Following news of a possible Hermit Thrush on Fetlar yesterday afternoon, it was a straightforward decision to head up north today. Dad and I hadn’t visited Fetlar last year, so at the very least we’d get an island tick! After much confusion with baffling ferry timetables and vague booking office communication, we eventually ended up on Fetlar around 1030, having seen a couple of Great Northern Diver, a few Common Dolphin and innumerable Black Guillemots en route.
The bird had been reported from the West Manse at Tresta – a fantastic looking little copse of sycamores, representing easily the biggest area of cover on the island, and the site of the Taiga Flycatcher a couple of years ago. Immediately on arrival, a Yellow-browed announced its presence loudly, before flicking around above us nicely. Surprisingly, there was only one other birder present, and the four of us split up to view into the garden over the wall from various angles. Quite early on, a ‘very interesting’ bird flew rapidly along the top of the inner wall, too fast to get any real detail, but looking good for a small dark thrush. Frustratingly, though, we couldn’t find it again in getting on for two hours. However, we did get a few similarly brief views of an elusive male Redstart, making us wonder about reports of birds with a rufous tail! The only other birds present were a couple of Blackcap and a Willow Warbler, besides the Yellow-browed.
Needing a change, we wandered across to another nearby leafy garden, to find another Yellow-browed, then headed up the road to Houbie. Plenty of Blackcaps in evidence around here, and I was pleased to find a couple of Common Rosefinches feeding in weedy vegetation with sparrows along the beach near the community centre. I went exploring up the burn – no surprise to find yet another vocal Yellow-browed and a Lesser Whitethroat here. A pale warbler near the post office disappeared without trace, and in deteriorating weather we headed back to Tresta.
After a bit more time here, and less than an hour to our ferry departure, we were about to give up when something popped up out of dense vegetation and onto the wall around ten yards in front of us: cue some gibbering and pointing… “Grey-cheeked Thrush!” It sat there unmoving for at least a minute, giving us time to take in all the features, then realise that both cameras had been left in the car due to the rain… Doh! I’ll save the description for BBRC, but suffice to say our views didn’t leave any room for doubt.
Over the next half hour, we saw it three more times: once perched slightly further away on the same wall (along the north west side, close to the house), and then a great view in flight across the garden showing the classic black and white striped underwing. We still couldn’t get a photo, but left for our ferry more than happy!