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Wednesday, 16 October 2019

SHETLAND – DAY ONE!

Looking towards Sumburgh Airport



I was so behind with so changing my itinerary at the last minute, that I was still packing and checking the weight of my luggage. To add to everything, it took me forever to type up the Norfolk bird news last night, which was the longest list this Autumn so far! I didn't have time to go to bed and only had time for a quick 5 minute shower, no time to wash my hair or anything else. I left my house looking extremely dishevelled at 3.50am. Arrived at Eddie's house in Glandford at 4.25am. Eddie had very kindly offered to take me to Norwich airport, which I hugely appreciated. Arrived at the airport at 5.10am.

I had checked in on-line yesterday, but obviously had to check baggage in – I was hoping I would get away with an extra 2kg – I was wrong! Both my bags came to 22kg, so had to pay £10 fee. It would have been way under the specified 20kg, but at the last minute I had decided to pack my tripod and scope, now I wasn't going to Fair Isle.

After going through security I had the best vegetarian breakfast I've ever had! Scrumptious vege sausages, mashed avocado with a mint sprig, fried egg, beans, brown toast, butter, grilled tomatoes and pepper – this made up for the fact that I had no dinner last night and only a banana before I left my house this morning!
Views from the plane between Norwich and Sumburgh!


The 6.55am Loganair flight left on time and I must admit I felt petrified when I first walked up the steps into the plane – the last time I flew on a 'normal' sized plane, was with my sister Vivien to Austria in 1998! I had chosen a seat in a single row on the window side. The seats were not exactly roomy and with all my coat pockets full of stuff, it wasn't exactly roomy. The staff on board were lovely people and very professional. A hot drink was offered along with a snack. The flight wasn't smooth overall, but once up in the air it was beautiful looking at the sunrise and being above the clouds – magical!

Arrived at Aberdeen on time at 8.10am. Maybe it was because I was tired, but it was confusing working out where I should be for my next flight. Anyway, the next flight to Sumburgh at 9.15am was delayed (as was the earlier 6.30am flight) because of poor weather in the Sumburgh area. My flight eventually left at 10.10am, with passengers joining this flight because the earlier one was cancelled altogether. Arrived at Sumburgh at around 11.15am. The weather here was glorious, and far too hot for my new arctic wellingtons! It felt so exciting to be in Shetland and to arrive in sunshine!!!

If only all airports were this simple and straight forward! Walked off the plane into the terminal building – as soon as you walk in, the conveyor belt is there and retrieved my luggage (with tied on pink ribbons!) quickly. A few yards away was the reception for STAR Rent-A-Car Ltd, where I had spent quite a while, giving in driving licence, signing forms and giving them the DVLA form (that I already printed out) so they can check you don't have any driving convictions. I had originally hired the smallest cheapest car, which was a FIAT 100 – I changed my mind! Instead, I booked a 5-door car – can't remember what it was now and didn't end up with that either as the lady member of staff and I discovered the window wipers were not working! So, instead I ended up with fabulous 5-dr Nissan Micra with sat nav and in white (I wouldn't want to be washing that after I have finished with it!). The ladies at this desk were really lovely, very helpful and friendly.

I spent quite a while in the car park familiarising myself with this vehicle before I set off. I was so exhausted, that sensibly I should have gone straight to my b+b in Lerwick, but I was yards away from the Sumburgh Lighthouse and the quarry that can be good for migrants. So off I went!
My Nissan Micra for two weeks!

Sumburgh Hotel – built in 1867


Climbing up the narrow road, I paused and pulled over to just simply stop and look at the view. As I stood here looking towards the Sumburgh Hotel and the bays, beaches, airport and dry stone walls, sheep and tons of thrushes around me, I felt extremely emotional. What an incredible view, what a place to be! I may well have made a mistake in not going to Fair Isle to scoop some big birds, but the experience of being here for an entire two weeks is going to be so wonderful.

