Monday, 31 May 2010

Migrants and moons

Spring is trying to appear, and every now and again there is a lovely day of sunshine, with the wind dropping enough for you to feel the warmth coming through. The flowers seem to have noticed, Early purple orchids, Spotted heath orchids, Spring squill, violets are all flowering nicely, and the bumble bees are busy gathering nectar and pollen. The Sycamore trees are flowering too, and at Halligarth woods the canopy is buzzing away with bees and other insects. Calling Halligarth a wood may be pushing reality slightly, but it's the closest thing we have up here, measuring about 50m by 50m, it is the remains of an old agroforestry experiment. The Sycamore trees are of a reasonable size, in the centre they are around 10m tall.

Bill-tapping Puffins

Puffins are incubating, or at least, I think they're incubating! As they are down their burrows I can't see, but they havn't started bringing in fish yet, fingers crossed for a good year for them. Earlier this month it was the perfect time to watch these highly amusing birds bill tapping. I spent an evening sitting on the cliff-top with the Puffins wandering around me, curious as to what I was, tugging at my shoe laces, and coming far too close for my camera, I ended up using my phone camera.


I found a nice male Crossbill over at Norwick, feeding on old rose hips, it's always slightly strange to see these birds when you would usually associate them with coniferous forests.

Although there havn't been huge numbers of migrants, we have had a few nice birds. A Red-rumped Swallow was spotted at Norwick, but then dissapeared. Fortunately it appeared in Haroldswick the next day, and a group of us were able to sit on the coast and watch it feeding on insects over the seaweed, with a group of Barn Swallows. Getting photos was quite tricky, the fast flight and sudden changes of direction made things difficult, but persistance paid off with a few good shots.

Red-rumped Swallow

Little Ringed Plover

A Little Ringed Plover visited Skaw beach for a few days, this is the first time this species has been recorded on Unst, so it was a great bird to be able to see.

Yawning Puffin

Bonxie (Great Skua) displaying

The Bonxies displaying quite a bit at the moment, protecting their territories from other birds. Their calls and the white wing patches really stand out on the hill. I have just completed the first part of their monitoring, mapping out all the territories within a specific study plot on the side of Hermaness hill. Numbers are good, and have been stable over the last few years.

The recent full moon is named after the flowers that are all coming into bloom at the moment, and it made a nice appearance through the clouds across burrafirth the other night. There also seems to be plenty of aurora activity at the moment, but the light nights now obscure it which is a bit of a shame, but brings it's own special night-time magic.
Flower moon

I can't believe that May is pretty much out! Monitoring carries on as normal, and I'm actually going away for a weekend! All the way to Cambridge for a reunion of the descendents of members of Scott's expedition to Antarctica. It promises to be a long weekend, but hopefully worthwhile, I'll get to see family too which will be great. Take care everyone.

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