Wednesday, October 05, 2022

πŸ“– Shetland 2022 ~ Part 1

⛅️13C Monday 3rd October 2022 ~ Arrived on Shetland for my seven nights stay shortly after 07:30am having taken Loganairs first flight out of Aberdeen to Sumburgh this morning. Luckily I received a message that my accommodation was ready by the time I'd picked up the hire car and so I headed straight up to Lerwick to drop off my luggage. 

Great Grey Shrike ~ Hillswick

Having checked out social media over a quick coffee I decided that my first target was a Great Grey Shrike at Hillswick, around a 35-minute drive north. The thought is that this could possibly be a Homeyer's, a SE Russian race of Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor homeyeri referred to as Homeyer's Grey Shrike but as I'm no expert on Shrikes we shall see what transpires at a later date. The bird showed quite well and I spent an hour or so watching the bird and chatting with a few fellow birders before heading off.

Yellow-browed Warbler

Back south and a stop off at Kergord and Wester Quarff for Yellow-browed Warblers followed by a walk around Pool of Virkie before heading across the road to Toab. Not the best of tide timings at Virkie but Rock Pipit and a few waders which included Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Dunlin and a good number of Ringed Plovers. The houses and gardens on the north of the pool produced Whinchat and Meadow Pipit. Across the road to Toab for Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll which proved quite elusive but I saw the bird perched briefly along with two Mealy Redpolls and then later in flight but not a chance of any images on this occasion. 

Late in the afternoon news came through of a Pechora Pipit, which would you believe was back north at Hillswick, my first stop of the day for the Shrike. I was still at Toab at this point but managed to arrive some 55-minutes later into the frenzy which ensued. As the bird had gone to ground in nearby Iris beds, it was decided to complete what's known as an 'organised flush'. I arrived just as the bird was dislodged, heading directly over my head and into nearby gardens. What followed was not what I consider to be in the best interests of the bird. Once the bird had returned to the iris beds a short time later 4/5 more flushes took place pushing the bird from pillar to post with trigger-happy photographers in hot pursuit. On at least three occasions the bird did actually perch up offering good views but was immediately rushed. Having had at least one excellent view I headed off and despite connecting with a 'lifer' and several Jack Snipe which were also flushed I felt a little deflated, this is not what I call quality birding!! 

A few more images of the day...

Great Grey Shrike ~ Hillswick

Golden Plover ~ Always worth scrutinising the large flocks found around Shetland

πŸŒ¦πŸ’¨ 11C Tuesday 4th October 2022 ~ The weather today had changed to a more typical fare for Shetland with a strong breeze and occasional showers. After breakfast, I headed over to Wester Quarff for an eclipse drake King Eider

Huge Redwing arrival overnight on the 4th

The one noticeable thing while driving down to Quarff was a major influx of Redwings overnight with most fields holding some large flocks busily feeding. No sign of the King Eider after a search of the bay and the buoys of the distant fish farm but several Common Eiders and a pair of Goosander, the latter I'm led to believe not that common around the Islands. The garden of the house where I'd parked held a Yellow-browed Warbler and a couple of Brambling

Glaucous Gull ~ Lerwick

Back to Lerwick for a reported Glaucous Gull, which had been lurking around the harbour and I eventually located the bird on top of the fish market roof.

My only image of the Lanceolated Warbler which I was just happy to watch!

One particular species high on my list when planning for Shetland is the Lanceolated Warbler and when in the early afternoon the word Locustella SP. Wester Quarff flashed up on the Shetland Whatsapp Group it set the pulse racing! Five long minutes later 'Lanceolated Warbler', Wester Quarff confirmed but I was already en route. I arrived to find twenty or so birders peering into a ditch and after several minutes and with the help of a thermal imager, which one of the birders was using I was onto the bird! More of a mouse than a bird, absolutely fascinating to watch as it crept through the grass and although mostly elusive occasionally offered some albeit brief but excellent views before returning to cover. By now as you would expect many other birders had arrived and the bird was now about twenty feet into a cow field, closely monitored by thermal imagers. I spent a good hour watching with occasional views but with more of this 'organised flush' nonsense now taking place I departed. I think I'll keep my thoughts on this outrageous unethical practice to myself but if you search social media you'll find plenty of condemnation!

πŸŒ¦πŸ’¨πŸŒˆ 11C Wednesday 5th October 2022 My first stop this morning after breakfast was Scalloway for an Eclipse drake King Eider, which was likely the bird I'd dipped on yesterday at Wester Quarff. I located him after a short scan mixed in with a few Common Eiders and after a while noticed that the bird had drifted quite close to the harbour opposite. A drive around for closer views paid off and I was able to grab a few decent images before the bird drifted away.

Eclipse drake King Eider at Scalloway from the harbour wall.

After Scalloway I drove south hoping to have better luck photographing the Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll back at Toab but no sooner had I departed than news of a Myrtle Warbler at Ellister came up. I was there in good time to find around thirty birders lined up along a driveway overlooking a small Sycamore copse. Almost immediately I had good views of the bird but unfortunately, I was looking almost into direct sunlight. Then things began to unwind when the resident whose drive we appeared to be viewing from requested that we should all leave but not before I managed another brief view of the bird low in a sycamore. I knew what was about to transpire and by now birders were arriving in droves and so happy with good views of another UK Lifer, I bid a hasty departure. 

No Redpoll photo for my efforts but always nice to photograph a confiding Wheatear.

I did spend a good few hours back at Toab and once again was thwarted in my attempt for a Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll photograph, although I saw the bird on three separate occasions. While at Toab my first Fieldfares of the autumn, more Redwings, Wheatear and a Snow Bunting flew overhead heading towards Pool of Vikrie.