28th September: Day Three:
Shetland at last... the journey across from Aberdeen was best described as a little lumpy but my crispy chicken strips and I survived intact and the first thing we did after disembarking on wobbly legs was to head to the Fjara cafe overlooking the bay in Lerwick where a restorative full Scottish, accompanied by yellow headed Gannets plunging in outside the window, was enough to send us out into the howling wind and burgeoning rain.
|Bressay at dawn|
|The view from Fjara - there are Gannets in these somewhere|
David drove us in the murk towards Sumburgh where we sheltered behind the hotel to put on more appropriate attire before tackling the quarries. The weather deteriorated but we pushed on and were rewarded with... wait for it... four Robins, two Blackcaps, a Dunnock, 12 Twite, a Siskin and the most gorgeous little damp Red-breasted Flycatcher that came to within three feet of us to glean invisible insects from the wet thistles. It was teaming with rain and we soon left it to forage unmolested.
|It was a bit wild up on Sumburgh Head|
|Red-breasted Flycatcher - did not get one of it on the sheep skull|
|And one from Peter Moore too|
The weather was precluding any serious searching of cover so we headed for Hoswick and located one little patch with a smidgen more shelter up behind the Orca where we quickly found some very damp warblers including Chiffchaff, Yellow-browed and a brown Lesser Whitethroat. Two Spotted Flycatchers were getting blown around and I think they were my first on the islands.
|Beach at Sand Lodge - a bit murky|
The weather did not improve and the rest of today was a bit of a wash out save a close encounter with some Mealy Redpolls and the dinosaurs of Aith although we did shelter in the fine community greenhouse during a particularly heavy splurge and by dusk we were ensconced in our cosy digs near Norby with lasagne in the oven, red wine flowing and Peter playing Led Zep and Pink Floyd on the acoustic guitar...
|Amazing what you can do with a fish farm buoy.... quite disturbing really|
29th September: Day 4:
The view from our window in our croft at Collaster was somewhat inclement this morning but after tea and toast we headed out into the somewhat blowy conditions. It was spitting but to be honest heavy rain would not have made too much difference first thing as the already nearly horizontal trees in the cutting opposite were doing their best to hug the ground even more. We persisted and dug out a single YBW and the odd Redwing and Blackbird but nowt else. Snipe failed to zig zag and got blown away rather than coming back down and three Whooper Swans loafed on the lochan.
|Our wee croft at Collaster - a little remote|
|And an irrisistable iris bed just outside the door|
The rest of the morning was spent trawling around the tiny villages of Huxter, Melby and Norby where we picked up a Redstart, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, two Blackbirds, six Wheatear, a nice male Linnet (another island tick I think), 15 Twite and a few Thrushes... oh and a very wet, warblery thing that annoyed us.
|The Huxter 'warbler' quarry...|
|And the view from said quarry|
We spent quite some time with the Lapwing and Golden Plover flocks and found eight Ruff and more Snipe but no American waifs but had to keep looking.
|Richly coloured Snipe|
Gannets were diving close in at Melby and a dapper Great Northern Diver in near summer plumage snorkeled in the shallows.
|Gannet - Bob Vaughan|
|Great Northern Diver - Bob Vaughan|
|Great Northern Diver|
Dale of Walls and the wonderful wooded cleft about half way down at Mid Dale was actually out of the worst of the wind and a Fieldfare became our first along with along few other thrushes and an active Spotted Flycatcher. The rain now returned with a vengeance and we escaped back to the digs for a bacon and egg buttie.
|Dale of Walls|
|The Mid Dale waterfall - I always picture a Waterthrush here...|
The rain was meant to be in for the day but this latest wave soon passed us by so back into the fray we went and headed off slightly south of Walls to try some unchartered territory which basically meant stopping at any tree or suitable garden for a mooch around. By this method we unearthed four more YBWs, Brambling and more Redwings between Scutta Voe and Sefster with a fine Peregrine and two Teal to add to the list.
|I do like a good old croft licheny doorway|
|The tree Scutta Voe - Brambling, Robins, Redwings and two YBWs|
|Brambling - Peter Moore|
Our last stop before the weather completely fell apart was Seli Voe where nine Mergansers and two Slavonian Grebes were feeding and we resorted to checking out some pretty amazing looking sites from the car before calling it a night.
This was followed but by a typically fractious 'game' of the slightly wafty Shetlandopoly where Peter showed his talent as a property developer and we were left to fight over the Utilities and Ferries while trying to 'Tak a risk' and get 'Get desel in yun cell' to avoid paying him any more dosh...
|We did never work out how to buy the other islands!|