26th October. Probable Birding

What a strange weekend for probables. Firstly the Little Blue Heron in Carmarthenshire. I'd planned to go for this today as yesterday was a no no, due to Beth not being interested in drab juv Herons. Fortunately my picky ticking tweenager did me a real favour as we would have spent Saturday getting very frustrated and seeing just Little Egrets. Nearby in Powys (which is not really nearby at all but it sounds better) was the report of a 1st winter drake Siberian Thrush, which had had some strange overnight gender swapover after initally being a female. RBA reported it something like this "In Powys an unconfirmed report of a possible Zoothera thought likely to be a probable male/female adult/immature Siberian Thrush. Probably present for c.4 days in a garden centre/coffee shop where a nice selection of potted plants/cakes may be purchased" I suspect this bird will never see the light of day probably!

Today there was a report of a possible Northern Flicker (Hampshire) seen flying up off a grass verge in to some woods- BOLLOCKS! Green Woodpecker feeding on a grass verge flying off in to woods more like.

As you will have now gathered no birding was done today, though I did have two probable Fieldfares over the house at 10:00hrs GMT. They of course weren't probables but by claiming them as probables I open up a whole can of worms (or can of moths as a colleague of mine once said) what if these probable Fieldfares weren't Fieldfares but something far rarer like er Ring Ouzels they have a similar call to Fieldfares well similar if your a bit deaf. Come to think of it I was talking to the next door neighbour at the time so I probaly didn't here them properly that's it then, today I saw two probable Ring Ouzels over the house at 10:00hrs GMT. See it's that easy 2 probables go out on the pager (though I wouldn't of course put out two Fieldfares) and everyone thinks I'm great*

The whole of the day was infact spent stripping wallpaper and as a result my right arm feels like it did when I was 15, but without the accompanying crusty sock**

* Actually anyone would think I was a total wanker claiming a probable Ring Ouzel.

** See scene from American Pie

16th October. Back to Work

Spent most of yesterday staring at the rain through Rob's window. However this did prove worthwhile in that I got Rob a new house tick, Goosander, and saw the Great Grey Shrike (much to the annoyance of Rob) that Andy found. A wander round Toab again saw me drawn to the shop where I purchased provisions for the journey home a egg and Bacon and chicken in white sauce. The village was full of tick hungry Shetlanders lucking for Rob's Coal Tit, so I wandered off in the direction of Exnaboe where I got very wet and ate the first of the 'way home' pies egg and bacon 6 points as it was more flan than pie! Andy departed at 11 and having got changed I decided that my trip was over and that I would concentrate my efforts on staring out of the window at the POV. This was until Russ Haywood had a selection of 'scarce' in a now birderless Toab. Rob and I wandered into Toab for a last look and managed just another Yellow-browed. I also ate the other pie!

So that was it another Shetland trip over, but I'll be back next October.

14th October. Tits Out, (but sadly not for the lads)

Another late start found us forcing ourselves out of the house at 10:15 in the general direction of Toab. Whilst walking past the Virkie Willows Andy spotted a roosting Long-eared Owl which we duly took lots of pictures of (remember the fact I own a camera does not make me a photographer). Rob appeared in a panic. Great I thought a 'rare' to twitch. This was true in that there was a Long-tailed Tit at the lighthouse. Now this might seem trivia but it was infact Shetlands 4th record. Ironically the rarest bird on the islands during our 12 day stay! Sadly however it was not seen again, so leaving Rob at the lighthouse Andy and I set off for Levenwick. On route we called at Mainlands where the hot pie selection included Steak Bridies (6 points awarded by Andy) and Cheeseburger Puffs. I awarded the latter 7 points though two of these were for the shear ingenuity of the product i.e a burger topped with cheese and relish and covered in puff pastry whatever next?

Cheeseburger Puff

We were a bit unfamiliar with the Levenwick area but headed for a spot where Andy had previously found a Firecrest. The initial walk around this garden produced just a couple of Goldcrests, but on the way back I noticed a small bird flit out and back in. This proved to be a spanking male Red Breasted Flycatcher my first such male. Also at Levenwick was a Whinchat.

