Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Fourteen Days Away: Day 8 : 3rd October:

Fourteen Days Away:  Day 8 : 3rd October:  

Weather wise it was actually another lovely day but from a birding point of view it was incredibly frustrating. It started in the pink light of dawn with a trumpeting pair of Whooper Swans on our lochan and then degenerated into a day full of slogging around roads, ruins, gardens, groves and plantations out east with scant reward... 

Whooper Swan pre-dawn
The stunning end of Lunna Ness - it was quiet bar some Twite and a Merlin

These old Sycamores at Lunna House are embedded in the wall

An 'If only...' moment

Now I am not bemoaning the fact that we found 13 delightful Yellow-browed Warblers in some stunning locations today but it really would be nice to find (or even see) something different. I missed the Barred Warbler at Garth today but surprisingly the best species was the three Goldfinches that jingled over Vidlin... as ever it is all about perspective. 

A favourite place - Swinning - Yellow-browedlicious

Redwing at Swinning

Forget-me-not at Swinning
Rock Dove at Swinning - always very skittish

Willow Warbler at Vidlin

Wren at Vidlin

The horror of the Benston plantation - this almost did for me and Bob

but a nice Golden Plover or two
Laughing at us as we tramped through Benston

Helophilus pendulus at Garth

My first definite Bombus muscorum - what a beauty - Garth

Our last stop of the day was in Cott where I headed down to the side of Weisdale Voe where some immense twisted sycamores were growing in the ruins of a large house next to an immaculately kept tiny graveyard. It was incredibly quiet and only a Wren disturbed the spot with his hard ticking. I was surprised to find an almost hidden brass plaque commemorating it as the birthplace of one John Clunies-Ross. A bit of Googling and I discovered that he was a merchant originating from Shetland, who first cruised the waters of the then uninhabited Cocos Keeling Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean in 1825. After surveying them he moved his family to live on one of the islands in 1827 and proclaimed himself King and the family still live and ‘rule’ there to this day...

The smaller building of the Clunies-Ross pad...
A few new birds did arrive today but they were far flung and often brief. The lure of a White’s Thrush way up at Hamnavoe near Eshaness was going to require an early start the following morning in the hope of a re-finding it and then a trip to Unst was looking likely to try and connect with a few longer staying waifs. The increase in Redwings had already brought in a Black-throated Thrush to the Skerries so things were looking up... 

Dinner that evening was, to some degree, a vaguely sophisticated affair and thanks to the Orwick property owners we had a huge net of fresh mussels from their farm for dinner. The only slight problem was that only Bob and Jono actually do shellfish so it was left to them to de-beard and prepare them before seeking womanly cooking instructions while Bradders and I had something that went ping. 

Mussel preparation - I am unsure of an approriate clean caption to be perfectly honest

We had been Co-op shopping and purchased fresh cream, an onion and apparently of greater importance a bottle of Chablis to drink with the moules mariniere and a bottle New Zealand Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc to cook them in and finish off afterwards. My wine squeakiness (and ignorance) was saying...’How much!!!’ at this point.

Living it up... Jono in his element
I will admit that I did try three of the mussels as it would have been rude not to but the Philistine in me found the Chablis a bit sharp and dry (‘well of course it is!’) but loved the very drinkable Sauvignon Blanc and I managed to claw bank a point for commenting on the passion fruit aroma and taste without having read the label.

A nice Whisky afterwards and the combination of the wines, a pre-dinner bottle of local Stout and exhaustion after a long day in the field led to a somewhat erratic line being taken to my bed that night but I did sleep incredibly well!

Monday, 24 October 2016

Fourteen Days Away: Day 7 : 2nd October:

Fourteen Days Away:  Day 7 : 2nd October:  

The team were up and about before dawn and we were soon on the road to head north to investigate some of the less checked sites in the hope of an American waif before the winds changed. 

Good morning world
Our digs may look like a large shed but the inside was superb

Reflective cattle

The fine Bull

The view back down our road onto Muckle Roe with our digs in the middle

An Otter munching breakfast at the wonderfully named Mavis Grind while we stopped for some atmospheric shots was a good start before we hit the majesty of the windswept Eshaness. 

