the Symbister area all month, a Woodpigeon was at Vatshoull 16/2 with the first Red throated Diver back on west loch of Skaw on 24/2.




A Great Grey Shrike and Mistle Thrush were at Skaw 18/3 with pretty much nothing else till a few Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs appeared in the last few days of the month

Great Tit


Another absolutely dire month. A Pink footed Goose was at Challister 10/4 with a male Sparrowhawk at Skaw 18/4. A Hawfinch was at a garden feeder at Gardentown from 26-27/4.


The first of a few Ring Ouzels and a Tundra Bean Goose was at Skaw 3/5. A scatter of common migrants appeared 4/5 with a Hawfinch at Skaw, Kestrel at Isbister, a Sparrowhawk at Hamister and the first Arctic Tern on Vatshoull loch. The first Sedge Warbler was at Sandwick and Pied Flycatcher at Gardentown 5/5. Long eared Owls were at Skibberhoull 6/5 and Skaw 7/5. A Peregrine was eating a Red Grouse north of Vatshoull 8/5. Five Tree Sparrows were at Skaw 11/5 with one of these trapped 16/5. A pair of Linnets were at Sandwick 18/5 with a Black tailed Godwit at Vatshoull loch 22/5. A female Brambling at Hamister 26-29/5 was bearing a German ring from Heligoland and had been controlled a few weeks before. A colour ringed Turnstone 28/5 on Easter Nettlar beach, Skaw Taing  had been trapped 22/11/14 on Heligoland seen regularly there till 18/5/15 and seen back there on 6th September. Our first Hobby for many years bombed past Easter Nettlar 28/5 while looking for the Turnstone.


A male Ruff in breeding dress was at Skaw Taing and a Tree Pipit at Sodom 1/6. 2/6 yielded a singing male Bluethroat at Isbister, Icterine Warblers at Skaw, Lubba and Marrister and Red backed Shrikes at Skaw, Sandwick and Isbister. A bat sp. was seen briefly at Whitefield 5/6 with a Black Redstart at Brough 6/6. 8/6 was a good day with a Greenish Warbler at Skaw, a male Common Rosefinch at North Park and fifteen Mute Swans (eleven on Vatshoull loch and four on Sandwick loch). Two Red necked Phalaropes were seen briefly at Vatshoull 9/6 before being found again at Skaw a few days later. Amazingly a first breeding attempt was undertaken, a nest of four eggs was monitored from distance but unfortunately doomed to failure. Another breeding first was a Siskin pair which  successfully reared one chick in the Skaw plantation. An Icterine Warbler was at Hamister 12/6. Bird of the year was a female Eyebrowed Thrush seen and photographed by Carolyn and Johnnie Simpson in their garden at Saeter on 20/6.  This was an island first but missed by all birders. Just to rub salt in the wounds a Thrush sp. was flushed at long range the next day and was very likely the bird but was never seen again. The month was rounded off by a first summer Hobby roosting on a Symbister window sill at 10:45pm on 30/6.


Bluethroat at Isbister

Greenish warbler at Skaw

Female Red Necked Phalarope at Skaw

Male Red necked Phalarope

Common Rosefinch at North Park             photo by Johnnie Simpson

Eyebrowed Thrush at Saeter       Photo by Carolyn Simpson

Hobby at Symbister           photo by Ian Reid


The years only Common Crossbill was in the Skaw plantation for a few days from 2/7. A Hummingbird Hawkmoth was at Gardentown briefly 3/7 and a Bar tailed Godwit visited north loch of Skaw 14/7. Bird of the month went to an unseasonal Golden Oriole 21/7 which visited a few gardens in the Hamister/North Park area but refused to sit out and have its photo taken.


The usual trickle of waders early in the month with quite a few Ruff, Greenshank 6/8 and five Bar tailed Godwits at the houb 7/8. An early Common Whitethroat was at Whitefield 9/8. A Hawfinch was at Saltness 14/8 with two together at Whitefield next day. A couple of Reed Warblers at Hamister 16/8 were the first of the year. A Cuckoo was at Whitefield 17/8 and a Wood Warbler at Marrister 18/8 with another at Houll 19/8. Also on 19/8 four Red backed Shrikes were seen with two at Skaw and two at Isbister, four Wrynecks, three at Skaw and one at Sandwick, an Icterine Warbler at Skaw and the years only Sand Martin at Sandwick. The first of a few Barred Warblers was at Skaw 21/8 and the years second Hummingbird Hawkmoth at Brough 22/8. On 24/8 a Cuckoo was at Skibberhoull and a Green Sandpiper and two Icterine Warblers at Skaw. I was away for a bit after this date though BM had a Spotted Redshank at Skaw 25/8.


The first two Yellow browed Warblers for the year were at Skaw 10/9 with a Barred Warbler.  11/9 saw a Red breasted Flycatcher and first winter Little Gull at Skaw and a Red backed shrike at Isbister. Another island first was found 12/9 and after the carry on with the Eyebrowed Thrush in June it was good that we all saw the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler which was seen then trapped in the Skaw plantation. It remained there till16/9 but was extremely skulking and usually heard rather than seen. A Little Stint on Easter nettlar beach, Skaw Taing 14/9 was the only record this year. Little of note was seen till 22/9 when a Red flanked Bluetail was seen very briefly in a Whitefield garden and a Turtle Dove at Sodom then Whitefield.  An incredibly skulking Blyth`s Reed Warbler was in a few Symbister gardens 27/9. A Richards Pipit was at Brough 28/9 with presumably the same bird refound at Vevoe 30/9. A Little Bunting was at Brough 29-30/9.

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler at Skaw


A Grey Shrike sp. bombed out of a Sandwick garden 7/10 but was lost. Cath Simpsons report of a "Pipit sized Thrush with Song Thrush markings" in her Symbister garden 8/10 sounded very interesting but was again relegated to the ranks of ones that got away. A flypast Stock Dove in the same area was the first for a few years but little consolation. A Short eared Owl was in the Houb area also on 8/10. The years only record of two Barnacle Geese was at Vatshoull 9/10 with a Little Bunting at the burns the same day. 12/10 saw a Great Grey Shrike on the wires at Creadyknowe with a Grey Plover amongst a Goldie flock on the Skaw golf course. Only another Short eared Owl on 17/10 in the Brough Quarry was notable before heading away for a month to the mackerel fishing.


With Brian and myself away for most of the month this is going to be brief! Jon Dunn found Whalsays second Little Egret on the pool at Symbister 9/11 and a Common Scoter on Sandwick loch  15/11. A Peregrine was at Skaw Taing 21/11 and a few Little Auks turned up towards the months end with twelve off Symbister 28/11 the best count.


An Iceland gull was at Symbister 3/12. Our second Waxwing of the year was at Gardentown 5/12 and like the individual in January didn't hang on till I got there to see it. A Glaucous Gull was at Symbister also on 5/12. An unseasonal Goldfinch was at Skaw 12-14/12 with three Pink footed Geese over Skaw the same day before taking up residence at Brough for a while. A huge count by Whalsay standards was that of fifty! Little Auks flying South past Brians house at Marrister in just thirty five minutes on 21/12. A Greenland White fronted Goose at Brough with a few Greylags was he last addition to the year list on 22-26/12. A Glaucous Gull was at Vatshoull and a Peregrine at Skaw on 23/13. A Jack Snipe was at Hamister 26/12. Three European White fronted Geese were at Brough 29/12 and will hopefully hang on for next years list.

Little Bunting at the Burns

Great grey Shrike at Creadyknowe

Little Egret at Symbister           photo   www.jondunn.com

This is my fifth time of keeping a Whalsay year list and my first effort of 151 in 2011 is still the best. This years total of 144 unfortunately sets a new low but with no birds around for long periods what can you do? Birds seen on the Island but missed by me were - Common Scoter, Little Egret, Spotted Redshank, Sand Martin, Waxwing, Eyebrowed Thrush (woe), Common Rosefinch and Mistle Thrush. Common birds unrecorded this year were - Shelduck, Scaup, Storm Petrel, Water Rail, Moorhen, Common Sandpiper, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Stonechat, Jackdaw, Rook, Greenfinch and Yellowhammer. Eyebrowed Thrush and Eastern Olivaceous Warbler raised the Island list total to 302 species though all birders missing the former was depressing. Siskins bred successfully for the first time rearing a single chick in the Skaw plantation. One of the most exciting events was the discovery of four eggs in a Red necked Phalarope nest but this was doomed to failure which was a great shame.

29th December 2015

White fronted Geese

European White fronted Geese at Brough

Whooper Swan at Skaw

On 22nd December an adult Greenland white fronted Goose was in a field at Brough with a few Greylags. It was always at long range so my photos were pretty bad.  Today this bird was replaced by three European race birds in better light and closer to the road. Am hoping they stay put so I can add them to next years list in a few days.

15th December 2015

Rufous Turtle Dove in Scalloway

Although I am not much into twitching I decided to go for the long staying Rufous Turtle Dove which has been in a Scalloway garden for about three weeks now. A fairly approachable bird and only a second record for Shetland.

12th December 2015

Christmas Goldfinch

Seal pup on Easter Nettlar beach, Skaw Taing

Shy     photo by Angela

Amused    Photo by Angela

There's not been much news for a while,a few Little Auks have been around the shore with best count so far being twelve off Symbister on 28/11. A first winter Iceland Gull has been at Symbister a few times since 3/12 with a first winter Glaucous Gull also there on 5/12. Whalsays second Waxwing of the year was at Gardentown 5/12 and like the individual in January didn't hang around till I saw it. Bird of the month so far was at Skaw today with a nice Goldfinch present, hopefully it will hang on till I get better photos than the above!

22nd November 2015

Mackerel fishing

An Orca powering towards our boat. One of a pod of ten animals about two miles east of Foula

Little Egret at Symbister   photo by Jon Dunn (www.jondunn.com)

Waxwing at Westerloch, Lerwick

Eider in Lerwick harbour

Just back from a four week fishing trip. Wildlife highlight must go to the jammy Orca photo I got when fishing a few miles east of Foula on 27th October. There were about ten animals around the boat and I got lucky with one which came straight at us at a rate of knots. We landed most of our fish in Lerwick and a pair of Waxwings were seen and photographed on 8th November at Westerloch when out for a stroll. The best bird missed at home during this period was undoubtedly Whalsays 2nd Little Egret which was, like the other record, in the meadow at Symbister on 9th November. Back home now and am still ten species adrift of my best year total so things are looking bad as far as that is concerned.