It occured to us that new birds were in so we decided on heading back to the Sumburgh area. A call from Rob informed us that he and Helen had just had a Coal Tit near the Christian Youth Centre - hallelujah. Again another Shetland mega! We tried to show enthusiasm for it but unfortunately it, like its cousin, had buggered off probably towards Scatness/Toab. With this in mind we headed for the gardens of Toab. The lure of the Toab shop proved too much, I just had to check the pie situation. Amazingly they had been a massive fall of 'rare' and 'scarce' Chicken in White Sauce, Egg and Bacon and my all time favourite Cheese, Bean and Tattie. Despite not being the slightest bit hungry I bought the latter and consumed it immediately (10 points).
The pie distracted me somewhat from checking the gardens and we suggested rechecking the lighthouse and farm areas, which we did and saw nothing.

Note Mackay sneaking up for a look at mi pie

The day finished with the Long-eared Owl hunting the grassy edges of the POV.

13th October. I'm a Birder Get Me Out of Here

It's been another grim day with little on the bird front, Pied Fly and a Lesser Whitethroat were the highlights. However a very slight improvement on the pie front . A hot Cottage Pie (hot cottage! try googling that!!) purchased from Mainlands gave me some hope (9 points) and as I put in the last mouthful (that's half a pie then) we were alerted of a Richard's Pipit at Toab - scarce pie = scarce.
Unlike the pie the Richard's Pipit did not show at all so we buggered off to the Lighthouse and saw 2 Goldcrests which was crap to say the least.
The rest of the afternoon was spent at Hoswick and Fladerbister with the Pied Fly and Lesser W' at the former. A stop off at the Sandwick Bakery produced just 'meat pies' confirming my thoughts in that there is some kind of pie famine occurring.

Incidentally our finding rivals of the previous years have just returned from a foreign trip HERE Can't help but feel sorry for the boys, surrounded by 'Giga Rare' and just a few 'scarce' to show for their efforts.

The lack of 'rares' proved too much for the invisible man.

Cottaging Pie

12th October. Ten Point Plan

Well I said watch this space so here it is:

Yep that's it 8 hours in North and Northwest Mainland for a Pied Fly.

The day got off to a good start with a quick stop at the Lerwick Tesco where amazingly pies were being sold! A pack of Macaroni Cheese and a pack of Chicken Curry Pies were purchased.

Site 1 Lower Voe where we managed a mere 6 Goldcrests, 1 Blackcap and some Robins.

Site 2 err

Site 3 err oh F*** it it was crap we saw nothing and to make it worse there seemed to be birds everywhere else, including sites that we decided to leave out of the itinerey*.
The highlight was a scone and a cup of tea at the cafe at Esha Ness - though even here we managed to dip on the legendary 'Fine Breasts of Esha Ness' that Rob had fascinated us with earlier in the year.
In the end we had to go and look at someone elses bloody Ring-necked Duck though we did also have a Slavonian Grebe there.
The aforementioned pies weren't too bad, though the curried chicken was better than the macaroni 7 and 6 points respectively.

*.I must point out that Andy's Itinerey was flawless apart from the lack of birds

The flat tundra like area of Easha Ness

Two gentlemen of the art discussing 'rares' over a fag

11th October. ZZZZZ

After a week of relentless walking and ditch bashing in gale force winds and rain, today was a day of rest. This was mainly due to waking at 9am with a hangover. The previous evening had been spent with a large chunk of the Shetland Birders, the largest chunk was absent, in the Sumburgh Hotel until around 1am.

A party of Pale-bellied Brent Geese were on the POV as well as the usual small selection of waders were the only birds seen all day.

Tomorrow we have a plan and a strict itinerary, we're hitting the north and west of the Mainland - watch this space!!

10th October. Fuel Poverty

Can't be bothered to write today so view here if you really want to know what we've been up to.


The current economic crisis coupled with an unprecedented fall of "Giga Rares" has lead to a number of high profile 'Twitchers' facing fuel poverty. This has resulted in at least one of them taking up demeaning jobs to fund their addiction.

