Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Taiga Flycatcher & Arctic Warbler

Just back from a superb sunny day on Fetlar & Yell with Gary Jenkins & Lee Mott - the Taiga Flycatcher offered great views, as did the Arctic Warbler.

Taiga Flycatcher calls. I hinted in an earlier draft that this individual gave some very interesting calls. That's still the case and the sonogram unequivocally proves this . The bird did give a very dry call (not reproduced here) which we have all learned to be of Taiga but also gave a slower call more akin to Red-breasted Flycatcher. It is worth comparing the sonogram of the Fetlar bird with the classic Taiga Flycatcher calls reproduced in the Sound Approach and note how the time between individual notes is much longer. Assuming we are dealing with a 100% Taiga here (and from plumage there is absolutely no disputing that whatsoever) then it is clear that Taiga Fly can give slower and shorter notes that are more Red-breasted Flycatcher-like than Taiga. The Fetlar bird was not particularly vocal until a recording was played and I make absolutely no excuses for using a recording on the day to induce call back, in order to secure what are clearly interesting recordings of a Taiga Flycatcher. As the Sound Approach chapter says, 'Playback and be damned'...

The upper portion of the sonogram below has been produced from a recording kindly sent by Dougie Preston. Compared to my recording that sits under his as a comparison, there are twice as many notes within the call but crucially, the gap between the notes is still relatively long.

One for the VI: as seen in Bird Watching Magazine...

Monday, 28 September 2009


The weather did not look great for photographing the reported Taiga Flycatcher on Fetlar so the day was spent in the south Mainland. Garganey are scarce birds in Shetland - especially in autumn - so it was nice to be able to study and photograph this extremely confiding individual at Boddam.

I tried to get some more Yellow-browed recordings from the long-staying Hoswick bird but it remained silent. A Common Crossbill was flying around the village and from the sonogram, clearly identifiable as a 'glip'.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

A nice UK 'find-tick' came in the shape and form of this Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Ringasta - found as I was searching through a large flock of Eurasian Golden Plovers for the umpteenth time this week. The bird was very distant, but after a bit of a wait, it came reasonably close to get some record shots with the 800mm and 1.4x converter. Fortunately two of our Shetland Wildlife clients - Brian & Phil - were close by, so a quick call to them ensured they enjoyed good views; and having spent all of last week in westerlies on Fair Isle, they thoroughly deserved it...

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Yellow-browed Calls

The strong winds are making sound recording frustrating to say the least but they do give a real autumnal feel to this recording of a Yellow-browed Warbler in the sycamores at Hoswick.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Whales, Dolphins & Porpoises

Delighted to receive this NEW book by Katie Gillham & John Baxter, published by Scottish Natural Heritage. Even more delighted to see that I was the leading contributing photographer for the title and that one of my Killer Whale images was used for the front cover.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Yellow-browed Warbler

Despite gale force winds, this ultra-active Yellow-browed Warbler offered some lovely opportunities at Hoswick during the morning.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

A is for...

A great day spent with bird photographer Gary Jenkins - yes, the guy who took those stunning Eagle Owl images! The morning was spent on Whalsay where the Arctic Warbler proved extremely elusive in the strong winds. It eventually showed well for just a few minutes in Brian & Linda's garden which, thanks to their hospitality, resulted in some nice images. It was incredibly vocal but sadly it was too windy for recordings. In the afternoon we headed to Stenness and after a two hour search, had good views of a near summer-plumage American Golden Plover with a flock of Golden Plovers.

Above: Arctic Warbler, Whalsay after heavy Photoshop work. Below: Sycamores with Arctic Warbler, Whalsay - before Photoshop work.

As I was archiving the images from today it was good to look through images of several other Arctic Warblers I have photographed here in Shetland since 'turning' digital in 2003:

The bird depicted above was photographed in the Varanger region
of Norway in July 2006- on our honeymoon!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Fair Isle Autumn 2010

Shetland Wildlife have added another autumn trip to Fair Isle in 2010 to run from 2nd - 9th October. Click here for details.

Lanceolated Warbler, Fair Isle - this individual came so close
that one could not fail to get great images of this true 'Sibe'!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Yellow Warbler - Happy 4th Anniversary!

Given the amount of Nearctic birds making landfall in the Western Isles, and the absence of any here in Shetland (with the exception of a few Buff-breasted Sands), maybe this is a good time for some nostalgic reflection! Four years ago to this very day, this dazzling Yellow Warbler was found at Garths Ness. It still ranks as the best bird I've ever seen in Shetland - but a Blackburnian Warbler might just change that!

Monday, 14 September 2009

West is Best...

Spent most of Sunday in the west Mainland where there were lots of waders feeding in the mountains of kelp that had been washed up from the storm on Wednesday. These Sanderling were on a tiny patch of open sand and thus proved irresistible.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Booted Warbler

Autumn has finally arrived! This Booted Warbler was just over the hill at Channerwick on Friday afternoon. It proved incredibly secretive and virtually impossible to photograph so I tried again on Saturday after the rain had stopped and managed a few images.

Sunday, 6 September 2009


With constant westerlies (or pretty useless easterlies off backs of lows), passerine migration here in Shetland is currently slow to say the least. So, lots of office work, editing, writing and hide building with very little photography done this week, other than a few waders.