If you remember my last post, I mentioned a 'first' for Britain turning up on the Shetland Isles the day we returned home; that was on the 9th October. Well, on Thursday the 13th October, the news services were in melt down, as a Siberian Accentor had been found mid-afternoon in the village of Easington near Spurn, in Yorkshire. It was too late to go that afternoon, and after sorting out who could go and who couldn't, it turned out that from the usual crew, there was only Neil Hagley available - the others were either working or had something else planned. Keeping an eye on the the news service, the bird seemed to go to roost early evening, so Neil and I set off at 2.30am on Friday morning, arriving at the site in readiness for first light. Well, after an uneventful journey, we arrived and parked up at the bottom of Vicary Lane - we even managed a few zeds before it was time to go to where the bird had been frequenting. On reaching the said area, we found that there were probably 300 other birders already there, and more turning up by the minute! It was not long before the bird had been seen - and for the first 20 minutes it was mayhem - but once the the volunteers from the The Spurns Obs got a queuing system in place, all the birders were getting superb views of a 2nd for Britain. In the subsequent days, more Siberian Accentors were being found along the east coast, and as I write this post, seven birds have been found so far in the UK, and well over a hundred in Europe! Having had our fill and taking some images of the Accentor, Neil and I went for a mooch around Spurn as strong easterly winds were still in evidence. It was just amazing to watch bird migration in action, as birds seemed to be filling all the trees and bushes - especially at Sammy's Point; from there we ventured to the Bluebell Cafe where a Olive-backed Pipit had been found, and also a quite showy Shorelark. After a few hours,we decided to go and have a last look at the Accentor before coming home. It was a bit strange going back, as there were only about 30 birders there compared to the 500 to 600 that were there when we left earlier in the day.All in all, we had a great day out. Below are some images of the birds we bumped in to throughout the day.
As always, thanks for stopping by, and any comments are welcome! Until the next time....
Well, the 29th of September came around, and it was time for my annual pilgrimage to the Shetland Isles with my birding buddies Steve James, John Waters and Dave Gray, for a 10 day stay on this archipelago of islands off the NE coast of mainland Britain. I won't bore you with the travel details - just to say for the first time, both flights were bang on time - with the wind at Sumburgh gusting, to say the least! - hence our approach into Sumburgh airport was a bit hairy! John didn't think it was funny though, as flying isn't his favourite past-time, ha ha! We were staying at Garth Cottage at Aith, the west side of Shetland mainland, where we stayed last year. Straight after lunch we went out birding, first calling in at Michael's Wood just at end of our road as there had been a Greenish Warbler in the area earlier that week; after a while John saw what he thought was a Leaf Warbler flitting through some Sycamore. Calling all the lads to its' location, we soon got on the bird, and realised it was the Greenish Warbler! Dave put the news out that the bird was still there, and we also had lots of Yellow-browed Warblers at this same site throughout the holiday. The easterly winds that had been happening for a few days prior to us arriving were set to continue for the rest of the following week. What were these easterlies going to bring to Shetland?
Just a bit of useless information for your good selves - the Aith lifeboat is the most northerly lifeboat station in the United Kingdom
We stayed around our local area for the remainder of the day, noting Raven, Hooded Crow (which are really common), Gannet, Red-breasted Merganser lots of Golden Plover and Lapwing, Curlew a Redshank and Turnstone feeding in the fields - and the first of many Yellow-browed Warblers.
Over the next couple of days, we did our own thing, trying to find our own birds - well the lads did, as a foot injury prevented me getting into the plantations. A Shrike found in fields behind a council estate in Aith on the 30th turned out to be Brown Shrike! Other bird seen were Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Redpoll, Rock Pipit and Ringed Plover. The following day, on a walk around Aith marina Steve found a Barred Warbler - good start to the day! We headed towards Laxo, and like every other day, birding as you go. The Red-backed Shrike and the Bluthroat were still showing at Laxo and our first Pied Flycatcher for this trip was noted
The Laxo Bluethroat
All I can say about October 2nd is it was a red letter day. We were out doing our usual stuff, when the news service burst into life - there was a Lancolated Warbler at Boddam. The rules in our crew are that if anyone of us needs a bird for a 'BOU' tick, then we go. Dave was the only one that had already seen one, so after a while we were with 70 or 80 other birders looking into a really well established garden, trying to get a glimpse of this iconic little mouse-like bird; after some time and a little patience, the 'Lancy' didn't disappoint the crowd, showing well, down at times to just a couple of feet away, and the three who needed to see it got great views! Dave appeared at that point, saying he had got news of Orcas off Sumburgh Head. None of us had seen Orca , part from Dave - but he had never seen them in British waters. We set off to view them; they were distant, but never the less you could see that massive dorsal fin as they went slowly around the headland. On our way back,the lads stopped off for a Blyth's Reed Warbler at Levenwick and on coming back up from there, we stopped to have a look over Levenwick Bay, only to see a large cetacean breaking the surface! It was to big to be a Harbour Porpoise so it could only be Minke Whale, giving us two British cetacean ticks in one day! Wow! Fulmar, Sanderling and our first Redwing were also added to the list - what a day we had!
The 4th saw us on our first trip off the mainland to the most northerly isle of Unst in search of a Paddyfield Warbler, which I needed. It didn't take long for Dave and John to find it in more or less the same place as a Pechora Pipit I ticked 2 years previously, in a Norwick garden. Two new 'BOU' ticks in two days - I couldn'tt complain! We added Little Bunting, Twite, Spotted Flycatcher, Wigeon and Great Skua to the list. On our way home, the news service came up with a Swainson's Thrush on Fetla; Steve needed it, but it was too late to go that day, so we convinced him to make the trip tomorrow so the following morning, we were all up earlier than normal, in order to get the ferries over to Fetla. On reaching the site, 4 birders were already there and had been looking, but there was no sign of the thrush. Dave Fairhurst and Judd Hunt were also there with a group from 'Shetland Nature'. Within 10 minutes, however, we were all getting great views of the American vagrant; where it had been is anyone guess, but Steve got a 'BOU' tick - though it was flying about and it did look like it had a damaged wing. We then decided to go and try to find some of our own stuff, but were intercepted by a very excited birder traveling in the opposite direction, telling us his mate had found a White's Thrush at Feal Burn, so dropping the lads off halfway up the burn, I drove down to the bottom and parked up as my foot was still giving me grief. The lads had good views as it flew by them, but with now a few birders there, the bird had gone into thick vegetation; one birder slowly walked to where it was last seen and suddenly, the thrush took to air, flew up the hill, circled and went back into the burn again but what a great bird in flight! Robin and Song Thrush were also noted
The 6th and again we were on the mainland doing our own thing. We were in Lewick for a while so we checked Clickimin Loch and added Whooper Swan, Goldeneye and Oystercatcher, and then slowly made our way back to Aith. Swallow was noted. Again, late afternoon, news came through of Siberian Thrush at Uyeasound, Unst. Dave didn't need it but for his list, but we other three did; again, it was too late to get there, so Steve, being our 'transport logistics officer' sorted out the timetable for the crossings, and once again, we were up early to catch the two ferries to Unst. When we got there, there were lots of birders already looking for the bird, but sadly there was no sign of it. Second prize was an Olive-backed Pipit - a nice bird all the same! We stayed on the island for most of the day, seeing Whinchat, Fieldfare, Kestrel, another Bluethroat at Norwick, and Osprey (a real good bird for Shetland) were noted, then just to finish the day off on the Unst, another White's Thrush was found at Skaw -at the last house in Britain - and this time great views!
It's the last day, and again we were on the mainland, doing some general birding, Pallas's Warbler was nice to see - couldn't remember the last time I had seen one! We did try for a Dusky Warbler in the same area, but Steve could only hear it 'tac-ing'. Eider was added, as was Brambling> The amount of Yellow-browed Warblers on Shetland this year is the most I've ever seen - they seemed to be everywhere, and long may it continue as they're great little birds!
We had a great 10 days on Shetland again this year, saw some brilliant birds, missed a couple, but best of all had some great laughs with some good mates. Special thanks to John Waters (catering manager), Steve James (transport and logistics) and last but not least, Dave Gray (News-service provider) Just in case you're wondering - I was the chauffeur for the duration!
Bluethroat at Norwick
Shetland Wren (islandicus zetlandicus)
This is the ferry 'The Good Shepherd' which is the lifeline to Fair Isle
As we landed in Birmingham, news broke of a first for Britain, found by Judd Hunt and Hugh Harrop - a Siberian Accentor! Just what you want to hear as you taxi towards the gate on the final leg of your trip home ...... But, I did feel more sorry for the lads that had just checked in at Sumburgh as this news broke! This isn't the end of the Siberian Accentor story, so check out my next blog!
As always, thanks for stopping by, hope you enjoyed reading about our exploits.