Thursday 28 October 2021

Shetland 2021 - Day 8

Our final day! The number or birds on the islands had been on the wane since about the halfway point, but we were still adding at least one good bird a day. We had not been off island at all, so in the absence of much happening on the mainland, today we decided to head north to Yell which seemed to have the best birds that we had not seen yet - a Ring-necked Duck, another Great White Egret, and dare I say it, a SHELDUCK

We packed up the car and sorted out the house as we would not be returning. This made for a rather full car, but in this we had no choice. Various items we needed for both the day and the overnight ferry crossing were left near the top, and off we went. As we were about to depart we got news of a Baikal Teal at Loch of Benston, the same direction we were headed. Given the bird recently on Fair Isle this seemed entirely plausible, but there were also suspicions of Garganey. Either would be a great bird on Shetland, and by now we were fully bought in to trying to see as many duck species as possible no matter how plebian.

It did indeed end up being a Garganey, so perhaps not quite the same kudos as a Baikal, but nonetheless it was a Shetland tick for all of us and is a rare bird anywhere in Scotland. With another duck inked off we quickly nipped across to Kergord for a Bluethroat which had been located in the same plantation as the Rustic Bunting. This showed very well, but once again I had not bothered to bring my camera from the back seat of the car. Oh well. We then realised that our singular fixation with the Garganey meant we had neglected to scan the rest of Loch of Benston and thus missed a POCHARD. Gah! I insisted that we go back immediately and rectify this glaring wildfowl omission. It was kind of on our way to the ferry, so we did, but I'm not sure the car ever came to a complete standstill.

Crossing to Yell we finally got our first Bonxie of the trip. Normally we see these all over the place, but for some reason they were absent, and it wasn't that we hadn't been looking. The ducks were all at the top end of the island, so the usual race across the island became the usual race across the island. The RN Duck had apparently flown from its usual loch and gone to another nearby, and heading there who should meet but Adrian, fresh from lobbing a few bricks. He had just seen the duck flying from the new loch back towards the old loch that we had just passed, and also delivered the hammer blow that the Shelduck hadn't been seen for a few days. The trip was falling to pieces at the last hurdle! Try as we might neither Adrian nor ourselves could relocate the bird on any of the nearby water bodies (naturally it came back once we were gone...) so we gave up and went and had some tea and coffee chez Kettle, passing a miserable looking Great White Egret on the way. He has a lovely house with a fantastic vista across mid-Yell, and has been busy adopting most of the local wildlife, including the most pampered Sheep in the whole of Shetland that has very quickly gone soft and spends its time looking disdainfully at its former colleagues from a comfortable byre in the garden.

These sheep will probably be living with Adrian by the end of the month, possibly the Egret too.

All too soon our time was up and we had to get back to the mainland and Lerwick. There was just time to snag another King Eider off Wester Quarff, much better looking than the first, get changed out of our wet weather gear, and head to the boat. We stuffed ourselves with pie again and bedded down with hopes of a very small wader in Yorkshire in the morning.

The final reckoning

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