Same Crew and the same format as in previous years, Shetland 2014 certainly lived-up to all expectations. A week on Unst, The Island Above All Others, just simply looking for our own birds, except this year, for the first time, we twitched the mainland. The temptation was just too much to resist, White’s Thrush & Myrtle Warbler, even if you’ve seen them both before, they are just irresistible rarities, one from the East & one from the West.
Friday 26th September 2014 – Arriving at Blackdog, Aberdeen around 2:30pm and the Scoter flock was well spread-out and very distant off-shore. A strong wind made viewing all the more difficult. A single Arctic Skua chasing the Kittiwakes, 2 drake Velvet Scoter and around 70 Red-throated Diver were the best we could find at sea. Large numbers of Common Scoter and Eider were on view but just too spread-out to locate the drake Surf Scoter that was reported later in the evening. Also 2 Swallow and several skeins of Pink-footed Geese. Time to catch our ferry to Lerwick.
Saturday 27th September 2014 – After breakfast at the Harbour Cafe in Lerwick and in grey dismal weather, we set-off to Unst. The weather forecast for our week certainly looked promising. On route at Toft Ferry Terminal, Bonxie, and Tystie were added to my year list. Also about, a single Arctic Skua, Great Northern Diver and a skein of around 70 Pink-footed Geese heading south. After the usual two Ferry crossings we arrived at our Croft on Unst around 2pm. Baggage offloaded, food and drink stored away, out birding. The weather perked-up and during the afternoon I found a Little Bunting at Baltasound and had very brief views of an extremely elusive Bluethroat at Clingera. Late afternoon and news of an Arctic Redpoll at Norwick. We eventually had brief views of the bird along with 2 Mealy Redpoll at Valyie (pronounced Veeley) and I discovered 2 Common Rosefinch sheltering from the wind in the garden of Valyie. Plenty of Brambling and a few Chaffinch came into roost. Not a bad start for the first afternoon on Unst.
Northern Wheatear – Northdale, Unst – Tony Davison© – Some Northern Wheatears looking very much like Greenland Wheatear
Sunday 28th September 2014 – Early morning around our Croft garden – my first Yellow-browed Warbler of the year along with a Common Rosefinch. We made our way to Valyie, Norwick and I re-located the long staying Wryneck around the beach area. The bird was feeding among the drystone walls. Also 2 Common Rosefinch again in the “tattie field” at Valyie. The rest of the morning was spent catching up with one or two good birds – Temminck’s Stint at Haroldswick, Eastern Subalpine Warbler at Baltasound and I found another Yellow-browed Warbler at Clingera. There seemed to be a few more common migrants about, Wheatear, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Brambling etc. Then early afternoon – BOOM the MEGA– a phone call from Gary Taylor – I’ve just found a Swainson’s Thrush at Norwick !!!! – ten minutes or so later and we were watching a stunning Swainson’s Thrush in a small garden at Norwick. The bird showed on and off for a few minutes at a time having spent sometime in fields away from the croft. No sign of it the following day.
Wryneck – Norwick, Unst – Tony Davison©
Temminck’s Stint – Haroldswick – Tony Davison© – Quite a major rarity on Unst
Swainson’s Thrush – Norwick, Unst – 28th February 2014 – Tony Davison© – Note the “Bubble Gum Pink” legs
Northern Wheatear – Baltasound, Unst – Tony Davison© – Looking like a good candidate for a Greenland Wheatear to me?
Monday 29th September 2014 – The day of the Barred Warbler – found several today including 1 at Skaw and 1 in our Croft garden. A noticeable arrival of migrants during the afternoon with Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Whinchat, Wheatear, Blackcap all around our Croft area, especially along the wire fences. Amazing to witness an arrival of birds. Further views of Eastern Subalpine Warbler, very elusive this bird. Swallow at Valyie.
Barred Warbler – Hallegarth, Unst – Tony Davison© – This bird was very confiding in the pouring rain – A regular visitor to local birder, Brydon Thomason’s garden.
Tuesday 30th September 2014 – A trip to the southern end of Unst, Uyeasound and Lund. Further views on the way of the Temminck’s Stint, the first Redwing in our croft garden and a Stock Dove of all things at Haroldswick. On the Loch at Uyeasound there were 4 adult Whooper Swan, the first arrivals according to a local farmer. Great views of a Tystie in the harbour and an Otter near the community hall and a Swallow, Wheatear and Redwing around the area. MEGA ALERT – News of the discovery of a White’s Thrush, shortly followed by a Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler in the south of mainland Shetland, sent shivers down my back. Good heavens what do we do? We decided to persevere with our own thing, try to find our own.. We set off to the Thistle Beds at Lund for a Marsh Warbler. A few Sanderling on the beach were quite obliging. Disappointing that there was nothing else in the thistle beds and around Uyeasound. We set off back to Hallegarth, to try for the long staying Rustic Bunting. After some luck and patience, I managed a reasonable shot of it.. During dinner at the Baltasound Hotel, we were really gripped off with some stunning images of the White’s Thrush. Enough said, if it’s there in the morning, we are heading south.
