Monday, 17 October 2022

Shetland Adventure - 4th October 2022

The rain lashed down last night and rattled a pre-dawn Reveille on the Velux above my head so it was decided on a post breakfast jaunt down to Tesco in Lerwick to shop for the week.  A patchy 1st winter Glaucous Gull in the main Harbour was our only birding on the way and we watched it from the car as it paddled around with the Great Black Backs and Herring Gulls before returning home to Riskaness to stock the fridge.

The Waddle at Riskaness

View from The Waddle

Glaucous Gull

Glaucous Gull

We were soon off out again and ventured further west in the improving conditions towards Burrastow, stopping to check a couple of patches and watch the doe eyed Harbour Seals bananaring on the rocks with ease.

Harbour Seals - leisurely slumped

Harbour Seals

The garden of the big house had a couple of Redwings and Blackbirds and 13 Twite bathed in the ditch once again raising the question about birds sheltering from the rain but then having a bath as soon as it finishes. 



The copse at the end held a Wren for Pete and me and a Chiffchaff and Blackcap for Bradders when news filtered through of a probable Lanceolated Warbler down at Wester Quarff.  This was Pete’s real bogey bird having tried very hard over the last few years after probables, possibles, Grasshopper Warblers and even Chiffchaffs but could we persuade Mr B to head south again.  Peter was speaking to the Olivers who had found the bird and it was not in irises and actually felt gettable. I could hear most of the conversation and Pete was becoming glazed with anticipation so when Mr B got back up to us we both spoke enthusiastically and I may have mentioned a fictional dry stone wall and ditch in the hope that it would get Pete his chance.  A few minutes later and Agnetha was in Dynamic Mode as we hit the road south.

There were only about twenty people on site when we arrived and they had been carefully keeping tabs on the Lancy as it worked its way through the grass at their feet.  It chose that moment to flick across the road into the little ditch and within minutes we were all watching this wee mouse of a bird creep under the grasses along the bank at just a few feet range.  Thermal imagers have become a ‘thing’ in recent years and over the course of our visit they were a real godsend for finding this bird.  Someone would find a thermal spot and watch it move, allowing others to focus on where it may appear rather than encroaching on it which actually resulted in some superb field views as it would pop out and reach up for an insect before crawling back down again.  It worked its way into the adjacent field and the growing line of birders formed a patient line along it. 

Quiet and patient - the bird would walk past the whole line

The cows were a bit agitated and the owner (a local birder) requested that the bird be encouraged back onto the other side of the road which is rightly or wrongly what happened. Having had fantastic views earlier on I kept back and let the new arrivals through and wandered down to look for the King Eider which had unfortunately gone north before timing my entry into the adjacent field with perfection as the Lancy flew right past me and plonked itself in the grass just a few feet away.  The circle reformed to keep tabs on the bird and I took my leave and walked across the valley passing a fine male Goosander in the river mouth and then climbed up the other side.

Lanceolated Warbler - such skinny legs - Peter Moore

Lanceolated Warbler - Peter Moore

And just for a laugh - Essence of Lanceolated Warbler


Over 150 Redwing were moving through the top fields but I could find nothing different and a Siskin and pair of Stonechat were my only finds before the lads came to pick me up.

From here we headed back into Lerwick and the Burn of Sand which runs between the houses on the south side of town.  None of us had been here before but it was noted for future visits as it was well vegetated and easily workable.  The Redpoll flock found us eventually but we could only find Mealies and a few Siskin but Robin, Song Thrush and a brief Yellow-browed Warbler were also seen.

Not a bad patch behind your house

A proper Dwarf Willow sp - not sure which yet

Sunlight on a Mealy Redpoll

Our last stop was Veensgarth to have a look by the pumping station. The willows and paddocks were full of birds and I stayed on the road to count what came out and ended up with 228 Redwings for my troubles.  Sixteen Rook drifted off towards Loch of Tingwall while the Gott Turtle Dove had probably already gone to bed.


Toad in the Hole with Cauliflower Cheese and veg for dinner was followed by a failed attempt at the early Aurora seen further south but did reveal a stunning star scape similar to that seen in Lesvos before the cloud came back in, even obscuring the still rising Moon.

The Plough

Jupiter and four of his moons

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