Wednesday 12 October 2022

Shetland Adventure - 3rd October 2022

We swiftly disembarked the Hjatland at just after seven and headed straight round to the Fjara for breakfast only to discover that they do not open on Mondays so we had to resort to popping into Tesco opposite to pick up some grub to keep us going. 

It was then up island to Brae where the Eastern Yellow Wagtail  was not parading around behind the Co-op so we continued north to Hillswick where the Great Grey Shrike was found before we had even parked up.  I have a very good track record of seeing Shrikes from moving vehicles up here!  Over the next hour we watched this distinctively plumaged bird conducting flighty circuits around its patch.  The striking wing and tail patterns suggest that this may actually be of the form 'Homeryeri' from south-east Russia.  The kinked white wing patch and two wholly white tail feathers leaving a black diamond in the middle were certainly very distinctive but a Shrike is a Shrike and you can’t go wrong regardless of the species or race.

Homeyer's Grey Shrike 

Homeyer's Grey Shrike - Peter Moore

Homeyer's Grey Shrike - Peter Moore

I put up three Redpolls from behind the shop, two Mealies and a gleaming snowball of an Hornemann’s but they bounded over the houses and Bradders head as they went. The marshy patch by the roadside held 19 Snipe, Rock Doves, 23 Mallard and rather oddly five Pheasants.  I had only seen one or two here before at Orbister.


Rock Dove

Rock Doves

Super tough Shetland Mega Starlings

Bradders skirted one side of the large Iris bed by the cemetery and Pete and I did the other to get to the lovely bay ahead.  If only we had gone through the middle…  A Great Northern Diver snorkelled just offshore with a Harbour Seal eyeballing us between dives.  A dead Gannet and Guillemot were on the sandy beach and I carefully checked them for rings without touching them – so sad to see.

Great Northern Diver 

Great Northern Diver 


Gannet - just look at that foot

Goose Barnacle

Sea spume bubbles

Sea spume bubbles caught around a piece of fishing line and some seaweed

Yellow Dung Fly rave - 'wave your hands in the air if you just don't care!'

It was grey and breezy and we used the car as a hide to check a soggy field for waders on the way out and counted 49 Ringed Plover, nine Snipe, 30 Turnstone, 16 Redshank, three Dunlin and two Curlew before moving on.

Ringed Plover

Common Snipe

On to the well vegetated gardens at Orbister but despite looking great they gave us nothing bar two Redwings, three Song Thrush, eight Blackbird and four Pheasant that exploded from cover.  Some Greylags fed in the fields below and a Grey Heron was out on the point.



A voyage of discovery at Sullom followed as Dave took us on a walk through the marshy fields at the end to a house and garden that looked promising.  It was very quiet although nine cackling Red Grouse were probably as many as I have ever seen here in total. A single Brambling flew over but the gardens only had tough Shetland Wrens and Starlings and a few Blackbirds and Redwings.  The rather well developed ivy tumescence on one of the ruins caused a momentary pause…

umm... well...

Red Grouse 

Shetland Wren

Rain followed us back to the car and so we sought shelter in the normally impenetrable pine copse back down the road through what counts as Sullom village.  It had been made far more accessible since my last visit and very quickly we started finding Goldcrests and there were Redwings and Blackbirds foraging in the leaflitter of the deciduous margins.  Three Siskins were in the Alders and I was delighted to find my first Shetland Great Spotted Woodpecker as it actively removed Spruce cones and jammed them into a fence post for easier access. We could hear Pink-footed Geese and a Sparrowhawk circled over. 

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Great Spotted Woodpecker

There were some fine patches of Peltigera lichen amongst the lush mosses and a single Eristalis tenax hoverfly was the only insect above Gnat size seen.

Peltigera sp

Surprising the things you find in Shetland's woods

Back to Brae and then onto Lower Voe where another Horny ‘Poll had been hanging out but a walk up the hill in the grey only produced five streaky Mealy Redpolls, four Woodpigeons, a female Sparrowhawk and a pair of Essex reprobates. It was very quiet.

Gang of Hoodies

Onwards west, only pausing at the Cake Fridge of Happiness which not only had Tiffin but now has self service coffee on tap with the usual honesty box. 

Down at Aith the Olive Backed Pipit had been refound in the Dinosaur filled community woodland but was being a bugger in the long grass around the margins.  A couple of internal circuits failed to find it but it did the decent thing and came back out in the corner nearest the cars and perched up on the wires for a short while after giving its shortened Tree Pipit-like call which was good to hear. 

Olive Backed Pipit

News broke as we were watching it of a Pechora Pipit back up at Hillswick in that field that we skirted around earlier.  It was one of Pete’s most wanted and so off we went back north once again.

We parked just outside the village as we could predict the car scrum that would ensue.  Jake and Drew who had found the bird had left it where it was lurking in the iris bed field until most birders had arrived before an organised sweep was made of the field (just as we would have done to see if there was anything in there) and the Pechora duly popped up several times along with Meadow Pipits and both Jack and Common Snipe. 

As with the Olive-backed Pipit, the fact that the bird called (a high metallic ‘dziip’) was probably the highlight for those who have been lucky enough to see the species before but with patience you could see the tramlines, double white wing bars, malar splodge, shorter tail, white underparts and restricted breast spotting in flight. I was lucky enough to see it twice land on the cemetery wall by simply sitting and waiting for the bird to come to me.

Pechora Pipit - Peter Moore

Pechora Pipit - Peter Moore

Pechora Pipit - Peter Moore

With the crowd dispersing we called it a night and made our way back south to get some supplies from the Co-op and then the long wiggle down to Tingwall and across to our Croft at Riskaness to the west of Walls and quite literally in the middle of nowhere.

The warmth of The Waddle (the croft name) welcomed us into its snug embrace and Pete rustled up a fine Cottage Pie to get us through to morning.

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