Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Shetland - day 5

Why is Shetland so hard?! Two days of excellent winds have produced scandalously little, at least for us. Today was better than yesterday, but a total of four Yellow-browed Warblers and two Little Buntings wasn't really much reward for a full day in the field. The wind has been relentless. It is coming from a good direction, and you feel that the longer it goes on the more good birds will turn up, but it also makes finding them very hard indeed, as almost no part of anywhere is immune to the constant howling gale. 

We started up north at first light for a White's Thrush reported last knockings yesterday. To cut a long story short we didn't get it, which was a shame really as I could really have done with seeing it.....So, over to Yell and then Unst for a change of scene. For once I actually went birding on Yell rather than just drive over it at 60mph, and three Yellow-browed Warblers were very welcome, once again in basically every garden we looked in. On Unst we went straight up to Norwick at the top end, scene of many a good bird on my list. A hoped-for Paddyfield Warbler turned into Blythii Lesser Whitethroat, and the Great Snipe couldn't be found in a brief wade around near the burn. I probably threw away a Richard's Pipit down the lane to the sea (called overhead then disappeared, said to the lads "what kind of Pipit goes zeep really loudly?", reported later...), and we had two Little Bunting in the crop field below Valyie. Ker-ching? Maybe. 

Over in Skaw, the UK's most northerly inhabited dwelling, there was another Yellow-browed Warbler. There are no trees or real bushes here, so all birds tend to be in the burn and with no cover I finally got a few OK photos of one without stuff in the way. #42. At Halligarth the walled garden had a tristis Chiffchaff and half a Wood Warbler, and we got some excellent views of an Otter at Westing before needing to catch the ferry back to Yell and on to mainland for another monster dinner cooked by H.

Meanwhile a new Black-throated Thrush has arrived, and generally this afternoon things appeared to be picking up, so perhaps my last day on the islands tomorrow will be an opportunity to go out with a bang? Eyebrowed Thrush would be acceptable. I suspect what will actually happen is that the three days of south-easterlies I got will deliver nothing, and only when I am safely in Aberdeen will the real biggies start to arrive. This always happens and I am mentally prepared for it already. Frankly it would be bad form to actually get a tick this year.

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