Shetland Nature Diary - May 2009


Monthly nature diaries by local naturalist, wildlife photographer and holiday provider,
Brydon Thomason of Shetland Nature

May has to be the month which best illustrates spring migration in the isles. Birds, which have spent the winter in warmer southern climes, are eager to return to their Scandinavian breeding grounds. Given ideal weather conditions, most birds will complete their journeys north in a matter of days, however many are pushed off course and arrive on our shores.

Unlike autumn, when the majority of migrants passing through are juveniles, in spring most of the birds are in breeding plumage and often full of song eager to reach their destinations. The number and density of migrants tends to be much fewer too, but make no mistake, the quality certainly out ways the quantity!

Shetland is undoubtedly one of, if not the best place in Britain to encounter nationally scarce migrants such as Red-backed shrike, Wryneck and Icterine warbler amongst the arrivals of commoner species. Bluethroat however is one of the true gems of spring and are not surprisingly one of the most sought after "rarity" at this time of year in the country and it is little wonder. The beautiful vivid blue on the throat surely equals that of a paradise bird in the rain forests of Borneo!

Record numbers reached Shetland in early May, with well over twenty individuals found scattered round the isles on several dates. On one day alone I had six different birds on my home island, Fetlar, doubling my previous record of three in a day on the isle. One can only speculate how many passed through the isles during the month.

Unfortunately due to this species skulking nature they can often prove to be far from confiding. Where they can find it, Bluethroats" prefer dense, shrubby and often damp areas which in Shetland is usually a deep ditch or trench, an iris bed or vegetable patch or perhaps a coastal cove, I have even found them foraging in compost heaps and sheep pens. On migration birds literarily do turn up just about any where!

Bye for now...
Brydon Thomason

About Brydon Thomason

Brydon runs a specialist wildlife guiding service that focuses on all aspects of Shetlands exhilarating natural history for individuals, couples or small groups (maximum of 6), specialising in: otter watching, bird watching, wild flowers, boat trips and much more. Read more about these trips at

Having lived in the Shetland all his life, Brydon is one of the most experienced and knowledgeable naturalists in the isles. He welcomes any questions or comments on the monthly nature diary and should you require any information on any aspect of Shetland's natural history please contact Brydon

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