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Sunday, 15 October 2017

SHETLAND HOLIDAY, Day Seven!

TOUR WITH ORIOLE BIRDING

SATURDAY 14th OCTOBER

A STUPENDOUS DAY!

The day commenced with a scrumptious breakfast in our conservatory, provided by Ashley. We have a small garden surrounded by a dry stone wall, where yesterday I sprinkled some bird seed on top of the wall for the Starlings – they had found it quickly and were busily feeding!

The accommodation is stunning – I have a sea view and its so beautiful here. The beds are really comfortable and the bathroom is large. The water is very soft and you have to spend longer than normal in the shower as you don’t know if the soap is off or not! The shower doesn’t have much kick to it though, so anyone with long hair will spend a long time washing it.
The Valyie Garden – Unst


After breakfast we headed out into the field. Our first stop was at Valyie – a house on a hill with a crop field in front of and a burn running up the opposite side. The garden is backed by a copse with a mix of sycamores and fir trees. This is certainly a hotspot for birding! In here we found the ROSEFINCH sitting on a fence and spending time with Bramblings in the crop. We saw Blackcaps, Chiffchaff, a Woodpigeon and Mallards were in the water-logged fields. Finding nothing in the actual garden, we headed to the small copse situated behind the house, where we had stupendous views of a COUE’S ARCTIC REDPOLL, along with 2 Common Redpolls sitting in a tree. The Coue’s was a huge, plump, fluffy white bird and was simply stunning – they spent around 10 minutes in the tree and then flew off high and we didn’t see them again – lucky! Ashley and Nick ventured through the thick muddy path deeper into the copse and called us to say they had found a Long-eared Owl roosting a few feet up the trunk of a pine tree. We all trudged through the extremely muddy path as quickly and silently as we could and had fabulous views of this gorgeous owl with his orange eyes glinting from his camouflaged spot. It was incredibly difficult to photograph though through the branches and leaves, but I obtained a half decent shot. Wow – three cracking birds before we have even left the first garden!
Rosefinch in the scyamores leading to Valyie Garden – Unst
Blackcap in the Valyie Garden – Unst


Coue's Arctic Redpoll and Common Redpolls at Valyie – Unst
Long-eared Owl roosting at Valyie – Unst
Birding in the Valyie Garden area – Unst

We then visited Norwick to look for a Barred Warbler but only found a Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcaps and a Robin. Next stop was to Skaw, a stunning location, a house by a rocky beach with pebbles and a burn running over rocks onto the beach – it was dramatic and stunning. 250+ Shags were sitting on the clifftop, along with a single Great Black-backed Gull! Here, we also had cracking views of an Eastern Lesser Whitethroat and 2 Redwings flew over. John, Lyn and I walked down to the shore and we had close views of a Gannet in flight, which we managed to get some photos of and several Turnstone were feeding amongst the seaweed and surf.
Looking for the Barred Warbler at Norwick, Unst

The stunning and dramatic beach at Skaw, Unst

Gannet cruising past at Skaw Beach, Unst
Turnstones feeding amongst seaweed at Skaw Beach, Unst

Eastern Lesser Whitethroat at Skaw, Unst

Shags on the cliff top of Skaw Beach, Unst


Ram at the croft above the beach at Skaw, Unst


We then went to North Dale (incorrect info earlier) to look for the Barred Warbler. We saw a Blackcap and Skylarks, but little else. Met a very nice man who lived in the pretty white house at the end of the lane. Lots of good habitat here, but no sign of the Barred Warbler – I didn’t expect to see this, it was extremely windy today and it was more than probably chilling out, in the middle of bush. At Baltasound we saw 1 Mealy Redpoll, 1 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Blackcaps and 3 Bonxies flew over the harbour. I managed to get pictures of the Bonxies, but they are not worth posting!
House and garden at North Dale where the Barred Warbler was!


We then travelled south to Uyeasound to see the Ring-necked Duck, which we had cracking views of. Also on the loch were Tufted Ducks, Whooper Swans, 5 Goldeneyes and 7 Ruff flew over. We then climbed high into the hills and had unprecedented views of tons of waders on bright green grassy fields and with the sun out, I have not witnessed such a spectacle – there were huge numbers of Ringed Plovers, Dunlins (with extra long bills!) Redshanks, Lapwings and Golden Plovers.
Ring-necked Duck at Easter Loch – Uyeasound, Unst

Tufted Ducks and Goldeneyes at Easter Loch – Uyeasound, Unst

Whooper Swan at Easter Loch – Uyeasound, Unst

Easter Loch at Uyeasound, Unst

Dunlin on fields east of Uyeasound, Unst

Turnstones & Redshanks on fields east of Uyeasound, Unst


We then found ourselves at Muness, we Jason saw a Redstart from the mini-bus. There was a castle ruin here with a notice on the gate saying ‘keys not required’!!! The beach at the end of the road could have been anywhere in the world – why do people go abroad?! I think this beach was called "Sand Wick Bay". Turquoise and blue sea in a curved cove with black rocks, pebbly beach, old ruins and house and iris beds for Jason and Ashley to kick up a mega! It was a very steep descent down to the beach and Ashley seemed impressed with our enthusiasm to search this area. There was a female Long-tailed Duck sitting on the sea close in, which later flew off. 15 Red-breasted Mergansers took off from the sea as we neared the beach. The light here was stunning. We didn’t find any megas, but we did find 2 Wrens and a Blackbird sheltering in the furthermost ruined building. The return walk was not in the least bit funny and to add to the struggle, the weather had switched and was now pelting rain! Most of us struggled apart from the youngsters! The seat in the mini-bus never felt so good when we finally made it back!
Muness Castle, Unst


Walking down to the beach at Muness


Taken from the window of the derelict building above

Long-tailed Duck at Muness
Long-tailed Duck at Muness

 Wren at Muness

Uyeasound, Unst

Our last stop of the day was to look over Loch Watlee for the recent White-tailed Eagle. We descended along a very narrow, rough track and saw a Wheatear on route. At the bottom of the road was a massive loch – the sun was now out and the views were stunning. We parked the mini-bus up and within a couple of minutes Ashley had spotted the White-tailed Eagle on the side of a hill at 4.45pm. We could not believe he had picked it up that quickly – very sharp! We all enjoyed a very distant, but lucky view of the White-tailed Sea Eagle – my video below is atrocious, but felt it was worthy of posting, just so you have an understanding of how far away it was!
Loch Watlee, Unst

We ended the day with another look in the mustard crop, close to the post office for the Redpoll flock. Jason had a Yellow-browed Warbler and we had a single Mealy Redpoll briefly. We returned to Saxa Vord exhausted, but extremely happy with our fabulous day. Another cracking meal was cooked by our chef Ashley Saunders! Bird log and writing up the day's blog was completed before retiring for a good night's sleep. Sadly it has been too cloudy here at night to see the Aurora.

SEE TOUR ACCOUNT OF THE DAY HERE:
https://www.oriolebirding.com/birding-diary-news-4.html

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