Better day today, with some decent views of good birds. Oh, and Jono arrived this morning, but I guess you never get everything to go your way…
Having collected the filthy crane twitcher from the ferry terminal, we swiftly headed out the door in a southerly direction. First stop was Brake, determined to see the Pallid Harrier at our third attempt. Birding here started pretty well in relatively still and sunny conditions, with a couple of Tree Pipit calling overhead, a very close Yellow-browed Warbler in long grass by the road, and I found another Rosefinch which circled overhead calling. The single Whinchat from a couple of days ago had found a couple of friends, and a Garden Warbler briefly had me going near the farm… but all this perhaps suggested that a few new birds had arrived. Howard and Dad had brief views of the harrier as it moved up the valley from Loch of Hilwell, and after waiting a while for it to emerge back into view, it showed fairly well perched up on a post across the valley.
We took a lengthy walk from the mill at Quendale, initially out onto Garths Ness (of Yellow Warbler fame), then around into the burn to the west, and up and over into the iris beds above Quendale. Despite much iris bashing (and an annoying pipit that determinedly stuck to the bottom of the burn gully, didn’t call, and took a while to be definitively ID’d as a Meadow), we didn’t find much until reaching the main iris bed with a dense nettle patch above. Here, we found the now-predictable Yellow-browed Warbler with a Willow Warbler mate, and then Howard called out “what’s the bird on the fence?”. “Bluethroat!” was my happy answer from a higher vantage point – a smart bird, though it promptly buried itself in kale crop when the big lenses were primed… These shots are from Howard’s point-and-shoot, but you get the idea!
Moving on from Quendale, we worked at a few patches along the east coast of south Mainland: the quarry at Levenwick, Channerwick, the Swinister Burn at Sandwick, and the trees around Hoswick village. Sum total from all of these was not a lot, and by about 4pm we caved in and drove north to look for the Lesser Grey Shrike near Laxo! This showed very well in the sunshine, a full adult with large black mask extending onto the forehead, and a rich salmony wash on the underparts. Superb!