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Tuesday, 17 October 2017




Storm Ophelia hit us with massive winds and rain all night – it was so loud, I was woken up by the intensity of the rain. I have had the dormer window open every evening, but I didn't dare do this last night! I have really enjoyed being on Unst and really don't want to leave – the accommodation here is really nice and I didn't want to pack my things up! The peace here, the lack of street lights – so nice to sleep with no lights shining in the window, unlike my street where I live, which has two big street lamps and a neighbour who leaves their big outside light on opposite my house every night!

Our morning was dominated by arranging to get off Unst and back to mainland Shetland. There were ferries to Yell, but not to Unst until further updates later this morning, because of the storm. Ashley and Nick had to go off to get a phone signal to get information on our ferries, so we had plenty of time to get our gear together. Ashley booked a ferry for 1.45pm that would take us to Yell, but we may have to wait a while before we catch the next ferry to Unst, because of a back-log of vehicles/passengers that couldn't go this morning!
Long-eared Owl in Health Centre Garden, Baltasound, Unst
With the mini-bus packed up, we set off birding. We parked up by the Health Centre (with kind permission) and had a look in the walled garden at the back of the centre and surrounding area. Ashley flushed a Long-eared Owl from the scrub behind the garden, which only he got a glimpse of. Not long afterwards though, the Long-eared Owl returned and perched in a sycamore tree at the back of the garden – this stunning bird posed beautifully for pictures and videos. An excellent start to the day! Much better views than the one we had in the Vaylie Garden! A local lady from the health centre who came out to see the owl, said she had had 11 Short-eared Owls in this garden last winter! Wow! There were also Redwings, Robin and a Blackcap here. In the Clingera area we found a Chiffchaff, Robin and checked other gardens close by here, but only found Redwings.
The Skidbladner (replica Gokstad ship) at Haroldswick, Unst

Whooper Swans on Easter Loch, on route to the ferry, Unst
Views from the Yell ferry, mainland Shetland

At 1.45pm we caught the Belmont ferry to Yell. Luckily we didn't have to wait too long at all for the Yell to Unst ferry. I had taken Stugeron tablets this morning as I presumed the crossing would be rough, but the wind had died down considerably and it all felt fairly smooth, but it was chilly! Black Guillemots and Shags were seen on route.

Arriving back on mainland Shetland, we searched the Lower Voe area for migrants. We saw Pied Wagtails and 3 Grey Wagtails (feeding on someone's lawn!), a Blackcap, Bramblings, House Sparrows. This was a very scenic area with cascading burn and bridges. After leaving here, we were lucky enough to see a Red Grouse catapult from the roadside verge, which was an unexpected bonus and woke up all those that were dozing!
House at Lower Voe, mainland Shetland
Burn at Lower Voe
House Sparrows at Lower Voe, mainland Shetland
 Lower Voe, mainland Shetland

At Kergord, we had fabulous views of lots of Hooded Crows, 2 Merlins – one was relentlessly chasing a Hooded Crow, Ravens, 2 Rooks (first of the trip), 2 Sparrowhawks, Goldcrests x 2, Blackcaps, Bramblings and at least 50 Redwings. We spent a long time here, checking a large walled copse with snowberry bushes in the midst – it felt rare, but wasn't! We also searched a burn amidst another large copse, opposite here, which had a couple of Bramblings in, but nothing else of note. A local farmer stopped to chat to us and we also chatted to a lady who lived in a large house by the walled copse.
Hooded Crows at Kergord, mainland Shetland
Merlin at Kergord, mainland Shetland

Another Shetland cat!

The sickness tablets I had taken earlier, had made me feel totally drugged up – I couldn't keep awake at all for the rest of the journey to Sumburgh. We arrived back at the Sumburgh Hotel and enjoyed a lovely meal. We heard that there had been a big arrival of thrushes this evening, so we felt quite excited about tomorrow's birding!


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