The southern tip of Sullom Voe at Mavis Grind

The only thing missing at Eshaness was the wind and we had a fantastic but unfortunately almost birdless walk across the sculptured landscape although I did pick up a YBW in a geo and we found two more in the museum garden at Tangwick Haa. Gannets, Fulmars and a few Bonxies passed offshore and a single Arctic Tern was seen.
Two Redwing here were the first of the autumn and we encountered several more during the day - it looked like the eastern doorway was opening.

Looking towards West Mainland and Foula under the cloud bank

Eshaness is a spellbinding place

Foula looking very intimidating

Yellow-browed Warbler at Tangwick Haa

Golden Plover at Tangwick Haa

Meadow Pipit at Eshaness

Calder's Geo - Eshaness

Fulmar in Calder's Geo - Eshaness

Eyeing up Bradders at Murrion

Greylags at Murrion - slimmer that our chunky southern ones

A random stop alongside Ronas Voe at Heylor and a kind gentleman who let us into his garden added a further four YBWs. What else was out there?

Ronas Voe from Heylor

YBW - Heylor

YBW - Heylor

Eristalis intricaria - Heylor

News was drifting in from South Mainland and Fair Isle that migrants and vagrants were quite literally drifting in and a Lanceolated Warbler way down in Boddam was enough to get Bradders enthusiastically motoring that way and an hour later we were pulling up with the greenish bananas ripening on the dashboard surprisingly still in place...
The Lancy was frequenting a large patch of fenced rosa rugosa in a small garden and was proving popular but with a bit of patience it would creep right past you and at its closest it was only ten inches from my fingertips where it scurried about like a tiny streaky mouse seemingly bending to weave in and out of grass stalks. This was only my second of this enigmatic Grasshoppers Warbler relative but was, if nothing, even more satisfying than my first 20 years ago looking over a fence at my feet at Languard Point in Suffolk. There are some ludicrous images of it on shoes and even video of walking over hands but it was quite simply unperturbed by all the fuss it was causing.

Patience was required

Bradders exhibiting happiness

A phone shot of the Lancy from Andy Lawson

I just love the Starlings...

The Croft Museum with weighted thatch rooves

By way of a return to normality we picked up three more YBWs in the village and then another two in neighbouring Hestingott and Toab before the lure of Orcas off Sumburgh took us that way. 

White Wagtail in with this lovely horse in Toab

White Wagtail

At Sumburgh there was even more sunshine, some Porpoises and some disturbingly close Fulmars but no Killers but we remedied this just down the road at Scatness where a huge male and three smaller beasts where loafing quite a way offshore but still close enough to elicit exclamations at the enormity of the male dorsal fin as it broke the surface to a fine spray accompaniment.

Honestly - this is Sumburgh Head

Papping Fulmars

Said Fulmar...
This was one of the smaller Orcas but still very large!

And Fair Isle looking amazingly clear and close...

With the day waning but the sun still warm we moved onto Geosetter and Ellister where there were not many species to be seen but another ten Yellow-browed Warblers took the day total to 22 and the trip to 56. Watching them flycatching off the fences with Chiffies was gorgeous in the late evening light. Just how many more would we add in the coming days but some variety would be nice! 

Geosetter looking towards St Ninian's Isle

Jono became engulphed in Geosetter

A quick dash to Levenwick for an already sleeping Red-breasted Flycatcher was salvaged in the fading sunset light by a surprise Minke Whale feeding actively in the bay with Porpoises feeding around it. What a mgic end to another full day... Perhaps tomorrow would see us get in on the rarity finding game?

Fish ‘n’ chips from Frankies in Brae was consumed with alacrity and a brief green curtain dance from the Aurora tantalised us with things to come. I saw two shooting stars as we walked back in the blackness and made a couple of wishes... one was for a certain autumnal Luscinia....

Jono's Aurora capture with Sullum Voe flaring to the right