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Thursday, 19 October 2017




Today was the best day for migration of our entire trip! We started off before sunrise and looked for migrants in the gardens around the Sumburgh Hotel. It was immediately evident that there had been a large fall of birds, particularly Redwings (the largest numbers), Fieldfares, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Robins and Goldcrests. Several Goldcrests were flitting around the gardens and Redwings erupted from all directions. In a quarry nearby we saw Blackcaps, Robins, Chiffchaff, Redwings, Blackbirds and Fulmars on the cliff. The light was pretty poor today, and deteriorated further in the afternoon along with heavy rain!

At Geosetter, there was so much excitement! We parked our mini-bus up and walked up the road alongside the burn. Flocks of Redwings were flying over us in a continuous stream. Most of us could not recall seeing so many Redwings in one place. We also saw good numbers of Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, small groups of Fieldfares, 3 Ring Ouzels (our first of the trip), 2 Woodcocks, at least 5 Blackcaps, 1 Chiffchaff, 20+ Bramblings in a single flock, another on a fence wire along with House Sparrows and Chaffinches. We also had cracking, but brief views of a Common Redpoll in flight and on a fence wire (see photo) along the road. It was alive with birds here, so much so, you didn't know which way to look first! An excellent start to the day and kept our spirits high.
Jason at Geosetter Burn

Geosetter Burn

John F. at Geosetter Burn

Common Redpoll perched for seconds on fence at Geosetter! 

On our journey between stops, every field and garden were blanketed with thousands of Redwings. We checked gardens out at Bigton, but nothing different to what we had already seen. A stunning place – a sandy causeway with sea either side, lead to the Isle of St Ninians, which I attempted to photograph, but with poor light I couldn't portray the expanse and beauty of this unique place.
Sandy causeway leading to the Isle of St Ninians

Another gorgeous tabby cat!

We travelled to Maywick, another beautiful area with a stunning white sandy beach with cliffs – it was here that I picked up a small silvery rock as a souvenir. We parked the mini-bus up and walked down to the the farm area and beach, where we saw tons more thrushes, 1 Ring Ouzel, 3 Blackcaps, Goldcrests, Robins, Chaffinches, a Chiffchaff and a probable Siberian Chiffchaff, which was in the willows in an area by the farm at the bottom of the road, but not close enough for anyone to get brilliant photos. It was raining lightly but steadily now and mist had rolled in.
Scenery on route to Maywick

Farm at Maywick
Maywick Beach

Rock from Maywick Beach

Siberian Chiffchaff (probable) at Maywick

We went to the new cafe shop north of Cunningsburgh, where we bought our lunch and I bought some more of their lentil crisps, oatkcakes and a piece of lemon drizzle cake for Ashley (pre birthday tomorrow). We then drove to Swinister in an attempt to see the recent Siberian Stonechat. We spent a while scanning the fence posts in the now fairly heavy rain and eventually Ashley found the Siberian Stonechat! A cracking little bird, good views were had through the two scopes by all, but far too distant for photography, so only 'blurry shots' obtained. We walked up a very thick mossy slope that had a few of us in fits of giggles, as it was like walking in a bouncy castle – the moss was knee deep and a real job to walk across! Our attempt to get closer views of the stonechat failed. We were all wet and soggy now and the heavy rain looked set for the day and the mist was hanging heavy.
Siberian Stonechat at Swinister 
Siberian Stonechat was behind this house!

We retired to a very nice arty/crafts coffee shop at Swinister and sheltered from the weather with teas and coffees. There were some very nice crafts in here, but expensive – I didn't succumb! We were going to give up on birding, but after nipping outside to assess the weather, Jason informed us that the rain had almost stopped, so off we went for our last search of the trip. The burn at Swinister produced 4 Chiffchaffs, a Blackcap, 15+ Goldcrests and loads of Redwings. We also checked some gardens in this area too.
 Burn at Swinister
This was a fungi (not a flower), never seen anything like this before?

