FIRST DAY'S BIRDING ON SHETLAND!
The sleeping pod on the ferry was abandoned at 12.45am in favour of a sofa in the lounge area! It was a beautiful looking chair which reclined to a certain degree, but I just had to lay flat! I noticed several other people had to do the same. It was a very smooth crossing, which I didn't expect in October – very lucky indeed!
We all met for breakfast at 6.30am and the ferry arrived in early as light broke. We met up with Jason Moss in the car park who now joined our tour for the rest of the Shetland holiday.
A Raven greeted us at the ferry terminal before we made our way to the west mainland in search of migrants. Birds seen on route: Hooded Crows, large numbers of Lapwings, Redshanks, Golden Plovers, Turnstones. The weather was atrocious, with strong winds and heavy rain downpours and it looked set for the day. But, we were very lucky indeed and surprisingly the weather improved dramatically to a lovely sunny afternoon!
This little spot looked mega rare! Burn at Dale of Walls
We searched scrub and plantations in the Dale of Walls area in the rain, where we found a Spotted Flycatcher, Snipe, Chiffchaff, Robin, Goldcrest, Wren, Hooded Crow and a Raven. Several areas of scrub we searched looked potentially exciting. After picking up lunch supplies we headed on a long journey north to 'North Roe' to look for the Red-flanked Bluetail that has been around for the last few days. This is when the weather changed for the better! We had almost given up on the RFB, when Jason found the bluetail skulking around in a small area of honeysuckle, much to our delight. We spent quite a bit of time here with this cracking little bird and later it showed so close, we couldn't focus on it with our cameras! This was the closest views of a Red-flanked Bluetail I have ever seen and all in beautiful sunshine! There was also a Brambling feeding + two more flew over and a Blackcap also showed briefly.
Raven at Dale of Walls
North Roe, Shetland
Returning south, we found a Twite, Brambling and Redwings on route to our hotel. We then arrived at Sandgarth to look for the Thrush Nightingale and I bumped into Jacquie and Dave Bridges (Norfolk bird recorders) – it was lovely to see them and Jacquie told us the exact spot to see the Thrush Nightingale. We could not believe our luck, when arriving at the viewing point, the bird appeared within seconds on a grassy path for us all to enjoy. I have never seen a Thrush Nightingale behave this way! They are normally incredibly elusive – this was absolute magic!
We searched a large area of scrub/garden close by, which produced a Chiffchaff and a Goldcrest – another exciting area with huge potential and the imagination ran riot with Hermit Thrushes, Black-and-White Warblers, Subalpine Warblers and so on! This garden must have been designed by a birder – there were paths, clearings, bridges over cascading burns, seats in just the rest places and plants, shrubs and trees to attract all birds!!!
Garden/Field adjacent to the Thrush Nightingale garden at Sandgarth
Our last stop of the day was to see the Parrot Crossbills at Helendale in Lerwick. We had lovely views of these gregarious birds, but the stunning male did not want to pose for photos and tended to be in the darkest areas of the pine tree. Fascinating to watch these cracking birds, who would take a pine cone and then take it to the darkest area, by the trunk of the pine tree to eat it.
We continued south to Sumburgh. At the gates of the Sumburgh House Hotel where we are staying for the next few days, Ashley pointed out a cracking male Redstart, perched on the fence wire. A superb first day! A wonderful evening meal was enjoyed by all. Early start in the morning! I have just discovered this evening, that I can not send any emails again – I give up!!!
Redstart by the entrance gates to the Sumburgh Hotel
SEE TOUR ACCOUNT OF THE DAY HERE: