Review – 2020 Shetland Bird Report

Whilst I was up in Barrow yesterday I saw a number of posts on social media as people received their Shetland Bird Reports through the letter box. It’s always a joy to read this so I hoped mine had arrived, and it had.

In one sense it’s obviously an easy sell to make the Shetland birding year interesting. The breeding birds are impressive in their own right and the number of species that turn up each year on migration are among the highest anywhere in Britain. But the Shetland Bird Club don’t rest on their laurels, and in the last few years the publication has gone from A5 to a larger format with more colour photographs.

Unlike some other bird reports the Shetland report has an editorial. Mike Pennington is always lucid and thought provoking, and this time round reflects on the impact of the pandemic on the birding year as well as looking at developing technology implications in terms of thermal imaging equipment and nocturnal migration recording.

The rest other than a seabird breeding report is I guess is pretty standard in terms of bird reports – a review of the year, a systematic list, a ringing report and finder’s accounts on some of the best birds of the year. I always enjoy a good finder’s account, and particularly liked Dougie Preston’s description of finding Britain’s first widely twitchable Tennessee Warbler and the doubt and angst that can kick in when finding a top drawer rarity.

Shetland is blessed with several resident and visiting skilled bird photographers and the report reflects this. More than some other reports images include some selected for their artistic quality, as well as some of those by Rebecca Nason and Brydon Thomason these include an underwater Guillemot in Lerwick harbour by Gary Buchan.

Some bird reports include an index of species, the Shetland report doesn’t as it stands. I do actually use these when wanting to check specifics in the reports that have them, simply because the systematic order species are listed in has changed so often in recent years it’s difficult to keep up. I’m not sure I’ll ever adjust to divers not being at the start of a set of species accounts.

One of Rebecca’s striking images using reflections

Members of the Shetland Bird Club get the annual report as part of their subscription. If you aren’t a member you can get one from the club’s website. All birders who visit Shetland should get a copy.

I’m no bird photographer, so I was pleased to have this shot of Pinkfeet on Skerries included in the 2020 report

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