Thursday, 30 September 2021

High Hopes

October is here. Being a relatively recent viewer of Twitter (handy for receiving and sharing info' on occasion) there's the inevitable optimism (rightly so) regarding possible "corkers" that might arrrive this month. Having already had a nibble I'm looking forard to the 14th when we'll be heading for my (still) favourite location; the wonderful Isles of Scilly. It's not just the's the whole experience...besides, Louise likes it!

So many memories from here...and some fantastic birds. For the record, below are the highlights since my first visit in 1991...


Lesser Scaup
Ring-necked Duck
Spotted Crake
Buff-breasted Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper
Lesser Yellowlegs
Glaucous Gull
Hooded Crow
Short-toed Lark
Cattle Egret
Penduline Tit
Booted Warbler
Melodious Warbler
Blyth's Reed Warbler
Red-rumped Swallow
Pallas's Warbler
Dusky Warbler
Radde's Warbler
Rose-coloured Starling
Red-flanked Bluetail
Citrine Wagtail
Tawny Pipit
Richard's Pipit
Olive-backed Pipit
Red-throated Pipit
Isabelline Shrike
Little Bunting
Ortolan Bunting

Monday, 27 September 2021

Shetland Thoughts

So, my first stay on Shetland is complete. I left Lerwick at 7pm arriving in Aberdeen at 7am this morning. Just the 12 hour sail. I did manage a few hours kip in my "pod".

After breakfast on the Ferry at 7.30 I caught the train to York at 9.52 to the news that the line between Edinburgh and Newcastle was closed for repairs and we have to divert via Carlisle. Good job it was only £50! My connection to Hull will be long gone, so the good lady is picking me up. I chose well.

*Edited on Monday afternoon!!!*

Recovering now at home after an unfortunate journey home. After my bad luck on the outbound journey if you recall, I was dealt a further blow as I was leaving Aberdeen station. An announcement that the line between Edinburgh and Newcastle was closed for repairs and that we would be diverting via Carlisle didn't go down well. This would turn the journey to York from 5 hours to SEVEN. Further delight came when we were informed the train would be "busier than usual". I had my reserved seat and I wasn't movin'.

Let's just say I made it eventually. I may have to reconsider my strategy next year, if I decide to go again? I might give Sunday a miss!!!

Anyway...some thoughts.These may (or may not) be of use to Birders thinking of visiting?

Shetland is BIG....very Big. Sumburgh at the Southern tip of the Mainland to Baltasound on Northern Unst is 90 miles and takes 3 hours with 2 Ferry crossings. A car is a must but can also mean quite a bit of time spent in it if you're not careful. I tried to avoid this but visiting various sites can mean some significant travel time. The locals don't hang around on the main road, just let them get on with it! The landscape is very hilly with plenty of moorland with little cover which is obviously good for finding birds...if there are any!?

The BIG attraction is the promise of something MEGA turning up and Shetland has an impressive track record. I personally found the Birding VERY difficult in the relentless strong winds, intermittent driving rain and thick cloud. I did see the sun on a couple of occasions!! Having said that it can be a bit lively on Scilly! As you see from my posts I tried to visit various areas of the Mainland to get my first real "feel" for the area. It was inevitable that I would strike comparisons with Scilly...I tried not to be biased!

My review is hopefully not influenced by the number of "good birds" I had seen or hadn't. That wasn't a problem on this occasion. The ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK was the saviour of the trip. This was my third for Britain having seen two previously on Scilly, one on St Agnes (25/10/2007) and another on St Martins (16/10/2019).  No mean feat...even though I say so myself. 

A bit more detail on Saturday's galavanting...

Looking for a RBG with just three other Birders on arrival was quite surreal. No viewing issues. The initial view was decent at around 40 yds.We watched it eating Fuchsia flowers although it was partially obscured...

It was dull...again...but at least it was...THERE. Eventually it popped out into full view...

There were still only FOUR of us present as it flew further up the path. Some 10 minutes later we re-located it. This time it was even closer sat in a bush behind the bungalow...

Being greedy I would have preferred a "tick" but I am VERY grateful to have seen this cracking species once again. After's a Shetland and Scottish tick.

Things got busier later...the bungalow can just be seen in the distance...

I tried to keep the costs down to the minimum, hence the Train (£105 return), Ferry (£110 return), Air B&B (£240) and Car (£240). Plus costs while there but these are offset by what I would be spending at home.

I found the locals generally friendly and helpful. I didn't get the same "feel" for the place that I do on Scilly.  I did enjoy my trip up to Unst (putting the RBG aside). It did bring back memories of my October 2013 trip for the CAPE MAY WARBLER. I made a nostalgic visit to the old Airfield we landed on...

...and eventually I found the site of our success...full story here. Happy memories Steve!

Another fine sight was...

...this full sized replica of a Viking Longboat. Something I definitely wasn't expecting to see!! Also there was a very unusual Bus Shelter...Bobby's...

As I was taking in the sights briefly a bonus Shetland Tick came in the form of this Long-tailed Duck at Haroldswick while I was hoping for Orca...