Our very last search was at Levenwick, which we had been too earlier in the trip and we all worked hard to find something good. Ashley found a Redstart (which I didn't see), there were again lots of Redwings. I really regret not taking pictures of a wonderful sight of at least 15+ House Sparrows feeding on the wet marram grass heads, on the edge of the beach – I have never seen this before and it was magical to watch. I was reluctant to get the camera out in the rain again. We noted that the last time we were here, there were no rabbits, but today there were tons, including several black ones! It was very gloomy now, with continuous drizzle and mist and the visibility was limited – it was time to go! I did a selfie picture of our group with our background being a white stone cottage – didn't come out too bad at all – although you can see who has been eating the most cakes!
Beach at Levenwick

We dropped Jason off at Channerwick on route to the ferry terminal at Lerwick, as he was staying with a friend before going on Friday night's ferry to mainland Shetland and beyond – we said our goodbyes and thanked him for assisting us all on our trip. Jason is a really nice young man, an awesome birder and very sharp in the field – he sees birds before anyone else and basically is on a par with Ashley. I'm sure Jason will be an fabulous addition to the Oriole Birding team – Jason's first tour with Oriole Birding commences with "Norfolk – Winter Wildfowl Spectacular" on the 8th-13th January, 2018 – see Jason's profile here. Both Jason and Ashley have a massive passion and enthusiasm for birds and are always upbeat and positive – both have an amusing sense of humour and their knowledge is incredible, which they happily share with their clients. Call freephone 0800 999 3036 OR OR email: for their new 2018 brochure or for any tour information/booking.

Anyway, after dropping Jason off, we arrived at the ferry terminal in good time at around 6pm 'ish and sorted out our gear for the journey ahead. I decided not to bother bringing stuff for a shower etc as I could tell it wasn't going to be a fun fourteen hours at sea tonight! I was not wrong! As soon as we boarded the ferry, we went straight to the restaurant for our meal – several of us had fish 'n' chips and I had a dessert too – if I was going to be sick, it wouldn't have made any difference at all! I had taken two Stugeron tablets at 5pm, so I was prepared as I could be, but something happened that none of us were prepared for! Ashley and Nick had left to 'get a shower before the ferry started rocking' and the rest of us still sat in the restaurant. I had my laptop with me and I had full intentions of writing up my post for the day and the Norfolk news on the blog. I might has well have left the laptop in the mini-bus!

Within minutes of the ferry leaving the harbour it was swaying. Suddenly my entire body went into a cold sweat and I was fixed, I couldn't move my head left or right. I attracted the attention of a very nice lady crew member, who came over to me and I asked her for a sick bag and to escort me to the best place to be on the ferry. I couldn't turn to look at the rest of my group, and was fighting not to be sick in front of them, so I simply said 'good night' and 'see you in the morning'. The lady kindly led me over to the lobby area, which is the centre of the ferry and next to the stairs leading to reception and adjacent to the bar area. I couldn't even walk straight – several people were holding on to whatever they could as they walked around. There were two fixed seats, but knew I had to get to the floor. I quickly laid down on my side and curled up – I was so lucky, my quick actions saved me, just! I wasn't sick once thank goodness! I became cold laying here and when I felt a little better I managed to put my coat and hat on and felt a bit warmer. Later I attracted the attention of another crew member and explained that I had a Sleeping Pod booked, but wouldn't be able to get there and asked if they could bring me my blanket and pillow (that is issued with this pod), which they very kindly did. The staff on this ferry as wonderful, they really are. I removed the cushion off one of the two seats and put my bag and the small pillow on this to sleep on and used the small blanket to cushion my hip on the floor! This kind of worked and I did get some sleep, but that ferry swayed the entire 14 hours and there were moments that I felt I was going to roll across the deck!!! What an image that would have created, LOL! I could also hear things crashing and banging throughout the night!

Oriole Birding Tour – October 2017!
John, Jason, Ian, Ashley, John, Lyn, Nick & Penny


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