7th & 8th October 2017: Day 12 & 13:
Saturday was our final full day but the
morning dawned with driving rain once again and even our intrepid crew decided
that a relaxing start and house tidy was in order. We eventually headed out in
light rain but under grey skies and a dropping wind. Time to dig out some birds...
The suburbs of Lerwick were our first stop but the pavement feeding Parrot
Crossbills were not present so we tried the wooded gardens of Helendale. There
is some amazing cover up here and it was duly logged for future visits. Three
Swallows hawked energetically around the houses and we could hear a single
Yellow-browed Warbler, ticking Robins and Goldcrests but no ‘jooping’. Suddenly
I heard one quietly calling just behind me and it popped out of the pine I was
next too and bounced off. It was a patchy red one so an immature male. The
roads do not link up so we drove in the direction it went as we had seen a
fruiting spruce there but as we pulled up and killed the engine the only sound
was off a Hawfinch loudly ticking away. In a mirror of the Crossbill it flew
before I could find it and went back the other way...
A non existent Dusky Warbler at Gulberwick was next although we did see the
fetching pink wheelbarrow before nipping over to Geosetter and Maywick on the
west coast in improving weather. Chaffinches were in evidence with about 40
seen along with a stubble field full of shimmering grey and white Rock Doves,
Ravens, Hoodies, two Rooks, Greylags, Starlings and Skylarks but in general it
felt like there has been a clear out of the generally good spread of commoner
migrants after days of persistent westerlies. Fulmars circled the cliffs and a
Red-throated Diver was offshore.
|St Ninians from Maywick|
|Maywick - never been all the way down the end before|
Sandwick was quiet once again but an immature Shag on the jetty was obliging along with a showy Rock Pipit and inquisitive Harbour Seals.
A final blast around Sumburgh was actually quite pleasant and the sun was even
trying to come out. David and Peter headed up to the head while Bob and I did
the quarries and Grutness with a dinky brown Lesser Whitethroat, two female
Brambling, Spot Fly, three Goldcrest and Grey Wagtail for our small bird
troubles along with many Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Twite and a buoyant flock of Kittiwakes and a yet another Red-throated Diver in the bay.
|The gable as you head up beyond Grutness with Noss through the window...|
|Coming in to land at Sumburgh|
|Brambling - Bob Vaughan|
Back to Hoswick for a final patch bash which added nothing extra but the
Whinchat was still around and Blackcap, Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler could now be
seen effortlessly in the completely still trees of the Orca.
|See you Hoswick...|
|Blackcap - imm male with plum cap|
We finished our packing and headed north but still found
time for another failed attempt at the Cunning Bunting and a
pleasant last look at Wester Quarff where a Redstart and a few Chiffies were
It was time to get out of wellies for the last time and wend our way to Lerwick
and our waiting Hrossey to head for Aberdeen but not before a quick revisit to
Helendale where we soon picked up an adult pair of Parrots in the same small
pine as earlier and watched them at close range in the fading light as they
dextrously removed and decimated the small unripe cones. It was so calm that
you could hear them unobtrusively snipping and chewing their way through the
cones and they were completely unperturbed by our proximity.
|The Parrot Tree - but let's not talk about yet another front garden with Pampas Grass in it...|
|and this one from Bob Vaughan|
The male even
dropped a half chewed cone as a keepsake for me.
And with that we called an end to another Shetland adventure. The weather may
have been somewhat troublesome and birding difficult but every visit is
different and although the big one eluded us, we had a wealth of species, any
one of which would headline a good southern day out.
The return ferry crossing was so smooth that I barely noticed it passing and by
seven the next morning we were on the road towards home with a quiet east
coast speeding our descent southwards. Pink-feet were liberally sprinkled
across fields and clear blue skies in Perthshire and the Lakes and scavenging
Red Kites dotted the main arterials while a male Goshawk flew across the road at the very same point as a female last year...
|Braco Moor - no Black Grouse but stunning views|
Comparing Shetland to Scilly is never fair and I am pleased to see that they
have had a great start to the season... they are very different in many ways
but both also reward those prepared to put in the leg work. We yomped upwards
of ten miles a day in our search for waifs as we undoubtedly did on Scilly in
the autumn visits of years gone past.
News on the way home of a White Crowned Sparrow on the inaccessible lump that
is Foula and the discovery of a stunning male Siberian Blue Robin of the
equally out of the way North Ronaldsay only fueled our desire to return to
these Northern Isles to partake in the hunt once again...