Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Shetland 1st to 8th October

SATURDAY 1st October

The flight was an eventful one, at Edinburgh Julian and I had to go out of departures to book in again to get our boarding passes, then back through security and then get to the gate for departure! Unfortunately we only had 30 minutes to do this. Talk about panic, needless to say we did it – not quite sure how! We left Edinburgh and flew north, bizarrely we flew over Perth and I picked out my Mothers houses as we went over, it was strange flying over a part of the country I am really familiar with and seeing it from above, as it were.

On arrival in Shetland we made our way to Ocraquay where we saw a Red-backed Shrike, we then headed to our digs which was in a stunning location about a mile from the village of Aith, 30 minutes north of Lerwick. After sorting out the sleeping arrangements I ended up sharing with Bobby D, or he ended up sharing with me. We then hit the road again and in Laxo and the surrounding area we saw Bluethroat another Red-backed Shrike and a Red-breasted Flycatcher, It was then back into Lerwick for Fish and Chips and an early night.

SUNDAY 2nd October

I looked out of the bedroom window and picked up an Otter, I shouted downstairs and we all eventually got good views. A search of the plantation at the bottom of the garden resulted in a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers. We birding around in the general area when news broke of a Lanceolated Warbler at Boddam.

We arrived and birders we knew were coming away saying it was too crowded. We persevered and with around 80 to 100 birders looking into a very overgrown garden that sloped away from us it wasn’t looking good. Half a dozen lads to my left started getting excited, stretching necks and making sounds that to me are a bit of a memory, but the rest of us were clueless. I could only see into a foot square window (when I said it was Overgrown!).

After about an hour I noticed that along the garden there were around a dozen or so birders lying on the grown peering into the undergrowth, they appeared to be seeing something. One lad started to gesture to a mate of his that was standing by me, he was off, I was close behind!

Eventually I got to the front by the wire fence with Julien and Tom to my side, Bobby D had already seen the bird and had retreated. I looked down (bins were useless) and there it was creeping about like a mouse (click on the link, it really is mouse like). Julian was struggling and when I said it was right under his nose I wasn’t joking. At one point I’m sure it tried his shoes on! (now I’m joking). In the link, the bird actually walks over the photographers hand. We retreated and left the bird amazingly the best was yet to come.

Lanceolated Warbler. Boddam, Shetland 2nd October 2016

At times there can be a little friction between four Alpha Males in the same house and more importantly car. Primarily, where do we go next. Mostly its just a matter of communication. Anyway, communication broke down on our next destination.

News broke of four Killer Wales off Sumburgh Head so we headed there, or so I thought. As we were making our way there we detoured to Grutness to look for a Snow Bunting!!!! I’ve nothing against Snow Bunting but come on! We could see Sumburgh and birders on the cliffs looking out to sea. I assumed that the “IC number one” knew something I didn’t and that the Ocra where heading our way, but apparently not, there had been a Lapland Bunting a few days previous and that apparently was more important.

We got back to the car and made our way to Sumburgh where we were met with the news the Ocra had gone, but Hugh Harrop the resident birder said he was going to check out Scat Ness as they had headed that way. We checked the sea but apart from a couple of Great Skua it was 100’s of Fulmar and little else.

The pager went with the message that the Ocra were off Scatness there was no panic just off the main road was a small group looking out to sea. Then at about a mile distance there they were four Killer Whale, stunning I thought nothing would top this – I was to be proved wrong!

For the second time in two days we ended up at Quarff to look for a Hoopoe which again eluded us. We then drove to Scalloway where there was a showy Rosy Starling. We drove through the town and found the road it was on straight away. We made our way up the hill, it was looking bleak as unusually for Shetland there was plenty of cover, I looked down a small access track and there it was sitting on top of hedge I called the others and the bird performed really well. I back for my camera but the light was disappearing fast by the time I got back. With the light disappearing we went back to the accommodation where I was cooking for the evening.

Rosy Starling, Scalloway

At this point I was nearly sixty and I had agreed to cook a couple of nights. Easy meals, Chilli and a Curry standard fayre. We had done the shopping the day before and it soon became apparent I had forgotten the mince! Unfortunately the baked potatoes I had put in the over were nearly cooked so, a first for me we had Curry and Baked potatoes! A first for me but the others liked it.


It was a lot quieter today with the wind having started to pick up. We firstly checked out the plantation with a few Yellow-browed Warblers and Brambling to show for our efforts. We search another plantation where we saw a few Yellow-browed Warbler and obtained poor views of a Blyth’s Reed Warbler. We then had a search for Hoopoe again at Quarff but drew a blank, Julian and Bob saw a Bluethroat. Next, Levenwick was our destination but it was quiet, news then broke of a Warbler at Quendale, so we headed there, but it proved to be a wasted journey although a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers were seen. We then had another search for the Hoopoe with the same results. Back home early night.


This was another one of those days, news broke of a Sykes Warbler or Booted Warbler at Sullom plantation. I was driving, we were well placed at Aith so we were the second car on the scene. At that point it transpired that the bird was now a Chiffchaff!!!!! This is where communication came in, with everyone wanting to do different things, so as I was driving, I summonsed everyone back to the car and we headed south, at Quarff we missed the Hoopoe and Bluethroat but it was good birding with Spotted Flycatcher, Willow Warbler and a couple Yellow-browed Warbler. Again at Quendale news broke of a Little Bunting so we headed there. People leaving told us how well it had shown, but it had flown. I got a glimpse of a Barred Warbler by the mill a couple of times, but it was a pain.

News broke of another Little Bunting at Quarff so we headed there but again drew a blank, off home Pinnie on second attempt at Chilli, Oh stopped off for mince, nearly forgot.


This was to be another one of those days. Julian, Bob and I birded the gardens down to the village, we had brief views of a probable flycatcher in a garden, a women in a car stopped and said just go in the garden. Bob and I did and suddenly the door flew open and an Irate gentleman asked if he could help me! I spluttered out an explanation and left, he was fine. An American Golden Plover had turned up at Eshaness in the north so we headed there. Now it gets windy at home, but in Shetland you soon learn what wind is about. On arrival at the lighthouse we found the flock but it was very mobile and looking through the scope was near impossible with my eyes streaming with the wind. We missed out and birded in the area seeing little, that is apart from a Common Tern (in joke).

We cut our losses and returned to the digs for coffee, sitting birding in the porch became a popular pastime and we saw a good number of species from here. Anyway it was decided to return to Eshaness for another go for AGP as we arrived news broke of a Black-throated Thrush in the Sullom Plantation, so we headed there hoping it wasn’t the same birder! Needless to say we didn’t see the bird. I had a confrontation with a Scottish birder who really pissed me off! I’ll have him in the future – Twat! (That’s a village in Shetland!). To compound matters we missed a Hawfinch!


With White’s and Swainson’s Thrushes both on Fetlar we headed north on the ferry, both the ferry for Unst and Fetlar leave from Yell, so we decided to wait for news before we made a decision. With no news either way we opted for Unst. This was to prove to be one of the best days birding I have ever had.

We arrived at Norwick just after 10.00am not bad going. We saw two rarities in the form of Goldfinch and Greenfinch, not quite what we were after, but! As we made our way along a track I was at the back when two birds flew past settling in the hedge by the house, I picked up my bins and it was Little Bunting, I was pretty sure the other bird was as well but, it was more important to get the others on the birds, eventually we did, there appeared to be three birds in total. Another garden held a Red-breasted Flycatcher and there were birds streaming in with Redwing, Skylark and Brambling all over. We stopped and located a Bluethroat and then Tom picked up another, it was proving a good day, but the best was yet to come.

Red-breasted Flycatcher, Norwick
Next we searched unsuccessfully for another Blyth’s Reed Warbler before we headed to Haroldswick where we had great views of a Scarlet Rosefinch and missed another Barred Warbler. For the second time I got a flea in my ear. Honest misses it didn’t look like a garden to me! We also saw our only Arctic Tern of the trip in the bay, this time it was real and not plastic! (In Joke).

Scarlet Rosefinch
At around 4ish I suggested maybe birding a bit closer to the ferry terminal, the others agreed and with a Little Bunting at Westing that was chosen as our next destination. As we approached the turnoff Tom suggested Uyeasound as an alternative, so we went left instead of right. At a loch we checked out the wildfowl, this took us left at the sea instead of right – fateful!

We parked up and saw a few birders staking out a Barred Warbler in the garden of a large house, we joined them, one was the guy I was sat next to on the plane from Birmingham. We chatted and were joined by a few more people. I said I would go left and look into the back of the hedge another birder said he would do the same from the other side. I couldn’t locate anything, when I heard a shout from the other guy “White’s Thrush” I looked up as the bird with a distinctive underwing flew past landing in the only tree by the road. It was partly hidden, but didn’t look scaly, more dirty black, as I shouted “I’ve got it”, it broke cover, I had the impression of a supercillium, next I heard the same birder shouting “F***** H*** its a SIBERIAN THRUSH”.

He stood in the middle of the field with his arms in the air shouting “I’m F******** having that!” Meanwhile the bird flew down into a couple of gardens on the right down by the beach. Stupidly unlike everyone else I didn’t go for me camera, eventually 20 of us made our way down and the finder and myself agreed to make our way around to view the garden from the other side. Within minutes it flew up onto a washing pole and gave great views for a second or two, it was a 1st winter male. With that the bird flew circled the houses and disappeared into the same bushes. Over the next 20 minutes any birders on Unst made there way to join us and a small group of around 40 birders waiting in anticipation staring into a small hedge as the sun slowly melted away. Then without any warning the bird flew out straight at the eagerly waiting crowd the banked right. I saw tears, people dropping to their knees, sighs, yelps of joy, it was magical, it really was.

Our group were not going to get any better views, we had 15 minutes to get to the ferry so we left, the ferry approached and a minibus with the “Clams” in got off, they had been on Unst all day but had taken an earlier Ferry, fortunately they had enough time to get the ferry back. They pulled up at the side of us to checked we had heard about the Thrush. We were about to tell them where to go when the disappeared into the dust up the road! We met them the next day and they had seen the bird with 10 minutes of daylight left, I think the smiles they all had would have extended that by 5 minutes.

After yesterday, nothing was going to top this. However, a Brown Shrike at Voe was a good alternative. Eventually we all got good, if distant views. The rest of the day was leisurely with a few visits to sites we had visited previously, but it was a bit after the Lord Mayors Show.


Time for home but not before we saw a couple more Little Bunting and good views of Black Guillemot in Lerwick harbour.
Black Guillemot, Lerwick

Little Bunting, Lerwick

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