I have not seen a fall of thrushes like this for years, there were so many Redwings, Mistle Thrushes, Blackbirds, Fieldfares and also Robins – it was an incredible sight! I carried on and found the quarry where I had last been to with Oriole Birding two years ago. Another birder had just arrived seconds before me – he wasn't here too long and then left. I stayed in here for quite a while and found a Chiffchaff, several Robins, Blackbird, Wrens and of course the Fulmars on the cliff face, cruising around effortlessly in the blue skies.
Fulmar at the quarry, Sumburgh

Chiffchaff at the quarry, Sumburgh

Toadstool by the quarry at Sumburgh

House Sparrow at the quarry, Sumburgh

REED WARBLER


By the stack of rubber tyres at the far left hand end of the quarry (when looking over the fence where you park your car) I was alerted to what I thought was a very exciting warbler (pictures above)..... it turned out to be a Reed Warbler from lots of helpful (and some a little border-line sarcastic on the various sites). It was a light cinnamon/brown colour with a very fine and long bill. It continuously flicked it's tail down and up and just acted rare! I didn't even think for one minute it could be a reed warbler. I got several clear pictures, took a picture of back of camera with iPhone and texted one to Eddie M. who said it was definitely something rare, he thought Olivaceous or Marsh when he saw the only picture I sent him and said I should put the news out so others were alerted, so I did – oh dear! A little later, some local birders turned up including a very nice man called Peter (Ellis, I think he said) who said it was maybe because I was seeing it out of context to its normal environment, which is probably true. Another birder looking at all my pictures said it looked Blyth's like. It simply didn't act like a Reed Warbler, but never the less was exciting to watch. I appreciated thanks from 'Peter' who said it was good that I put the news out, even if it wasn't what I thought it was, as its better to know about something at the time rather than the following day! I didn't see this bird after birders arrived, I don't know if anyone else did later on.

 Hooded Crow at Sumburgh Lighthouse

Blackbird at Sumburgh Lighthouse

 Blackbird at Sumburgh Lighthouse

Song Thrush at Sumburgh Lighthouse

Brambling at Sumburgh Lighthouse

 Views around Sumburgh Lighthouse


I left here and headed up to the lighthouse. I stopped every so often in awe of the sheer numbers of thrushes abundant on the grassy slopes. I was told there was a Black Redstart around, but I didn't see this. The lighthouse garden held Redwings, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Robins and on the grass a photogenic Rabbit was feeding alongside a Blackbird. A Hooded Crow sat on one of the posts in the garden and 2 Ravens flew over the lighthouse. Gannets flying around the cliffs. Just before I left, a smart Brambling appeared on the wall by the car park.
One of several House Sparrows with two Twite by West Voe Beach

West Voe Beach

Turnstones at West Voe Beach

Ring Plover at West Voe Beach

West Voe Beach

Redwing at Sumburgh


West Voe Beach (near the Sumburgh Hotel) produced a ringed Ring Plover, several Turnstones and Oystercatchers, a Rock Pipit amongst the rocks and on the fence wires 2 Twite and several House Sparrows. A Seal was also seen here.

I went to the Sumburgh Hotel for my lunch and tea and had Leek and Potato Soup with brown rolls sitting by the window. It felt good to be sitting down and enjoying some hot food. In the gardens there were lots of thrushes around and Robins. I phoned my B+B to let them know I would be arriving soon and headed north to Eddlewood Guest House in Lerwick. It took me longer to drive here than I thought it would and being so tired, it took all my concentration to get there, arriving around 5.45pm.
View from my window at Eddlewood Guest House, Lerwick

My room at Eddlewood Guest House, Lerwick


When I booked this b+b I wasn't planning to hire a car, never mind for two weeks and they don't have parking, so had to park a little way from the guest house. Checked in and struggled upstairs to my room with all my gear. The room is a 'twin' and very nice but I discovered the mattress was soft, which I hate. Mind you it didn't make any difference when I went to sleep later on. Very nice bathroom and good powerful shower. View is of the street, but I am only staying here two nights. After sorting out all my gear and preparing a birding bag ready for the next two weeks, I drove to Tescos to get some bottled water and a few bits. Returned and was so beyond exhausted that I couldn't even write up any of my blog posts. I had no choice but to give in and go to bed.

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