Monday, 4 February 2013

Pine Grosbeak on Shetland

It was predicted to happen last November, and it did despite not knowing it at the time. And though news trickled out rather belatedly and indirectly, there was thankfully still time to connect as this big bruiser of a finch had found North Mainland, Shetland to its liking. I'd previously dipped on Pine Grosbeak a couple of times in Britain (got as far as Inverness for a bird on Shetland in 2000 and spent time searching Easington in vain in 2004), and with the Herts/Essex bird quite rightly festering in the abyss, it was time to rectify things.

And so with news breaking mid morning on Saturday, the plan was eventually mapped out with scheduled flights on and off from Aberdeen on Sunday 3rd Feb. An overnight drive with Alan L and Simon K was properly efficient, with a load of snow in Lanarkshire the only thing slowing us down. And after meeting up with another 10 or so birders in the airport, the flight left on time, but the journey was bumpy to say the least. As we were coming down into Sumburgh, blown like a leaf, there was all of a sudden a real crackle/light when a bolt of lightning hit the left hand wing of the plane! S**t the bed, and with land in sight the poor air hostess came on the radio announcing that fact but, within just a couple of minutes, we'd thankfully landed at Sumburgh safely. Rather reminiscent of a similar grim incident at the same location, where I was in a plane where the undercarriage wouldn't come out... but again, it all ended happily.

Anyway, it was now late morning and with limited light, the drive across a windy Shetland was done at breakneck speed. Arriving by the small pine-filled garden overlooking the pier at North Collafirth, the Pine Grosbeak, probably a 1st-winter male, was immediately on show munching away on the abundant food source. Twitching's not everyone's cup of tea - especially when extreme travelling distances like this are involved - but this was a proper decent bird. A real one for all the punters, and despite having seen them in Finland previously, it really didn't matter as it was such a quality bird. A real shower too, at one point coming down to drink beside the crowd. It fed typically lethargically, just chewing away and on a couple of occasions flew in undulating fashion between the pines.

The last hour of daylight was spent at Scalloway where a juvenile Iceland Gull showed fine in the harbour there, while the usual chippy in Lerwick was visited before we flew out of Sumburgh mid evening. After a gruelling overnight drive back from Aberdeen, I arrived back in London just in time for school. Happy days!
Pine Grosbeak twitch, North Collafirth, Shetland Feb 2013