Despite constant breezy south-westerlies, we’re off to a pretty decent start on Shetland once again, with plenty of decent birds to see. Arriving on Saturday afternoon, we were given the runaround by an atypically elusive and ultra-mobile Isabelline Shrike and a vanishing Olive-backed Pipit, before getting good views of the showy Little Bunting at Sumburgh Farm in the last of the light.
With rain forecast early on Sunday, the Prof and I opted to drive north to Unst and then hopefully enjoy improving weather. We did OK, with a brief view of the hornemanni Arctic Redpoll for Paul, and I managed to relocate the very tricky Blyth’s Reed Warbler in the Halligarth plantation. So no photos of either of those! We also enjoyed about 15 rostrata Common Redpoll (thanks to Martin G for the ID lessons!), a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers, a female Scaup and a cracking male Merlin.
Common Redpoll, race rostrata (Martin mentioned the strong dark ‘cat clawed’ flank streaks)
Bit disappointing to hear about the Hornemann’s showing really well in the evening, and then more so when the Pechora Pipit photos emerged, but hey, you can’t see ‘em all.
Today, we initially headed north to the Voe area, where we had another Yellow-browed Warbler, the drake Surf Scoter in Olna Firth (off Foula Wick), and a smart 1st winter Spotted Sandpiper at Lower Voe. It was pretty mobile during the time we were there, but I managed to grab a couple of record shots:
Spotted Sandpiper: a vagrant from North America
Returning back to South Mainland, we timed our arrival at Scousburgh spot on and picked up the Buff-bellied Pipit immediately on arrival, with only half a dozen other people present. Although this was also quite mobile, it gave excellent scope views and was also noted calling a few times – a somewhat bunting-like ‘tsip’, along with more Meadow Pipit-like sounds. Until a few years ago, this was a truly mega-rarity in the UK, but (perhaps due to changing weather patterns across the Atlantic?) it’s become much more regular and predictable… and since I’ve now seen three, they can’t be that rare!
American Buff-bellied Pipit
Also in the bay, a couple of cracking Great Northern Divers were still mostly in summer plumage. Continuing south, we had another failed attempt at the Toab Isabelline Shrike (just Spotted Flycatcher, a couple of Wheatears and another Merlin of note here), before checking out the Hoswick and Sandwick area. Despite spending two or three hours here, we somehow managed to miss the Siberian Stonechat (even though it was present before and after our visit – doh!), but were rewarded with a brief Hawfinch, yet another Yellow-browed Warbler, a few Redwing, couple of Swallows and a Brambling.
And finally, I’ll leave you with a mystery bird from today… more on this in due course.