Friday, 30 September 2011

35.68 million inches due north

This time tomorrow, all being well, I should be on Unst. If Google Earth is to be believed, I will be 563.16 miles (906.32 kilometres; 991,128.63 yards; 35,681,710.28 inches, or intriguingly 532,562.84 Smoots, whatever a Smoot is*) as near as makes no difference due north of where I am now. To get there I will have travelled by car, airport shuttle bus, two planes and two ferries. From leaving home at 4 am, it will probably take about 12 hours. I shall no doubt be knackered, but looking forward to kicking around ditches and iris beds and peering into people’s gardens in search of birds.

Although we will have no such luxuries as WiFi in our chalet at Baltasound, as long as I can get a reasonable signal on my phone I should still be able to update the blog, but photos may have to wait until we get to Rob’s house next week. There probably won't be many photos actually - having decided to take wellies this year rather than put up with wet feet all the time, I had serious weight issues with my suitcase. As a result, the 50mm lens was one of the things that had to be left out. So it will be just bird photos (hopefully) and possibly a few crap pictures taken on my phone.

Kelda chalets – ours is the white one on the end. Halligarth Plantation just visible in the distance at the extreme left of the picture.

For anyone who knows Unst, or has seen John Shuttleworth’s ‘It’s Nice Up North’, this image shows where the chalet is in relation to the famous Bobby’s bus shelter (chalet just visible in the middle of the picture)

I hardly dare mention the weather, but despite distinctly unpromising wind directions (almost entirely westerly) so far this autumn, Shetland has already had loads of good birds. And there's a Pallas's Gropper on Fair Isle today. That would do....

* 67 inches apparently

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Garden hummer

I first saw this Humming-bird Hawk-moth in the garden on the 18th, then again the following day, but on both occasions it disappeared before I could grab the camera and get outside. Today, however, it fed around the Verbenas for long enough to get a few shots. Very difficult thing to photograph - these were the only two in focus out of about 50 attempts:

Always nice to see - this is only the third one I've ever seen in Leics.

A couple more similar shots when it came back later:

And finally a reasonably sharp one!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

The long wait is over!

After many months of badgering Richard (stop that sniggering at the back) my completely revamped website is finally live:

However, because nothing in life is ever simple, this has unfortunately coincided with Richard's server account being hacked by some piece of retarded lowlife shit in Malaysia. This caused spam links to appear on all the sites Richard is responsible for. Although my site is clean now, this means that all the sites have to be reinstalled and new accounts created, so it will probably disappear for a day or two, or possibly be replaced temporarily by the old one. So please have a look at it while it's there! If it's a blackish/dark grey design with a Short-eared Owl at the top, that's the new one. If it's white with a Ringed Plover on the home page, it's reverted to the crappy old one.

Either way, if anyone wants a pet portrait or anything else doing in time for Christmas, please let me know as soon as possible.

Ad break over.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

I'm sure it's very nice, but...'d think they might have done some market research on the name before launching this range of Indian foods in the UK (seen in Sainsbury's this evening):

Monday, 19 September 2011


Not content with covering all of Unst on Google Streetview, checking weather forecasts every five minutes and revising the field characters of extremely rare birds that I almost certainly won’t find, I’ve discovered another excellent Shetland-related timewaster:

The best one is the Sumburgh Head cam – I bet if you watched this long enough you’d see something mega rare. Although it would be frustrating, as the camera follows a set pattern of panning and zooming lasting about six minutes, so you’d have to hope it was still there when the camera returned to the same spot!

If you watch the sequence all the way through, at one stage it zooms in on Rob’s house, although at over two miles away you can’t identify anything in his garden to grip him off with unfortunately.

There’s another one looking back from Exnaboe towards Sumburgh Head, which is a nice view, but it’s static and only updates every two minutes. The Pallid Harrier the other week would probably have been visible on this if it had flown past at the exact time the cam went off!

Edit: Hmm - these all seem to be offline today - probably overloaded the servers with too many people looking at them!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

And the answer is....

As Peter Cook said on that sketch: no.

Or least not anywhere I've been in the last three days. The wind seemed to have dropped considerably this morning, so much so in fact that there were good numbers of Mipits, Chaffinches, hirundines and the odd Skylark and Yellow Wagtail heading south over Eyebrook this morning. So forget about seabirds - it's time to dust off the vismigging hat, gen up on passerine flight calls and get out and string stuff flying over instead!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Will this wind....?

Every year we get wind in the autumn (actually, I get wind all the time, but that’s another matter), and every year I go out looking for any stray seabirds that might have been blown inland by it. A bit silly when you think about it – if I really wanted to see seabirds I could go to the coast and see thousands of them. But no, I have to go and look for them in Leicestershire and Rutland.

So last week when it had been windy for a day or two, I went to Rutland Water and Eyebrook Res in the hope of finding seabirds. I saw a few bits and pieces – 7 Knot at Eyebrook (the equal fifth biggest flock ever in the county!!!) a Black Tern, an Arctic Tern, a couple of Turnstones and loads of Yellow Wagtails (is anywhere else in the country getting exceptional numbers at the moment, or is it just Rutland Water?). But no seabirds.

This isn’t actually that surprising – in all the years I’ve been going out in autumnal winds looking for inland seabirds (at least 25), I’ve only ever found a few – Sabine’s Gull and Little Auk at Rutland Water (the former on a day when it wasn’t even particularly windy) an Arctic Skua at Swithland Res, a couple of Great Skuas and a few Grey Phalaropes. I’ve seen all the other ‘regulars’ over the years – Fulmar, Gannet, Leach’s Petrel and Manx Shearwater, but not personally found any of them.

Of course the day after I went out last week there was a Manx Shearwater at Eyebrook. Arse. Granted, it was ‘well fucked’ to quote the beast, and predictably found dead the next morning, but a Manx Shearwater nonetheless.

But there is still hope – the forecast for the next few days is for even stronger winds. I shall be out looking from Tuesday/Wednesday onwards I think.