9th October. Farewell my Fair Weather Friends

Birding on Shetland should not be compared to birding the Scillies. You have to work for your birds here. You can't just stay in bed with the CB switched on waiting for the other people to put out the news. Birders who come here should be aware that they are very much part of the finding scene. So it disappointed me somewhat this afternoon when the Nordagerdi crew informed us of their early departure. Andy L couldn't take the pressure of the Alder Flycatcher anymore and John and Dave were concerned that the weather wasn't going to be very nice for their return crossing on Saturday. However we have since learned that the latter two are already making plans for the flyca'. It was going to happen sooner or later that Shetland wouldn't come up with the goods and so far this October it hasn't. But with new birds still appearing daily you write it off at your peril. For instance Mr L had been dropped off at the airport only to learn minutes later that a probable Lancy had been found at Toab, this caused him to get a taxi from the airport with only 40 minutes or so before his flight only for the bird to never show.

Anyhow. The day started off well when I found a nice 1st winter Great Grey Shrike in the Sumburgh Hotel Garden, which typically showed well knowing that I had left my camera in the car. The lighthouse was poor with just a couple of Goldcrest and a Reed Bunting. The Toab area produced a Yellow-browed Warbler and best of all an obvious fall of Lasagne Pies in the Toab shop. These were very soon reduced to just two with none present at dusk.

Early afternoon seems the best time to visit the lighthouse as migrants often drop in before dark. Andy M commented that this was the first year that he hadn't seen Red-breasted Flycatcher there. Sure enough as we walked around the corner two birders had found one!

On hearing of the impending departure of our friends we were told to help ourselves to the remainder of their provisions. We didn't need telling twice and quickly cleared the fridge, we did however decide against the collection of magazines featuring elderly ladies in compromising positions - whatever floats your boat!

8th October. Better

A rather late start this morning due partly to apathy and partly to needing sleep. However even before the kettle had been switched on a Yellow-browed was spotted (by a hungover contact lens free Andy M) just outside the kitchen window. A good sign.
Following breakfast we headed for the birderless Sumburgh area. Rumours of South Mainland being awash with Birders this October appear to have been unfounded and we quite literally have the whole southern end to ourselves. The fields around Sumburgh Farm were alive with Redwings and news of a White's Thrush on Fair Isle filled us with enthusiasm. Another Yellow-browed was seen briefly in the Hotel garden and a Stonechat was by the quarry along with a couple of Chiffs. We got in the car and headed up to the lighthouse. A bunting dropped in the road and caused all three of us to call Little Bunting simultaneously. It immediately flicked over the wall and disappeared, fortunately returning to the same spot shortly afterwards. This helped soften the pain of the constant barrage of American Landbirds appearing on the pager and reminded me of why I come to Shetland. Geosetter being sheltered seemed a good idea but in reality there were less birds than yesterday. Channerwick produced several Blackcaps and at least two Yellow-broweds. A call from the Nordagerdi boys informed us that they had found a Sibe Stonechat suspiciously in the area where Andy and I had earlier had a Stonechat. Calling at Mainlands on the way back produced an excellent 9 point award winning Chicken and White Sauce proving my theory that scarce pies = scarce birds and so on.

Nothing better than a big dump after a long flight

7th October. Theory of Pie

Looking back to my trip last year one thing is immediately obvious, the weather was better and there were far more birds. However one other thing is clear there were far more pies of many varieties. There appears to be obvious correlation between the amount of pies and the amount of 'rares' . Today there was a light trickle of migrants in the South Mainland area namely Redwings, Fieldfare, Brambling, Reed Warbler, Ring Ouzel and Yellow-browed Warbler. This coincided with the availability of hot Scotch Pies at Mainlands. With the expected appearance of Lasagne Pie tomorrow we can indeed look forward to something of a rarer nature e.g Radde's Warbler. The discovery of the ultra rare Macaroni Cheese Pie could result in the finding of something within the range of Sibe' Thrush etc.

From the chart below we can see the affect that pie has on the occurrence of scarce therefore
rare = (pie10-)X(rare2 if 2 is - to crust x filling + heat) It has now been raining since 13:30 causing a retreat to Sunnydell where cooking, blogging and the consumption of alcohol has taken precedence. However the highlight of the afternoon was discovering computer birding which apparently rates me as an expert - hmm

6th October. Never give up

The day started off looking promising with a nice light easterly breeze and one or two obvious ‘new in’ migrants in the shape of a Barred Warbler in the Nordagerdi garden and around 6 Wheatears in the Toab area. However things went downhill from there. A walk to Scatness revealed nothing but a juv’ Brent Goose and a Grey Plover.

