France has had an Ovenbird and a Blackburnian Warbler. There are Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Red-eyed Vireos in the South West. Shetland has rare Shrikes by the dozen. Meanwhile I am in Canary Wharf, racing against other rats as usual. I had been planning to go to Shetland this year as I have not been since 2016, but the trip never really got off the ground and I ended up using my annual leave for something else. That something else has yet to happen, but I have high hopes. Shetland is unique however, and I wish I could be there.
But I can't, so why not relive a few past glories? It's the 2nd of October today, the beginning of what I call the silly season. September largely sees the commoner rare birds, Little Buntings, Red-backed Shrikes, Barred Warblers etc, but it is really in October that things begin to hot up and the outrageous birds begin to appear.
The 2nd October was a 2010 was a case in point. It had been an anxious trip up to Shetland, with our flight from London cancelled and a mad dash in a taxi to Birmingham to catch another, which ultimately got us to Sumburgh on the same day, albeit with little time for birding. Somewhere along the way my suitcase disappeared but I had my binoculars so all was well. In the three or so hours before the daylight ended I'd seen a Syke's Warbler and a Swainson's Thrush, which had arrived on the island from entirely different directions. They breed, at a minimum, close to five thousand miles apart, yet on Shetland one was at Channerwick and the other at Levenwick, roughly one and a half miles apart.
Amazing to think that this was nine years ago, how time flies. Three years ago, also on the 2nd of October and also on Shetland, I saw a Lanceolated Warbler creeping through some long grass, but it is the first afternoon of my maiden trip in 2010 that sticks in the mind, the start of a crazy week up there where I got six 'lifers'. Subsequent visits, six in total, have never managed to live up that first trip, but I'm feeling the urge to get up there again. Quite when I am not sure, but my tentative plan is to spend a month up there when I next get made redundant. I am a glass half full kind of guy.
As I have no UK autumn birding planned this year, this is advance warning that this type of post could feature again. Scanning down my list early to mid-October is rich in the kind of birds that bring out the urge to reminisce all too easily. I could just tweet them to far greater reaction, but where is the fun in that? Also I need to write a further 62 blog posts this year in order to equal last year's already meagre total. Quantity not quality...