Tuesday 27 September 2011

Desperate Shetland birders start looking at sheep

No, we haven't seen one. In fact, we've seen nothing.
It's been bad, really bad. The wind-speed increased to 6,000mph overnight, and the few birds that were here got blown to Scandinavia. This is a right bugger if the truth be told, as ironically enough we want the birds currently in Scandinavia to be blown to us. To cut a long story short (on this blog?) we have been out all day and seen very little. When I tell you that the highlight was a singing Robin and a monumental 25 Woodpigeons, you will perhaps understand where I am coming from. I don't know if it's the wind that is preventing us from finding birds, or if there are simply no birds to find. After eight straight months of westerlies, I suspect the latter.

So so close, and yet so so far

But we tried, which is the important thing right? We tried western beaches for uber-flocks of Buff-breasted Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers and the like, and found the sum total of about eight Turnstone, six Ringed Plover and a Knot. We tried plantation after plantation, driving about 20,000 miles in search of sycamores, and found three Yellow-browed Warblers, a Chiffchaff, and a handful of Willow Warblers. In eight hours of birding. A poor return? Yes, so we started looking at sheep.

A truly lovely sheep
I found a particularly attractive one at Dale of Walls (I'm releasing the location only on the understanding that she's spoken for). An excellent-looking ravine brimming with cover, about a mile east of the Atlantic, caused us to make an emergency stop. Wow, habitat! Amazing habitat! There could be anything in there, we said. There wasn't, there was nothing. Not a single bloody bird. Then I noticed the sheep. I'm not saying I'm in love, but it's close. Let's just say that it was the most exciting thing that happened all day.   

When it's bad up here, it's pretty bloody bad. It got better though as at about 3pm it started raining heavily. As I say, this probably had no impact whatsoever on our ability to find birds, but to ensure that we ended the day on zero we packed it in and went home for a cup of tea. As someone once said, things can only get better, though looking at the forecast the wind seems set to get stronger. That would make Shetland windier than the surface of Jupiter. Having been here for three days now, I contend that to be entirely possible.

PS I swear that there has been absolutely no exaggeration in this post.

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