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Tuesday, 17 October 2017





We met for breakfast at 7am and then left at 8am to catch the 8.55am ferry to Fetlar from the Belmont Ferry Terminal. There was almost no wind this morning and it was a gloriously sunny day – we had to strip layers off later – in fact it was almost too hot! Jason went OTT and just wore a  tea-shirt on Fetlar! The calm before the big Storm Ophelia hits tomorrow! The winds were light south westerlies, veering south east later today, with big easterly winds for the rest of the week! But, with 50 mph winds and heavy rain, even hardcore birders won’t be seeing anything tomorrow! These will be the first easterly winds since we have been on Shetland and it will be very frustrating if a big bird turns up on Unst when we return to mainland tomorrow! That’s the way it goes I suppose!
Jason checking gardens for migrants before we go on the ferry
Waiting at the Belmont Ferry Terminal

Seaweed at Belmont Ferry Terminal, Unst

Our ferry to Fetlar!

On route to the ferry a couple of people saw a Swallow! At Easter Loch by the ferry terminal we had the usual Whooper Swans, but noted there were more families and a larger number than we had seen before. The ferry left on time and we had a lovely trip across the 'Bluemull Sound' to Fetlar and enjoyed views of a Great Northern Diver, several Black Guillemots and 28 Long-tailed Ducks flew past. One of the crew operating the ferry, whistled loudly too us and pointed, but none of us were able to get to on to, what we later found out was a Minke Whale, that had only surfaced twice – which was a pity, that would have been a cool trip tick!

Black Guillemot seen from the ferry to Fetlar

Ashley decided to drive to the extreme south of the island and work our way back up to the ferry terminal for our departure at 1pm. There are limited ferries on a Monday we discovered, with a choice of 1pm or 4.40pm return and we didn’t want to arrive back late on Unst, in case something big was found. We wanted to find something humongous on Fetlar, that was the plan anyway! It was a glorious day and we were extremely lucky to see this stunning island for the first time in such beautiful weather.
 Scenery around Fetlar

Greylag Geese on route to the south of Fetlar

Gannet, presumably collided with power lines, Fetlar

Redwing, one of thousands seen on Fetlar

On route south we had tons of Redwings scattering over the fields, including some Icelandic ones, which were much darker than the typical Redwings we normally see. The Greylag Geese also looked darker than you usually see back in Norfolk. There was a real excitement of birds on route south and the light was perfect. This island felt clearly different to Unst and the mainland. Lots of Snipe were scattering, we had 250+ Golden Plovers, along with Lapwings and a Wheatear was seen, along with the usual Hooded Crows, Starlings, House Sparrows and some Whooper Swans flew over. A Merlin also flew over, giving everyone good views. We sadly passed a Juv. Gannet sitting on a field, who had a blood stained breast, we presumed it had collided with power lines – it looked okish though, no idea if it will survive or not, obviously depending on the severity of its injuries.

At Funzie Bay (south), there is a single house overlooking the bay, where we met the owner who is a local birder. Here there were tons of House Sparrows, Starlings, a Leucistic Blackbird feeding, 2 Tree Sparrows, Rock Pipits on the seaweed covered rocks, Shetland ponies and lots of sheep!
House and scenery at Funzie Bay, Fetlar

Shetland Pony at Funzie Bay, Fetlar

Rock Pipit at Funzie Bay, Fetlar

Leucistic Blackbird at Funzie Bay, Fetlar 

At a derelict cottage on a road signposted to Everland, we had a real flurry of birds – for a few minutes I was on my own, when I found an Eastern Whitethroat in the garden and a Goldcrest and a Blackcap appeared. I flushed approximately 15 Snipe from the front garden – incredible! Snipe seemed to be everywhere – I have never seen so many snipe in one day! There was also a Wheatear here. We stopped at another potentially good scrub area on route north and I wandered off along a track with a house/garden and a single sheep. This sheep ran down the hill of the garden to the fence to greet me (or so it seemed) and enjoyed some fuss – it really seemed to enjoyed being stroked. I grilled an LBJ which dived over the drystone wall, and it eventually turned out to be a Wren. More Snipe here and stunning scenery. As I left, the sheep charged down the hill again to the fence for some more fuss – so sweet!
 The house with the friendly sheep, Fetlar!

Further north in the island we parked near the Visitor Centre (closed on 30th Sep) and walked to ‘Houbie’, a stunning burn, with a series of cascades tumbling over rocks. Here we had at least 5 Blackcaps, 1 Chiffchaff, 6 Bramblings, Chaffinch, Robin and a Wren. We returned to the Visitor Centre to sit on the picnic tables for a tea break (Ashley had brought flasks with him for us all) and sat overlooking the stunning bay. Here we saw a Great Northern Diver and a Wren. We then popped into the local shop where I bought a beautiful silver and glass ring, which was made in Fetlar by ‘Bea’ and some more oatcakes. We also met Angus the Sheep in the field opposite who had his own placard on the gate! I took a picture of the owner outside her shop.
Burn at Houbie, Fetlar
Scenes by the Visitor Centre, Fetlar

Wren close to the visitor centre, Fetlar

Oriole Birding Tour! Kindly taken by the lady at the shop, Fetlar
Angus the sheep at the shop!

