Monday, 9 October 2017

Shetland Week – (Sunday/Monday)

With predictions of the weather varying from bad to very bad (biblical proportions) we woke up not expecting to be stuck in the house for most of the day. But it was at least dry when we got out in the morning. We headed north towards Melby where there was a Rustic Bunting, we arrived to be told that the bird had flown off over the hillside in the distance.

Julian and Bob marched off in that direction whilst I waited for Joy who had received a phone call as we arrived. By the time she finished we walked alongside the beach road when a movement at the side of the road turned out to be the Rustic Bunting. We managed to get the others attention by waving and we all got quite good views, although Bob was a little despondent as he had left his camera in the car. As what was to be a recurring theme during the week the bird flew as photographers encroached just a little too much. As we were expecting rain, we moved on to Dale of Walls just a little way down the coast to continue our day. The wind by this point had started to increase and the sky was darkening quite alarmingly. We saw another Great Grey Shrike and a Redstart and a couple of Yellow Wagtails, plus a scattering of commoner migrants.

Rustic Bunting, Melby
Rustic Bunting, Melby
Short-toed Lark, With
There was a report of a Short-toed Lark at Aith, this was the village that we stayed in last year and I was keen to show Joy where it was and the views. As it turned out the bird was exactly directly across the bay from our digs of last year. We found the site immediately and went in different directions to find the bird which I flushed from the roadside before I had gone ten yards. It flew across the road before circling back and landing back on the road. The next group of birders nearly drove over the bird but it was never close and by this time the wind was starting to be a bit of a problem.

Whilst we were deciding what to do next reports of a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler in the north of the island broke. We headed north, we arrived and there were about 50 birders present, nearly all with beaming smiles and telling us how well the bird had shown. The bird was sitting in the middle of an Iris bed and was not showing. There was to be an organised flush which because of the deteriorating weather was brought forward. We took up our position and the finder and Dan Pointon slowly made there way through the undergrowth the bird flew up and straight at us banked and dropped into another clump of vegetation. It briefly shown at the top of the clump before moving back into the Iris beds just as the rain started. That was our cue and we got back to the car before the rain really got heavy. But that was the end of the days entertainment, the wind that night was something else.


We decided that as we had cleaned up that a Red-throated Pipit and Parrot Crossbill on Unst would be the targets. What followed was bad luck to a great degree we pulled up at the Ferry as it pulled out, resulting in a 45 minute wait. We fared little better with the Yell to Unst ferry. We eventually arrived on Unst at midday. We drove straight to Skaw which is the most northerly habited property in the UK. The Red-throated Pipit showed immediately and gave good views although the rain had started and we got soaked before we cut our losses and headed to the car. On the way up we had spend an hour at Baltisound for the Parrot Crossbills without luck. We returned and again it took nearly an hour before the birds were flushed from cover and gave us good but brief views on the other side of the small copse. Again it started to rain, we ran for the car, but although it was only 50 yards away we were soaked by the time we got into the car. Again some bad luck with the ferry timings left us sitting in the car for nearly an hour. It was late by the time we got back to Lerwick so Fish and Chips was the order of the day then back to the digs.

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