Tuesday 12 October 2021

Shetland 2021 - pre-arrival

I prepared for Shetland this year by birding Fife intensively for three days. Not quite the same results, but similar in terms of walking crop margins, peering in ditches, and scanning the sea and all visible water bodies. I didn't turn up anything especially momentous, but I did add quite a few birds to my ever-growing Fife list including a surprise Merlin on the East Lomond, and finally several Raven at Lindores. The weather never quite got going; even the Isle of May was quiet, usually a good indicator of passage. Despite this Fife is rapidly becoming one of my favourite places to go birding, and I have a short roster of really good sites that I am getting to know and enjoy, and dare I say it keep lists for....

Fife Ness at dawn

I crammed in a final visit to Fife Ness on Friday morning for Curlew Sandpiper and a short (and rubbish) sea watch before the Bradders Birding Tours (BBTTM) minibus picked me up and we headed north. The team this year was DB (tour leader and chauffeur), Howard V (chief distant bird and whale spotter) and Pete M (official photographer), and they had already had a good journey up, stopping off at an American Wigeon and the long-staying White-tailed Lapwing on the east coast before an overnight stay near the border and heading for Fife. No such goodies for me, but the presence of both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs about an hour beyond our final destination of Aberdeen was a lure too great to resist, and I was whisked rapidly northwards so as to be able to fit these in before we set sail.

On arrival there was some confusion about which was which, with only the Lesser on view but several people calling the Greater. Howard immediately smelled a rat, justified when the Greaterlegs magically appeared beside it. An amazing opportunity to be able to see both side by side in this country, later made even better when both Greenshank and Redshank flew in to feed alongside them. Many years ago Hawky and I went on a brilliantly executed twitch for a Greater Yellowshank, followed by many guffaws and chortles from friends and acquaintances, but no such problems this time. A Pectoral Sandpiper completed the western line up but my highlight was probably the Whooper Swans and huge flocks of ducks on Loch of Strathbeg. We also ventured a short way up Rattray Head to view the water from a different angle and had birds flying directly over our heads calling, pretty magical, and such a contrast from down south. Unfortunately my camera was extremely deeply buried in the boot.

Juv Redshank (L) and Greenshank (R). Ahem.

As we pulled into the ferry port at Aberdeen we were given a weather warning for the crossing. Gulp. I am not a great sailor, and whilst this is mainly restricted to small boats and flat-bottomed tubs like the Scillonian III, if a large boat gets the rolls on I am likely to feel it. We had a quick bite to eat in order to line our stomachs, engaged in a bit of birding in Aberdeen harbour as we chugged out, and then went below to our cabin for a very early night.

Goodbye mainland!

1 comment:

  1. we posted our blogs almost simultaneously! Looking forward to the next installment