Wednesday 27 June 2018

Fetlar and the Search for Red Necked Phalaropes

During our trip to Shetland, we visited Loch of Funzie on Fetlar, the RSPB reserve for red necked phalaropes (the UK's rarest breeding bird, shown on the information board in the photo below).

I have always wanted to see red necked phalaropes, ever since when I was growing up we used to play an RSPB board game called Conservation, which featured red necked phalaropes as one of the key species. Red necked phalaropes are interesting birds too, as the females are more brightly coloured than the males and once a female has laid her eggs she abandons them to the care of the male.

Last time we visited Shetland, we didn't see the phalaropes and it seems that we were probably a week too early, as they hadn't yet arrived from their wintering grounds.

This time we arrived on Fetlar earlier in the morning to give us more time (the trip to Fetlar needs three ferries from the mainland of Shetland!). We walked slowly round the Loch of Funzie and didn't see any phalaropes though we saw dunlin (beautiful little waders in their summer plumage)

and red throated divers, with their haunting calls.

We spent about half an hour in the hides overlooking the mires of Funzie, where the phalaropes like to spend time. We didn't see any phalaropes but were delighted by the snipe, which were flying around and drumming with their tail feathers, a wonderfully haunting sound!

We decided we didn't want to spend all day in the hides waiting for a bird that seemed unlikely to turn up (we read the notes in the visitor book, and many people noted that the phalaropes didn't turn up). So we went for a walk around the coast

 then we went back to the Loch. I think we had both given up but suddenly Crafty Green Boyfriend said 'there's a red necked phalarope just behind you!' and indeed there was

We spent 30 minutes watching her as she swam around, waded at the edge of the water and eventually flew away. What a lovely view we had, and no-one else was there!

We had a wonderful time watching but our photos aren't anywhere near as good as those taken by Hugh Harrap of Shetland Wildlife. Just look at this video of a female red necked phalarope


RG said...

Sometimes ... !!!!

Lowcarb team member said...

… and what a lovely walk around the coast it looks!

All the best Jan