Here we go then! Hopefully this will be the first of a series of daily blog posts from Shetland, where I’m spending 12 days birding with my Dad and Howard, based just outside Lerwick.
After arriving in Sumburgh yesterday lunchtime in driving rain, and a few bits of birding in the afternoon (highlight two Merlin at Wester Quarff), we made a proper start to birding in south Mainland today – an obvious destination, given the news of a Swainson’s Thrush being found late in the day in a birder’s garden in Boddam. Although we’d seen last year’s bird at Levenwick, it’ll be a sad day (or possibly an astonishingly good day for megas!) when I don’t go to see a Catharus thrush just down the road!
We arrived on site (a housing estate!) around 8am to negative news and a gradual drift of birders away from the site over the next hour. Fortunately, though, the bird was relocated in a particularly densely vegetated garden, and eventually popped out onto next door’s lawn giving great views, but only time for a poor photo:
From here, we moved down to the Quendale area, initially taking a look for the Pallid Harrier near Brake. No joy here, but a Whinchat was rather smart and showy, and two Ruff briefly raised our hopes. We arrived at the water mill to find at least two Yellow-browed Warblers and a Willow Warbler, while a Green Sand flew over – shame about the white rump… A pretty lengthy thrash up the valley through the iris beds produced nothing more than a couple more Willow Warblers and a couple more Whinchat, while the first few Twite of the trip buzzed around overhead.
After a brief stop at Mainlands to pick up lunch (HV gave top marks to a Chicken & White Sauce Pie), noting a massive juvenile Peregrine scaring the hell out of everything within a mile or two, we headed down to a rather breezy Sumburgh. Nothing much on the head itself, and it was sufficiently quiet for some members of the party to resort to photographing ‘golden rabbits’!
Back to birding, we found a rapidly disappearing Redstart in the second quarry, then a Garden Warbler and several Blackcap in the thistles down towards the farm. Grutness had a single Goldcrest, and a bunch of Twite showed really well:
Return to Quendale late in the afternoon gave us only a very brief view of what might have been the harrier, and a drive round Spiggie produced 7 Whooper Swans, 2 Goosanders, 80 wild Greylags and 4 Pink-feet. Not bad for a start…