Thursday 22 September 2011


The sunny (sic) skies of Wanstead are being left behind. That bastion of improper behavior, Long Wood, swapped for a few stunted excuses for trees on the outskirts of Lerwick. It's a fair old way, and, on the cheap, will take me 24 hours to get there, but it is a very exciting propostion. Last year the sun shone, and I made hay. It was an unforgettable experience. Hard work, but very satisfying. I came away with six lifers, and a list of rare birds that ran to several volumes.

This year may be different, and I may see nothing, but I am going to give it a go. I'm not there for long, only a few days, but the prospect is rather mouth-watering. A few of the guys are up there already; so far I remain ungripped, though a second Swainson's Thrush would have been nice. Last year that was almost the first bird I saw on the archipelago. My journey starts with a cab, and then a plane. Then a bus, and then a boat before I finally set foot on Shetland. I've read that coming in by boat is the best way to fully appreciate just where you're arriving. Hopefully it'll be magical for me, too.

I'm packed and ready to go. This was a long process, during which I packed and unpacked almost all possible combinations of optical equipment. I've ended up scopeless, but with two cameras and two lenses, which should probably be enough. The second camera is in case the first one breaks, a slim chance, but a chance nonetheless. I am such a dweeb. Also coming is my trusty monopod-cum-icepick, though if I encounter ice up there then there is a serious problem.

My year list, for those of you counting, is 233. I confess this is more than I anticipated, and does not bode well. I've not seen any Swan other than Mute, nor any Diver other than Red-throated. It could all go wrong. That said, before Shetland last year I was on 266, considerably more, so an assault on 300 just isn't going to happen. A Rock Pipit in Penzance last weekend was my first of the year, proof positive I am not a filthy year-lister like Bradders. We'll see what happens, but my conscience is clear. Talking of ticks, there's a Sandhill Crane currently near Aberdeen, and I will have eight hours there with nothing to do........

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