EAST WINDS & RARITY HUNTING!
With east winds overnight and continuing throughout today, we were up early and met for breakfast at 6.45am and left at 7.30am – before sunrise! We didn't take the mini-bus, but instead walked from the hotel and searched the surrounding area. We had high hopes for some good birds. In the hotel garden itself, we had House Sparrows, a Blackcap and a Robin was seen. We checked gardens and quarries and noted there was an increase in Wheatear sightings today. Other birds seen were: Redwings, Blackcaps, Bramblings, Blackbirds, Fulmars and the usual House Sparrows, Starlings and Ravens.
On the sea we had Long-tailed Ducks, Eiders, 2 Slavonian Grebes, 8 Great Northern Divers and best of all several Porpoise were in the harbour – Jason also noted there was an adult porpoise with calf amongst the other adults. We walked through muddy, wet fields, over some difficult stiles, through a farmyard and then returned to the Sumburgh Hotel.
Fulmars in a quarry near the Sumburgh Hotel
We then left in the mini-bus and parked up in the official car park at the base of the Sumburgh Lighthouse and walked up to the headland searching for wind blown migrants. The panoramic views of the coast from here were breathtaking and it was also clear enough to see Fair Isle – awesome! It was fabulous being here, I have fond memories of spending time sitting by the lighthouse, looking for Orcas on my last trip to Fair Isle in 2010. We spent a fair amount of time scanning the Geo's for passerines, but only found 3 Goldcrests on the cliff face. There were of course tons of Fulmars sailing past close by – always fabulous to watch. In the lighthouse garden scrub, we found a very pale Chiffchaff, a Wren singing, Blackbird and a Robin. Some Twite also were nice to watch, landing briefly on a mossy stone wall.
Views from Sumburgh Head & Lighthouse
Fulmar gracing the skies at Sumburgh Lighthouse
The only Orca I saw at Sumburgh Head!
Twite at Sumburgh Head
Wren singing in clifftop garden at Sumburgh Lighthouse
Chiffchaff (notably pale) in clifftop garden at Sumburgh Lighthouse
Plane coming into land at Sumburgh Airport
At 10.45am we arrived at Toab, where John F. found an Eastern Lesser Whitethroat, which as Ashley said, was the brownest one we had seen so far (see pics below) this trip. There was also a Wheatear here, posing very nicely on a dry stone wall. We purchased our lunch at a small shop – we were lucky, as they had only eight rolls for sale – all purchased! I also found some honey & peanut slices topped with chocolate – yummy! After leaving this area and driving to our next destination, Ashley stopped the mini-bus, as he thought he had seen a Stonechat – we all piled out, and within a few minutes we were all watching a distant Stonechat!
Eastern Lesser Whitethroat at Toab
Wheatear posing beautifully at Toab
We stopped in an area by a bay close to Quendale and saw a Jack Snipe in flight that Nick had found. Ashley found a single Goldcrest, exhausted in a patch of nettles – it amazes me how such a tiny ball of fluff can even migrate, never mind survive the journey! This Goldcrest looked so sad and fed-up, hardly surprising! At the Water Mill and farm at Quendale, we bumped into Will Miles and his wife Jenny again! We discussed the lack of rares so far today! Will sounded quite positive though and said the departure of the thrushes must mean there is a 'big one' to be found somewhere! Yeah right! We walked a long way along the track, up hill and down dale (as they say) to search for birds. We had brief views of two Jack Snipe exploding from the irises and also a Common/Mealy type Redpoll was seen distantly, both on a fence and in flight. In Ashley's 'secret quarry', Redwings and 2 Song Thrushes erupted. but nothing else of note. We made our way back to the mini-bus.
Nick at Quendale – mini-bus in background!
Goldcrest, newly arrived in patch of thistles by a bay at Quendale
None of us were sure what this was? Quendale
John, Lyn and Ashley birding near a quarry, Quendale
At Hillwell Loch where they were slurry spreading – we saw 2 Gadwall, a Long-tailed Duck, Merlin and lots of gulls. We escaped from these fragrant smells and drove to the Virkie Pool – here we saw 10+ Red-breasted Mergansers, a Pale-bellied Brent Goose, a Shelduck, Knot, several Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plovers, Redshanks and several gulls.
At Scatness we had 5 Whooper Swans, 11 Bramblings, 100 Teal and a huge flock of 300+ Twite were swirling overhead. It was extremely cold now and we were all very tired, so returned earlier than usual to the hotel. We arranged to meet in the bar for dinner at 7pm.
Birding at the Pool of Virkee
Pool of Virkie
Scenery around Scatness
Another view of Fair Isle!
In my room, I had a 5 minute snooze on my bed and set the alarm for 6.10pm. I opened my eyes to a text that was being sent at 7.30pm!!! Fortunately, because the group had been in deep discussion about our recent 'Velvet Scoter' that could well be the possible White-winged Scoter – I wasn't really missed! Obviously I apologised when I eventually arrived in the restaurant – nobody had ordered any food yet, so I hadn't held anyone up thank goodness|! We enjoyed our last meal together – Jason leaves us tomorrow afternoon and the rest of us will be on the Lerwick to Aberdeen ferry in the evening.
The Internet is pretty good at this hotel, but loading pictures and videos is slow. My Surf Scoter video that I uploaded onto Youtube this morning, took 2 hours and 40 minutes to publish! This is one of the reasons you haven't seen many pictures added to my posts yet. Also I am furious with Adobe – they told me that I could use my new Adobe package (photoshop etc) without the internet – they lied, you can not use it without the internet – on Unst I tried to open photoshop to edit some pictures and it informed me that I required a WiFi connection! This makes me pretty cross, as when you had a DVD for Photoshop, you could open it any time, anywhere. Technology! Our last day birding tomorrow!
SEE TOUR ACCOUNT OF THE DAY HERE: