Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Shetland - tough going

It's a couple of days since the last update. So yesterday was gale force southeasterlies and rain - if I was at home in London, I would have been quaking in my boots wondering what would turn up. Reality is that in those conditions, it was essentially unbirdable! And I don't say that lightly, as I'm not someone bothered by wind or rain generally. It started off dry but blustery, and a check of Wester Quarff produced a Water Rail that I flushed from a dyke along with a couple of Chiffchaffs. And so I then did a couple of sites on my usual Shetland circuit - Maywick and Geosetter. The former was quiet, but wow was I in for a treat at Geosetter where I stumbled upon... a Blue Tit! Relatively scarce up here, so not something to turn your nose up at.
Blue Tit Geosetter, Shetland 23rd October 2017
And then the heavens opened. Stef M and I got soaked to the skin walking the Sumburgh area - from the quarry to the farm and hotel, then back via Grutness garden. And all for a sodden male Reed Bunting and Redpoll, along with good numbers of arriving thrushes. There was a change in tact needed, and so we ventured up north to Kergord - slightly drier, but not much, with a handful of Chiffchaffs (including a couple of Siberians) and a few crests about in the murk. Doing the line of trees that head east and into the field, we picked up a raptor that made me go silent for a few seconds. It was small, with an obvious moustachial and pointed wings as well as a relatively short tail, but that's all. In the hideous conditions, any plumage traits really weren't possible as we were wet and so was the bird. It circuited a couple of times before heading north and into the valley where we lost it, and the heavens opened again. It was either a juvenile Hobby or Red-footed/Amur Falcon but one that got away of no fault of our own. And on that frustration, it was time to call it a day...

So to today. I started off at Sumburgh in much better conditions, and as I pulled up at the quarry it was great to see Richard Fray - last time we met was at his place in Arizona a couple of years back! And into the quarry we went, where a couple of Woodcocks were kicked up while it was time to get in on Shetland's Firecrest action with this cracking little bird...
Firecrest Sumburgh, Shetland 24th October 2017
And with Richard getting texts from his brother just over the other side of the airport, where he had a Hawfinch in his garden at Virkie, it was rude not to pay a visit. Thanks for the hospitality Rob!
Hawfinch Virkie, Shetland 24th October 2017
I headed back up the A970, and stopped at Boddam for an hour or so, where it felt quiet. Just a Woodcock to show of any real note. I got news that there was a Siberian Stonechat at Sandwick, and so with a bit of info gleaning I turned up at the allotments at Houlland and quickly located the pallid little thing: -
Siberian Stonechat Sandwick, Shetland 24th October 2017
There was also this female Black Redstart further up Swinister Burn, near the Rompa junction, which allowed a few shots using the car as a hide: -
Black Redstart Sandwick, Shetland 24th October 2017
I'd already decided that I'd spend the afternoon up north. I chose to do Voe, Brae, Hillswick and Esha Ness - as much because I'd never been to the two last sites than anything else, and wanted to have a search about to see what they looked like. Esha Ness was barren, and reminded me of a few Irish headlands so it's not surprising this is the Buff-breasted Sandpiper capital of Shetland these days! Not today though, with the best I could must being a Ruff in among the Golden Plover at Heogland and a smart flock of 50 or so Brambling on the road to the lighthouse.

There was little happening at Voe, but Brae Community Woodland was a site I actually quite liked. I had a pale looking Lesser Whitethroat (presumably an eastern bird) briefly as I arrived, and a couple of redpolls, which I'll leave at just that these days. And so that was today's haul.

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