 12th October 2015

Great Grey Shrike

Two new birds for the year were seen today, a Grey Plover with the Goldie flock on the golf course and the above Great Grey Shrike at Brough. The latter bird was especially good to catch up with after the Grey Shrike sp. at Sandwick a few days ago.

9th October 2015

Another Little Bunting

A fairly quiet day today with a Little Bunting found by Brian at the burns, bird of the day. Two Barnacle Geese at the Vatshoull loch was a year tick and three Yellow browed Warblers were also seen.

8th October 2015

Short eared Owl

Photo         Brian Marshall

A day of missed opportunities today after failing to refind a Grey Shrike sp. which bombed out of a Sandwick garden yesterday in terrible windy and rainy conditions. Worse was to follow when Cath Simpson told me of a"pipit sized Thrush" in her garden which she had watched at close range from her kitchen window. It apparently had "Song Thrush" markings and looked very much like a Swainsons Thrush when checking her field guide! Needless to say nothing was found. A Stock Dove past Symbister was a poor substitute but still the first island record for a few years and a Short eared Owl gave me and Brian a prolonged flypast at Brough. Eleven Yellow browed Warblers were found today with good numbers of Goldcrests and Blackcaps. The lens for my own camera has made it back to Lerwick at last so am looking forward to getting it back tomorrow evening and getting back to taking my trademark semi blurred photos.

30th September 2015

Richards Pipit

Richards Pipit          Photo Peter Stronach

Lesser Redpoll          photo Peter Stronach

Another day of fresh SW winds so little new was found. Andy and Peter found what was presumably the same Richards Pipit from Challister two days ago. It was showing really well in a field of short grass at Vevoe and everybody got good views. A Lesser Redpoll was in the Skaw plantation and is also a very scarce bird on Whalsay. Not much else to report - the Little Bunting was still on site on its weedy patch at Brough, a total of thirteen Yellow browed warblers were seen for the day and constant small parties of Pink footed Geese added up to 792 by the days end.

29th September 2015

A few good birds

Blyth's reed Warbler at Symbister          Photo Peter Stronach

Little Bunting at Brough        photo Peter Stronach

Peter Stronach and Andy Seth are on the island for a weeks birding and as usual have hit the ground running despite SW winds and few birds present. On the 27th they found the most skulking and uncooperative Blyth's Reed warbler ever, in the gardens in the Symbister shop area. It would sit tight in the centre of bushes never coming to the outside then shoot off if disturbed. A grey/brown missile was the sum total of my afternoons viewing! The 28th saw myself with the rest of the crew in Lerwick taking aboard nets for the impending mackerel season when I got a text that the boys had found a Richards Pipit at Brough. It was highly mobile, calling frequently and last seen flying north towards Challister.  I teamed up with them today and we found a Little Bunting at Brough while trying to refind the pipit. It seems if you can find a migrant at all at the moment it is likely to be something quite good.

22nd September 2015

Brief Bluetail

A good look around today produced little early in the day, the best bird by a mile being aTurtle Dove which flushed out of the Sodom plantation and headed towards Whitefield. The early evening seemed better with Yellow browed Warblers pretty much in every decent sized sycamore visited. At 6pm Willie and Christine Irvine's big garden at Whitefield was to be my last port of call as I hoped to refind the dove there. I was watching a few Yellow broweds in a sycamore and was trying to decide whether there was two or three birds present when another bird appeared facing directly away from me. A Robin-like shape, brown back and cobalt blue tail could be seen so it was fairly obvious what I was looking at  even before it turned around showing off its orange/red flank patches, brownish grey cheeks and breast band framing a small whitish bib and large black eye with whitish eye-ring. I had to leave the bird and head to higher ground to get a mobile signal and despite Brian setting off straight away the little sod was never seen again. This is Whalsays fifth Red flanked Bluetail and fourth record in the last ten years after single birds at Skaw in 2006, 2010 and 2012. The first Shetland record was also found at Skaw on 7th October 1947 making this the first for the island away from that area.

18th September 2015

The Skaw plantation 2004- 2015

Sardinian Warbler 30/5/04        Photo Jon Dunn

Paddyfield Warbler 12/6/06   Photo Jon Dunn

Pallas`s Grasshopper Warbler 2/10/06   photo  Peter Stronach

Firecrest   31/3/08    Photo Brian Marshall

Radde`s Warbler  8/10/10  Photo Jason Atkinson

Arctic Warbler 27/6/12

Lanceolated Warbler 25/9/12

Red flanked Bluetail 27/9/12

Olive backed Pipit  30/9/13

Blyth's Reed Warbler  28/5/14

Greenish Warbler  8/6/15

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler 12/9/15

Shetland is well known as one of the foremost migration hotspots in Britain. Whalsay does quite well but it has to be admitted that we are regularly seen off by Fair Isle, Unst, Foula and the South mainland. This may be so but is there a better site anywhere for small passerines( and Warblers in particular) than our own Skaw plantation. Here is a list of some of the rarer stuff in the last decade or so......

Sardinian Warbler 30/5/04.  Paddyfield Warbler (3) 12/6/06, 17/8/08, 1/9/14.  Pallas`s Grasshopper Warbler  2/10/06.  Blyth's Reed Warbler (3) 3/6/07, 24/9/12, 28/5/14.  Firecrest 31/3/08. Red flanked Bluetail (2)  30/9/10, 27/9/12.  Radde`s Warbler 8/10/10.  Arctic Warbler (2) 27/6/12, 23/6/13.  Lanceolated Warbler 25/9/12. Olive backed Pipit 30/9/13.  Greenish Warbler 8/6/15.  Eastern Olivaceous Warbler 12/9/15. Dare say I have forgotten something and this list excludes the many Red backed Shrikes, Bluethroats, Red breasted Flycatchers, Wrynecks, Icterine and Wood Warblers etc but this must be pretty good for a 50x10m site.


16th September 2015

Icterine Warbler

With the big lens still at Canon for another week+ yet its going to be "in the hand" pics for a while. An Icterine Warbler was in the trap today and Yellow browed Warblers were at Marrister and Hamister. The Eastern Olivaceous Warbler is still present in the plantation but is ridiculously skulking with only its "chick-chick" call to go on for the last two days.

12th September 2015

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler

Me (left) and Peter helping Brian (arm) get the nets up.       Photo Jon Dunn

Met up with Peter Stronach who is up in Shetland for a bit of birding and had decided on a day on Whalsay. Peter seems to have a "pied piper" effect where rare birds are concerned so along with Jon Dunn we started off in the Skaw plantation and almost immediately flushed an interesting Booted/Sykes's/ Olivaceous  type Warbler which was constantly calling if not showing very well. Brian appeared and set up two nets though catching it proved no easy task. The consensus was firmly towards Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and so it proved when the bird eventually gave itself up. This is a first Whalsay record, 8th for Shetland and apparently still only the 20th seen in Britain.

11th September 2015

Camera woes

Just back from the herring fishing and after sending my lens away to Canon two and a half weeks ago was expecting it to be waiting for me when I got in. When I phoned up I was told they still hadn't even got the parts let alone fix the - thing. Service eh?  Anyway birds:-

The years first Red breasted Flycatcher was in the Skaw plantation today with a Yellow browed Warbler and a Barred Warbler. Another Barred Warbler was at roadside (also Skaw) and a first winter Little Gull was with a party of 20+ juvenile Arctic Terns close inshore below the heligoland trap area. A Red backed Shrike was at Isbister with the South of the island pretty quiet.

19th August 2015


We are enjoying a good period of SE winds at the moment with four Wrynecks seen today, three at Skaw and one at Sandwick. Four Red backed Shrikes were also seen, two at Skaw and two at Isbister. Reed Warblers were at Sandwick and Isbister with an Icterine Warbler at Skaw and a Wood Warbler at Houll. Brian had a flythrough Sand Martin at Sandwick which I still need for the year and time is running out. The above photos were taken using Brians lens as my own one is at the doctor just now and will be a big miss with so many migrants on the move.

3rd August 2015

Mixed fortunes for first time breeders

Red Necked Phalaropes

Courtship display

Two species attempted to breed for the first time on Whalsay this year. First up was the Siskin pair which successfully reared one chick in the Skaw plantation. The young bird was seen flying around with the adults before all three moved on in early July. Unfortunately the big story of the spring was to ultimately prove unsuccessful.  When Harry and Lowrie Paton found a pair of Red Necked Phalaropes at Vatshoull on the 9th of June it was a first island record in thirteen years. Brian refound them a few days later on a small pool on the golf course and we breathed a sigh of relief not to have missed such a rare and attractive pair of birds. Then on the 17th they were seen in active courtship display and we still thought "surely not" but decided to stop reporting our sightings and keep an eye on them from distance. On 29/6  the male bird was flushed from a tussock by an alarm calling Oystercatcher and a quick look revealed four eggs. Again the nest site was kept secret and monitored from long range but with no further sign after the first week of July the excitement was short lived.

21st July 2015

Another mystery bird competition photo

Haha what do you reckon that is.

Juvenile Wheatear at Skaw.

Don't be fooled by all the sea in the top photo this bird has just come shooting out of a bush at Hamister allowing me to get off one pin sharp shot. Despite seeing it once or twice after this it had the annoying habit of sitting out of sight and then bombing off miles away so nothing better was managed tonight. I will just have to hope I can refind it tomorrow as it is a bit of a leap of faith to believe that this is in fact a Golden Oriole! Despite being annual in Shetland in small numbers this is the first individual on Whalsay since one found at Skaw then Marrister by Peter Stronach on 30th May 2009. According to "The Birds Of Shetland" July records are very rare with only five records up until 2004 with todays Whalsay bird the latest of these by over a week.

2nd July 2015

Common Crossbill

Juvenile Siskin at Skaw

The first Common Crossbill for the year was in the Skaw plantation today. Intriguingly a pair of Siskins have also been present there since at least the 4th of May and now there's a juvenile appeared with them. This would be a first breeding record for the island if proven as such.

30th June 2015

Roosting Hobby

Hobby     photo by Ian Reid

My best effort in near darkness.

I was watching telly at 10:45pm tonight when I got a text from my sister Carol Ann who lives at Symbister, " there's a funny bird asleep on our window ledge". With no further details I hurried to the scene but as usual it had flown off. I was very surprised when her husband Ian showed me the back of his camera with point blank images of a Hobby!  Luckily it hadn't gone far and I got pretty good views in the gathering gloom though my own photos were terrible.

