Another peerie update from the eastern edge of the Shetland Isles, where the recent easterly winds have been providing us with a few treats!
Migratory passerines on their way to Scandanavia and the high Arctic to breed are struggling to cross the North Sea at present, so many are taking refuge in Shetland, and with Noss sitting on the eastern edge of the archipelago, it’s a perfect resting point for a whole range of species on their way north from their wintering grounds in Africa and Europe. Here’s a selection of some species that we’ve had so far:
Birds that you take for granted throughout much of Britain are really quite exciting to see on a remote seabird island! Several Robins are currently taking shelter in various corners of the island, and Pied and White Wagtails have been seen regularly around Gungstie over the last couple of days.
Blackcaps are easily recognisable, with the males displaying, well, their black cap, and the females donning a more subtle rusty reddish brown cap.
My first ‘lifer’ for Noss – the lovely Lesser Whitethroat. We’ve been lucky enough to have a couple of them fly-catching in the April sunshine for the last couple of days with the other warblers. Only about 1 to 4 records of them are reported from Noss each year.
By far the most common passage migrants so far have been the Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs. Up to a dozen of each have been seen across the island over the last few days. Visually very similar, the easy way of distinguishing them has always been their song. Songbirds, however, sing on territory, and as they are migrating, it is necessary to use the more difficult visual identification features of primary projection, leg colour and orbital ring to record numbers of both species seperately. Of course, there’s always the occassional ‘willow-chaff warbler’ that slips through the net…
The male Ring Ouzel was a fantastic site on the Hill dyke a couple of days ago, and this Song Thrush was observed for some time to confirm it’s identity- the larger Mistle Thrush would have been an altogether rarer discovery!
The old ruins and drystone dykes that remain on Noss provide many passage migrants with excellent cover from the strong North Sea winds. The geos and voes of the coast line are also excellent places for shelter where both invertebrates and hungry migrant birds can be found. Other species that have so far escaped the lens include Redstart, Black Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, House Martin, Swallow and Sedge Warbler. May is the peak of passage migration, so we’re looking forward to a few more exciting birds dropping in. With past records as unusual as Painted Bunting and Cockateil, you never know what might turn up!