My annual visit to Shetland began this year on the 22nd September, finishing on the 30th September 2017. The usual format of travelling up to Aberdeen on the Friday, stopping off at Black Dog for some sea watching before catching the overnight ferry to Lerwick. At Black Dog I found a juvenile Long-tailed Skua; a single Arctic Skua, many Eider, several Red-throated Diver, numbers of Common Scoter, but conditions were very rough in the strong south easterly wind.
Arriving in Lerwick around 7:30am, we then travelling up to Unst for a week’s stay at our usual croft at Northdale. As there was little to distract from our journey north, we eventually arrived on Unst early afternoon, after two inter-island ferry crossings. So far the weather was ok, but little did we know at the time, that this was all about to change. A visit to collect our keys and a walk around the garden at Clingera, before making our way to the croft. Once settled down at Northdale, we worked our local patch and then made a visit to Norwick to end the day. HIGHLIGHTS – 1 Barred Warbler; 2 Mealy Redpoll; 2 Yellow-browed Warbler; 2 Chiffchaff; 1 Common Redstart; Bonxie; Tystie (Black Guillemot); Eider.
Starling – The Shetland race – A good photographic opportunity to kick start the trip. Tony Davison©
Yellow- browed Warbler – small numbers seen during the week – Tony Davison©
Gannet – Hundreds still around, fighting against all weathers and some showed incredibly well. Tony Davison©
24th September 2017 – The weather took a real turn for the worst, whilst back home the weather was almost summer-like, we faced over night rain and met with strong winds early morning lasting throughout the week. Very grey skies and low cloud on occasions made for real challenging photography. Our day was spent travelling around Unst, visiting the traditional sites at Haroldswick, Baltersound, Skaw and Norwick. Several other sites were visited during the day. HIGHLIGHTS – Common migrants including Blackcap; Garden Warbler; Wheatear; Swallow; 1 male Snow Bunting; 2 Ruff; 1 Red-throated Diver; 1 Peregrine – Twite; Bonxie; Gannet; Raven; a few common waders.
Snow Bunting – winter plumaged male – This bird was feeding a small quarry sheltering from the wind and rain. Tony Davison©
Gannet – above 2 images Haroldswick, Unst – Tony Davison©
Rock Dove – Only place where I think you can almost guarantee these are pure Rock Doves – Tony Davison©
25th September 2017 – After working our local patch, we decided to head off to the south of the island and work the area of Uyeasound. This paid off for us as we walked onto a drake American Wigeon on Easter Lock and later, onto a Little Bunting. Also on the loch were a singles of Whooper Swan, Gadwall and Pintail. The American Wigeon was with around 25 Eurasian Wigeon. Several Redwing; 15 Skylark; several Wheatear and a large mixed wader flock containing Ruff, Redshank, Golden Plover and Lapwing. A Lesser Whitethroat at Northdale.
American Wigeon – drake – Uyeasound, Unst – Tony Davison©
Rock Pipit – Uyeasound, Unst – Tony Davison©
26th September 2017 – A challenging day with the weather. Continuing to be grey, wet and windy. Keeping to our regular circuit of Northdale, Skaw and Norwick, we also visited Burrafirth and returned to Uyeasound for further views of the Little Bunting. The American Wigeon had gone. HIGHLIGHTS – Barred Warbler; Little Bunting; 3 Yellow-browed Warbler; 5 Mealy Redpoll and several Lesser Whitethroat, one if not both were potential candidates for the Siberian race blythi. Common migrants – 3 Wheatear; 3 Blackcap; 6 Chiffchaff, 1 Redstart, 1 Willow Warbler; Song Thrush, 1 Robin and 1 Chaffinch; 10 Ruff
Lesser Whitethroat – Above 3 images – most probably of the Siberian race blythi – certainly shows a number of characteristics of this race. Clingera, Unst – Tony Davison©
27th September 2017 – A somewhat Red Letter day today, in view of the continuously depressing weather conditions. Sticking top our routine – Northdale; Skaw; Norwick A Long-eared Owl had been found in the pines at Norwick whilst we were working Skaw. Later in the day a Bluethroat was found in a small quarry at Hagdale. At last a few new birds to look at. Other HIGHLIGHTS – 60 Twite; Merlin; Purple Sandpiper; Redstart; Lesser Whitethroat; 3 Yellow-browed Warbler; Wheatear and 4 Mealy Redpoll.
Long-eared Owl – Roosting in the Pines at Valyie, Norwick, Unst – Tony Davison©
Purple Sandpiper – above 2 images – Norwick Beach, Unst – Tony Davison©
Red-spotted Bluethroat – 1st winter – Hagdale Quarry, Unst – Tony Davison© – This bird certainly gave us all the run-around for several hours before we managed distant but good views.
Twite – above 2 images – A flock of around 60 birds were sunning themselves in the all too brief morning sunshine. Shortly after I took these pictures, it threw it down with heavy rain. Tony Davison©
28th September 2017 – Misserable day – The weather was poor early morning so we decided to venture out a little later – Northdale, Skaw, Norwick, Clingera, Baltersound – HIGHLIGHTS – Barred Warbler (good views at last); Reed Warbler; Whinchat; Lapland Bunting; 2 Yellow-browed Warbler; Garden Warbler; several Robin; Kestrel; several Wheatear; several Blackcap; Chiffchaff; Sanderling
Skaw – One of my favourite locations on Unst – Tony Davison©
29th September 2017 – A very difficult day with atrocious weather conditions for most of the day. Late morning visits to Skaw, Uyeasound, Westing, Lund and Baltersound – HIGHLIGHTS – Reed Warbler; 7 Red-breasted Merganser; Whinchat, Blackcap; Chiffchaff; Spotted Flycatcher; Brambling; Willow Warbler; Pink-footed Goose; large flock of Golden Plover; 2 Dunlin; good numbers of Snipe. Such a bad day no photographs..
30th September 2017 – The journey home. We left Unst in glorious sunshine and clear blue skies, the norse gods were against us this trip, for the 09:45 ferry back to Yell and the 10:30 ferry back to Shetland mainland. We decided to stop off at Wester Quarff on route to Lerwick. In superb weather, we had several hours at this superb site and in one garden alone we watched – A stunning male Red-breasted Flycatcher; Little Bunting; Yellow-browed Warbler; Spotted Flycatcher; Reed Warbler; Lesser Whitethroat; several Blackcap; 6 Chiffchaff; 2 Goldcrest – This was more like it, but alas we had to leave for the ferry back home. A fitting way to end the holiday though.
My year list finished on 232. I saw 85 species during the week.
Red-breasted Flycatcher – male – what a stunning little bird. My very first adult male in full plumage, a little belter as they say. Tony Davison©
Red Admiral – An influx on Shetland of these beautiful butterflies – Couldn’t resist finishing the BLOG with this picture. Tony Davison©