21st June 2015

Fathers Day blues

Eyebrowed Thrush              Photos by Carolyn Simpson

Yesterday morning (20th) Carolyn and Johnny Simpson looked into their garden at Saeter to see an unfamiliar bird hopping around on the lawn. After a look through their field guide they were still none the wiser so Carolyn took a few photos. The bird was present for about three hours but they decided it was probably something common and it was soon forgotten. The next morning the photos were shown to their neighbours who called Jon Dunn to come and take a look. Soon after this an excited Jon called to say he was looking at photos of an Eyebrowed Thrush so myself and Brian hurried to the scene. On our first circuit of the Saeter council estate a Thrush bombed off at long range. The view was very poor and the likes of Redwing certainly couldn't be ruled out but as none of us have seen Redwing or Song Thrush for a number of weeks now it seems very likely to have been the Eyebrowed.  Anyway the rest of the day has been spent going round in circles getting increasingly depressed. This is a fourth record for Shetland and an addition to the Whalsay list. We hope to refind it tomorrow but the chances look pretty slim.

17th June 2015

Phalarope pair on Muddy loch

Brian found a pair of Red necked Phalaropes on muddy loch, Skaw Taing this morning which may or may not be the two seen at Vatshoull 9/6. Really pleased to see them anyway.

9th June 2015

Red necked Phalaropes

Both photos by  Lowrie Paton

Despite the fact Whalsay is within a stones throw of Fetlar where a few pairs breed annually, Red necked Phalarope records are very rare on here. Lowrie and Harry Paton had two birds fly in to the beach at Vatshoull today where they were working on their boat. Me and Brian were summoned but missed them by minutes which was a pity as the last record was of a juvenile found by Linda Marshall at west loch of Skaw on the 29th of July 2002.

8th June 2015

Greenish Warbler and Common Rosefinch

Greenish Warbler

Common Rosefinch         Photo Johnny Simpson


Mute Swans on Vatshoull loch

A Greenish Warbler was in the Skaw plantation today. This has been a bumper spring in  Shetland for a species usually very rare at this season. Attempts to photograph it was hard going and I only managed a few long range = blurred record shots. Johnny Simpson had a nice male Common Rosefinch in his garden at North Park but it had moved on before I got there.  Other news concerned a flock of fifteen Mute Swans which had been seen on Out Skerries yesterday before visiting Whalsay today with eleven on Vatshoull loch and the other four seen heading South over Symbister before taking up residence on Sandwick loch. This is still a rare bird on the island and fifteen is easily as many as I have seen in all my years on here previously.

2nd June 2015


Bluethroat, Icterine Warblers and Red backed Shrikes

Some SE winds at last and a few decent migrants appeared today. A singing male Bluethroat was at Isbister and Icterine Warblers were mist netted at Skaw and Lubba with another in Brian's garden at Marrister. A female Red backed Shrike was at Skaw with males at Isbister and Sandwick.

28th May 2015

Ringing recoveries and a flythrough Hobby

Photo Brian Marshall

Tree Pipit at Skaw

Brambling has been at Hamister for the last three days and is bearing a ring from Heligoland in Germany. The problem is trying to see the whole number in the field but lots of poor quality photos have been sent to the BTO with the bird at various angles so hopefully they will be able to piece it all together. Staying with the ringing theme Brian found a Turnstone  clad in colour rings on East  Nettlar beach, Skaw Taing today so hopefully details of both birds will be received in due course. I went to have a look for the Turnstone at about 5pm and was out of luck or so I thought.  I was scanning the mixed flock of Turnstones and Dunlins when they suddenly flushed as a Hobby went shooting past!  Hopes of a record shot were dashed as it continued north in the direction of Yell and I watched it until it was just a speck in the distance. I have only seen this species once on Whalsay, sometime in the 70s sitting on a fencepost on the hillside above my parents house at Saltness.

26th  May 2015

Iceland Gull revisited

Nothing remotely interesting to report, shite weather and an Iceland Gull at Symbister...... Trainspotting anyone!

22nd May 2015

Black tailed Godwit

If, in the last week or so of May you find yourself looking out to sea with a telescope things cant be good! There has been a pretty good passage of Pomarine and Long tailed Skuas on the west side of Shetland but as usual seawatching from Whalsay is a complete waste of time. This is easily the worst spring migration EVER on here, by this stage I am usually on at least 110 species but have only limped up to 93 at present and the forecast doesn't look at all helpful for the foreseeable future. A handsome Black tailed Godwit at Vatshoull today was always something I suppose.

16th May 2015

Tree Sparrows

In the past Tree Sparrow was considered a very rare bird on Whalsay with only very occasional records in my lifetime before 2011. There seems to be a slight upturn in fortunes with records in four of the last five years and five birds at Skaw 11/5 beats the four seen at Hamister last year. Three  are still present with Brian managing to trap the individual above after baiting the heligoland with seed, this being a Whalsay "ringing tick" and his first caught anywhere in well over forty years!

8th May 2015

Killer on the loose

The culprit fleeing the scene of the crime!

The victim.

Heading up the island today I flushed a very large female Peregrine from the roadside north of Vatshoull, dropping an unfortunate Red Grouse in the process. I parked on the hillside overlooking the kill hoping for something a bit better than the crap silhouette shot above but despite a couple of distant flypasts the wary predator wouldn't play ball. I gave up after a two hour stakeout and needless to say on my return after tea the grouse had been eaten.

7th May 2015


A Moose at Skaw

Whinchat at Isbister 6/5.

The winds are now in the west and a real pig of an evening it is too. Long eared Owls were at Skibberhoull yesterday and in the Skaw plantation this morning but neither had any intentions of posing for the camera. Still a good selection of common migrants in the Skaw plantation including the above fearless moose and a Ring Ouzel.

5th May 2015

More common migrants

Pied Flycatcher at Gardentown

Despite continuing Easterly winds there appeared to be very few new migrants in today. A Sedge Warbler at Sandwick and a smart male Pied Flycatcher at Gardentown was as close to exciting as things got.     Oh well its raining heavily tonight and the winds are still good. Tomorrow......(again!).

4th May 2015

A few common migrants

Sparrowhawk at Hamister

Chiffchaff at Skaw

It is a relief to have an easterly breeze at last and a few common migrants have appeared. Bird of the day was probably Jon Dunns Hawfinch which was briefly in his garden at Skaw in the morning. Ring Ouzels were at Skaw and Hamister, a Sparrowhawk was also at Hamister and a Kestrel at Isbister. The first Arctic Tern was, as usual on Vatshoull loch and a decent scatter of common migrants was also seen. A Tundra Bean Goose was at Skaw yesterday and is always good to get on the year list. More Easterlies are forecast for tomorrow so we hope for a quality bird soon.

26th April 2015



Rock Dove

The weather is still disrupting migration here on Shetland with raw  west to north winds and we even had a flurry of snow yesterday morning. Despite the weather a Hawfinch turned up on feeders at Gardentown this morning. This is a commoner bird these days but still less than annual on the island.

13th April 2015

Still alive

The long staying  Iceland Gull at Hamister.

Its well over two months since my last post on here for the simple reason that there has been absolutely nothing to report. A trip to the blue whiting fishing in March turned up no Shearwaters this time and coincided with Brian finding a Great Grey Shrike and Mistle Thrush at Skaw 18/3 but that has been the sum total of excitement in the last ten weeks. Brian had a Pink footed Goose  at Challister 10/4 which I missed, only finding a couple of Pied Wagtails there the next day. Still no Wheatears though my first two Bonxies were drifting over Symbister this morning.

10th February 2015

Home again

Common Dolphins off Barra, Western Isles on 5th February

Kinda blurred, pity.

Back home today after a couple of mackerel trips. Nothing interesting bird wise but had a few parties of Common Dolphins off Barra, Western Isles 5/2 which I estimated as at least fifty animals.

12th January 2015

Winter storms

Iceland Gull at North Voe

It had to happen! raging storms battering us at the moment with disruption to our ferry service and a few power cuts but its January so what's new. A couple of Iceland Gulls have taken up residence below our house at the North Voe with a few Snow Buntings and the two Goosanders still about.

7th January 2015


Dunnock at Symbister

Redwing at Hamister

My mother phoned on the morning of the 3rd to say a Waxwing had just flown from the back of their house at Saltness. As I had managed to miss this species in 2014 I hurried to the scene  but was too late. On widening the search what was presumably the same pale bellied Brent Goose as seen from Brough to Skaw last year was in a field at Skibberhoull. The Waxwing then reappeared in Cath Simpsons garden at Symbister and yet again refused to hang on for my arrival though a Great Tit was a decent year tick with a Dunnock also there. The Goosanders reappeared briefly on Vatshoull loch on the 4th and 20 Snow Buntings were at Hamister on 5th. A weekend of storms awaits it seems!

2nd January 2015


Two Goosanders (rear two birds) with a pair of Mergansers.

Two  Goosanders were off the houb today and are the first island records for a couple of years. The front bird is obviously an adult female with the one at the back a possible first winter due to its lack of a prominent crest, very little white on the throat and duller red bill.

1st January 2015

Happy new year

Iceland Gull outside our garden wall at Hamister.

Had a quick look in the morning for any decent leftovers, e.g Brent Goose or Pomarine Skua without success. At least the Iceland Gull is still hanging on at Hamister, coming to dine on the remains of our dinner this afternoon.

31st December 2014

Whalsay bird review 2014


An Iceland Gull was at Symbister from 3/1 and a Pink footed Goose appeared amongst the Greylag flock at Skaw from 6/1. I caught up with the overwintering Great spotted Woodpecker at Gardentown 12/1 but missed an unseasonal male Blackcap at Marrister 13/1. Also unusual for January was the male Black Redstart at Isbister 14/1. A Shetland wide influx of Tundra Bean Geese began 20/1 with five  at Vatshoull loch and a maximum of eight birds were at Brough the next day. A Little Auk was off Skaw 21/1. 23/1 produced a Long eared Owl at Gardentown after last years blank. An adult Little Gull was at Vatshoull loch 24/1 with female Common Scoter off Sandwick the same day. A Bar tailed Godwit was at Challister and a Waxwing at Hamister 30/1.


Four Barnacle Geese were at Brough 2/2 with a first winter Little Gull and a Short eared owl at Skaw next day.  Two Brent Geese were at the north voe 8/2. Bird of the month in Whalsay terms was the male Gadwall at Vevoe 9/2. A few Tundra Bean Geese remained all month with a maximum of five 13/2.  A Shelduck was at the houb from 16-25/2. A pale bellied Brent Goose was amongst the Skaw Greylags from 17/2. A first winter Glaucous Gull was at the Symbister salmon cages 22/2.


Long stayers were the Symbister Iceland Gull till 7/3 and the pale Bellied Brent goose at Skaw till 8/3.  Little else was seen in a typically quiet month.

