[I’d hoped to post this a bit earlier on this week… but better late than never!]
We crammed rather a lot into the last half day on Shetland, before returning home to London on Sunday afternoon. The highlight was clearly a superb Isabelline Shrike (or Daurian, if you like), which Howard found as I was driving slowly through Levenwick this morning hunting for somewhere to park the car and start looking!
The following timeline summarises the rest of the morning, and hopefully illustrates how good the birding can be on Shetland when ‘it’s happening’…
0720: everyone’s all packed up, and we’ve departed the excellent accommodation at the Old Decca (see http://www.selfcateringshetland.com/)
0735: arrive Fladdabister – bit of speculative wandering around, then moved down towards Ocraquoy where yesterday’s Red-breasted Fly appeared to have been replace by our second Pied Fly of the trip. Already lovely warm sunshine, and no wind whatsoever. Heaps of Redwings still around, suggesting it’s a good day to be out searching!
0815: driving just south of Cunningsburgh when the Alpine Swift comes on the pager again from nearby: we stop for a quick look back up the coast, but get distracted by awesome scenery and heaps of Harbour Porpoise surfacing in flat calm water – somewhere between 50 and 100 animals involved.
0830: stop at Channerwick for a look round – find at least six, and possibly seven Yellow-browed Warblers feeding around the single sycamore of happiness, plus two Dunnock, the first for the week! Exciting times…
0920: heading for Levenwick, to check gardens, crops, irises, the quarry… only question is where to start, where to park the car
0925: driving along slowly, Howard calls out for me to stop: “That looked like a shrike!” He jumps out, relocates the bird on a garden wall: “Looked really pale”… and as it turns round “It’s an Isabelline!” – happy days! I reassemble the scope and tripod from the suitcase, put the news out, and after a bare minute viewing, the bird sets off on a series of flights southwards, with us in pursuit. Fortunately it settled down near the Southpunds junction, and a crowd of about 30-40 birders builds up to admire it.
Here’s some video, taken by Hugh Harrop:
1015: With the shrike showing more distantly, and conditions still looking excellent for more birds, we make a relatively swift departure, heading down for the area that’s felt most ‘birdy’ through the trip: Brake, Hillwell and Quendale.
1030: arrive Brake, get out of car
1032: Pager alerts to Citrine Wagtail just down the road at Quendale - excellent!
1035: Shortest twitch in history, move the car about quarter of a mile, and start admiring the wagtail! Say hello to newly arrived London birders Vince & Dick.
1050: wander back through Brake, casually note the Pallid Harrier flying past and a Whinchat, but probably pay more attention to 3 smart Siskin on the wires – further new arrivals.
1130 – 1300: head on down to Sumburgh, check out the quarries, drystone walls and nettles around the farm, the hotel garden, the gardens at Grutness and various bits and bobs in between… but despite considerable optimism, nothing else notable before we leave.
1300: into the airport, and spend a nervous afternoon hoping we don’t get a mega alert from the islands we’ve just left!
Great views of Virkie, Sumburgh and Scatness as we took off, though: