Risso's Dolphins, mother & calf
Up early today for my trip to Fetlar. There isn't much on the Rarity Radar on the island except a Surf Scoter on a pool on the East side of the island and a Bluethroat at Aith. However, it's my only chance for a visit so that's where I'm heading.
The morning is flat calm and frosty. I'm feeling well rested after my night in the Wig Wam. I follow the road past Mavis Grind with Otters fishing on the Sullom Voe side. On the way to the Toft ferry I pass Sullom Voe Gas Terminal. That place is just HUGE! A large flock of Red-breasted Mergansers were on the Voe while Snipe and a load of Pipits were on the frosty moor.
My Wig-wam at Braewick Campsite. Complete with stinky socks, wet shoes and breakfast!
Early morning at Mavis Grind
Red-breasted Merganser, Sullom Voe
From Toft the ferry goes to Yell and you have to cross Yell to get to the other ferry for Unst and Fetlar. Most of the drivers on that road could beat Rosberg and Hamilton trying to get from one ferry to the other as quickly as possible.
There were only 4 other vehicles on the ferry to Fetlar that day. There were 3 farmers and one other birder. Lots of Black Guillemots, Gannets, Bonxies and Kittiwakes. My only 2 Great Northern Divers of the whole trip were seen from this ferry.
Bonxie, Gutcher Ferry, Yell
Black Guillemot, Bluemull Sound
Fetlar seemed deserted when we landed. The other birder, whose name escapes me...sorry, both had the same idea and headed for the Tresta Manse where there is a great garden with lots of trees. The owners, both very interested in birds, were very kind and allowed access while they went to church. There were 3 Yellow-browed Warblers, Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Lesser Whitethroat. My first Brambling of the Autumn were also present. With these migrants here we thought that the rest of the island may be the same. WRONG! Most of the gardens were empty of birds, even the bigger gardens at Houbie. I did find a showy Garden Warbler and a Rock Pipit of the smart island race Kleinschmidti but that was it until I reached the RSPB reserve at Funzie, famous for its breeding Red-necked Phalaropes. Not today though.
Yellow-browed Warbler, Tresta
Willow Warbler, juvenile, Tresta
Garden Warbler, nr Tresta
Rock Pipit, nr Tresta
At Funzie I had my first Slavonian Grebe of the trip and a flyover Lapland Bunting. I really needed to see more birds. I had the bright idea of going to see the Surf Scoter on a pool between the East side of the island and Everland, the last farm on the Fetlar roads. The local folks told me that going to the Surf Scoter would take me most of the afternoon and I decided (luckily) to bird around the Farm. I followed the path to a meadow between the farm and Wick of Gruting on the North-East of the island. Gannets and Kittiwakes were being hounded by the local Bonxies.
I had just started walking in the meadow, with its single sheep, when several Common Snipe flew up in front, closely followed by a few more, this time with Jack Snipe for company. I scanned the meadow and could see several snipe and one, in particular, caught my eye. It was enormous! In the 15 seconds before the bird bottled it and flew I could see it looked dark and the bill was quite short. Then it took off. There was no mistaking it now. A large, very dark Snipe with a lots of white on the tail and obvious double wing bars. A GREAT SNIPE...my first (yes, I missed the Cley bird). I phoned RBA in the hope the other birder might pick up the message. I searched for a while but no luck refinding it though I had the impression it hadn't gone far. I met the other birder while on my way to Aith to see if the Bluethroat was there. It wasn't. He went to look for the Snipe and I gazed off into the bay kicking myself for having my bins in my hand instead of my camera.
Scanning out to sea from Aith I could see several fins from 3 groups of cetaceans. As they came closer to shore in Wick of Tresta I thought they were Long-finned Pilot Whales. However, further scrutiny from others (thank you John Dixon) have ID'd them as Risso's Dolphin, and there were young ones present. Not close but I couldn't resist the temptation to reel off a few shots.
Risso's Dolphins, Wick of Tresta, Fetlar
From watching the Dolphins I decided to head for the pier and make my way back to the mainland in the vain hope of seeing the reported Lanceolated Warbler at Boddam.
The waters around these island are crystal clear and hundreds of fish could be seen just from the piers. Also visible were the seals and Otters chasing them. Awesome.
The other birder turned up and said that he, plus the birding couple from Tresta Manse, had spent some time looking for the Great Snipe and the couple had flushed and identified it again. That was great news as I knew then that I didn't have to make an opticians appointment.
Coalfish, Gutcher ferry, Yell
Another Ferry customer caught travelling without paying
I decided to spend the night at Spiggie to give me a good start for the Lancy in the morning. Looking out over Spiggie Bay the Aurora Borealis was a curtain of green. Superb.