Trip Total 65 (I'd made an error by counting my 4 previous MEGAS in my total)

In a Nutshell for me...It's Scilly for Birding...and Shetland/Western Isles for Twitching (maybe).

Saturday, 25 September 2021

Shetland - Day 8

*Having to do this one on the phone. Full write up on return*

Up, packed and off for 7. Heading North for the Ferry to Unst...

As I was waiting I checked my you do...

MEGA Shetland ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK Unst at Norwick at Valyie

Handy...maybe? We left at 8.

As ready stated I intended to explore Yell and Unst anyway but this news definitely put a new initial focus on the day! After checking and double-checking Inter-island
Ferry times for my return journey I arrived on Unst and headed for the far North-East of the Island.

On arrival at the site I could see THREE Birders? I sorted my gear out and joined them. They said a chap had just left having seen the bird so we searched the area.

After around 20 minutes we found it. It showed brilliantly on a couple of occasions before flying off...

*Wi-fi issues on the Ferry, so that's it for now*...

Friday, 24 September 2021

Shetland - Day 7

This is THE windiest place I've ever been. Obviously weather varies, it does here...from...fairly windy to very windy to extremely windy!!!

This doesn't help the Birding experience, as I'm sure you can appreciate. As mentioned I headed West this morning to have a look around Sandness/ Melby. As I passed Tresta Voe I noticed a bird fighting (you guessed it) the wind. It was difficult to make out but it looked like a Tern so I pulled over. Of course it had disappeared. Despite being buffeted I decided to give it a while. Glad I did as it reappeared some 100 yds offshore...

Looks like a juvenile Arctic to me...happy to be corrected.

A bonus sighting early doors. Nothing of note was seen on the coast but the scenery was impressive... 

Storm debris

I did add Pintail at a small Loch near the Bridge of Walls.  4 Whooper Swans and 30 Wigeon were also present.  After grabbing a few bits from the shop and having a bite to eat I had a look around the immediate area...

...before heading South for the afternoon. I had a brief stop at Weisdale to try for Grey Wagtail. No luck...but I did see a leaping Salmon!!

Whilst driving down the shore of Spiggie Loch I noticed a bird fly up from the road. I'd passed many Wheatears but this looked different. I turned the car around and drove slowly back...

Snow Bunting

A classic through the windscreen shot! I also recorded 7 Whooper Swans and a couple of Swallows. I had two attempts to add Purple Sandpiper; one here and one at the Sumburgh Hotel...

Sumburgh Head in the distance

Both ended in failure. Did I mention the WIND?!

Last day tomorrow. If the BIG one is coming for me it better hurry up! I'm heading North to Unst before trickling back South for the Ferry at 7. I aim to be as exhuasted as possible to aid the crossing...hopefully!

Fingers crossed...again!

Trip List 67

Thursday, 23 September 2021

Shetland - Day 6

I was hoping for a tad more excitement!

Another slow day with Gale Force winds this morning...

I tried the nearby Tingwall Loch first and despite the choppy waters I eventually managed to locate the reported Scaup with the Tufted Ducks. I Birded the South again but it was difficult in the wind. The only other addition was Bar-tailed Godwit at the Pool of Virkie. I checked out a few more Villages including Boddam.

On my return North I did manage a glimpse of the Red-breasted Flycatcher at Wester Quarff.

So...TWO days remaining...

Trip Total 69

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Shetland - Day 5

Summed up in one word...Quiet! Still enjoyable though.

I decided to head North today to "Bird" an area around Stenness. It turned out to be VERY scenic and extremely peaceful...until the Bird Group turned up...only kidding! It was a sunny morning after the wild night. Between us we failed to find the Dotterel that had been seen with the Golden Plovers. They gave it 30 minutes, I gave it a couple of hours. The GP's looked fine in the crisp, clear air...

I added a Merlin to my Shetland List as it shot over the moorland in typical fashion. A lone Whooper Swan was on a nearby pool, as were 15 Wigeon.

I headed back South passing the KING EIDER site at Wadbister. I started to walk out on the track again as the flock were quite close to the shore but a squall whipped up and it was soon persisting it down so I abandoned my attempt. I'll try again for a pic if the conditions suit?

Then it was back South to Quendale were I added a male Blackcap. I said it was quiet!! I finished off checking out the Pool of Virkie, a large area of promising mudflat before heading for Sandwick to follow up a report of a Slavonian Grebe. No luck.

5 down...3 to go.

As said many times choose your time and hope for the best. Accomodation "on speck" can be difficult and usually expensive. I picked a decent window but so far the weather hasn't delivered the birds. Still time though and I'm hopeful (as ever) that something special will arrive. If it doesn't no matter, I've enjoyed getting to know the various sites that were previously just names.

Trip Total 65

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Shetland - Day 4

Where to start today? Somewhere quiet...with potential. I about the Village where I saw my SIBERIAN RUBYTHROAT. Name dropper!

