As yesterday morning it was raining at first light, so we commenced the day with a hearty breakfast and then headed out. In the car park by the hotel we watched Gannets in the North West winds, cruising over choppy seas. We drove to Boddam to look for Otters – they are often seen here and we were not disappointed! Whilst parked on the north side of the voe, we were lucky enough to have stupendous views of five different Otters! We spent a good while here watching the otters playing together, both on the rocks and in the water and catching fish! I vaguely recall seeing otters by the Skye bridge many moons ago, but this was most certainly the best views I have ever had of these wonderful creatures – it was very special to watch indeed. I took no end of pictures, but having a quick look, I don't have any that are stupendous with my 300mm lens – they were a bit too far out for me. We also saw a Snipe here, Turnstone feeding on the rocky shore and the usual House Sparrows and Starlings were abundant and a Black Guillemot was seen at fairly close range. Silage bales by a farm building close by, had been given Emoji faces: 😀😟😜 etc (see picture!)
We then headed to Levenwick to search for migrants. Ashley listed lots of exciting rare birds that had been found here in the past, including a Siberian Rubythroat – in fact we stood looking into that garden whilst here! In the driveway of this garden a strikingly beautiful tabby cat appeared – best pictures so far on my holiday! It was also lovely to bump into Will Miles whom I first met on Fair Isle many years ago, he was here with his wife (congratulations Will) and someone from the Sound Approach team! I found a Lesser Whitethroat in a small sycamore, which then bounded across a driveway and disappeared until Jason then picked it up a short distance away in a sycamore (presumably the same bird). Whilst watching the Lesser Whitethroat we also saw a Willow Warbler and a Blackcap here. I missed out on seeing a Redstart with the rest of the group whilst I was taking funky pictures of the stunning beach here – note to self, stay with the others! We then had a lovely tea break by the shore along with mid morning snack: ginger cake! I gave a piece of my ginger cake to Ashley, he certainly deserved it – he is a wonderful tour leader and ensures everyone is ok and sees as many birds as possible. We saw several Black Guillemots here along with some close in Kittiwakes just before we headed up to the top of the settlement.
We saw a Chiffchaff in the one of the gardens before walking along an overgrown burn which descended down towards a house on the edge of the cliff. A Yellow-browed Warbler was seen here – our best views of one so far and a couple of Blackcaps were also seen! This little spot was very pretty and had a good selection of plants and several toadstools on show. We also had cracking views of a seal basking on a rock just below the cliff edge and another in the water.
We then went to Swinister at the edge of Hoswick to search for migrants. Jason flushed a Jack Snipe out of the long grass just yards from where we parked the mini bus! A garden with a female statue in produced another Yellow-browed Warbler for our list. We then walked down to the burn – this was a particularly beautiful and exciting spot – it potentially looked awesome and I imagined all sorts of megas along here! Whilst paying a visit to the ladies bathroom (bush) I missed out on seeing a Reed Warbler – could have been worse I suppose! A Chiffchaff put in an appearance, but disappointingly nothing else of particular note here. Back at the mini bus we had a surprise of a couple of Lesser Redpolls in a tree, which I could hear calling, but took me for ever to actually see them – I didn't get any pictures either, before they flew off – Jason did though, see his pictures along with others on the link at the bottom of this post. We sat here and enjoyed our lunch and then ambled around Hoswick village where we found two confiding Siskins and in the large garden at Bay View Ashley and others saw a Garden Warbler and a Brambling. We had cracking views of at least a dozen brightly coloured Bramblings feeding on the stony beach before they headed off high up the hill towards some fir treees. At the Orca Inn garden we saw two Yellow-browed Warblers, two Chiffchaffs and more Bramblings. I saw a LBJ flick up from a muddy patch in a garden and flipped over the roof of a house, not be found again!
Our next destination was to the settlement of Fladdabister (what a name!) which looked very exciting, but only found a Goldcrest, a few Redwings and three Twite. Ashley watched a sheep flush four Snipe! We saw three long-haired (presumably feral) chunky cats chilling on a derilict house's doorstep – they looked real characters and the big ginger tom cat looked pretty hard core and a look that said 'don't mess with me'. We searched through long grass for any skulking birds and then returned to the tarmac road. The walk from the mini bus was all downhill and a few of us looked back up the hill and mused how we would have to walk back up this hill, but Ashley headed off and very kindly returned with the mini bus – how kind was that! It had been a beautifully warm day and several of had a wind tan, but the weather turned and now felt quite cold.
News of the Little Bunting came through, so we ended the day at Virkie to search for this bird along with a group of other visiting birders. The Little Bunting had also been seen in a crop field, so we followed the path alongside the nearest (presumed) field to search, but failed. However, whilst on my own I saw what could have possibly the bunting, dive over a garden wall into a hedge and then off over a field. The light was disppearing fast and it started to rain – we headed back to the Sumburgh Hotel. We had worked hard to find something rare today, but this was not to be – will Friday 13th be our lucky day as we head north to Unst for the next four days?
PHOTOGRAPHS TO BE ADDED
SEE TOUR ACCOUNT OF THE DAY HERE: