Monday, 26 September 2011

Hard work in High Winds

Eshaness Lighthouse with attractive passerine migrant
It is always windy in Shetland. As a result the tallest tree measures just 25cm. Fact. This makes it easy to scan the treetops, but also means that you usually have to peg yourself down to prevent yourself being blown away. Today it was so windy that I saw a House Sparrow blown across a tin roof. It did a kind of cartwheel before righting itself and managing to cling on again. Or maybe it was just having fun, let's face it, there's piss all else to do on Shetland, you might as well engage in a bit of amateur gymnastics for the amusement of your fellow passerines.

Lovely Sheep

Today was all about seeing rare birds badly, and common birds really well. Some you win, some you lose. The wind was blowing at about 165mph, which probably didn't help matters. The first bird we got terrible views of was a Coue's Arctic Redpoll. This was a great shame as I have never seen this race before. I got it flying away, could have been a Bullfinch, and then briefly in a bush, could have been a Linnet. These two briefest of glimpses took about an hour each, and to really keep our spirits up we all got a good and thorough soaking in driving rain. Happy days. Making us even happier was a sod of an Acro that we spent more time chasing, which when it finally gave up hiding turned out to be the one species we didn't want it to be.

It got better though. We got about 0.2s of a Barred Warbler, and 0 seconds of a Red-breasted Flycatcher. These prolonged views cost another hour or so, but at least it didn't rain again. The wind did increase to 500mph though. Great for getting rid of dandruff.

All was not in vain though. I found a lovely northwestern-type Redpoll at the very top of Mainland Shetland whilst stalking a particularly nice Wheatear, and Bradders found a silky Wood Warbler at Busta House. Bird of the day award probably goes to the 103 Snow Buntings at Eshaness - a proper Shetland bird in a proper Shetland landscape.

So, a hard day. When the wind has been dominated by westerlies for about a month, finding Sibe passerines is always going to be rather challenging. We didn't even get a Yellow-browed today, that's how difficult it has been. The wind is relentless. When you get back indoors after a day in the field you feel raw. You tingle, and the face that looks back at you in the mirror is bright red. Can you imagine what Howard looks like? 

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