It’s been some time since an Anser party visited the Shetland Isles, although this wasn’t a trip related to Anser I thought I would write some notes and share images. The party of four did include Paul Marshall PEM (who has led an Anser Shetland trip), Jeremy Squire JJS (who visits the islands 2-3 times annually) and and a veteran of the Northern Isles Nige Warren NJW. I’ve birded many out the way places with these three lads, I was very much looking forward to autumn birding with this laid back trio and see what we could find.
We flew Bristol to Aberdeen then on to Sumburgh Shetland. After picking up the hire car our first stop was Sumburgh Head. A few minutes later we were watching three Orca! (Killer Whales). An awesome start to the trip and a hard act to follow.
After the excitement of the whales we opted to walk up to the lighthouse where a party of 7 Barnacle Geese passed by attempting to head south, it was very gusty, they aborted. Our first Merlin of the trip also put in an appearance.
Despite the continuing high winds and rainfall we birded a number of places on the West Mainland. Our first Barred Warbler find of the trip made an appearance in a plantation at Cutts but refused to allow any opportunities to photograph it. We noted a number of species including Twite (seen daily) and Redpoll.
The second Barred Warbler of the trip appeared whilst we were watching a Melodious Warbler at Lunna. The larger warbler flew in after a downpour and passed over our heads to join the MW in a row of sycamores for a time. The MW was rather mobile in the short time we were present and went missing after the rain so no images we obtained. A Wheatear and flock of Rock Doves (seen daily) were sheltering from the winds.
Barred Warbler #2 at Lunna
We plumped for a trip to the Northern island of Unst via Yell and were soon watching an adult American Golden Plover that had been about. At Norwick we checked the beach where a handsome Long-tailed Duck stole the show. Guillemots and the ever present Gannets provided entertainment, the latter not at all phased by the heavy seas. Our third Barred Warbler of the trip hopped about in full view at the nearby cottages.
Barred Warbler #3
We recorded a number of species while birding but the main highlight of the day was a River Warbler found by other birders.
Whooper Swan, Uyeasound.
We headed down to South Mainland to bird a few spots and catch up with some scarce reported birds, single Common Rosefinch at one site followed by two more at the extremely gusty beach side location of Boddam was followed by the Lapland Bunting at Grutness, it showed well but the two nearby Snow Buntings remained flighty. In one of the nearby Sumburgh quarries we spent a bit of time having a gander at a Marsh Warbler that had been found.
Back on Unst we had a great day in the field. Splitting up in Baltasound I located another Barred Warbler in the garden of a derelict cottage. Whilst watching this bird a Yellow-browed Warbler dropped out of the sky and began calling, Paul had another at Haligarth. We also noted a Willow Warbler. Moving on we found a Common Rosefinch juvenile at Saxaford as well as another passerine that gave us the slip.
Moving down to check gardens at Norwick we located the Barred Warbler again. (below).
Barred Warbler #4
This one showed well during a sunny rain shower, nice to have the two scarce warblers at the same time.
Yellow-browed Warbler at Baltasound, one of five we saw on this day.
News of a Pechora Pipit at Haroldswick came through so we headed for Laxa and put in a shift, nothing of particular note other than Blackcaps and a Ring Ouzel (JJS). We headed back to Saxaford where a Lesser Whitethroat and low fly over and calling Citrine Wagtail soon had us following after it back to Norwick. Whilst searching for it I put up both Common and Jack Snipe, JJS located the wagtail in the marsh and manged a few pics. We spent 30 minutes abut the pool in Haroldswick for the Pechora but there was no sign. On the way back we stopped at Uyseasound and PEM spotted a Yellow-browed Warbler in one of the gardens. On Yell a brief stop at Collieson gave us another Yellow-browed and Willow Warbler were seen.
Our third Otter of the day showed at the ferry terminal.
We began the day by birding a local voe and then headed down south after news of a Lanceolated Warbler at Quendale Mill emerged, we logged a soggy Chiffchaff and a Common Whitethroat but not much else. The nearby bay was of interest, two Great northern Divers and a few Purple Sandpipers being the highlight.
In the afternoon oOur surprise bird find of the day came in the form of an adult Pied-billed Grebe on Loch of Spiggie!
Last day birding down south, we tried our luck at Quendale again but had little to report other than enjoying the local birds.