I always inten. ded to try and re-visit the Sites of my BIG FOUR twitches to Shetland...just to test the memory. I'd already mentioned that I'm staying close to the site of the TENGMALM'S OWL...

This will bring back happy memories for those of you who made the trip. It certainly did for me. My story here...and a pic...

So this morning I headed for Levenwick...

...where I saw my SR on 4/10/2014. I spent a very pleasant couple of hours strolling around the Beach and Village adding a few trip ticks and successfully remembering the sites I'd stood in the torrential rain...what joy!

Dipped here on the 3rd...

Ticked here on the 4th...

A great memory

I also bumped into a Birder from Hertfordshire. We had a good chat and seemed to be on the same page regarding many topics. I added Razorbill, Great Northern Diver and Kittiwake. I then contnued Soth to the Geosetter area as some Pink-footed Geese had been reported. I drove the minor road checking the large numbers of Greylags but couldn't find them, so I went to the local shop for a bite. On return I checked yet another stubble field...and saw some dark heads poking up...

Very satisfying as it had taken a good hour. I also put some other Birders on them...

I also had great views of a Peregrine. Time for the renowned Quendale Area, the site of many a "good bird". I drove beyond the Mill and took the track along the West side of the Bay. Four Brent Geese had been reported.I didn't hold up much hope as the sea was crashing in against the rocks with no mud exposed. Amazingly there they were feeding in the shallows...

Another satisfying re-find. I met my new pal again and he told me he'd had a flock of Black-tailed Godwits on the pool. I drove back up the road for a better viewpoint and scanned the pool. I could only see Greylag Geese initially. Then...the flock flew in for me...

Distant but a wonderful sight; the highlight of the day. I also sneaked my first Coot...heady stuff...

...and a Moorhen!

I checked the bushes around the Mill...

...but couldn't find anything although 15 Swallows zooming about provided some interest. I then tried the impressive Loch of Spiggie. Hopefully you can just see 7 Whooper Swans tucked away in the bottom of the picture...

There were also a flock of 27 Mute Swans present. I also added Skylark here. I finished off back at Sumburgh finding a large flock of Chaffinches (c100) in the Lower Quarry...a small sample...

As I was "there" I decided to take a quick look from the Lighthouse...

On the drive up I saw Rock Doves as good as any I guess!

The view from the top...

My last stop was another trip down memory lane. This is were eBird came into its own. I entered the site from my record and off I went. There's no way I would have remembered where it was. Can you guess the species? I took a minor road up a steep hill, past a radio mast...

...and onto a Quarry...

This was the Site of Britain's First SIBERIAN ACCENTOR. I saw the bird on 10/10/2016. My report here. Little did I know that THREE days later I'd be looking at one in Easington hopping around on an old schoolyard!!! It didn't diminish the thrill of this adventure though...and I got my Yorkshire Tick! Whoever found this bird out here deserves a medal!

So, it's Half-time. I'm hoping to up my game for the second half. I'll be sticking to my strategy of adding Shetland ticks (it's a context thing) then generally Birding the area. It's "blowing a hoolie" outside (40mph)..and hopefully bringing me a present?

Trip Total 60

Monday, 20 September 2021

Shetland - Day 3

Woke on the alarm (as you do) at 6. Fine and bright so I had a walk around the immediate area, not seeing anything of note.

I started at Gulberwick, the site of the previously reported Wryneck. Needless to say (although I will) I didn't see it. However it was a beautiful morning so I enjoyed my 2 hour walk around the Village. This is a wonderful location just South of Lerwick...

I found my first Rock Pipit...

As I walked the Village checking the gardens and spare land I couldn't help but envy some of the residents of their spectacular view...

I was aware I was seeing it on a good day. Still!!!

There had to be Ponies...

Late morning saw me trying...and failing to get a better view of the KING EIDER at Wadbister Voe. News on the WhatsApp group allowing closer access made no difference as the flock drifted out into the middle of the bay. Very generous of the owner to allow access though. I will return.

It's in here somewhere...

After the chip buttie in Lerwick I drove South to Grutness to try for the "Whinstart"! I saw the bird briefly and distantly before it flew high into the air and I lost it. I didn't see it again in an hours subsequent search? It was quite windy. I did see my first Shetland Wren...

A very dark bird

It was starting to rain now so news of a Great White Egret (always will be for me) at Walls on the West Coast tempted me, especially as I would be driving past my digs which would mean a short journey back. I arrived around 5 and it was very dark but I started to scan the bay. No sign. I then decided to take a minor road South towards Whiteness. Again I stopped and searched but still no sign. Then there it was walking out from behind a rock...

I prefer a find...but I'll take a refind! I'll save the find for later in the week?! A young lad then appeared around the headland with his dog...and Bingo...he flushed it and it flew closer...

I drove further round the bay as I'd seen some Lapwings; I counted 30. Always nice to see. As I was counting them I noticed a cow pat that wasn't one...

My first Shetland Snipe

There were also 5 Curlews present...

...and 25 Turnstones...nort forgetting the lone Black-headed Gull...

All birds matter...right?

Trip List 49