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!

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