Black Guillemot (Tystie) – Uyeasound harbour, Unst – Tony Davison© – Most bird were now moulting into winter plumage.
Whooper Swan – Uyeasound, Unst – Tony Davison© – The first returning birds had arrived back on Unst for the winter.
Sanderling – Lund Beach, Unst – Tony Davison©
Rustic Bunting – Hallegarth, Unst – Tony Davison© – First winter – just about see the auricular spot – also pale pink base to bill, Rusty tones to rump and nape. Two white wing bars.
Meadow Pipit – Hallegarth, Unst – Tony Davison©
Wednesday 1st October 2014 – Thanks to BirdNet for an early Text and Pager message – at 07:45 we were heading south to the mainland and the chase was on. At about 10:30 we were watching an absolute stunning and very obliging White’s Thrush. It was frequenting a walled garden at Brow Loch, Durigarth, not far from Sumburgh Head. Despite seeing one on St.Agnes many years ago, this bird was really showy and it was fascinating to watch it’s most peculiar feeding habit/routine. It would bob and waddle it’s entire body in an upward and sideways motion, but it’s head would remain perfectly still throughout. It would then sit still for long periods, hiding under the leaf canopy or at the base of the small Sycamore where it was feeding. After our fill of this superb bird, we then made the short trip to Grutness for the Myrtle Warbler, but we had to wait well over an hour for the bird to re-appear. Fortunately it did and there was only five of us watching it. A little different to the one in Co.Durham earlier in the year, which was my 500th bird for Britain. Pity it wasn’t this little stunner in the small garden at Grutness. Whilst waiting for the Myrtle to re-appear we had a Merlin, Kestrel, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and several Wheatear. Heading back north, there were five Whooper Swan (a family party of 3 juvs and 2 adults) on Clickimin Loch, Lerwick and we finished a superb day at Valyie, Norwick finding a Red-breasted Flycatcher.
An extremely large thrush and much bigger than Mistle Thrush.
White’s Thrush – Durigarth, Brow Loch, South Mainland Shetland – 1st October 2014 – Tony Davison© – Most British birder’s dream is to see one of these Asiatic thrushes well.
Note the white under tail patches – a typical feature of American Wood Warblers.
Myrtle Warbler (Yellow-rumped Warbler) – Grutness, South Mainland Shetland – 1st October 2014 – Tony Davison© – My second in Britain in the same year.
Hooded Crow – Baltasound, Unst – Tony Davison©
Thursday 2nd October 2014 – Around our croft there were two Yellow-browed Warbler this morning, a Swallow and a smart Siberian Chiffchaff, a Song Thrush and several Wheatear. At Skaw 5 Brambling. The Eastern Subalpine Warbler finally gave itself up to my Camera. Plenty of Brambling around with another 30 or so at various locations. Another Yellow-browed Warbler at Haroldswick and an Arctic Tern at Norwick.
Siberian Chiffchaff – Northdale, Unst – Tony Davison© – Note the Tobacco coloured ear coverts, green fringes to primaries and tail feathers, all dark bill and overall pale coffee-grey colour. A more pronounced pale supercilium than white eyering.
Eastern Subalpine Warbler – Baltasound, Unst – Tony Davison© – This bird was very elusive at times, often sitting high amongst the leaves of it’s favourite Sycamore Tree, disappearing for hours on end. Most frustrating, as it would also move about between three other crofts in the area.
Brambling – female – Skaw, Unst – Tony Davison©
Starling – the Shetland race – Norwick, Unst – Tony Davison©
Sanderling – Norwick Beach, Unst – Tony Davison©
Ringed Plover – Norwick Beach, Unst – Tony Davison©
Curlew – Clingera, Unst – Tony Davison©
Friday 3rd October 2014 – The journey home south – Not much to say really, apart from being gutted by the arrival and news of the discovery of a male Siberian Rubythroat. The news broke around 4pm just as we were driving onto the Ferry for our journey home. Oh well that’s birding for you.. Always next year….
Fetlar, Shetland – 3rd October 2014 – Tony Davison© – Our ferry journey from Unst was via Fetlar, then Yell, interesting journey back.
Bonxie – Blue Mull Sound – Tony Davison©
Gannet – Blue Mull Sound – Tony Davison©
Kittiwake – Ulsta, Yell – Tony Davison©
Common Gull – adult – Belmont, Unst – Tony Davison©
Common Gull – 1st winter – Haroldswick, Unst – Tony Davison©
Bonxie – Norwick, Unst – Tony Davison© – Bonxies are everywhere on Shetland and especially on Unst.
Muness Castle, Unst from Blue Mull Sound – Tony Davison©
Thanks to Gary Taylor, Paul French and team for the finding of the Swainson’s Thrush. Big thanks to the birders on mainland for finding the White’s Thrush and the Yellow-rumped Warbler. Thanks to Richard James & Dave Nadin for company during the week. Great to meet up with many local Unst birders again and looking forward to next year already. The year list moves on to 225.