Another dawn attempted to break but was once again battered
back by the rain and we timed our departure between squalls and headed straight
for the Dale of Walls. It was to become
a day of contrasting skies – bruised black and foreboding for starters followed by a main course of
torrential lashing rain with rainbows and fleeting blue skies for dessert. The birding was challenging but we were never
too far from the car and managed to stay dry.
|We spoke to the very nice lady who runs her wool business from this isolated croft|
The final Elder and Sallow by the last house at Dale held a
bird – and Willow Warbler was added to the paltry warbler total. It was actively feeding and looked well and
was obviously waiting for a break in the weather in which to move on. Rock and
Meadow Pipits poked around the paddocks with the House Sparrows, Starlings and a
few Blackbirds, Twite and Turnstones and a glance out to sea saw Foula
disappearing and a black wall approaching at best part of 50mph. We only just made it to the car in time.
|David off to check that bush|
|Willow Warbler - Peter Moore|
As it passed the hillside lit up but the wind had not abated
and the Redshank, Lapwing and Snipe in a flooded paddock were all hunkered down. With a gap available in the weather we went
and sat in the gully out of the worst of the wind and almost as soon as the sun
came out a nicely contrasting Siberian
Chiffchaff popped out to briefly feed on the small flies that also instantly
appeared. David had a normal olive
Chiffie higher up but otherwise a Redwing and Wren were the only other birds.
|Lapwing and Snipe|
|Sheltering Rock Doves|
Another tactical retreat and then over the top and into
Walls where the shop delivered… the fridge was fully stocked with the widest
array of pies from a variety of bakeries we had ever seen. There were many pie-ticks to be had with the
All Day Breakfast, Steak and Cracked Black Pepper, Steak and Cheese and Cheese
and Bacon as well as the slightly disturbing Cheese, Bean and Potato and Macaroni
|Worshipping at the Pile of Pies|
We stocked up for a couple of
days and moved on out to Sandness and Melby stopping first by the school to
look for a Barred Warbler in the windswept bushes and seeing a Brambling and Chiffchaff
fly out and get blown back in. There
were 12 Whooper Swans in the fields and on the lochan with a few duck and ten
Barnacle Geese were found battling down the coast still determinedly on the
move despite their already epic flight.
The urge to keep going seemingly overrides the desire to pause.
|Barnacle Geese |
|Barnacle Geese and Gannets|
The Magpie had been in this area for nearly three months and
at only the second record for Shetland it was technically the rarest bird on
the Shetlands and I had just commented that I was not going to spend hours
searching for it when I found it sheltering on a fence in the lee of a pine
tree. I may have excitedly shouted ‘Magpie!!’
down the radio. I doubt that will ever
|Shetland Sheep |
Down at the Melby end we were treated to fine views of a big
dog Otter as it rolled around the seaweed before resuming its hunting while
Harbour Seals bobbed amongst Tysties and both Great Northern and Red-throated
Divers in the bay.
|sinuous Otter |
|Red-throated Diver - Peter Moore|
Another squall was
fast approaching and I stayed outside in the lee of the house while it hammered
the coast. Being sheltered I was able to
watch the Gannets and Kittiwakes masterfully navigating the conditions and
still feeding in the turbulent waters.
|sheering Turnstone |
|Gannet - full crop|
|Plunge fishing Kittiwake|
It soon passed and the appearance of a windy summer’s day
resumed. We checked a few fields further
west finding a Ruff with some Golden Plovers but nothing else.
| Ruff |
We retraced our steps and then headed off toward the West
Papa ferry at West Burrafirth where we tried to check a wonderful garden from
the road but it was just too windblown.
The sheltered edge of a large plantation looked more promising but it
too only yielded two Goldcrest and a few Redwing and Blackbirds that two
Sparrowhawks were attempting to snaffle.
After sitting out another couple of squalls we had a walk
out to the headland where fine views, kronking Ravens and a creeping Wren were
the only birds while a flock of 22 Pink-footed Geese followed us out as they
headed strongly south down Mainland.
The day was ended at De Gardins of Sand which were
beautifully sheltered in places but save for three Goldcrest and the odd
Blackbird they were silent. I do not
think I have ever been up here when a consistent westerly airflow has so
completely diminished the number and variety of passerines that we see. The
phrase ‘mega or bust’ was weighing heavier every day.
Pete had decided that it was the full roast dinner night so
we started to head back to The Waddle stopping only to allow me to take some
pictures of the amazing artwork by Bonhaus on the ruins of Park Hall on the outskirts of
Bixter. They appear to have been painted
onto recycled woven plastic sacking which explains their resilience to the
Shetland weather. I loved them. The eyes followed you around.
|And Peter's roast - magnificent|
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