Thursday, 19 May 2022

Magical Mousa Broch

 Yesterday 18/05/2022, we stayed up late and took the Mousa Boat  over to Mousa to see the Storm Petrels that nest in the Mousa Broch and other locations on the Island, was a bit concerned that the trip may get cancelled as the days leading up to it were very windy, however on arrival at about 21.40 the wind had miraculously disappeared and the water looked lovely and flat, we were treated to a pretty impressive sunset. Some of mine and Margie's pics below

 We boarded and made the short crossing to Mousa, rather bouncy, turned out the wind hadn't disappeared but had been hiding around the corner!!!

We arrived on Mousa, split into two groups we headed towards the Broch.

The Broch

We arrived at the Broch

I'd like to tell you all about it's history, but unfortunately while the guide was giving his spiel, I wasn't really listening as I was watching the amazing Storm Petrels whizzing around the Brock!!! The video below gives an impression of what it was like.

We were allowed into the Brock and made our way up to the top, we had great if gloomy, it was about 23.00hrs at this point, views of Stormies zipping about, then we had the highlight of the trip when one of the birds hit Margie's leg, scrabbled around on the floor, before disappearing into it's hole, I managed a very short video as I tried not to step on it!!!!

Superb stuff, after a while we made the 20 minute trek back to the boat with the birds calling from all around, a wall near the dock seemed to be singing to us, it was amazing. The boat trip back wasn't as rough and we were back in our apartment just after 1 o'clock in the morning! 
A trip that will live long in the memory!!

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Holiday day 7 11/05/2022: The Dotterel, The Mill & the Mis-ID!!!

Today was very mixed to say the least!! With a Dotterel reported we decided to have a bit of a twitch, with a bit of culture after, a visit to a water mill museum. (this was an attempt to get back into Margie's good books after the Sumburgh Head museum debacle of yesterday😏)

Followed the Birdguide's directions to the appropriate layby, started ok with an Arctic Skua over our heads and a Whimbrel wandering about, but no sign off any Dotterel, luckily a passing birder, took pity on us and pointed out we were in the wrong layby!! Dang!

Overhead Arctic Skua


Meadow Pipit on a post

We relocated to the correct layby, great views over Loch Spiggie, where there was a large flock of Tufted Ducks, though you need a scope to see them, the Dotterel eventually showed in a field furthe down the road than reported!! Fair do though they showed well enough!!

Tufted Duck


So we headed off to the Quendale Water Mill, on the way we found a nice flock of Whooper Swans in a field!

Arrived at the museum, which was quite interesting, highlighting for me was realising how tough they had it just a 100 years ago and how cushy we have it in the modern world!! Some of Margie's pics below!

Not working at moment unfortunately

After the historical culturefest we headed off to the Lock of Clumlie to have a look for the Long-tailed Skua that had been reported, we gave it a good go though failed to see it, though I managed to convince myself that I had seen it before looking at the pics later and realising I hadn't!!!😲 However it wasn't a waste of time the Loch is obviously an important place for the local birds with many species coming in to bathe, including Bonxies, Common Gulls, Arctic Skuas, Arctic Terns and several other species, it also held a pair of Whooper Swans, three Red-throated Divers with the surrounding countryside full of Mipits, Skylarks, Curlews, Oystercatchers, Lapwing, Snipe and Ravens being abused as they flew over!!

So what is my excuse/reason for the Mis-ID well apart from being a Twat (incidentally the next day we went to the town of Twatt so I could stand in front of the sign for Twatt and get a pic so I could post it here to indicate how much of a Twat I was, however the town of Twatt does not have a sign, possibly to prevent Twats like me constantly posing in front of it!!!😲😂😂😂denied!!!) it was very much a case of seeing what I wanted to see, when we first arrived, I picked up in my bins a small dark Skua, flying along a distant ridge, very bouncy flight and seemed to have a Long Tail, However I said to Margie "think that was a small Arctic" soon after a couple of birders arrived, one of them said they thought they had the LTS flying over the ridge a few minutes before, same time as my bird! This made me re-evaluate my sighting and put in my brain maybe it was, a couple of minutes later from behind us a bird flew over our heads, out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw a white belly and a long tail, however by the time I had it in the Camera it was very distant again, though all of us thought it was the LTS although that may have been influenced by my enthusiasm, anyway the bird flew off  and I think all present were convinced we seen it, later I had two dark phase Arctic Skua flyby which I got some reasonable pics, it was looking at these later that I noticed that one of the birds had quite a long tail!! I've seen a lot of Arctic Skuas though mostly at distance but didn't realise that they can have tails quite this long (see pic below) This made me check the very bad pics I got of the confusion bird and came to the conclusion that the bird was indeed an Arctic Skua, just shows you the dangers of Bird ID, when wishful thinking meets distant poor views, in bad light and bad pics!!

Arctic Skua, note the longish tail, The two Arctics I had earlier in the holiday didn't show a tail this long so can be variable. Though we saw the LTS the next day and it's tail is twice as long!!

 We live and learn and if I hadn't got pics I would have been convinced I'd seen the LTS!! Got the right answer in the end.

As said above plenty of action on the loch, a high count of nine Bonxies at their wash point, which unfortunately was on the far side of the loch, still some flew over quite close. Some pics of some of the other species seen!

Brute of Great Black-backed Gull

Common Gull



Arctic Terns, seemed to be a little colony here of about 40 birds vey entertaining as they squabbled, met an old guy, a local who was walking his dog, who said that back in the fifties there were hundreds of Tirricks on the loch! A witness to the decline there has been in our seabirds over the years😢

Common Gull

Arctic Tern

Having a wash

Meadow Pipit


Common Gull having a wash



Red-throated Diver on the bank, not a nest as it was only out of the water for a couple of minutes


Red-throated Diver

A couple at the wash station



Arctic Skua




Red-throated Diver by Margie

A very nice afternoon, in a lovely place!!! The reactions of the birds to each other especially the Terns were fun to watch, they really don't like Skuas and Ravens are really unpopular with all other species!!