Saturday 29 October 2016

Fourteen Days Away: Day 11 :6th October :

Fourteen Days Away:  Day 11 : 6th October :  

It was another early rise to be at Toft for the 0645 ferry to Yell before undertaking the Yell Rally to just make the early ferry to Fetlar as the sun rose over the sea on a calm and clear morning. 

Sunrise over Fetlar

The clear bit was the obvious clue that yesterday's White's Thrush would have done a bunk and true to form its chosen clump in the Houbie Burn was devoid of Spangly F**k Thrushes and some Brambling, Goldcrests and Blackcaps were scant compensation. However, just down the road in Aith, the same could not be said of the Swainson’s Thrush and after some good guidance, we found it lurking inside it's favourite out building and with a little patience superb views were had to about 15 feet after it decided to stop hopping around on an old cooker inside another derelict house and come out and play. It was calling frequently - a soft 'whit' and was quite comfortable in our presence. 

The ruined crofts of Aith

Lamb Hoga

It's in there somewhere...

Swainson's Thrush

Swainson's Thrush - my fifth...

Bradders 'nettling' - Head of Lambhoga behind

A smoky Black Redstart was new to the trip and Shetland for me and a couple of Robins were flitting around.
Afterwards we checked Tresta Manse with no reward and a huge Meadowsweet bed near the road gave David views of what was quite probably a Lanceolated Warbler but it eluded me and Bob. We made it to the 1050 ferry back with a minute to spare only to be told by the last man on that he had just found a Bluetail! It was too late to get back off so headed for Unst to give this island another go. It was very similar to our visit two days ago with another big Great Snipe effort that left me happy that we had seen it but others less convinced but then again this is coming from the man that shouted ‘White's Thrush!’ heading away into the sun only to discover a Song Thrush in its place.

Nor Wick

In no way, shape or form a White's Thrush
A single Jack Snipe was almost trod upon and there were more finches to be seen with a dozen Brambling dressed in orange, black and white and our first three Greenfinches were munching on the fat rosehips. Blackcaps were dribbling in before our eyes and feeding in the grass and a Yellow-browed became our first of the day while two pale brown eastern Lesser Whitethroats were seen around the cabbage patch but the locals were quite openly hostile which was disappointing as we were only on the road and we left without the Bluethroats.


Ravens were a constant delight with over 40 at one stage playing in the blue skies where they were joined by a male Kestrel.


We popped down to Haroldswick where a Rosefinch was feeding on the beach on sea-beet seeds and a Barred Warbler did a quick scarpa. Six Goldfinch on thistles were technically the best birds and our fifth Little Bunting grovelling in a nearby tiny quarry was the most obliging one that we had seen. 

Common Rosefinch at Haroldswick

An immaculate siny coal-coloured Blackbird - possibly one of my favourite pics from the trip

Scratching that ass

Three of six Goldfinches at Haroldswick

Clingera looking acrss the Halligarth - more YBWs

Little Bunting

Little Bunting


A check of the Baltasound area added five more YBWs and a Whinchat along with the poorly Wood Warbler still in Halligarth before we hit Uyeasound in search of some Lap Buntings.
Whooper Swans and a Pintail distracted us on Easter Loch in Uyeasound and a Barred Warbler lured us for a quick look but did not oblige and it was at this point that it all got a bit silly...

Whooper Swan

David was just motioning for us to move on when I glanced up as a thrush flew directly overhead. I did not even have time to raise my bins but there above me was a scaly breasted, white bellied Thrush with classic zoothera black and white underwings. I screamed 'White's Thrush!' as it bounded over the roof. Everyone got on it but as it looped back around it looked too small and then David followed swiftly by me were now shouting 'SIBERIAN!!'. 

Anthony Griffiths'  shot that told us all we needed to know

Eyestripe! - Anthony Griffiths

We watched it land in some dense rosa and frantically attempted to get news out as there was no reception at all. Thankfully Anthony Griffiths had snatched some vital flight shots. 

The bird was given plenty of space and then suddenly popped out on the top of a clothes line post right in front of me showing that huge curving a white supercillium, dark scaly breast and underparts and blue-brown mantle... it was not just a Siberian Thrush but a first winter male to boot. 

Upon it's return to the garden... Anthony Griffiths

It then rocketed out of the gardens and looked to be going but then thankfully came all the way back to the same sheltered spot. The next hour was a bit of a blur but I believe that most birders on Unst connected. Behaviour was very good and the bird was not pushed around and if it went for a fly round it always came back to its secure garden where it could occasionally be glimpsed through the fence on the lawn where it was feeding prior to dark.

Fisrt winter male Siberian Thrush - Richard Somer Cocks

Big smiles...

With the sun retreating behind the hills we came away with a huge sense of relief that all the hard graft over the last week had at last paid dividends. With new high calibre birds coming out of the woodwork all evening, let's hope the last two days produce even more heart stopping moments.... 

Sunset across a peaceful Uyea Sound
We got home late and I still somehow managed to rustle up a quick fry up with alcohol on the side and spent the rest of the evening smiling and prone to spontaneous chuckling outbursts... unbelievable... I doubt I will even find a more heart stopping bird...


  1. I remember a shout of "Siberian Thrush....I'm having that!"

  2. All I can say Howard is wow what a write up and find, most enjoyable write up each day. I'm well behind with my reading, health problems. Thank you.

  3. Apologies, it's Phil H