Friday, October 8th 🌤 16C ~ After Tuesdays somewhat short visit to Unst we decided on a second try today and set off to catch the 08:45 ferry over to Yell. A quick stop for a second look at the Ring-necked Duck at Sand Water, Yell, then onward to Gutcher for the 10:05 ferry to Unst. After yesterday's rain and cloud, It was a beautiful start to the day with almost clear blue skies and despite increased clouds later we managed a rain-free day. A couple of Otters and Dolphin sightings during the crossings and after arriving on Unst we headed off to Halligarth where an Olive-backed Pipit had been reported.
|A good few Redwing around the woodland at Halligarth House.|
We spent a good hour searching the walled woodland at Halligarth House, which in itself is an interesting place. Established in 1832 by Dr Laurence Edmonson, a local medical practitioner and renowned naturalist who first catalogued much of Shetlands birdlife.
|Snipe ~ The only species we managed at Halligarth.|
No sign of the Pipit, which was actually re-identified as a Tree Pipit later in the day and no sign either of reported Yellow-browed Warbler or Pied Flycatcher, so not the best start! We did have a stroll around the boggy fields and kicked out a few Snipe that ended up on the nearby pool but that was about it.
|Ravens are a pretty regular sighting around Shetland|
One noticeable thing about the Shetland Isles since we arrived is the absence of Raptors, we've not seen one single species! For example, Common Buzzards and Kestrels are only rare passage migrants and the only species you are likely to see overhead are the Hooded Crows and Shetlands many Ravens. There was actually a Honey Buzzard sighting whilst we were on the Island but the bird apparently continued moving south.
|Chiffchaff ~ Any small warbler sighting in Shetland sets the pulse going!|
I would say it was a particularly slow day birding for us but a few notable sightings included a Carrion Crow, pretty rare up here (3) Wheatear a single Swallow ↓south, Golden Plover (flock of 27), Chiffchaff and Blackcap.
|Bluethroat at Quoys|
The best of the day was a Bluethroat at Quoys quarry but frustratingly we spent a lot of time at the wrong place, as did several other birders! The bird wasn't at the large quarry at Quoys as you'd have expected from the sighting report but at a small ditch, hardly a quarry a half-mile away! Our thanks to two local birders who pointed us in the right direction.
Saturday, October 9th 🌧 13C ~ Another rainy day and a change of accommodation for us moving from our cottage in Tresta down to Lerwick, staying at the Fort Charlotte self-catering apartments for our final three days. A quick check of the grounds at the cottage before heading off produced a flock of eighteen Golden Plover, two Blackcap, Goldcrest and a Yellow-browed Warbler, likely the same bird I photographed on Wednesday.
Our first stop of the day was at Loch of Benston where a possible Baikal Teal had been reported. It actually turned out to be the earlier reported Garganey, but not that common in Shetland I'm told so a nice record anyway. While here Dazza and I bumped into a few old faces from Warwickshire who come to Shetland every year and it was good of them to put us onto the Garganey, which wasn't easy to find at distance.
|Black Guillemot ~ Plenty around the harbours this one now fading to its white winter plumage.|
After the Garganey we had a drive around the inlets looking mainly for Otters, picking up a dog Otter midstream at one location but couldn't relocate him once he'd reached the bank, much to Dazza's annoyance. Lunch in Lerwick overlooking the harbour and watching the Black Guillemots before we headed off to search for a Common Rosefinch at West Burra.
|A soggy looking Common Rosefinch at West Burra|
By the time we reached West Burra, it was raining pretty heavily but thankfully we could park strategically on the roadside overlooking the area in which the bird had been reported. With Dazza happy to watch from the car I did eventually brave the deluge and while walking back to the car a bird landed on the telephone wires directly opposite, the Common Rosefinch! With Dazza bone dry and me drenched I did eventually get good views as the bird dropped onto the fencing below our parking and to my surprise, I even managed a few images. With the rain still falling we decided on calling it a day but not before a stop at Tronda for scoped views of an eclipse drake King Eider, which was practically in the centre of a large group of Common Eider.