Monday 6 October 2014

Shetland 2014

On Wednesday the 24th of September I made my annual pilgrimage to the Shetland Isles (an archipelago about 100 miles off the NE coast of Scotland), so at 4.30 am, the taxi arrived, and, with my birding buddies Steve James, Dave Gray and  John Waters, we headed for Birmingham Airport. After two uneventful flights, we picked up the hire car - a Kia Picanto - which had not got enough power to pull the skin off a rice pudding! We headed for our home for the next 10 days, the Beach House at Hoswick, and after dropping off our luggage, we started to check out the local avifauna. We found Chiffchaff in our garden, and lots of Blackbird were about, along with Hooded Crow and a fly-over Bonxie (Great Skua). I won't bore you with a day-by-day list of birds, these are just a few highlights of our trip.....
Thursday, whilst out trying to see more migrants, a report of a Red-Eyed Vireo came in at The Sumburgh Hotel gardens, so off we went! Sadly, by the time we arrived, the bird had disappeared but we did note Snipe, Gold Crest, and at Sumburgh Head, Fulmar, Gannet and Raven were noted. We headed for Hestingott, to try and find the Red-Backed Shrike that had been there for a few days - and were successful following a good 'spot' by Steve. Other birds of note were Redstart, Wheatear, Merlin and Pied Flycatcher.
Red-Backed Shrike

Friday was extremely windy, so we went looking for more sheltered areas and found ourselves at Loch Clickimin, Lerwick. Noted water birds were Scaup, Whooper Swan, Kittiwake, Teal and large numbers of Tufted Duck with a few Wigeon. A report of an Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll had been found at Veensgarth, so off we went again! We were lucky to get good views of the bird, but sadly no images - unlike the Red-Breasted Flycatcher which we found on a small housing estate in Cunningsburgh!

Red-Breasted Flycatcher

Red-Breasted Flycatcher with a morsel

Saturday was again spent looking for migrants in and around Voe. Birds of note today were Twite, Brambling, White Wagtail, and, at the Loch of Voe, a possible Olive-Backed Pipit.

Sunday found us in Levenwick, where we found the Barred Warbler and a Lesser Whitethroat, which looked to be of the eastern variety. News of Swainson's Thrush at Norwick, on the Isle of Unst, was recieved. We were two ferrys and approximately 70 miles away, but it was a new BOU 'tick' for three of us, so it was a mad dash then, to Unst! We didn't have much time on Unst though, and unfortunately the bird hadn't been seen for at least two hours, and due to ferry times, we had to leave without seeing it. 

Monday......Back on the first ferry available to try again for the Swainson's Thrush, and by 08.30, we were back at the same garden.....but to no avail! We did get flight views of Common Rosefinch, and also, a Wryneck - yet another good 'spot' by Steve! We decided then to go for a Temminck's Stint at Baltasound which was rather more obliging! We then moved on to Halligarth, as there had been a Rustic Bunting there for quite a while - which Steve needed for his list. Whilst viewing this bird, we also had excellent views of Barred and Garden Warblers.
A good day was had by all!

Barred Warbler

Garden Warbler

Whilst on our way back from Unst, news came in of a White Thrush near the Loch of Bow on the Shetland mainland. Although it was too late for us to get there that evening, we decided to target the bird the next morning, so, on Tuesday morning, we were to be found peering over a garden wall along with 60 other birders trying to get a sighting of this Siberian beauty. Though viewing was difficult, with patience, I think everybody got a view of the bird. The images below of the thrush were taken on Wednesday when we returned. The bird showed really well, and it's feeding method has to be seen to be believed - it paddles the ground, but it's head stays in exactly the same spot! ....... somebody described it as twerking, like Miley Cyrus!! 

White Thrush

White Thrush

After leaving the White Thrush, the Myrtle Warbler (I prefer the old name of Yellow-Rumped Warbler) which had been found a few days earlier had turned up in a garden at Grutness, so we headed off to see it. As you can see from the images below, we had great views of this American warbler!

Myrtle Warbler
Myrtle Warbler

Friday, as we were coming back from Scalaway and the Tingwall area, where a Pallid Harrier had been seen (Steve and John needed it for their lists), Steve, who was sitting in the back of the car suddenly blurted out those immortal words.....'Rubythroat'!!!  'Where?' we all shouted! Remember earlier in this tale I told you that the car was grossly underpowered??........well, to be fair to the Picanto, it managed to get four burly blokes to Levenwick - a distance of about five miles - in a speed you wouldn't believe! The bird was doing a circuit between a fuchsia and Hebe bush in a ladies garden, and, with patience, we all managed to see this enigmatic little jewel of a bird, along with about 60 other birders. I did manage to get one record image, but the bird was constantly moving, and as there was a restricted viewings in order to allow everybody to see it, I wasn't able to linger. Unfortunately, we were leaving the next morning, so weren't able to return for any more images.
Siberian Rubythroat
Below are a few images of some of the other birds we saw on our visit to Shetland.

Temminck's Stint
Whooper Swan
We had in the region of 90 species between us, and there are some bird I haven't even mentioned, like double figure counts of Yellow-browed Warbler, Kestrel - not a common bird - and neither is Carrion Crow.  There were also lots of Blackcap, a few Skein of Pinkfeet with Purple Sandpiper, Sanderling and Turnstone. We traveled just over 800 miles - I just hope the car recovers!
As always, I hope you have enjoyed your visit to my blog!