The Nordagerdi crew were having a similar day but managed to keep their spirits high by getting over excited about Peregrines etc. Returning to the Toab area I decided to pay a second visit to the shop in the hope that a pie delivery might cheer me up. Unfortunately they had only the ‘Meat’ variety that I tasted on my arrival so I complained to the management about the lack of suitable pastry provisions, bought a bag of crisps and left!

After a short tea break we set of towards Exnaboe and saw nowt. The remainder of the day was spent around the Sumburgh area where the highlight was a Hedgehog! Though the Nordagerdi lot found a Yellow-browed Warbler and a Greenland Redpoll. After spending eight hours in the field we gave up and returned to Sunny Dell for another curry thoroughly knackered and pissed off.

"Hello Birdnet, Hedgehog showing well at Sumburgh mate"

5th October . No Birds and No Pies

Twas God that said un to Moses "thought shall eat no pastry based products upon the Sabbath for thou are a reet fat bastard (as everyone knows God is from Rotherham)" This was of course the little known 11th commandment which is seldom published in the scriptures. As a result pies, on a Sunday, are a no no up here in the very god fearing Shetlands - Amen.

It would also appear that he has banished all birds from these lands and landed us with a plague of wind and rain to prevent us birding upon the Sabbath. Well it appears to be working as I'm sat here writing this rubbish. However I did have a walk around Toab and saw a few Skylarks and a fly over Great Northern Diver.

A slight improvement during the afternoon with a Red-throated Pipit reported in the Valley of Plenty. Unfortunately it's at times like this when you discover the true amount of Birders visiting Shetland. Being the only new good bird of the day this attracted a sizeable crowd with over 50 birders arriving, many of whom were happy to tick off a Meadow Pipit! We soon tired of the crowd and left to purchase provisions.

A Sabine's Gull was reported heading towards The Pool of Virkie, half way through cooking a curry, but unfortunately it couldn't be relocated. We decided to return to the Pipit and managed excellent views with just a crowd of 7.

Latest DVD now available from Dudeguides

4th October. Three Degrees on Shetland

Surprisingly not Prince Charles's favourite Afro headed pop group but the temperature as we touched down at Sumburgh! On leaving the airport several cars were showing signs of snowfall - not a good sign. As well as hailstones, rain and snow there was also a biting northerly. Not ideal rare conditions. After Rob had picked me up I requested a stop off at the Toab shop. Unfortunately only two 'meat' pies remained I purchased these and reheated them. A very disappointing specimen that needed the addition of ketchup - 5 points!

Arriving at Rob's I decided to take Sparky for a walk and encourage him to walk along the shore in the vain hope that he might flush some sheltering vagrant, which of course he didn't.
Returning somewhat windswept and cold I decided to take the car and check the Golden Plovers around Fleck. There were lots of Goldies but not much else so I decided to check the pie situation at nearby Mainlands. Once again pie was in short supply and the only types on off were a Steak Brodie (which looks like a pasty) and a slice of Grosvenor Pie (which looks like Pork Pie with an egg in it). I opted for the latter an improvement on the earlier pies but only a 6 as it made me gip a bit.

Bad news of the day was the defection of our regular cook to the Drunkbirders, who have no doubt lured him with pornographic literature and a bunk up with young Dave! As a result we had to make do with a Fray Fry Up washed down with lager.

Tomorrow might be a bit better.

3rd October. North Bound

Tomorrow sees the start of this years Shetlandathon. Already my baggage is on it's way (wouldn't it be great if all baggage was this easy to get rid of?) in the boot of the trusty Drunkbirder. The weather charts are all over the shop with the only guarantee being that they will be some - weather that is! Rumours of crowds ten deep are as yet unconfirmed as is the vicious rumour of the shop selling out of pies by 7am! We'll just have to see what occurs and enjoy the atmosphere, I refuse to use that annoying word craic as it's for the Irish and twats that visit Scilly year in year out and see F' all i.e "we come here for the craic".

Regular updates and pie news will follow in due course.

I'm no Michael Fish but that looks nasty.