29th January. Homework

Another opportunity to work at home today, meant I could sit in the window and nosey at the neighbours. Not actually true officer I was merely photographing a Sparrowhawk which just happened to be sat on the neighbours roof, directly above their bathroom!
Late afternoon saw my sanity returning and my first visit to Pit-house West for a long while. A nice pair of Stonechats at the western edge was a good start but the only other highlight was a Water Rail. The Bittern pool produced no Bitterns. Not surprising, considering how battered and flooded the reed bed looks.

A run of the mill Jackdaw on another neighbours roof.

28th January. Office Spotting

A nice skein of c.200 Pink-footed Geese from the office window at 10am was a nice distraction from the usual arduous council matters!

27th January. Jo's first dip.

Took Jo on her first birding trip to see the Long-eared Owls. Turned into her first dip as I failed to find any. I'm sure she was impressed however.

25th January. A quickie before work

A minor diversion on the way to work gave me a chance to catch up with the Waxwings just off the Sheffield Parkway.

22nd January. What a Prick

Had a session of acupuncture, for my knackered shoulder, this morning - very interesting and almost pain free. I was a little alarmed however that the needles actually go in some 20mm and sit there for around 20 mins. Had a disaster with my mystery pies, in that I left them out of the fridge and forgot to take them to work to tempt Mr Norman off his diet. The only one I did eat was a chicken and mushroom. Not a bad pie but the filling was a little snotty not unlike a Pukey Pie. I think a 5 on this occasion is more than generous.

19th January. Birds and Pies

At last the decorating is over and I can get back to some normality. After retreaving my birding gear from my parents house and reading the idiots guide to Leica bins I set off out. First stop was the infamous Ulley Country Park (Ulley Resevoir) to see if the Scaup were there. They weren't except they were it's just that I didn't see them. According to Rare Bird Alert one of them was so it must have been. Second stop was to a not so secret Long-eared Owl roost. Only a solitary individual was present looking very fierce. Nearby RVCP held the usual winter fare with 27 Goosanders being the only thing of note.

Birding over (it was dark) I went to Morrisons with Joanna, to buy some healthy eating stuff .i.e salad etc. This was going well until I discovered that they have a counter solely dedicated to pies. This is not surprising given the size of the vast majority of shoppers there. Being a weak individual I purchased a bargain 89p (half price) mixed bag of mystery pies which I will consume over the next few days. Knowing my luck it will be a bag of blackberry and apple!

Mystery pies. Probably containing animal based fillings

14th January. Has it been so long

Far too busy at present for any bird/pie related nonsense. Decorating will be finished this coming weekend then perhaps things will get back to normal .i.e weekends birding etc.

Got offered a lift to the Cley White-crowned Sparrow but decided against it as it is clearly plastic and probably released by some North Norfolk birder in a desperate attempt to put this former mecca back on the birding map :)

4th January: Escape from Shetland

The day dawned with a howling gale from the east (how exciting would that have been in October?) and horizontal rain. A look at the weather forecast indicated gusting winds of up to 87 mph by late afternoon, which coincided with my return to Aberdeen. With this in mind I unsucessfuly attempted to get on a earlier flight - it was not looking good for the 5pm flight! Returning to the car we noticed an old dear clinging to the side of her car, it later became apparent that she had just about ripped the car door off in the wind. Returning to Sunny Dell we (I) finished off the bottle of Jura and sat watching planes taking off and landing. One plane however flew over quite low and apparently could not land, due to the wind, and touched down at Kirkwall instead. Returning to the airport full of sceptism I was greeted by head shaking jestures from the tourist information and feared my trip would now be extended. By some kind of miracle (or just a shit hot pilot) the flight landed and I was able to leave on schedule - hoorah.

So Shetland at Christmas good or bad? On the plus side If you get a nice day the birding is cracking and photographic opportunities are excellent. The New Years celebrations are a bit of a let down as everyone buggers off home well before midnight so much so that some of the hotels close at eleven. The two day bank holiday is a nightmare as everywhere completely closes so you really need to stock up on essentials i.e. petrol etc. As for Pies, forget it the bakers close down completely and the only pies you'll get are fast approaching their eat by date.

All in all it was a nice relaxing trip, but I'll stick to the Autumn and maybe late Spring next time.

Thanks to Rob for letting me stay and driving me around the galeswept isle. I bet 4 lasagne pies that the Escort still has that windscreen taped up the next time I'm up :)

3rd January: Even windier

As expected today was even windier than yesterday and we failed to venture out before midday. After letting Sparky have a wander around West Beach we decided that most (if not) all birding would be done from the comfort of the car. We set off towards Loch of Hillwell, to year tick the Smew. As we passed Fleck a whooshing noise can from the rear of the car. This was not Sparky having some kind of seizure but the rear windscreen being uprooted from its seal by a rather nasty cross wind. After stopping the car and glancing behind us expecting carnage, which fortunately was not the case, Rob reversed the car to look for the remnants of screen. He then spotted the windscreen in a field some 150 yds from the road and amazingly still in one piece. A stop at the garage at Mainlands produced some duct tape and we were soon on our way. The Smew was still on the Loch and we also managed to year tick Moorhen and Teal, species that would no doubt be difficult to catch up with later in the year.
With the weather deteriorating we decided to visit Shetland Catch again. There were more gulls today as the factory was open again after the extended holiday. We managed 2 1st winter Iceland Gulls but nothing else of note. A quick call to Summerfield, for supplies, revealed a friendly face in the shape of former Rotherham lad Mr Haywood, who sought to cheer me up by pointing out that they would be no pies this week and that I would be lucky to get off tomorrow given the horrendous forecast. A few more days on Shetland with no pies, no birds and shit weather - great.

The result of too many pulse based curries

Pimp my ride


Who cares what race they are they all eat shit!

2nd January: Windy

Typical January Shetland weather today, strong wind and heavy rain meant that we were a little reluctant step out. However we did at around 10:30 (barely dawn up here!). Another stop to look for the Mousa Sound King Eider was fruitless, so we called at Scalloway to look at Gulls. A party of large ones contained an adult Iceland. Next was Loch Tingwall for the Ring-necked Ducks. Only one of the drakes remained among the small group of Tufties and a lone female Scaup. It was cold and very windy now so we drove around looking at bits of sea loch in the west but saw bugger all. All in all a bit crap really but it beats working.
Still a bank holiday up here so again no sign of any pies. However there did appear to be some activity at the Sandwick Bakery mid-afternoon, so fingers crossed for tomorrow.

Iceland Gull Scalloway


mmm Sheep

1st January 2008. Shitty start to New Year

After the festivities of last night I rolled into bed at 3am. The wind got up in the night rattling the doors throughout the house. I was too knackered to get up and do anything about the banging so went back to sleep until 10am. As Mr Fray was doing charity work in his position as a missionary for the society of South Mainland Single Mothers it was left to me to be responsible for the cats. Unfortunately the banging doors had resulted in them being trapped into the living room. I'll leave the rest to your imagination but it was not the nicest start to the New Year - Yuck.

The rest of the morning was spent looking out of the window waiting for the wind and rain to subside. The weather hardly improved but we decided to go and have a look for the King Eider in Moussa Sound. Unfortunately we fail again and only managed to see about 15 Common Eider and a couple of Long-tailed Ducks. With daylight disappearing fast we decided to have a look at the Gulls around Shetland Catch. A 1st winter Glaucous Gull and a different (to Sunday's) 1st winter Iceland Gull were present with another 1st winter Glauc' around the adjacent landfill site.

It's grim oop north