On route to catching the 1pm ferry, Ashley and Jason walked around an iris bed to find a mega and nearly got stuck in the mud! Tons of Snipe here! Caught the ferry back from Belmont Ferry Terminal to Unst at 1pm. Jason pointed out some Porpoise to us, but it took me ages to see just one, both John and I managed to get a glimpse of one just before they disappeared. Tons of Shags both on the sea and also on a beach by a derelict building. There were also Black Guillemots, a Great Northern Diver and Ashley spotted a Velvet Scoter (new bird for the trip).
Jason and Ashley searching an iris bed, Fetlar

Snipe, so many seen on Fetlar!

Scenery, shortly before we took the ferry back to Unst

Pictures above, taken from the ferry returning to Unst

UPDATE: We appear to have possibly seen a White-winged Scoter (fem.), not the Velvet Scoter we first thought! See Ashley's post on:

2nd for Britain!
Taken at 1.38pm from the ferry, returning from Fetlar to Unst

Back on Unst we went to Loch Watlee to have our lunch and kept an eye out for the White-tailed Eagle that we saw on the 14th. We saw the Wheatear again (same one maybe?). There were lots of Salmon jumping out of the water here, which was fun to watch. The light on the loch was like a mirror, so beautiful. Lots of sheep in the valley, but no sign of the eagle.

We then set off to find the Olive-backed Pipit that had been found today in the Spring Park Road area at Baltasound. We parked the car up in this road and I asked a very friendly couple, who lived in the house at the end, if they knew where the OBP was – they told me that several birders were around the back of their house this morning, in the rough fields, paths and derelict house, so that was very helpful indeed. We all started to work this area and whilst doing so, found 20+ Bramblings. Luckily I managed to flush (tickle-up… long story) the OBP from the grass at 2.55pm!!! This was the most flighty OBP I have ever seen and no one had any close views, but we had decent scope views for a few seconds each. No one got anything decent on the camera – my three shots were pretty rubbish. John got the best shots, well done to him! We were so pleased to have seen this bird – pretty lucky really. The last time we saw the OBP, it had flown to a grassy field (no access) next to the garden of ‘Ernsdale’. Ashley and Jason found a Redstart for us here and also a Chiffchaff was seen and a ginger and white cat was sitting on a wall – this cat flushed the Redstart later, which was quite annoying.
Olive-backed Pipit, Spring Park Road, Baltasound, Unst
Cat near to Ernsdale, Baltasound, Unst

Redstart flushed by the cat shortly after this picture was taken!

Second helpings of the Surf Scoter were had, in much calmer conditions, so better views were enjoyed by all. I managed to get a slightly better phone-scoped video through Ashley’s scope. We then went to a new spot, ‘Halligarth’ which is a wooded copse, surrounded by a large dry stone wall. We looked around the outskirts first before going in through the gate and found a Lesser Whitethroat, at least 2 Chiffchaffs, several Bramblings and Redwings and Snipe were in the surrounding fields. In the wood, the only new birds we found were a Robin and a Blackbird. Potentially though, that wood look very exciting! Just before we left, Ashley found a stonking Hawfinch, which we watched in flight and briefly in a tree – unfortunately it did not want to be photographed, but Jason managed to get shot of it in the tree obscured by branches. We thought it had landed in a garden and we all spent ages, creeping up to where we thought it was – but it had sneaked out somewhere!
Walled copse at Halligarth, Unst
 Gate to the walled copse at Halligarth, Unst

We ended the day in the Valyie Garden as the light faded. It felt colder now and the skies looked black and it was slightly spitting with rain – the beginning of the big storm. We saw a couple of Chiffchaffs, 4 Blackcaps, Common Redpolls x 2 perched on a fence wire, a Blackbird and 6 Bramblings. Again, no sign of the Rosefinch.
Views around the Valyie Garden, Unst

Raven near the Valyie Garden Unst
Blackcap preening, near the Valyie Garden, Unst

Saxa Vord Self-catering Houses, Unst

This evening we had a three course meal cooked by Ashley – he really is a brilliant chef and huge thanks to him for cooking for us all whilst on Unst and after driving all day too, I don’t know where he gets all his energy from! After dinner we all headed over to the bar to access the internet via their free WiFi and update our websites etc.

The bar with free WiFi was closed we discovered, so we were not able to access the internet there! So instead, we headed to the main restaurant/bar as they also had WiFi, although it was not as good as the other bar we were told – they were correct! It would have been Christmas before any of us had uploaded or updated anything at all, so we gave up on that. We all met a exceptionally bubbly blonde barmaid called Sarah who was really lovely and was very good at persuading the men to buy more drinks! She seemed genuinely interested in us all and gave us all hugs when we left! I asked her how long she had lived here and she replied "I've only been here since April – I came here and never went back" (don't know where 'back' was, I didn't like to ask). She then went on to say how much she loves living here. I politely introduced myself to a couple sitting close by us all, presuming they were local, but in fact they were visiting from Dundee. We returned to our houses with my torch in strong winds and rain!

We return on the ferry to mainland Shetland tomorrow, staying again in the Sumburgh Hotel until Thursday, when we pack up to catch the ferry at Lerwick to Aberdeen on Thursday evening. I’m not looking forward to that at all, as the sea is going to be rough! Hopefully with fingers crossed, a big bird might turn up before we leave – or the Oriole Birding group might be finding it!
Our house – No. 13 Saxa Vord
Saxa Vord Self-catering Houses, Unst


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