Black Redstart, Isbister 14th January

Adult Little Gull at Vatshoull loch 24/1

Tundra Bean Geese at Brough in late January sometime.


A female Yellowhammer at Marrister and a flypast Grey Wagtail at Hamister 6/4 were notable. Our first returning Wheatears were at Hamister and Skaw 7/4. A Greenshank at Symbister 12/4 was early and the first of a few Ring Ouzels was at Hamister 21/4. The 22nd saw a Black tailed Godwit at Symbister, Wryneck at Marrister and a very early Turtle Dove which was at Tripwell before heading off towards Brough. Three more Wrynecks were recorded for the month with birds at Skaw(24th) Pouster (25th) and Isbister (28th).  A Green Sandpiper was at west loch of Skaw 25/4. A Moorhen was at Isbister loch briefly on 28/4. A colour ringed Whimbrel was at west loch of Skaw 29/4 and had been rung as an adult female on Fetlar in 2010. Interestingly it had been photogaphed on a beach in Guinea Bissau! a few months prior to its Whalsay visit.


A Long eared Owl flew high over Skaw 2/5. A Sedge Warbler was at Skaw 9/5 with the only other individual seen in the Red Grind quarry 31/5. A Hoopoe played hide and seek at Skaw 12/5. Two Tree Sparrows were at Hamister 15/5 increasing to four birds on 25/5. A drake Pintail and Little Stint were at the houb 18/5.  An elusive male Bluethroat was in the Skaw plantation 19-20/5 with a Cuckoo also there on the second date. An Icterine Warbler was in the geo at the head of Clate 26/5 with another bird at Skibberhoull 30/5. Forty one Barnacle Geese flew north over Skaw 27/5. Bird of the month was the Blyth's Reed Warbler trapped in the Skaw heligoland 28/5 and still present next day.


The years only Red backed Shrike, a male,  was in the Skaw plantation 3/6 with a brief and elusive Marsh Warbler in the same place 8/6. A Hummingbird Hawkmoth was at Hamister 8/6 and was the last interesting migrant in a desperately poor month.


Male Bluethroat at Skaw 20/5.

Icterine Warbler, head of Clate, 26/5.

Blyth's Reed Warbler trapped at Skaw 28/5.


A quiet month for migrants as usual. Our Arctic Terns fared better with Brian ringing 305 chicks as opposed to one! last year and hopefully this signals an upturn in fortunes for this species.  A few common waders started moving through at the months end with Ruff (29th) and Bar tailed Godwit (30th) amongst the usual modest numbers of Knot and Sanderling


A Booted Warbler at Symbister 10-15/8 was a third Whalsay record and two in two years for Cath Simpsons garden. It also equalled the earliest UK date for the species. Also on 10/8 a Wood Sandpiper was at Symbister, a Green Sandpiper at Skaw and the first of a few Kestrels  at Sodom. On 12/8 the years only Sand Martin was at Hamister and a Barred Warbler was at Skaw. A juvenile Shelduck was on the north loch of Skaw briefly 13/8 and a Common Sandpiper was at the houb 16/8. Thing were fairly quiet after this with a Manx Shearwater off Skaw on different dates from 20/8. A Cuckoo was at Sodom 21/8.  Barred and Icterine Warblers were at Skaw 28-29/8 with the same combination at Symbister 30/8.


September began in style with an Arctic Warbler at Sandwick and a Paddyfield Warbler netted in the Skaw plantation 1/9. The latter bird being a third island record. A Common Rosefinch was at Skaw 3/9 with two Kestrels also there 7/9. Our second Little Stint of the year was at the houb 9/9 with a Common Rosefinch at Vevoe 12/9.  Red breasted Flycatchers were at Hamister and Sandwick 14/9 and were the first of six birds recorded for the month. The first three Yellow browed Warblers were at Hamister, Skaw and Marrister also on 14/9. A Peregrine flew south past the houb 15/9 with the years only Reed Warbler netted in the Skaw plantation 16/9. A Greenish Warbler was at Sandwick 19-20/9 with the years only Common Whitethroat at Skaw on the second date. A Hawfinch was in the Skaw plantation from 28/9 into October with the first of a few Jack Snipes at Skaw 29/9. A few parties of Pink footed Geese were moving through at this time with 150+ 29/9.

Booted Warbler at Symbister 11/8

Peacock butterfly at Symbister 10/8

Greenish Warbler at Sandwick 20/9.


Four pale bellied Brent Geese were at the houb 4/10 with 300 + Pink footed Geese over Symbister in three flocks the same day. A Siberian Stonechat was at Skaw Briefly 6/10. A Treecreeper was at Skibberhoull 7/10 with Short eared Owl at Brough, Little Bunting, six pale bellied Brent Geese, Long Eared Owl and Lapland Bunting at Skaw and a late Common Sandpiper at Sandwick the same day.  An influx of tits began 8/10 with a Great and two Blues at Gardentown with two Goldfinches and a Linnet. A western Stonechat was on the golf course 9/10 with fourteen Barnacle Geese flying over at the same time. A Grasshopper Warbler was in a ditch near the Skaw plantation 11-12/10. A Linnet was at Skaw13/10 with a Mistle Thrush there 18/10. With BM and myself both away the local birdlife went unrecorded towards the months end.


Long eared Owls were at Isbister and Skibberhoull 6/11 with a late Garden Warbler at Skaw 7/11. A juvenile Pomarine Skua was at Skaw 10/11 with another bird off Symbister 20/11. Two Tundra Bean Geese were at Skaw for a few days from 14/11 with an Iceland Gull at Symbister from 15/11. A Short eared Owl was on the golf course 17/11 with a long dead individual found on the airstrip at the same time. Little else of interest was added towards the end of the month, a late Great Skua was off Symbister 23/11 and 30 Snow Buntings were at Skaw 26/11.


Both Pomarine Skuas were noted 3/12 as far apart as is possible with one north of Skaw and the other south of Symbister. 18 Snow Buntings flew over Hamister 4/12 with 30 in the same place 29/12. A pale bellied Brent Goose was at the burns 8/12 and ranged between Brough and Skaw for the rest of the month. First winter Iceland Gulls were at Hamister and Skaw on 23/12.

Siberian Stonechat at Skaw 6/10

Treecreeper at Skibberhoull 7/10

Blue Tit at Gardentown 8/10

This is now my fourth time keeping a year list on Whalsay and again didn't manage to better my first effort of 151 species in 2011. It seems to be down to what happens in November as in that year I had ten new birds in that month. This year I had one new bird for November and December combined so could only muster 147, equalling my poorest effort in 2012.  As will always happen I missed a few - Gadwall, Peregrine, Turtle Dove, Swift, Hoopoe, Waxwing, Mistle Thrush, Paddyfield Warbler, Arctic Warbler, Wood Warbler and Lapland Bunting. Common birds unrecorded on Whalsay this year were - White fronted Goose, Scaup, Pochard, Goosander, Sparrowhawk, Water Rail, Yellow Wagtail, Rook, Jackdaw, Greenfinch, Common Crossbill and Bullfinch. I also failed to add any new species to my island list, missing the male Gadwall in  February which would have done me. Very little to crow about this season so here's to the Black throated Accentor in 2015!   All the best JLI.

26th December 2014

Brent Goose

The last month on Whalsay has seen constant gales and very few birds. Two Pomarine Skuas were seen 3/11 at Symbister and Skaw and single Iceland Gulls were at Hamister and Skaw 23/12. A pale bellied Brent Goose appeared at the burns 8/12 and is still doing the rounds and photographed at Skaw this morning so it may hang on for next years bird list with any luck.

24th November 2014


Chiffchaff at Symbister.

On the 10th of November I got a call from Peter Hughson at Whitefield claiming a Coal Tit on his bird table. I went along but could only find single Great and Blue Tits. Moving on to the evening of the 22nd, Brian was contacted by Harry Poleson at Symbister also apparently seeing a Coal Tit, this time on his peanut feeder. Not realising its rarity value Harry and his wife had been seeing it for  a couple of days before giving Brian a ring. We spent a good portion of yesterday at Symbister only for the bird to turn up five minutes after I went home so I have staked out the garden all day today freezing off my parts for two Chiffchaffs and a Dunnock. It would seem unlikely that both observers are wrong so hopefully we can pin it down soon. The only other Whalsay record was of two birds at Brough on 29th September 1965 when I was four months old!

20th November 2014

European Garden Spider

The Tundra Bean Geese are still at Skaw

Late  White Wagtail at Hamister 19/11.

Cath Simpson phoned on the 18th November about a funny spider in her potting shed at Symbister so I went along and took a few photos. As I know absolutely nothing about these creatures I sent the pics to Mike Pennington at "Nature in Shetland" who identified it as a European Garden Spider though I still don't have a clue if this is in any way unusual? Not a lot of bird news and as I am still four species behind my year list record it seems unlikely to be beaten this season. A Short eared Owl was on the golf course 17/11 with a long dead individual on the airstrip about the same time. A very late White Wagtail was on the dung heap above our house at Hamister yesterday and possibly the same juvenile Pomarine Skua as was  seen at Skaw 10/11 was bullying Kittiwakes offshore below BMs at Marrister today.

14th November 2014

Tundra Bean Geese


A pair of Tundra Bean Geese turned up amongst the Greylag flock at Skaw  this morning and are the first interesting migrants for a few days.  A few Blue and Great Tits are still doing the rounds with Blues at Whitefield and Skibberhoull on 10/11 and Greats at Whitefield, Skibberhoull and Symbister 12/11. A juvenile Pomarine Skua was harassing Kittiwakes close inshore at Skaw 10/11 adding another bird to the year list.

5th November 2014

Photos from mackerel season

Breaching Orca in Yell sound 23/10

Pomarine Skua off Eshaness 1/11.

Glaucous Gull, Yell sound 23/10

Iceland Gull, Yell sound 24/10.

Just back from this seasons mackerel fishing which went well with most trips being taken from Yell sound. 20-30 Orcas were seen on different occasions with birds being represented by a few Glaucous Gulls, Iceland Gulls, Sooty Shearwaters and a lone Pomarine Skua on our last trip off Eshaness 1/11.

11th October 2014


Tailless Little Bunting still at Skaw.

Pink footed Geese at Challister.

A mother and juvenile otter was a plantation tick for myself today. Bird of the day was a Grasshopper Warbler in the ditch near the plantation and was another addition for the year.

9th October 2014

Western Stonechat

With winds now NE there has been a big clearout of migrants. Brian found bird of the day on the golf course, a "Western" Stonechat which led me a bit of a dance until BM refound it on the sheep cru near the holm of Skaw. A few poor snaps were taken against the light before it disappeared. With the year list now crept up to 145 am hoping for one or two additions before we head to the mackerel fishing shortly.

8th October 2014

Blue Tit invasion

A grotty looking Linnet at Gardentown

One of two Goldfinches which joined the Linnet at Gardentown

An influx of Blue Tits today with seventeen birds throughout Shetland. Our two were together at Gardentown with a Great Tit  two Goldfinches and a Linnet nearby. Our next door neighbours at Hamister had an almost certain Treecreeper in their garden this morning and with the Skibberhoull bird still present, two in a day is unprecedented.

7th October 2014


Little Bunting at Skaw

A good days birding today with a Treecreeper at Skibberhoull which was a first island record for me since 2000 after missing last years Hamister bird. A tailless Bunting which me and Brian failed to pin down yesterday in the high winds proved to be our first Little Bunting of the year and was overdue with multiple individuals elsewhere on Shetland lately. Both single Long and Short Eared Owls were recorded, the latter being my 140th species for the year. Six pale bellied Brent Geese were at the North loch of Skaw where Jon Dunn also had a Lapland Bunting, a bird I still need for the year. A Common Sandpiper on Sandwick beach was quite late and only our second record this year.

6th October 2014

Siberian Stonechat

A howling South Easter today and the Skaw plantation was utterly heaving with common migrants.  Bird of the day was the Siberian Stonechat which was in the geos below the heligoland and was last seen up around Jon Dunns. Hope to get better pics if it stays around till (if) the winds die down a bit. There must be a good one out there somewhere!

29th September 2014

Hawfinch at dusk

Thirty three Pink footed Geese heading east

Barred Warbler at Skaw looking bored in the rain.

Red breasted Flycatcher at Symbister 23/9, our sixth of the autumn.

A Hawfinch has been in the Skaw plantation off and on since yesterday but completely refuses to sit out and have its picture taken so have had to make do with a long range shot in near darkness this evening. A few parties of Pink footed Geese are on passage at the moment with 120+ over Hamister this morning and 33 over Sandwick at midday. A few rares have turned up elsewhere on Shetland today so hopefully something a bit more interesting will appear on here soon.

20th September 2014

More Greenish Warbler photos

With improved light conditions and the Greenish Warbler being more approachable, I managed a few better photos at Sandwick today. Not that difficult it has to be said!  With winds now in the west and forecasted to stay there for a while, there were less migrants today though four Common Rosefinches was our best day count and a Sedge Warbler at Sandwick was the first for the autumn. A Common Whitethroat at Skaw today was a year tick for myself and seem to be genuinely scarce this year.

19th September 2014

Greenish Warbler

A Greenish Warbler turned up at Sandwick this morning in the same gardens Brian had the Arctic Warbler 1/9. Never managed any decent photos though you can see what it is okay. The fifth Red breasted Flycatcher of the autumn was at Whitefield with five Yellow browed Warblers, two Barred Warblers, Common Rosefinch and Tree Pipit also seen seen today.

17th September 2014

More of the same

Red breasted Flycatcher trapped at Skaw

Another RbF, this one catching flies in an agricultural store at Brough

Yellow browed Warbler at Sandwick

After an overnight deluge and fresh SE winds BM and myself set out for a day in the field with much enthusiasm today. A reasonable scatter of common migrants were found with Red breasted Flycatchers at Skaw and Brough being third and fourth records for the year. Yellow browed Warblers were at Sandwick, Vevoe, Hamister and Isbister with Barred Warbler at Hamister and Reed Warbler at Skaw.  Call me greedy if you will but this was considered fairly disappointing.

14th September 2014

Red breasted Flycatchers

Yellow browed warbler trapped at Skaw.

After no records in 2013 there were two Red breasted Flycatchers found today, at Hamister (pictured above) and Sandwick.  The first Yellow browed Warblers also appeared with singles at Hamister, Marrister and Skaw.

12th September 2014

Bring it on

Common Rosefinch flanked by House Sparrows at Vevoe

Scadsmans heid (Sea Urchin to you) at Skaw.

With the forecast predicting SE winds for the whole of next week and high pressure to the east of us  there surely must be a few interesting migrants about to appear- watch this space!  A Common Rosefinch was a year tick for myself today and was with the local Sparrows at Vevoe. A Barred Warbler was in the Skaw plantation but otherwise quiet so far.

9th September 2014

Little Stint

Came back from the herring fishing 7/9 and had two Kestrels and a Tree Pipit at Skaw. There are a few waders at the Houb today, most notably our second Little Stint of the year with Ruff, Bar tailed Godwit, four Knot and three Sanderling as a supporting cast. Brian also had a Barred Warbler in his garden and I saw another Minke Whale, this time off Isbister.

As usual while I was away Brian had a few good birds - Whalsays third Paddyfield Warbler  trapped in the Skaw plantation and  an Arctic Warbler at Sandwick made 1/9 a very productive day. A Great Shearwater twelve miles west of Cape Wrath 31/8 was my best bird of the trip.

21st August 2014

Peacock butterflies

We have been having a period of Northerlies now for a bit with today being the first bonnie day for a while. Cath Simpson phoned about a pair of Peacock butterflies in her garden though I failed to capture both of them together. Not much in the way of birdlife at the moment though a Manx Shearwater seen from the golf course today and yesterday was a good year tick. A Cuckoo was at Whitefield today as well.

12th August 2014

Barred Warbler

Ruff at Vatshoull loch last night

A Sand Martin was flying around our house this morning just as I had pretty much given up on seeing this species this year. Took a quick photo of the years first Barred Warbler in the heligoland trap at Skaw this afternoon before it was caught and ringed. Happy 70th birthday to Brian Marshall, partner in crime.

10th August 2014

Booted Warbler

A couple of photos appear to show pinkish legs, not so they were a pale grey colour.

This photo taken on 11/8

Peacock at Symbister

After yesterdays deluge with E winds a days migrant hunting beckoned today. A yomp around Skaw in the morning produced Green Sandpiper, Ruff, Pied Flycatcher, 6 Knot, 2 Willow Warblers and a Garden Warbler. A Kestrel at Whitefield was a year tick. The afternoon began with a Wood Sandpiper in the Symbister meadow and I was pleased with this as I seem to have missed this species now for a number of years. A walk around Cath Simpsons garden produced a Peacock butterfly and as I was attempting to get a few shots flushed a "milky tea" coloured Warbler. It was obviously of the Booted warbler group and looked interestingly long billed. A Lesser Whitethroat-like "tek" call was heard a few times though the significance of this was not known at the time.  Brian and Jon were called and the bird mist netted fairly quickly. After thorough measurements/description we were still unsure of it's identity. After a" phone a friend" and much deliberation we called it as a Sykes`s Warbler. Bill length, call and most plumage features looked good for this. There was, however, a feeling of collective uneasiness - why was the super` broad behind the eye for instance. It has now been re-identified as a Booted Warbler, a bird which is seen most years in Shetland though still only a third record for Whalsay. Thanks go to Shetland "heavies" Rob, Paul, Mike and Roger for their helpful comments once the photos came online and a big "up yours" to the Southern twittering trolls for their contributions.

2nd August 2014

Minke Whale

Still little bird movement on Whalsay but did manage to find a Minke Whale off the east side of the golf course this afternoon.

30th July 2014

A few waders

Bar tailed Godwit at Vatshoull

Dunlin chick on the golf course

Sanderling at the houb, one of fourteen.

Knot at the houb

Dunlin in failing light at north loch of Skaw.

The first few waders are starting to come through with a Ruff on the north loch of Skaw yesterday and a Bar-tailed Godwit at Vatshoull tonight, seen at long range in the rain.

24th July 2014

A better year for the tirricks

Although we are a very long way short of days gone by, there is a big improvement in the breeding success of our Arctic Terns this year. Brian has rung 305 chicks as opposed to one solitary individual last year. Hopefully this is the start of better times and it was good to watch loads of young birds flying around the houb this afternoon.

25th June 2014

Breeding season

Rock Pipit brood in a rabbit burrow at Skaw.     photo by Angela

Male Wheatear ("stanechekker")

Dunlin with a well hidden chick at west loch o Skaw

Migrant activity has now ceased although it has to be said that unless you live on Fair Isle, Unst or the South Mainland it has never really started. Why cant these stupid birds aim for the middle of Shetland occasionally?

16th June 2013

Another Moth

Large Yellow Underwing                           photo by Angela

Starling on our garden wall

Greylag Goose families on Vatshoull loch

Redshank chick at Challister.

Picked up a moth at Symbister and took it home to identify. A Large Yellow Underwing apparently and not particularly rare but maybe a bit on the early side.  Angela came out and took a photo despite being terrified from all moths!

8th June 2014

Hummingbird Hawkmoth

A Hummingbird Hawkmoth turned up in my sister and brother in-laws garden next door to us at Hamister today. This is a Whalsay first for me having missed the few other records previously.  Bird news concerned an elusive Marsh warbler in the Skaw plantation this afternoon which refused to pose for the camera. Likewise the male Red backed Shrike which was in the same area 3-4/6.

28th May 2014

Blyth's Reed Warbler

A Blyth's Reed Warbler was caught in the heligoland trap at Skaw this morning. A fourth island record after two in 2007 (3-8/6 and 1-5/10) and one in 2012 (24/9). Other news in the last few days saw an increase to four Tree Sparrows at Hamister on 25/5 and a flock of forty one Barnacle Geese flying North over Skaw yesterday 27th.

24th May 2014

Icterine Warbler

An Icterine Warbler turned up in the geo at the head of Clate this morning, eventually moving higher up allowing a few photos to be taken.

20th May 2014

Bluethroat and Cuckoo

Cuckoo being mobbed by a territorial Meadow Pipit.

A smart male Bluethroat turned up in the Skaw plantation yesterday (19th) but refused to pose for the camera or fly into Brians mist net. Managed a few record shots today as it skulked through the lower branches of various bushes. A Cuckoo was relentlessly chased by the local Meadow Pipits, eventually flying off South with one of the Pipits in hot pursuit.

18th May 2014

Little Stint, Pintail and Tree Sparrows.

Drake Pintail with an Eider at the houb.

Little Stint at the houb.

BM turned up our first Pintail for a few years this afternoon while out doing his monthly wader count at the houb.  A Little Stint was also present, this being quite a good spring record and a bird I missed last year. Three Tree Sparrows are at Hamister today with at least two present since the 15th.  They are proving difficult to approach and I haven't even managed a blurred record shot so far. Maybe tomorrow.

12th May 2014

Disappearing Hoopoe

Redstart at Skaw  6/5.

Brian got a call in the evening about a bird at Skaw "with red feathers sticking out of its head". After a stroll around he flushed a Hoopoe and immediately called myself and Jon Dunn. On looking up from his mobile the bird had vanished so the rest of the evening was spent combing the area. I was last to give up the search and was in the car about to depart when JD called saying it had just flown down his driveway. Despite driving there rather quickly I had missed the bus again. As I am already ten species behind the 2013 year list  things need to improve soon.

7th - 9th May 2014

Fair Isle trip

Eastern Subalpine Warbler on Fair Isle              photo by Angela

Wryneck                      photo by Angela


Snow Bunting


Gannet colony        photo by Angela


I was very surprised when Angela announced that she would quite like to go for a couple of nights to Fair Isle. So after checking forecasts and booking flights and accommodation at the Observatory, off we went. To say we hit it lucky with the weather is a massive understatement as we were baked in sunshine and SE winds for the duration. Top bird honours probably went to the Eastern Subalpine Warbler with the Caspian Eastern Stonechat still present and a few other sub rares, eg. - Bluethroat, Little Bunting, Corncrake, Western Subalpine Warbler a few Wrynecks. The whole trip really couldn't have been better with the Observatory, museum and the friendly locals just as enjoyable as the birdlife. This could easily become an annual event.

1st May 2014

Fair Isle twitch

Cretzschmars Bunting on Fair Isle

"Caspian" Stonechat on Fair Isle

Went into Fair Isle with BM to try for the Cretzschmars Bunting which has been present for a few days. We were met off the plane by Susannah Parnaby from the Observatory who very kindly drove us to the spot and even found the bird for us! After a few photos from long range we approached as near as we dared without flushing it only for the bird to start moving towards us to within twenty feet!  A short walk down the road and we were soon viewing the second big rarity on offer, a "Caspian" Eastern Stonechat. With both target species seen really well on a bright sunny day our last few hours before leaving were spent happily plodding around birding. Support cast included - Short toed Lark, Bluethroat, Wryneck, Blue headed Wagtail, Sedge Warbler, Kestrel and Green Sandpiper. Things don't get much better than that.

29th April 2014

Colour ringed Whimbrel

Ring Ouzel at Skaw

After most of the day spent in Lerwick I had a quick run to Skaw in the evening. My first Whimbrel of the year was at west loch of Skaw and sported white over red plastic rings above the knee joint on the left leg and a "normal" ring on the right with a white plastic above the knee bearing the letter A.  All info has been sent to the BTO so will hopefully hear of the birds origins in due course.

28th April 2014


Moorhen at Isbister loch


Brambling at Skaw

Breeding Fulmar

Its been a good spring for Wrynecks with our fourth individual photographed at Isbister today. A Moorhen was new for the year at the Isbister loch.

25th April 2014

Green Sandpiper

Common Redstart

The SE winds continue and there is now a decent scattering of migrants though nothing too rare on Whalsay so far. A Wryneck was caught last night in the Skaw heligoland and was a welcome year tick after missing the Marrister bird on the 22nd and not seeing one at all last year. Green Sandpiper also went unrecorded on here last year so one on the "wader pool" at the West loch tonight was also well received.

22nd April 2014

Promising  weather

Black tailed Godwit at Symbister

Carrion Crow at Hamister

With the winds in the east for the rest of this week surely a few migrants will be heading our way. A smart Black tailed Godwit  in the Symbister meadow and a poorly marked female Ring Ouzel at Skaw was new for the year for me. Unfortunately I missed the best two birds of the day with Brian turning up an early Wryneck at Marrister and Jon Dunn having a flighty Turtle Dove last seen heading towards Brough. Better luck tomorrow?

12th April 2014

Early Greenshank

Pied Wagtail at Hamister

With a strong SW wind now blowing very few migrants are left on the island. A very early Greenshank on the pool at Symbister was most unexpected as they are rarely recorded here in early April.

6th April 2014


photos  Brian Marshall

Just back after a two week fishing trip, best bird being a single Great Shearwater off the west coast of Ireland. Despite plenty of SE winds at home during this time I have missed fairly little, a Mistle Thrush at Skaw 1/4 being the best of a thin scatter of common migrants. Brian found a female Yellowhammer in his garden at Marrister yesterday and I managed good views from his kitchen window this morning. A Grey Wagtail flew east past Hamister in the afternoon and is a bird which is less than annual on the island. The long staying Great spotted Woodpecker was at Saltness.

13th March 2014

Spring in the air

Red throated Diver at Skaw

A couple of better days on Shetland, though as usual it isn't going to last. The Red throated Divers are starting to appear on the lochs now with one on Huxter loch(11th) and this one on north loch of Skaw today.

7th March 2014

Long staying Iceland Gull

Rock Pipit at Hamister

Ringed Common Gull at Skaw

The Symbister Iceland Gull is still present for its third month though whatever that is hanging from its bill possibly doesn't look too healthy. Other long stayers still present today were the Pale bellied Brent Goose at Skaw and the Great spotted Woodpecker at Gardentown.

22nd February 2014

A few more Geese

Tundra Bean Goose at Newpark

Still a few Geese around with a pair of Tundra Beans at Newpark today and the Pale bellied Brent at Skaw. A first winter Glaucous Gull was around the Symbister salmon cages and was a new bird for the year.

18th February 2014

Brent Goose and Shelduck

Pale bellied Brent Goose at Skaw

Shelduck with Mallards at the houb.

Just back from this seasons mackerel fishing which ranged from the Western Isles to Southern Ireland. Highlight bird wise was probably the lone Great Shearwater off  the Irish west coast. With continued SE gales at home during the period a few migrants turned up with BMs best birds being - four Barnacle Geese at Brough 2/2, first winter Little Gull and a Short eared Owl both at Skaw 3/2,  two Brent Geese in the Hamister meadow 8/2 and a male Gadwall at Vevoe 9/2. Despite Gadwall only being classed as a scarce migrant in Shetland it is very much a major rarity on Whalsay with only one other record (of six birds on the sea off Skaw sometime in the early 70s) in my lifetime that I am aware of. I missed those birds too so hopefully the next one wont be so long in coming. At least I managed to catch up with a pale bellied Brent Goose at Skaw and Shelduck in the houb which Brian found a day or two ago.

24th January 2014

Little Gull

Battening down the hatches here on Whalsay for eighty mph winds forecast for later today. An adult Little Gull visited Vatshoull loch around midday so I battled to stay upright long enough to take a few pics in the strengthening gale. A female Common Scoter was close inshore at Sandwick with the Long eared Owl and Great spotted Woodpecker also still doing the rounds.

23rd January 2014

Odds and sods

More Tundra Bean Goose photos

Managed to get slightly better photos of four of the five Tundra Bean Geese at Brough today of which there was a maximum of eight birds present on the 21st. A Long eared Owl commuted between gardens at Gardentown and Saltness and also evaded my attempts with the camera. The long staying Great spotted Woodpecker was also at Saltness and a Woodcock in the Skaw plantation was new for the year.

20th January 2014

Tundra Bean Geese

With news of a few Bean Geese turning up in Shetland today I went for a look early this afternoon and found five Tundra Beans at Vatshoull loch. At very long range and in typically dull and windy conditions I was never in danger of winning any photography awards but I think you can just about tell what  they are. One of the birds was just out of sight when I took this and unfortunately they headed off North before BM got up to see them.

14th January 2014

Black Redstart

A nice male Black Redstart turned up at Isbister today which is a good record for January and a bird I missed completely last year. I also caught up with the overwintering Great spotted Woodpecker at Gardentown a couple of days ago. It is a ringed bird so it would be interesting to get hold of it just in case it isn't one of Brians from last autumn.

7th January 2014

Pink footed Goose

A Pink footed Goose has been amongst the Greylag flock at Skaw since yesterday. Hardly an exotic rarity but can be scarce some years so I was quite pleased to cross it off for 2014. 

4th January 2014

Iceland Gull

Still nothing unusual to report bird wise on Whalsay. A single Iceland Gull  at Symbister since yesterday was photographed in poor light. (excuses!)

31st December 2013

Whalsay Bird Review 2013


The second winter drake King Eider which was found on New Years Eve 2012 remained around the Symbister salmon cages until 19/1. A dark bellied Brent Goose is a decent bird for the isle and was at the houb 3/1 and last seen at Skaw 15/2. The long staying second winter Iceland Gull remained at Symbister all month and the first of at least three Glaucous Gulls was at Skaw 5/1. A Pink footed Goose was at the houb 10/1 and was a species I missed last year. Bird of the month was a juvenile  White tailed Eagle which flew South over Skaw 10/1. This proved to be a ringed bird first seen on Unst and  a vagrant from Norway. A Water Rail was in a Vatshoull garden 15/1 and a Juvenile European White fronted Goose was at Pouster 17/1. A Peregrine flew East past Hamister 18/1 and with a Blue Tit and Great Tit both overwintering at Gardentown 2013 was off to a flying start.


The most interesting sighting of the month wasn't a bird at all, two Humpback Whales spent about half an hour off the East side of the golf course at Skaw  6/2. An adult Kumlien`s Gull was at Symbister from 12-14/2 and unlike last years bird was a poorly marked individual. Three adult European White fronted Geese were at Skaw 18/2 with the first Red throated Diver back on fresh water the same day.


A ringtail Hen Harrier flew North through Hamister 5/3. Two Mistle Thrushes were at Skibberhoull 18/3 then a Moorhen visited a Vatshoull garden 20/3. The long staying Great Tit was last seen 23/3. BM had a Blue Tit in his garden at Marrister from 25/3 and with two birds together at Symbister 29/3 there must have been a minimum of three birds on the island. A Sparrowhawk was eating a Starling at North Park 31/3.

King Eider at Symbister

White tailed Eagle over Skaw

Blue Tit and Great Tit at Gardentown


The King Eider reappeared at Symbister 8/4 and stayed around all month. A Waxwing was at Marrister 11/4 with a Mistle Thrush at Brough and a Jack Snipe at Skaw the same day. A Sandwich Tern was at the Houb 13/4 with an early Sanderling also there 15/4. A Linnet at Marrister 16/4 was the first for a year or two. A small influx of Goldfinches began with one at Whitefield 18/4 increasing to four by 23/4 with one or two elsewhere on the isle after this.


The long staying King Eider was last seen 8/5 with a good fall of migrants the same day. Sedge Warbler, Short eared Owl and Yellowhammer were all recorded at Skaw. On 9/5 an Osprey flew South over Skaw and a female Linnet was at Isbister. BM really got spring migration going 10/5 with the discovery of a cracking first summer male Collared Flycatcher at Skaw, the only other island record being on the 11th May 1947! (incidently shot by my wifes grand uncle). It was last seen on the evening of the 16th after a splendid seven day stay. Grasshopper Warblers were at Skaw and Vatshoull 11/5, then I missed the years only Hawfinch in the Skaw plantation 12/5. The first Red backed Shrike was a female at Challister 13/5 with the maximum day count being five on the 29th. Things quietened down a bit from mid month with a smart male Bluethroat at Sandwick 19/5 being top bird of the second half. A Cuckoo was at Hamister 23/5 then a Bar tailed Godwit and Short eared Owl were at Skaw 26/5. A Barnacle Goose was another year tick at Vatshoull 28/5 with two present on the 31st. A Black tailed Godwit was at Skaw 29/5 and a Common Sandpiper was on the North shore of the golf course 31/5.


The Symbister King Eider again

Collared Flycatcher at Skaw.

Singing Bluethroat at Sandwick


Quiet at the start of the month with only a few waders on the move. Two Common Sandpipers were at Huxter loch 1/6. A  Curlew Sandpiper is a good spring record and one was at Vatshoull loch from 2-4/6 before relocating to North loch of Skaw 6/6. A male Ruff in full breeding dress joined the Sandpiper at Vatshoull 4/6 and was the first time I had seen one in this plumage. A second Curlew Sandpiper turned up at Vatshoull loch 13/6, this bird showing no traces of red in its plumage unlike the earlier record. Mute Swan remains a very scarce visitor to Whalsay so two juveniles on Vatshoull loch from 19/6 was a decent record. Likewise the Tree Sparrow which turned up amongst the local sparrows at Skaw for a few days from 20/6. A Common Crossbill was also at Skaw 20/6 with 20+ at Symbister 23/6. Shetland and the UKs fifth June Arctic Warbler turned up in the Skaw plantation 23/6 on a terrible evening of wind and rain. This was all the more amazing as the last one was in the very same place on the 27th of June last year! Due to weather conditions this bird was not photographed meaning I will have to actually write a description without lazily using the words "see accompanying photo"!


The Mute Swan pair were last seen at Vatshoull 4/7. A Common Swift was another year tick and seen on the golf course 7/7. Little else was seen till a Common Sandpiper flew in off the sea at Skaw 25/7. A drake Velvet Scoter was offshore below the heligoland trap area at Skaw 27/7 and was a first island record in twenty years. A  Goldcrest at Hamister 29-30/7 was highly unseasonal and very likely a first Whalsay record for the month.


A Wood Sandpiper at Symbister 3-4/8 was belatedly reported by an incoming birder. The first of a few Greenshanks was at Vatshoull loch 4/8. Little else was seen till the years only Sand Martin was at Vatshoull loch 20/8. My first Black tailed Godwits were five seen at Skaw 22/8 with an Icterine Warbler in the Skaw plantation 23/8. 25/8 was a good day with two Common Rosefinches and a Wood Warbler at Skaw and our first Greenish Warbler for a number of years at Isbister. Bird of the month turned up while I was away at the herring fishing, a Booted Warbler at Symbister from 28-29/8, this being a second Whalsay record. A Little Grebe was on Vatshoull loch about the same time.

Tree Sparrow at Skaw

Greenish Warbler at Isbister

Booted Warbler at Symbister    Photo Brian Marshall


My only Barred Warbler of the year was at Skaw 8/9. BM had a pair of Little Stints on the golf course 9/9 which I missed but managed to score a consolation Kestrel in the same area 10/9. The first Yellow browed Warblers of the year were two seen at Skaw 18/9 with a maximum day count of nineteen on the isle 29/9. A first winter Little Gull was at Skaw 20/9. A Grey Plover was on a small pool near West loch of Skaw 27/9 with the first of a big influx of Great spotted Woodpeckers at Saltness the same day. BM found a Western Bonelli`s Warbler in his garden at Marrister 29/9 with Bluethroats at Isbister and Sandwick the same day.  The warbler  graced us with a twenty day stay relocating to Hamister towards the end and was a third island record. An Olive backed Pipit in the Skaw plantation 30/9 rounded off the month.


Our second Olive backed Pipit of the autumn was at Hamister 4-5/10. A Turtle Dove flew South past Marrister 7/10 and a Black Redstart was at Skaw 10/10. Two incoming birders turned up an Isabelline Shrike at Brough 17/10. This was a new bird for the island list and our 300th species. I came home from the mackerel fishing 27/10 and was very lucky to find the bird still present. It was last seen on the 28th. In my absence Brian had a Treecreeper at Hamister 19/10 and a very photogenic  juvenile Sabine`s Gull on the North shore of the golf course 24/10, the latter being a bit painful as it is a species still missing from my island list. A Little Auk off Skaw 28/10 was a year tick.


Quite often a month with some decent birds but unfortunately this year proved a complete non event. Five Waxwings were at Symbister 3/11. A first winter Little Gull was at Vatshoull 5/11 and may have been the individual seen at Skaw in late September. Potential bird of the month flew past me calling at Skaw 11/11. I would put a considerable wager on Pechora Pipit but without any basic plumage details had to relegate it to the ranks of "ones that got away".

Western Bonelli`s Warbler at Hamister

Olive backed Pipit at Skaw

Isabelline Shrike at Brough

Sabine`s Gull at Skaw       Photo Brian Marshall

Great spotted Woodpecker at Symbister


Raging Atlantic storms continued throughout the month and on the odd occasion you could venture out without taking flight, very few birds were on offer. A hardy Chiffchaff was around Hamister till 2/12. A Jack Snipe was at Skaw 7/12. A Glaucous Gull was around Skaw on several dates from 13/12 with a Waxwing at Gardentown the same day. A Woodcock was in the Skaw plantation 14/12 and an Iceland Gull at the North beach 22/12. At least eight Chaffinches were around various Hamister rigs all month. Likewise a Great spotted Woodpecker which ranged from Gardentown to Whitefield and will hopefully hang on into the new year.

My year list ended on 149 two behind the 151 of 2011. Despite being "ahead" for most of the year the last two months of sod all saw me fall short again. Inevitably I missed a few -  Little Grebe, Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper, Sabine`s Gull, Black Redstart, Booted Warbler, Wood Warbler, Hawfinch and Greenfinch. Common birds unrecorded on Whalsay this year were -  Shellduck, Goosander, Scaup, Green Sandpiper, Long Eared Owl, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Wryneck,  Red breasted Flycatcher, Rook, Jackdaw and Bullfinch.

At certain times during the autumn Shetland seemed to be awash with Two barred Crossbills, Blyth`s Reed warblers, Arctic Warblers and Hornemanns Arctic Redpolls. Whalsay amassed a total of zero for all of the above. Ok that's the end of the grumpy old man rant. Good birds recorded this year were - White tailed Eagle, King Eider, Collared Flycatcher, Booted Warbler, Western Bonelli`s Warbler and Isabelline Shrike. The Eagle, Flycatcher and Shrike boosted my island list by another three species and the Shrike was also a Whalsay first, our 300th species   

Stay tuned for more boring shite next year!


Waxwing at Symbister

31st December2012

Whalsay bird review 2012


On new years day the overwintering Kumlien`s Gull was still present at Hamister where it was to be seen till the end of March. Also on 1/1 a Long Eared Owl was at Hamister, a Common Buzzard over Challister and a single European white fronted Goose and a Bean Goose were leftovers from 2011. 5/1 saw the start of what was to be an unprecedented influx of Iceland Gulls into Shetland. Highest numbers for the month was 41 at Symbister fish factory on 23/1 with 7 Glaucous Gulls at the same location 25/1. A ringed juvenile Herring Gull was photographed in the melee at Symbister on 19/1, and had been rung as a chick at Orndalen, Tromso in Norway on 6th of July 2011.

First winter Glaucous Gull, Symbister 19/1

Adult Iceland Gull, Symbister

2nd winter Iceland Gull, Symbister


The highest white winged gull count at Symbister was on 7/2 with an amazing 54 Iceland and 5 Glaucous Gulls on this date. A first winter Little Gull joined the Symbister flock from 13-17/2 and 3 Common Scoters were off Vatshoull 28/2.


A quieter month with gull numbers slowly dwindling. The Vatshoull Common Scoter flock increased to a possible island record of 9 birds on 17/3.

First winter Little Gull, Symbister


A Great Grey Shrike was at Marrister 17/4 with 3 different individuals seen a few days later ( 2 at Skaw and 1 at Isbister). 18/4 saw a decent fall of migrants with Long Eared Owl at Brough, Bullfinch and Yellowhammer at Skaw and a Peregrine at Symbister. A Green Sandpiper was on a roadside pool at Skaw 23/4 and a Wryneck was identified from a photo taken at Hamister 29/4.


A male Black Redstart was at Hamister 4/5. An island tick passed me by on 9/5 with BM having a brief Avocet at Houll loch, though male Ortolan Bunting and Red Backed Shrike at Skaw later the same day was some consolation. A cracking male Eastern Subalpine Warbler spent the evening at Skibberhoull 21/5 with another Red Backed Shrike at Isbister the next day.  Single Icterine Warbler and Cuckoo were at Skaw 23/5. A Grey Headed Wagtail was on the rig above the Houb 24/5 with 4 different Red Backed Shrikes seen the same day. A Turtle Dove was at Hamister 25/5 and is getting to be a rare sight these days.

Female Bullfinch, Skaw, 18/4

Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Skibberhoull, 21/5

Male Red Backed Shrike, Isbister, 22/5


A Marsh Warbler put in a brief appearance in BMs garden at Marrister 9/6. The second Icterine Warbler of the spring was at Symbister 10/6 and the first of two unseasonal Black Redstarts was at Hamister 13/6, the second bird turning up in the same area 25/6. Less exciting but year ticks were Reed warbler at Skibberhoull 15/6, Common Crossbill at Skaw 17/6 and male Stonechat also at Skaw on 22/6. A latish male Red Backed Shrike was in the Skaw plantation 23-26/6 with a Hawfinch also present on the latter date. 27/6 produced the biggest surprise of the spring with a singing! Arctic Warbler trapped in the Skaw plantation in the evening.


Quiet as ever with another Common Crossbill in the Skaw plantation 1/7 and only small numbers of Knot and Sanderling plus a single Greenshank at the Houb at the months end vaguely notable.

Arctic Warbler, Skaw, 27/6


A few waders were passing through early in the month with a Green Sandpiper 2/8 plus Spotted Redshank and Ruff 4/8 all seen at Skaw. The first Barred Warbler of the year was in the Skaw plantation 13/8. An evenings mist netting there on 16/8 was quite productive for Brian with single Wryneck, Icterine Warbler and the years only Sedge Warbler caught with good numbers of common migrants. A Red Backed Shrike was at Vevoe and another Wryneck above the Houb the same day. On 18/8 2 Grasshopper Warblers were at Skaw and the years only Wood Warbler at Symbister.


The first three weeks of the month produced steady Westerly winds. Despite this a Red Breasted Flycatcher was in the Skaw plantation 15/9 with another in BMs garden at Marrister 19/9. A Buff breasted Sandpiper rewarded daily walks around the golf course and was present from 17-20/9. Winds went East after this and the years first Yellow Browed Warbler was at Hamister 22/9. The Skaw plantation had a purple patch after this with Blyth`s Reed Warbler 24/9, Lanceolated Warbler 25/9, and Red Flanked Bluetail 27/9!! The years best Yellow Browed Warbler count was on 26/9 with 11 logged.

Wryneck at Skaw 16/8

Buff breasted Sandpiper at Skaw 17-20/9

Red Flanked Bluetail at Skaw 27/9


A Hawfinch at Marrister 1/10, Red Breasted Flycatcher at Skaw 3/10 and a Grey Plover on the north shore of the golf course 5/10 was the pick of the first week. Winds were unhelpful for a while after this with only a single Yellow Browed Warbler at Challister 11/10 till a SE blow brought in a Dusky Warbler, mist netted at Symbister 12/10. A Red Backed Shrike minus most of its tail was at Hamister 14/10 and our first Blue Tit for a number of years was at Saltness 16/10. The years first Waxwing was at Marrister also 16/10. I was away at the mackerel fishing after this with BM finding a Hornemanns Arctic Redpoll at Vatshoull 18-22/10. On my return a Slavonian Grebe was on the north loch of Skaw 27/10 and a Great Tit was at Hamister 28/10. I caught up with my first Waxwings at Hamister 29/10 with the same garden hosting a male Common Crossbill 31/10.


The month began with a most unexpected sight, a Hoopoe wandering around on our lawn at Hamister! with a good flock of 18 Waxwings at Gardentown plus one at Sandwick and a female Pochard on Vatshoull loch. The Hoopoe was last seen 4/11 and was the only real surprise for the month. A Peregrine was at Brough 17/11 with perhaps the same bird at Skaw 29/11. The first white winged gulls appeared with a Glaucous Gull at Hamister 19/11 and a Iceland Gull at Symbister 21/11.  The previous months Blue and Great Tit were raking around all month and were often seen together on a Symbister feeder.

Dusky Warbler, Symbister 12/10

Hoopoe, Hamister 1-4/11

Waxwing at Symbister 4/11


A pair of first winter Glaucous Gulls flew west past Skaw Taing on 1/12. Little else of note was seen till 15/12 when 2 Greenland White fronted geese were at Skaw, a Glaucous Gull was at Vatshoull and a male Goosander was at the Houb. The year was to end in style with the discovery of a male King Eider among the  common Eider flock off the Symbister salmon cages on 31/12.  A nice surprise as I was idly scoping the flock whilst cooking the new years eve pig out.

The King Eider was to be the last addition to my year list which finished on a disappointing 147, four species down on last year. Things like Water Rail, Mistle Thrush, Jackdaw  and Sand Martin went unrecorded on Whalsay this year as did Bluethroat for the second year in succession . I seemed to miss a few more species than usual - Bean Goose, Common Rosefinch, Marsh Warbler, Barnacle Goose, Wood Sandpiper, Short Eared Owl, Little Bunting , Arctic Redpoll and Avocet and likely one or two more I have forgotten. For the first time since 2001 I had no new birds for my island list as I missed the Avocet in May. This all sounds a bit depressing but 2012 did have its moments, notably the winter gull influx, also the Subalpine and Arctic Warblers in spring and Blyth`s Reed Warbler, Lanceolated Warbler and Red Flanked Bluetail all trapped in the Skaw plantation over four outstanding days in September. Here's to loads of rare birds for 2013.

Aa the best JLI.

winter sunset over Hamister

31st December 2011

Whalsay bird review 2011


 As usual fairly uneventful with an Iceland Gull at Isbister 1/1 and Waxwings at Hamister 12/1 and Marrister 26/1.




Two Mistle Thrushes were at Hamister 15/2 increasing to five on 22/2. An unseasonal Black Redstart was at Hamister 17/2 with a Black Throated Diver and Iceland Gull at Skaw the same Day.


Only a male Grey Wagtail at the Kirk beach, Brough on 16/3 was vaguely notable.

Black Redstart 17/2/11


A short walk to east Hamister on 10/4 produced our first spring record of Woodlark since 1969. It was seen on many occasions till 12/4 before going missing for two weeks then returning to the same rig for the last time 26/4. A male Lapland Bunting was at Skaw 22/4. A Short Eared Owl and an early Sedge Warbler were at Skaw 24/4 with Wrynecks at Skaw and Hamister on 30/4.


Woodlark 10/4/11


A Little Bunting was in BMs garden at Marrister 7/5. Bird of the spring was a flypast Black Kite at North loch which unfortunately didn't linger for the other island birders to see it. A Wood Sandpiper was at the West loch 11/5 with a male Crossbill at Saltness the next day. All fell quiet until a Tree Sparrow put in a brief appearance at Skaw 26/5 being replaced by an Icterine Warbler 27/5.

Icterine Warbler 27/5 /11


A male Red Backed Shrike in the Sodom plantation 9/6 was to prove to be the only sighting for the year with a female Quail picked up dead in the same area. This was particularly annoying as this was my third corpse from the valley and am still waiting to see a living one! 12/6 produced single Little Stint at the Houb and Common Rosefinch at Skaw. On 13/6 a female Common scoter was in the North Voe and better still a Red Breasted Flycatcher was in BMs garden. A female Crossbill was at Hamister 15/6 and an unseasonal Glaucous Gull was in the North Voe 29/6.


A flock of 30+ Knot at the Houb was as exciting as it got!


A Green Sandpiper was at the west loch 4/8. On 5/8 both Icterine and Wood Warblers were in the Skaw plantation.  Little of note was seen until 25/8 with a Curlew Sandpiper at the Houb, Wrynecks at Isbister and Skaw, Wood Warbler at Isbister and Barred Warblers at Creadyknowe and Whitefield. The Houb scored well towards the months end with the Curlew Sandpiper being joined by up to four Little Stints 28/8 six Sanderlings 27/8 and single Ruff, Bar Tailed Godwit and Common Sandpiper logged.

Little Stint 28/8/11


 A Corncrake seen briefly flying across the upper yard at roadside Skaw kicked off the month 1/9. BM had a Grey Plover at the Skaw Taing 12/9. The first Yellow Browed Warblers turned up at Marrister and Brough 17/9. A Peregrine was terrorising the waders at the Houb 18/9. A Little Bunting was at Vevoe and a Barred Warbler in the Skaw plantation 25/9 with a mystery Locustella Warbler playing hide and seek at Isbister the same day. Another Little Bunting was at Isbister 28/9 with the Vevoe bird still present. A Hawfinch rounded off a poor month 30/9.

Little Bunting 25/9/11


On 1/10 our record day count of twelve Yellow Browed Warblers was well and truly smashed with twenty! logged, and with only three areas properly checked this total could well have been doubled. BM found our third Little Bunting of the year at Marrister and probable bird of the day escaped with a calling Pipit at Skaw escaping detection, Olive Backed Pipit being strongly suspected. An Ortolan Bunting was at Marrister 4/10 and an Olive Backed Pipit at Skibberhoull 9 -11/10, both seen while I was away. A quiet period followed until two Great White Egrets turned up 24/10, both birds were present till 5/11 with one still touring the island and looking set to bring in the new year. A Hen Harrier flew east past Hamister 23/10 and a Common Buzzard was in the Challister area 29/10. A few Long and Short Eared Owls were also seen towards the months end.

Great White Egret 24/10/11


Usually a quiet month with perhaps one good bird in the first few days, this year was to be a bit different! At least four Black Redstarts were around one Symbister garden in the first few days. A Waxwing was at Saltness 5/11. A Grey Wagtail and Yellowhammer at Sandwick and Mistle Thrush at Challister were seen 6/11. A female Bullfinch was identified from a video recording at North Park 8/11. 14/11 added six European White fronted geese to the year list. 15/11 proved to be a big day with Hume`s Warbler at Symbister, Seven! Long Eared Owls in one Skibberhoull garden with two more seen later at Skaw and  thirteen European White Fronted geese and four Tundra Bean Geese at Challister. Common Scoter and Pochard were on Sandwick loch 17/11. Our good raptor year continued with both Common and Rough Legged Buzzards turning up at Whitefield and Isbister respectively 18/11. A Great Crested Grebe was sharing Symbister harbour with a Black Throated Diver 19/11 and a female Goosander was on the pool also at Symbister the next day. The Rough Legged Buzzard reappeared at Vatshoull 21/11 giving better views and a Hen Harrier also at Vatshoull  the next day rounded off an amazing month for good birds.

Tundra Bean Geese 15/11/11

Hume`s Warbler 15/11/11 and Great Crested Grebe 19/11/11

Black Throated Diver 19/11/11 and Rough Legged Buzzard 21/11/11


A Long Eared Owl was at Hamister 2/12 rounding off a big Owl year. An adult Kumlien`s Gull was at Hamister 5/12 and  was very likely the returning Ist winter of January 09. Like the Egret it looks set to remain into next year. Peregrines were seen at Skaw 6/12 and Hamister 15/12. The Great Crested Grebe reappeared in the harbour on 7/12 for a few days. An Iceland Gull was around Symbister for most of the month with two seen on 15/12.

Quite a good year with four additions to my Whalsay list -  Black Kite, Great White Egret, Great Crested Grebe and Rough Legged Buzzard. There were many birds I could have gone for elsewhere in Shetland but my limited interest in twitching meant I only added Squacco Heron, Alpine Swift and Siberian Rubythroat to my completely unimpressive Shetland list. My Whalsay year list ended on 151 which I reckon is OK.

Two new birds  for Whalsay were seen this year Black Kite and Great White Egret and (assuming both are accepted) this takes us on to 298 species.

Happy new Year to any heidcases who have read this drivel all the way down to here!

Kumlien`s Gull 5/12/11

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