Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Unst, part 2 of 3 (11-16 October)

Friday 11 October. We had been to Skaw and were halfway along the coast to Lamba Ness when Dave received a call from Brydon to say he'd found a Lesser Grey Shrike at Halligarth in Baltasound. Typically we were about as far from the car as we'd been all week. We drove down to Baltasound and on approaching Halligarth could see three birders looking our way. We stopped and saw the bird on a nearby wall, a fine adult. Joining Brydon, Mike and Rob we watched the shrike for half an hour or so as it roamed around, at one stage on the edge of the plantation beside us. Dave and I headed back up to Lamba Ness and continued more or less where we'd left off, spending the rest of the day there and around Norwick. Birds seen included a Blue Fulmar, Long-eared Owl, Yellow-browed Warbler, 3 Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler, 2 Blackcaps, 2 Fieldfare, 25 Redwing, Redstart, Tree Sparrow, 4 Brambling, 14 Twite, 4 Mealy Redpolls, 9 Siskin and a Lapland and 4 Snow Buntings while an Otter on a small island off Lamba Ness stole the show.
Lesser Grey Shrike at Halligarth

I'm not sure if I was more surprised by how small the shrike looked or how big the Starling was, although all the Shetland Starlings looked large and dark to me
its long wings were obvious from this angle
a smart bird

Snow Buntings on Lamba Ness

one of the Geos on Lamba Ness, Skaw in the background
argentatus Herring Gull on Lamba Ness
virtually all the Herring Gulls seen were argentatus
Otter on an island off Lamba Ness
it appeared to be drying itself on the grass

Norwick Bay from Lamba Ness
invisible Blue Fulmar at Lamba Ness
Hooded Crow at Lamba Ness

Long-eared Owl at Vaylie
something I'd hoped to see, this was the only one
large richly coloured faeroensis Snipe were a feature of Unst
Saturday 12 October. We visited Burrafirth, spent a lot of time looking for Little Auks in Haroldswick Bay (Dave seeing a couple briefly, me failing) and sites around Norwick. Sightings included single Eider, Long-tailed Duck and Water Rail, 4 Black Guillemots, the Black-throated Diver, 3 Yellow-browed Warbler, 3 Chiffchaffs, 5 Blackcaps, 8 Shetland Wrens, 6 Fieldfares, 26 RedwingRedstart, Whinchat, 4 Tree Sparrows, 4 Brambling, 30 Twite, 25 Mealy Redpolls and an Otter along the southern side of Haroldswick Bay.
Mealy Redpoll at Burrafirth

Puffin at Ungirsta. One from this year's Unstfest commemorating the loss of space shuttle Colombia. There were ten dotted around the island although I only noticed a couple
Mealy Redpolls at Norwick

Yellow-browed Warbler at Norwick

8 Twite at Vaylie
boat house in Norwick
rainbow over Clibberswick/Haroldswick Bay. Perhaps where I should have been looking for Little Auks
Sunday 13 October. We visited Skaw, Lamba Ness, Norwick and Haroldswick, the latter again after Little Auks although this time I did see one, just. Very unsatisfactory. Birds seen included Eider, female Velvet Scoter, 7 Black Guillemots, the Black-throated Diver, 250 Shags, 2 Swallows, Yellow-browed Warbler, 3 Chiffchaffs, 3 Blackcaps, 14 RedwingRedstartWhinchat, 3 Tree Sparrows, 3 Brambling, 20 Twite and a Greenland and 20 Mealy Redpolls.
the burn at Skaw
boat house at Skaw
Shetland Wren at Skaw

tail-less Blackcap at Vaylie
Mealy Redpoll at Vaylie
Greenland Redpoll at Vaylie
large, dark and heavily streaked

with a contrasting paler but heavily streaked rump
Yellow-browed Warbler at Norwick

Monday 14 October. We visited Skaw, Norwick, Baltasound and Haroldswick. Birds seen included 4 Eider, the female Velvet Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, 4 Black Guillemots, the Black-throated Diver, Merlin, 3 Yellow-browed Warblers, 3 Siberian and 3 Common Chiffchaffs, 3 Blackcaps, a blythi Lesser WhitethroatFieldfare, 25 Redwing, 2 Tree Sparrows, 6 Brambling, 30 Twite and 4 Mealy Redpolls.
Common Gull on the beach at Norwick
DC at the top of the gully at Vaylie
Carrion Crow on Unst, the only one I saw on Shetland but not something I felt I needed better views of
Norwick's famous scarecrows
Yellow-browed Warbler at Norwick

Siberian Chiffchaff at the School

Tuesday 15 October. We visited Skaw, North Dale, Haroldswick, Norwick and the north side of Clibberswick Hill. I saw the female Velvet Scoter, 45 Common SnipeYellow-browed Warbler, Chiffchaff, 7 Blackcaps, 11 RedwingTree Sparrow, 14 Brambling, 10 Twite, 10 Mealy Redpolls, a Siskin and an impressive flock of about 150 Snow Buntings Dave had seen from the garden. Halfway through the afternoon we learnt that a male Siberian Rubythroat had been found on Fetlar, the bird I'd most hoped to see on Shetland but it was too late for us to make the last ferry. The rest of the day was a rollercoaster - Brydon was on Fetlar helping at his parents croft and had checked the gardens the bird had been seen in early that morning. Had he found it we would have had no trouble getting over in time. The bird was very flighty and being chased a lot, then it settled in one of the gardens and showed regularly. Next we heard there was to be no access to the gardens ... We booked on the first ferry the next morning and I had a sleepless night. Dave was more relaxed having seen the Dorset bird, circumstances being against me on that occasion.
Mealy Redpoll at Skaw

Ram at North Dale, not to be messed with!
Shetland Pony, things were bad when I started photographing domestic animals
Lamba Ness from Clibberswick Hill
Snow Bunting on Clibberswick Hill

a small part of the flock

Norwick Bay

Wednesday 16 October. We arrived on site at Tresta on Fetlar at 08:00, a few paces behind Phil Harris and Ray O'Rielly. There was one other birder, a local, there who was pointing into the corner of the garden and told us he'd just seen the rubythroat in the same area it had settled into the previous evening. We were all very confident of seeing the bird and I hardly dared take my binoculars down as I fully expected it to appear in the dark corner of the garden any moment. I could even imagine what it would look like, but as time dragged on, 5 minutes, 10, 15, half an hour and only a Robin showed, that familiar sinking feeling took over. Much to his annoyance Ray received a congratulatory phone call for seeing it, if only it were that easy. After an hour Brydon obtained permission to go into the garden and confirmed our fears that it wasn't there. It had been quite vocal the previous day and we were sure that someone would have seen or heard something had it still been there. Had the original birder really seen it? He'd apparently barely got his binoculars onto it that morning but had seen it well the previous day. Either way it was a cruel outcome and Waxwing and Hawfinch around the gardens were little compensation. We returned to Unst somewhat dejected and birded out way back to Norwick via Lund and Haroldswick before finishing at Skaw. On Unst we saw Long-tailed Duck, 2 Chiffchaff, Blackcap, 4 Ring Ouzels, 4 Fieldfare, 75 Redwing, 76 Brambling, 20 Twite and 12 Mealy Redpolls.
Norwick Sands

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