Monday 22 October 2018

Shetland Day 4: 2nd October 2018

It was blowing hard when we got up with a sky split between rain-heavy, fast moving clouds and blue sky. The forecast suggested that we may be better off up on Unst where the weather may be slightly more settled from mid afternoon and so with news of the River Warbler at Houlland coming on we headed for the double ferry crossing to get there.

The view from Orwick Lodge before we left...
The journey was uneventful and the Yell Rally not entirely necessary and we were at the remote hillside site before lunch.  

It looked a bit grim out on Unst in the distance...

There was no one else there and it took a little while to locate the correct Iris filled gully but not before the heavens had opened and seen us sheltering among the sheep poo behind the wall of a deserted cottage until the worst of it had past.

Teaming down - squat and wait

Pete leading the way - the grass angle tells how breezy it was!
Two other birder had now arrived and had seen it almost immediately and a few others were now appearing on site. 

We had envisaged that it would need to be ‘found’ but advise from others had recommended a wait and watch approach and this indeed proved most worthwhile with superb views of this most skulking of Locustella as it crept and scurried mouse-like through the foliage. Having only had a couple in the UK with the last in Wigan way back in June 1995, it was most satisfying to be able to see another. 

Bradders either at the end or actually emitting the rainbow...

River Warbler - Peter Moore
Peter Moore
It is amazing how different a species can look away from what you have normally experienced. My previous birds had been singing males sitting almost vertically, exposed on a willow with head up and bill open and tail quivering along with the staccato reeling. The views we had at Houlland were if anything all the more gratifying.  We even returned later in the afternoon for cheeky seconds by ourselves when it gave even better views having just had a bath in the little stream.

Peter Moore

Amazingly Thrush Nightingale-like at times when not moving
Norwick is always a memorable spot and although a Kestrel, Wheatear, three Blackcaps, Chiffchaff and 70 Twite did not set the notebook on fire, it still has the power to capture you.  There is only one settlement further north from here, Skaw, just over the hill and you feel that there is nothing between you and Norway bar a rolling deep blue sea and a blizzard of Gannets and Fulmars.


I know that the nights are long in the winter but naming your sheep and then painting Yvonne on the side??
A very robust dog Otter fished along the beach and became number seven. He knew we were there and was unperturbed and slipped silently away when he had finished his snack.

We gave Uyeasound two attempts for the super smart American Golden Plover before we found it feeding very loosely with a flock of Goldies in the field behind the house of our 2016 Siberian Thrush discovery... happy days.  Rather oddly it never flew when the main flock had a panic and simply hunkered down.  It did this twice while we were there. My first in quite some time and a new Shetland bird for me. 

American Golden Plover

American Golden Plover

American Golden Plover - Peter Moore

A female Merlin zoomed through and 27 Tufted Duck were with 13 Whoopers and two Mute Swans on Easter Loch but we could find no Yanks. 

The sky changed so quickly...
A trundle up the road produced a sudden stop as a little bird flicked in front and landed on a fence. ‘Yellow-browed Warbler!’ Dave and I shouted! Who would have thought that we would be so enthusiastic about a little waif that we have always taken for granted up here? 

Yellow-browed Warbler
Anyway this stripy gem performed fabulously on the garden fence while we watched from the car.  Birding is always about perspective and something that is common one year (we had 160 in 2016) can be suddenly be the highlight of a day in another.

A final dog Otter at dusk back at the ferry at Belmont rounded off a surprisingly good day and our gamble of a trip north had paid off.

Otter - Peter Moore

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