Sunday 20 October 2013

Shetland - days 2 and 3

The wifi in the flat died, what can I say? I know that daily updates were more or less required, but there was nothing that I could do about it. I'm currently holed up in my Sis's place in Edinburgh, and internet is back on the menu - so what happened? Well, we worked bloody hard is what happened, we flogged it, and although we didn't bag the big one, there was a pleasing result on day three. But first, day two, where we went up to Unst for the day. Lovely weather, but few birds. We snagged a Yellow-browed Warbler at Halligarth, but by far the best birds were the Snow Buntings - several large flocks, a couple probably over a hundred birds - some way from the uberflocks of a few weeks past, but assuming we saw distinct groups, likely over 400 birds - great sights, and great sounds. A really nice day birding, but obviously quiet. Late in the afternoon the wind died completely, a change was on the way

And boy did it change on our third day! Some time in the night it had all kicked off - charging south-easterlies with rain. Unpleasant, and really difficult to bird in. To try and outrun the rain spreading from the south, we headed north, which was partially successful. Lunna was pretty dead, but the plantation at Vidlin had a few Redwing, and Bradders flushed a Woodcock that Matt and I missed. Following Marco's advice that it had appeared to drop quite quickly, I headed up the hill to the next bit of cover, a house with some roses. Rather than walk up the owner's front drive, I skipped over the fence to skirt the edges of the property, and was immediately rewarded by a small bird moving all of two feet into the base of a bush. Coming at the bush from the far side, the bird went back to where it had started - interesting. Well, maybe. The brief glimpses had left me none the wiser, an impression of size and general colouration but that was it. I played it safe and radioed for reinforcements, and to their credit the guys came up immediately, all keen as mustard, even if it did turn out, as seemed likely, to be a false alarm. We converged, and.....nothing!!!  FFS! I stomped the base of the bush, and there was nothing at all! I had no idea what had happened, it hadn't flown or moved that I had seen, but whatever, it had gone. Difficult to know what to say, there had been a bird!

Mid-way through apologising for wasting peoples' time, Matt flushed it about 20 feet away. He and Bradders saw it disappear into the roses, and more importantly heard it call - OBP! Probably! Now we understood how it might have managed to sneak off! This species is a bugger at the best of times, and now we were faced with the challenge of pinning it down and nailing it in atrocious weather with heaps of dense cover. To cut a long story short, we managed it, with photos, but it took ages and I never even got a glimpse of it through my bins. Still, highly satisfying, and clearly a delayed reaction to the Double-decker that I had eaten the previous afternoon. It will come as no surprise that a four-pack made it into the boys' shopping basket that evening in Tesco's. Magic in an orange and purple wrapper.

The rest of the day was spent doing various site on north mainland. I finally managed to get a Great Spotted Woodpecker on my Shetland list, and we found another Yellow-browed Warbler at Busta House. A hundred or so Mealy Redpoll at Sullom, and quite a few Crossbills at most places we stopped at, and that was about the sum of it. OBP isn't a BB rare any more, but it's still a great bird to find, even if a fairly obvious candidate on Shetland at this time of year. I'm clearly not a great bird finder, and it's not what floats my particular boat, but even I admit that it was pretty exciting. The important thing is that it was a joint effort - we had all been flogging it, and we all contributed to it.

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