Friday 26 September 2014

Shetland Trip 2014 - The Beginning!

Let me begin this blog by thanking that rotten bunch of ruffians, the CLAMS for taking pity on a poor, lonely ASBO and adopting me for this trip. As some of you will know I suffer from a rare birding behaviour disorder that leads me to occasionally take the p*ss and get up to the odd bit of mischief. I admit that I am not the easiest person to spend a week with..... just ask Nadia. I must also thank the 55.3% of Scottish folk who voted 'No' to independence. If the vote to quit Great Britain had been a 'Yes' then I would have flicked a non-victorious 'V sign' to them all and headed down to the Isles of Scilly instead.

Anyway, we touched down at Sumburgh airport just after 11.00am following a trouble free flight from Birmingham, via Aberdeen. As we disembarked and staggered across the runway it was a real struggle to stand up in the westerly gusts. You could almost smell that rare American vagrant in the air if you tipped you head back slightly and aimed your rictal bristles in the direction of the Atlantic Ocean.

As we had to wait for Gary Prescott to arrive later in the day, we decided to lob out the bins and do a bit of birding in the South Mainland rather than head straight up to our digs in Lerwick. The first port of call was the Sumburgh Farm area. The strong winds meant that any passerine with any sense would be laying low in what sheltered corner they could find. We did however find our first flock of 22 Twite feeding around Sumburgh Hotel and drinking from the puddles in the car park. This a species of finch well equipped for whatever weather conditions Shetland can throw at it.

In the pasture around the hotel, a Ruff was a nice surprise and a dozen Common Snipe were flushed. In a nearby stubble field there were 6 Lapwing, good numbers of Skylark and a scattering of Blackbirds and Meadow Pipits.

Twite - Sumburgh Hotel, Mainland, Shetland.
Photo by Adam Archer

We then made our way over to Grutness to scour the small mixed flock of waders along the beach. A juvenile Little Stint was nice to see amongst the 40 Dunlin, 10 Sanderling and 8 Turnstone. There was also a smart male White Wagtail feeding along the tideline together with a few Pied Wagtails and the odd Rock Pipit. The first Great Skuas of the trip were also spotted harassing Gannets feeding out in the bay.

The lads hecking out the waders at Grutness, Mainland, Shetland.
Photo by Adam Archer

We then received a call from 'The Biking Birder' to say he had arrived. Gary had flown in just hours after returning from a three month trek around Peru where he had seen some cracking South American speciality species, was robbed at gun point and had made acquaintances with the odd beautiful senorita or two.... the dirty, old rogue.

After bundling Gary into the back of our Kia 'birder carrier', and placing him in quarantine for a few minutes because he still smelt of Llamas, we arrived up at Channerwick. Some of the lads spotted the flicker of a Red-breasted Flycatcher in the large sycamore around the ruined cottage but due to the stiff breeze it failed to show well. The only other migrant of note was a male Blackcap and a single Northern Wheatear. It was even worse up at Sandwick with just a flock of 42 European Golden Plover for us to have scan through.

Before heading into Lerwick to find our accommodation we had a quick look around the Loch of Clickimin and the adjacent suburbs. With only a pair of Whooper Swan, a flock of Tufted Ducks and a few more Blackbirds to show for our troubles we decided to call it a day and head for shelter.

For all those of you who think Shetland is a stroll in the park and where Siberian vagrants drip from the bare branches of every stunted sycamore then think again..... welcome to a typical autumn day in Zetlandica.

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