With only one full day available for birding on Shetland in this phase of the trip, we opted to travel up to Unst, the most northerly island, today. Leaving Lerwick at about 7.30, the drive took about 2 hours, with reasonably slick ferry connections (cost: £12).
We started off near the top end of the island, at Norwick... perhaps influenced ever so slightly by the lure of big white fluffy finches! After only a few minutes searching, we found our target: a cracking Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, feeding with 7 Common Redpoll in a weedy field, before perching up on telegraph wires. Fantastic bird, incredibly striking. Although it's not a BOU tick, it's already inked in as a trip highlight.
We spent quite a while searching the superb garden at Valyie (surely owned and tended by a birder?), getting brief views of a barred warbler, plus chiffchaff, willow warbler, blackcap and spotted fly. At least 5 Bonxies sailed about high above, somehow looking much more athletic and elegant than they do lumbering past on a seawatch.
With no sign of the recent Melodious Warbler, we headed first to Skaw (nothing much), then Northdale (found another rosefinch with 3 chaffinch and sparrows), then Haroldswick. The latter site produced a rosefinch and another hornemanni in quick succession, plus a ringtail hen harrier nearby.
Halligarth plantation, near Baltasound, looked like it could be absolutely amazing in good conditions, albeit hard work. We didn't get more than a showy Wood Warbler for our efforts, but I'd like to return and give it longer.
By now, the weather was on the turn, wind picking up and the first spots of rain in the air. We headed south back onto Yell, for a look around Burravoe in the hope of relocating the previous day's Citrine Wag. No joy though, and we headed back to base in increasingly poor weather.
Hope it's good enough to get onto Fair Isle as planned tomorrow!
"David the obsessed and Suzanne the tolerant" - Jonathan Lethbridge
That just about sums it up! David has always loved birding and spending time outdoors. Suzanne enjoys the odd twitch and birding holiday now and then, but generally she's happy to let him get on with it while spending time crafting at home. See what she gets up to on her own blog.