Friday, 16 October 2015

Shetland 2015

The 1st of October, and time for my annual visit to the Shetland Isles with my travel companions, friends and fellow birders Brian Moore and John Waters. As usual, it was up at stupid o'clock for the 6.50am flight from Birmingham to Aberdeen, and then from there on to Sumburgh, arriving there around lunch time.... or so we thought!  The fog at Aberdeen meant we were delayed from leaving Birmingham which meant we didn't actually arrive on the Shetlands till late afternoon, and as we were staying this year in a cottage on the West side of the Mainland, at Aith, we were too late  to get any birding done, with the light already fading as we arrived at what was to be our home for the next 10 days.
 This was our cottage for the our 10 day stay, and the image below is a view of our cottage from the other side of Aith Voe - and just a piece of trivia - the RNLI life boat station in Aith Voe is the most Northerly in Britain.
I will not bore you guys with a day to day rundown of our itinerary - just some of our highlights during our stay, so, the following morning, after our breakfast, our first port of call was Norby, where a Pechora Pipit had been seen; Brian needed it for a British  tick. When we arrived there were a few birders there already looking in the vegetation around the loch, and as Brian and another birder walked towards where it had been frequenting, they flushed a bird which flew by them and landed on some twigs.  I heard Brian call 'that's it!', so in less than half an hour, Bri had a new tick.  The bird then became very elusive; we also noted a pair of Scaup on the loch, and there were quite a few Ravens calling above with Lapwings, Curlew and Greylag Geese in the surrounding fields. We then decided to explore some of the west side, birding as we went - there are some great areas out west, and I don't think its birded enough. We then headed for Cott, where we had reasonable views of Arctic Warbler, and then on to Wester Quarf where Red-breasted Flycatcher and our first Yellow-browed Warbler were noted - the latter were everywhere - probably the most I have seen on the islands; also, lots of continental Blackbirds and Goldcrest were seen. We then headed for Quendale where a Bluethroat was being seen really well. Whilst the weather was windy, the rain was staying away - until we got up Quendale Valley, when the heavens opened! The bird did the sensible thing and went into the quarry, where, after a while, we got good views of this little stunner
                                                                       Bluethroat
We traveled to the capital, Lerwick, on numerous occasions in search of an Olive-backed Pipit which we never connected with, nor the other two we tried for at different locations, but did have good views of Barred Warbler, Chiffchaff  and Siskin - and bumped into our good mates from the West Midlands, Archie Raven and crew. Also in Lerwick is Clickimin Loch; on here we noted Whooper Swan, Tufted Duck, Common, Herring and Black-headed Gulls lots of Oystercatcher and Snipe. Another good place for waders is the Pool of Virkie where we saw both  Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Knot and Ringed Plover. On the Sunday afternoon, we just happened to be birding around the Melby area and had good views of Red-breasted Merganser,  Great-northern Diver, Turnstone,  Kittiwake and Great Skua (Bonxie); there were also a few Twite and Rock Pipit about. When John checked his pager, a mega in the shape of  a Swainson's Thrush had turned up at Baltasound, on the Isle of Unst, so it was a quick dash for the ferry, as both John and I needed it for our British list. After  a couple of hours, and two ferry crossing later, we were at the site with 40 other birders, waiting for the bird to show, but time and light wasn't on our side so it was decided to do a controlled flush - and it worked!  I think we all got decent views of this North American Thrush and a tick for John and myself. The journey back was a lot less stressful, I can assure you! On the Monday and Tuesday it never stopped raining, so birding was mainly from the car. On Monday we were up at Sumburgh light house, trying to photo a Lapland Bunting. The wind was extremely strong though the Fulmars and Gannets seem to relish it!  I was pleased with my results considering the conditions. The only other birds of note that day was an adult Little Gull, Long-tailed Duck and Goldeneye; the Tuesday, in my opinion, was even worse than the previous day, but again birding from the car was the order of the day. Whilst driving by Hulma Water (it's between Sandness and Bixter) Brian saw a Little Egret - quite a rarity on Shetland - so rare that it's a 'description species', so a good find! We drove again to Quendale, where a Great-grey Shrike was close to the Mill, and good views were had of the 'butcher bird'; also there was a Lesser white-fronted Goose which was apparently ringed in Russia and released in Sweden to boost the population. The following day was bright and no wind. Everybody was expecting a big fall of migrants with a mega mixed in among them - us included - but it just never happened! We did note that lots of Redwing had arrived and there could have been an Eastern Thrush with them - it just needed finding. (well, that's what I was thinking anyway)  Also on the Shetland Isles was our good mate Steve James with his partner Emma. He told us to try Busta House gardens, and what a great garden it is! Garden and Willow Warblers were seen and some nice Brambling too.

                                                                           Garden Warbler
Another great place we visited was Lea Gardens at Tresta. This was one of the places where we tried to find an Olive-backed Pipit; though we didn't score with pipit, we did note Mealy and Lesser Redpoll and a Lesser Whitethroat - probably of Eastern race. We decided to head south, back to Sumburgh for a Richards Pipit, but the bird had disappeared by the time we got there; we did add Skylark to our list though. On our penultimate day, we went north to Ollaberry in search of a Red-backed Shrike. On the way, we ticked Merlin charging across the road looking for its' breakfast. We found the site where the Shrike was, and the farmer there pointed us in the right direction. Once again, after an hour of looking, Brian found it feeding around a burn; the farmer said we could check out his garden just up the road too, which we readily accepted, and it wasn't long after that John was kicking his way through an iris bed. He was about half way up it when a bird flew out, which Brian and I saw;  it was very pale - a sandy looking colour. We needed to find out what this bird was! After about an hour, some other birders joined us, but the bird was being very elusive! Our initial instinct was that the bird was either a Blyth's Reed Warbler or a Paddyfield Warbler; after 5 hours, and with everybodies' little bits of information,we were all leaning towards Paddyfield. We badly needed to get an image but Brian, and I failed miserably, so, with our flight home being the next day, we decided to go back the following morning after we had loaded the car ready for 'the off',and try again. When we got there some birders were already there, but after an hour or so there was still no sign of the elusive Acrocephalus, so it was a slow drive south towards the airport. We did have brief views of a Dusky Warbler at No Ness, and a rather funny looking grey Little Egret at the Loch of Spiggie. All in all we had a  great 10 days; we traveled over a 1000 miles, had some good laughs, saw some amazing places and some great birds -91 species in total! Hopefully, when we submit the probable Paddyfield Warbler, it will be 92!   Just to say 'thanks' to Rory Tallack for all the info he gave us about the west side of mainland Shetland. There are some images below of our trip. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I did taking them.
                                                                     Great northern Diver
                                                                     Hooded Crow
                                                                     Lapland Bunting
                                                                         Pechora Pipit
                                                                      Red Grouse
                                                                         Raven


                                             Whooper Swan with a peat stained head and neck

Sunset over the Voe


Black Guillemot (Tystie)
As always thanks for stopping by..........


6 comments:

  1. Nice post and a great selection of images mate, deffo on my agenda to visit the isles in the next few years.......

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    1. You would love the place mate!!!

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  2. Sounds like a great trip and good luck with the Acro!

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  3. Nice one pal, always great to bumps into you fellas.

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