Northern Fulmar, Sumburgh Head
Ahh, Spiggie Bay...Up at the crack of dawn and the world to myself. Or so I thought. I was listening and watching Curlew and Whooper Swans in the lightening gloom when a pair of headlights bounced down the track and a small brown car pulled in. The girl driving was giving me a funny stare so I ignored her and turned away. The next thing I knew was the girl walking past me to the beach in a swim suit! Let me tell you, it was bloody freezing and she jumped straight into the sea. I was speechless, and, if you know me, then you know how rare an event that is. She had more cojones than me. I just drove off to the site of yesterdays Lanceolated Warbler, still shaking my head.
I shouldn't have bothered. I had a walk around the, now trampled flat, field but there was no sign of it. Not surprising really. I must have been the only birder on Shetland who didn't see it. A recompense (a tiny, extremely small, microscopic recompense) were my first Redwings of the Autumn flying in off the sea. A look at the waters edge at North Voe only produced Meadow Pipits, Teal and a Grey Heron. Exciting stuff.
Redwing over Boddam
Juvenile Teal having a morning brush up.
Somewhere that can produce excellent rarities is Quendale Burn and that's where I headed to next. Lots of Pipits and Blackbirds on route plus one or two Whimbrel with Curlews. As I parked at Quendale Mill I could see a group of birders walking several hundred yards in front. I thought "There goes the neighborhood". However, it wasn't so bad as there was stuff constantly falling out of the sky. A Northern Wheatear on the path, a Whinchat on the fence and Meadow Pipits everywhere.
As I approached Quendale Dam I could see two very enthusiastic but very mad Welsh birders walking through chest high nettles or in the burn itself. Their tactics paid off when a familiar call made me look up to see a Richard's Pipit flying away from them to the top of a nearby hill. I stood watching them and a warbler flew out in front of them and the guy in the burn shouted "Blyth's Reed Warbler". So that was me for the next 3 hours. Only it wasn't the recent Blyth's Reed Warbler...it was so much better. It wasn't an acrocephalus we were chasing, it was a locustella, an, apparently unstreaked locustella. Visions of Gray's and Middendorf's Grasshopper Warblers flashed through my, barely working, brain cells. It wasn't one of the last two, heart attack inducing, wallet emptying, denizens...but it was good. It could also hide. So well in fact that it could give lessons to Lanceys. Up and down that burn we (now 12) marched and thrashed and fell. No-one had any prolonged views of the damned thing. There were two camps of thought. River Warbler or an eastern form of Savi's Warbler. I was, and still am I suppose, in the River Warbler camp though a chat with Judd (of Siberian Accentor fame) gave me some doubts. I give up! first the Lanceolated Warbler and now this! Woe is me. Most of the day gone and no new, positively ID'd, birds except the Richards Pipit. Lots of Chiffchaffs and Yellow-browed Warblers...of course. Can you tick Muscovy Duck at Quendale?
Northern Wheatear, Quendale
Yellow-browed Warblers, Quendale
What now? Haven't been up to Sumburgh head recently and you can't really come to Shetland and not go to Sumburgh Head. I stopped at the Quarries on the way up but only Stonechat, Wrens and Fulmars for company though the Fulmars were very aerobatic.
Fulmars, Sumburgh Head
Sumburgh Head from the 1st view point.
Next on the agenda was the long-staying, Stinky Pinky (Rose-coloured Starling) at Scalloway. A typically confiding juvenile, it tended to stay near the bird table and take on all comers from House Sparrows to Hooded Crows. Smart bird.
Rose-coloured Starling, Scalloway
The rest of the afternoon was a blur as I made my way North to spend the night near Brae. An Olive-backed Pipit came on the pager for Ollaberry. This bird had taken lessons from that locustella at Quendale!. It had learnt well. One glimpse and it was gone.
I headed back to Brae to partake of Fish and Chips from Frankie's (most northerly chippy in the British Isles and fully recommended). Pager comes up with a mobile White's Thrush at Hamna Voe! "Sod it" I thought and bedded down for the night. Last full day on the islands tomorrow.