Wednesday 13 October 2010

Shetland: Day 6: Unst again

Thursday October 7th

The plan was to bash Sumburgh for as long as it took to find a White's Thrush. It looked promising, with the wall running down from the farm to the hotel hosting three Spotted Flycatchers and five Wheatears. Meanwhile a skein of thirteen Pink-footed Geese flew over.

Then the pager went off with positive news of the Lanceolated Warbler at Skaw on Unst. Although this was a mere five minutes from the Arctic Redpoll yesterday, news travels slowly on Shetland, and we had been unaware of it. Hoping it was a real one, we decided to go. The birding up there is great anyway, and we could enjoy the Redpoll all over again. Any excuse...

We met the Drunks at Toft; they too had caved and were in twitching mode. In fact all the cars on the Yell-Unst ferry were birders, and all of them were headed for the Lancy, so we drove in a convoy to the most northerly settlement in Britain. Once there we found a few other birders scratching their heads, but they were looking in the wrong place. Vince and Steve, already on Unst, had given me very good directions for the bird which I disseminated, and soon enough a line of birders stretched across the favoured field. The bird duly popped up, flew into the next field and disappeared. I followed it, and almost trod on it. Literally in front of my foot, it dived like a mouse into a hole in the grass and emerged about fifteen metres to my right a short while later, never having left cover - astonishing.

Gradually we managed to marshall ourselves into some semblance of order, and eventually the bird came right out into the open as it fed along a fence-line. The sound of camera motor-drives was insane, like a press conference. The bird was untroubled by the commotion, and looking at it, it was very apparent that the bird on Skerries had never in a million years been a Lancy. Live and learn.

We left the bird in peace, exchanged high fives etc with the Drunks who now had to head home, and went back to Norwick for the Redpoll, which in contrast to yesterday we found in under five minutes. You win some, you lose some. It never posed as well as before, but it was a great bird to watch. Here is what I reckon is a Greenland Redpoll (form rostrata) for comparison.

Not a lot more to tell really. Paul and Monkey went off to try and refind the Little Bunting and see what else they could dig up, and I plonked myself on the beach and took photos of waders. Everyone happy.

Running Bird count: Buff-breasted Sandpiper x 2, Glaucous Gull, Short-toed Lark, Buff-bellied Pipit, Citrine Wagtail, Swainson's Thrush, Radde's Warbler, Booted Warbler Sykes Warbler, Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, Lanceolated Warbler, Barred Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler x 5, Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, Little Bunting, Black-headed Bunting.

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