Wednesday 26 January 2022

Shetland 2021

 Sitting here on my backside thinking of Shetland, and realised that I hadn't posted a bit on the blog about our trip to the Northern Isles in October last year! Our group comprised of  Dave Gray, Andy Smith (a none birder but loves the outdoors) and me . We arrived on Shetland on the 29th September and would be there for 10 days, staying on the west side of the mainland at Aith, in a rented 3 bedroom house - which was excellent! We had decided to explore the west side of the mainland as it's not that well birded, and if either of us needed a new bird we would go for it. Our first morning started off really well with a juvenile Woodchat Shrike in our garden, and it was actually in residence during the whole of our stay.

Juvenile Woodchat Shrike

Juvenile Woodchat Shrike

A visit to The Dale of Walls produced a female Hen Harrier hunting low over the hillside but nothing else of note - although we did have our first otter at The Bridge of Walls which was good to see!  
During our stay, Dave and I noticed how many Chaffinch flocks there were - a lot more than we'd encountered on previous visits to Shetland! Every flock we saw had Brambling mixed in among them.

Male Brambling

As I have already said, we had decided to focus on the west side of the mainland which took us to places we had never been to before e.g. Lock of North House, where Dave picked up a Jack Snipe in his bins; other birds of note around this area :- Red Breasted Merganser; Black Guillemot; Wheatear; Twite and again, Brambling.  Dave asked me if I needed Semipalmated Sandpiper as one had been reported at the Pool of Virkie. Forty minutes later, with light fading, we arrived only to be told by James Shergold that said bird had flown - but had been lost in flight; however, a return visit the following morning produced my first 'tick' of the trip!



Hooded Crow

We continued birding in the same area for a while, when news broke of a Bonelli's Warbler at Easter Quarf, so off we went again, despite the bird not having been confirmed as Eastern or Western; Dave and I both needed the Eastern species.  It was confirmed as Western the following morning, having been identified on call.

Golden Plover

Out and about locally on our fourth day we saw Merlin; Blackcap; Richard'sPipit (which is a good bird for Shetland) and quite a few flocks of Golden Plover. Strangely noticeable by their absence were Yellow-browed Warbler; although we heard a few, Dave only saw one, whereas in previous years, they were viewed most days in good numbers. I didn't have a sighting at all. 
Around lunchtime a Red-eyed Vireo was reported at Brae. On arriving at Brae, we joined the many birders already there but the bird was being very elusive; it was a coulpe of hours before I was able to get my second tick of the trip.

Red-eyed Vireo

Meadow Pipit

October 5th and again, just general birding, seeing what we could find when news came up on the 'Shetland App'  to say James Shergold and crew had found a Radde's Warbler at Sullom. This was a bird I definitely needed for my list after dipping on it several times in the past, so we hot-footed it to the site. It was residing in a patch of nettles, and after a controlled flush, it landed in full view on a wire fence. I was really pleased to finally see one! After a short while, the bird returned to it's patch of nettles

Radde's Warbler

The next day we decided to go to Housabister in hope of seeing the White-billed Diver which had been seen in the bay. We were lucky enough to see our target bird along with Red-throated Diver.
While we were still at Housabister, an unusual  message came up on the App of a Monarch Butterfly in the sunken garden at The Sumburgh Hotel. Since Dave and I are also into butterflies, we headed off  in the hopes of seeing it - especially as I've never seen this species in the UK. Qiute a few birders turned up to see this small insect which had travelled thousands of miles from North America

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

The image below is a Common Pheasant - again, not a common sighting for Shetland; we bumped into this individual at Flawton looking very bedraggled in the heavy rain. we were also lucky enough to have another sighting of an Otter at Gott

Common Pheasant

Our final full day of our trip.......

We decided to stay local again and managed to pick up a Tundra Bean Goose which had been found the previous day in among a flock of Pink Footed Goose. We found three Slavonian Grebe at Whiteness Voe along with Redshank; Ringed Plover and Kittiwake. Also had Merlin again, sightings of Harbour Porpoise off Lunna Ness and two Otters at Levaneap. 

Pink Footed Geese


Ringed Plover


Whooper Swan

 We covered 850 miles in our 9 days on Shetland. I didn't expect to pick up three more British ticks - four if you include the Monarch Butterfly. 
It was also great to explore parts of the mainland which we've never visited before - even if we did run in to a few dead-ends from time to time!! 

All in all, a really good trip - and much needed after the couple of years we've all endured!

Many thanks to Dave and Andy for being great company (we did have some laughs - as always!!)

As always, thanks for dropping by - hope you enjoyed this snapshot of my trip to Shetland in October 2021. Here's to the next one!