Saturday, 21 October 2017

Shetland 26th September - 8th October 2017: Day 3 & 4

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

Red-breasted Flycatcher

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

Sand Lodge 
  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.

Hooded Crow

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. 

Slavonian Grebes
Dinner consisted of cheesy garlic bread for starters and a plate of miscellaneous Scottish pork by-products and tattie lattices for main, washed down with a cheeky Argentinian red...

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!

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Shetland 26th September - 8th October 2017: The Journey Up

26th September: The Journey Up... Day 1: 
And so, after meeting Bradders and Bob V in Colchester and collecting Peter Moore, fresh from Dorset at Jim Lawrence's Huntingdon pad, we headed north and thankfully the quick re-identification of an in the hand flycatcher in Yorkshire precluded a detour (but not Subway related indigestion) and the late afternoon was spent in Northumberland with my first visit to Lindesfarne where two Yellow-browed Warblers obliged but a creeping Locustella seen by locals eluded us. 

Onto Lindesfarne

The Snook

The Snook

The Snook - before the sun went in!

A couple of Redwings dropped in and a Pale-bellied Brent was with the Mute Swans on the way back to the mainland. Before the sea fret came in there were many pristine Red Admirals and fat Bluebottles sunning themselves on the wall and pampas grass of the Snook including an huge blue green monster with an orange face that Phil Collins identified even from my poor photo as Cynomya mortuorum.

Red Admiral

Red Admirals


Field Grasshopper but I have never seen one this wholly green before
Pirri-Piri Burr

Pirri-Piri Burr- the only flower I found

Having extricated ourselves from the Pirri-Piri Burr (A New Zealand escapee) we headed back up the road where the wonderfully friendly golfers of Goswick welcomed us and the delightfully obliging juvenile Long-tailed Skua while skeins of Pink-feet ‘wink-winked’ over the fields... 

'Gonna get your ball....'

The Long-tailed Skua would go for regular flights the whole length of the golf course before returning to its favoured fairway!

Pinkies - a sound of any autumn
Someone turned the sun out...

Long-tailed Skua

A magical evening to get proceedings started and capped off with a fine pub burger in Berwick-upon-Tweed and a couple of pints of fine ale which probably assisted in the wrongness of the toilet roll dispenser in the rather spelndidly posh Youth Hostel in town!

This so discombobulated Bob that he dropped his phone down the loo...

27th September: The Journey Up... Day 2:  
After a traditional Golden Arches Borders breakfast we made our way to St Abbs Head for a quick skirt around Mire Loch. 

St Abbs Head

Mire Loch

The lochside trees were full of crests and Chiffies but although we could not find the Bonelli's Warbler we did find four dinky, striped Yellow-broweds, two Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and a Treecreeper. Robins ticked and four Brambling and a party of Redpoll dropped in while Bullfinches tooted invisibly and they had obviously been feeding on the Rowans whose berries littered the ground. 

To be honest it was the seriously irate local shepherdess howling abuse at her disobedient hound that raised the most smiles. “Get back here you useless bastard mutt!” was possibly the mildest phrase used and quite audible at about half a mile! 

Shepherdess (top right) before it all went very wrong for her - and her dog

A fine Romeo!

St Abbs and its rugged folded cliffs was left behind and we continued north over the new Forth crossing which is truly spectacular.

Bradders sat nav was having locational issues at this point
We made for Kilminning near Crail where a field of Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Yellowhammers were buffeted in the wind and offshore, Gannets careened by along with solitary Manx Shearwater, Arctic Skua and Razorbill. 

The sun popped out at Kilminning but the wind had got up...

An the Isle of May in the distance...


Goldfinch hanging onto the Swedish Whitebeam

The scrub was very quiet bar a couple of Goldcrests and a goodly number of Goldfinches and Greenfinches. It was however the very obliging, boisterous young Barred Warbler that plucked elderberries at close range in the sunshine that instantly became the bird of the day.

Barred Warbler

Barred Warbler

Nice shevrons!
A Common Darter - the last I would see for two weeks

Some fine Puffballs - not sure of species yet

And I could not leave out the tattie harvesters!

The 'Hrossey' to Shetland in Aberdeen beckoned and although the weather looked a little interesting for the first couple of days, the wind direction was superb so fingers were crossed...

A murky Aberdeen