Tuesday 12 October 2010

Shetland: Day 2: Out Skerries

Sunday October 3rd
From first light we worked Sumburgh for a bit, but the only bird of note was the Radde's Warbler from a few days ago still hopping about in the same patch of nettles. Not much else going on, but seeing as it was our first proper day on the Islands, we were nonetheless pleased to be out and giving it a go.

We had decided that we would not twitch stuff, and instead find our own birds on South Mainland, so with today the only ferry to Out Skerries before next Friday, and a small easily workable island already hosting a stack of rarities, we immediately caved-in and went. Paul pretended to be pissed off at the divergence from "the plan", but secretly he was looking forward to seeing his first Citrine Wagtail.

We arrived at Vidlin in plenty of time, and had a poke around the only notable plantation. Paul refound the Barred Warbler, meanwhile Bradders found three Otters (in the loch, not the plantation). I ditched the bird in favour of the mammal, and we had an amazing loch-side encounter. One of them swam right up to us, came out of water, had a quick look, and then swam away. An incredible experience for someone from London. I've seen Otters before, but never like this.

The ferry ride was bumpy to say the least, but within five minutes of arrival the Citrine Wagtail was on display. We savoured it for a moment before moving swiftly on to the Black-headed Bunting which showed very well by the roadside and later in a field. Yet another new bird and I hadn't been on Shetland for even 24 hours.

We were now able to calm down a bit and actually bird the island. This netted a handful of Lapland Buntings near the airfield, a large flock of Snow Buntings flying over, never to be seen again, and some good views of the Short-toed Lark on the runway, which erased yet another 'bvd' from my notebook - last year's flight only views at West Runton.

We hadn't planned on going to Skerries on setting out in the morning, and so had no provisions. The bustling metropolis of Skerries has a population of 76 people, so we were surprised not to find a Tescos. We did find a village shop, open from 2-4pm, so at 2:01 we emptied it of food, possibly at the expense of the local population. If the next census reveals fewer than 76 people, you'll know why.

On the point of leaving news broke of a Lanceolated Warbler back where the Bunting had been, and with only thirty minutes until the boat left, we were somewhat pushed for time. We legged it back there and refound the bird, which appeared tiny, though somewhat plain. Of course when it comes to rare Locustella Warblers I am an expert, and being a tick, I had no difficulty in confirming it as a Lancy immediately. After all, it was tiny, what other feature do you need? On my list!

Photographs later showed it to be a small Gropper. Off my list...

Paul is pleased to add Citrine Wagtail to his UK list

Running Bird count: Short-toed Lark, Citrine Wagtail, Swainson's Thrush, Radde's Warbler, Booted Warbler, Lanceolated Warbler, Barred Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Black-headed Bunting.


  1. I love the new header - cracking picture, cracking holiday!!

  2. It really wasn't tiny.

    Oh, hang on, we've had that conversation.

  3. Well at least I identified that Locustella correctly (back at our digs?)!
    Excellent blog, by the way.

    Andy L