We set off for Aberdeen on 23rd September in anticipation of seeing the Sandhill Crane that had been discovered at St. Combs, Aberdeen.
We managed to see the Crane along with a few Lapland Buntings before we caught the Ferry to Lerwick, Shetland. My second Sandhill Crane in the UK. (Photo1- Sandhill Crane – St.Combs).
Our trip to Shetland was specifically timed to coincide with the arrival of rare & uncommon migrants that are attracted to the islands. Shetland is one of the best places in the UK for finding rare birds during September & October, the prime time for migration.
We arrived on Shetland at 0700hrs on 24th and as Will needed Swainson’s Thrush, we headed for Bodham, South Mainland. We spent several hours looking for the bird in small gardens but no sign. A small skein of 46 Pink-footed Geese, a Merlin & a Sparrowhawk were all we had. Having picked up provisions from Tesco in Lerwick, we headed north to the island of Unst and our usual home for the week. At Toft Ferry Terminal we had a Black-throated Diver, a Grey Phalarope & good views of an Otter. Amazingly another Grey Phalarope on the Ferry Crossing to Gutcher, these are very scarce birds in Shetland, along with 40 Wigeon. Arriving at Baltersound, we checked in with the owner of our Croft and found a Yellow-browed Warbler in her garden.
Arriving at Northdale, our birding holiday had now really started. (Photo 2) – Northdale) In the late afternoon searching around Norwick we discovered 2 Common Rosefinch, a regular Hen Harrier and 9 Blackcap. (Photo3 Norwick & Valyie in the distance).
25th September – Highlights – Norwick – Sedge Warbler; Hen Harrier; 2 Northern Wheatear. Baltersound – Yellow-browed Warbler; Red Admiral: Haroldswick – stranded juvenile Gannet; 6 Swallows & 2 Sand Martin. (Photo4 – Juvenile Gannet)
26th September – Highlights – Northdale – 1 Northern Wheatear; Hen Harrier.
Haroldswick – Arctic Tern. Baltersound – Knot. Uyeasound – 3 North Western Redpoll (rostrata); Willow Warbler; Yellow-browed Warbler; 2 Northern Wheatear & Red Admiral. (Photos 5 & 6- North Western Redpoll – Carduelis rostrata: Photo 7 – Uyeasound).
27th September – Northdale – 1 Bluethroat; 1 Barred Warbler; 1 Yellow-browed Warbler;
1 Lesser Whitethroat; Norwick – 1 Barred Warbler; 3 North Western Redpoll. Haroldswick – Black-tailed Godwit. Skaw – House Martin – Numerous Blackcap & Chiffchaff throughout the day.
28th September- Northdale – 1 Lapland Bunting. Haligarth, Baltersound – 1 Yellow-browed Warbler; 2 Willow Warbler. Baltersound – 2 Yellow-browed Warbler; 23 Pink-footed Geese. Burrafirth – 4 Twite; 2 Lapland Bunting – Belmont – 1st winter Black-headed Bunting. (Photo 8 – Black-headed Bunting, Belmont: Photo9- Yellow-browed Warbler – Baltersound).
29th September – Uyeasound – Pink-footed Goose; Whooper Swan ; 2 Yellow-browed Warbler; Garden Warbler; Central Asian Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca halimodendri); Common Rosefinch; Otter. Westing – several Common Snipe showing features of faeroensis. Haroldswick – Juvenile Red-backed Shrike; Redwing. Northdale – Yellow-browed Warbler; Bluethroat; Common Crossbill: (Photo10 – Male Common Crossbill – Northdale: Photo11 -Rock Pipit – Norwick:)
Central Asian Lesser Whitethroat – Uyeasound, Unst – 29th September 2011
On photographs note – The overall sandy-brown upper-parts, mantle & rump, with sandy brown extending up the nape to lower crown with grey undertones. Grey-brown running through the crown and forehead and darker brown ear coverts. A buffish wash to the flanks. A weak looking bill and very short primary projection and brown tertials. All these features seem to fit Central Asian Lesser Whitethroat.
30th September – Unst – Mainland Shetland. The journey back south to catch the evening ferry back to UK Mainland. Laxo – 1st winter Black Redstart; Yellow-browed Warbler. Brake- Quendale area – Juvenile Pallid Harrier; Whinchat; 70+ Twite; 100+ House Sparrow: Wester Quarf – Yellow-browed Warbler.
(Photos 20, 21 – Yellow-browed Warbler, Laxo:
Photos 22,23 – Pallid Harrier – Brake-Quendale)
Photos of Pallid Harrier – Note the distinctive colour of the underparts of juvenile Pallid Harrier, the contrasting underwing pattern and pointed wing-tip showing usually three or four primary tips (fingers). Also note the contrasting dark ear-coverts surrounded by a pale collar. This bird was heavily oiled by a Fulmar and so some of the subtle features are difficult to see. See comparison wing pattern with below photo of Hen Harrier, showing clearly five primary tips and a longer winged and heavier proportioned appearance.
(Photo 24 – Hen Harrier – Northdale) – (Note the distinctive wing shape – longer winged & heavier appearance. Wing “Hand” showing 5 primary fingers. Compare with photos of Pallid Harrier.)
More landscapes of Unst – (Photos 25 – Early evening Northdale; 26 – Norwick; 27 – Baltersound; 28 – Westing)
Shetland has a very beautiful sub-species of Bumble Bee – Bombus muscorum agricolae (Photo 29 – Bombus muscorum agricolae)
(Photos 30 & 31 – Herring Gull – Uyeasound: Photo32 – Common Gull – Norwick: Photo33 – Shetland Starling – Sturnus vulgaris zetlandicus – Northdale: Photo34 – Barred Warbler – Norwick:
Photo35 – Red-backed Shrike – Haroldswick)
1st October – Arrived back in Aberdeen around 0700hrs. Headed for the Ythan Estuary looking for a Semipalmated Sandpiper. No luck with SemiP but we, along with 2 local birders, discovered a juvenile Pallid Harrier circling over the Forvie Reserve being mobbed by 2 corvids. Instant excitement as this was a first record for Aberdeenshire. What an end to a great week on SHETLAND.
My thanks go to Richard James & Will Soar for their company during the week and to Martin Garner for the discovery of the Asian Lesser Whitethroat. Also to the local Shetland Birders who were very helpful in providing us with news during the week.
Year List has moved on to 244.