So sorry if you left it until today and dipped but I for one am pleased that I can get on with my bloody life now.
Rather pleased that the patch appears to be gathering a decent gull roost over the last couple of weeks. Saturday night produced a nice Caspian Gull - though given the high rejection rate (in Yorkshire) getting it past a committee will be a bigger challenge than the ID. Fortunately it put in an appearance at Redmires this morning (picture below at Redmires by Richard Hill).
Sunday night was more predictable with less large gulls though a 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull, found by Andy, was nice and I managed to pick a 2nd winter Med' Gull out of the black-heads. Photos below by Andy Deighton.
I've a sneaky feeling that this autumn might have one more major surprise up it's sleeve, fingers crossed
So again it was left to the patch to take my mind off everything else. First visit produced very little though 67 Pochard were notable. The afternoon visit was slightly better with a single Wheatear (my latest local bird ever) and that gull again! It still looks good for 4th winter Caspian Gull but I'm just waiting on a second opinion!
Pit-house West came up trumps in the evening with a male Stonechat and the Bittern heading to roost at dusk, the ninth successive winter for Bitterns at this site.
Orgreave was alive with birds - though mainly ducks and gulls so I set about scanning through the increasing flock of gulls. A nice adult Yellow-legged Gull appeared briefly and then shortly after I picked up a near adult Caspian Gull - it wasn't as straightforward as that though. I had left the camera in the house, the battery on my mobile was dead and worse still I literally had no lead (or at least very little) lead in my pencil! It ticked all the boxes i.e head shape, bill shape, primary pattern, wing length, eye colour (dark at a distance). I did manage to make some notes and hopefully should be able to put a decent description together for the YNU.
Despite the frustration it was good to get back on the patch.
A full investigation by the IQ 40 is currently being carried out into the alledged activities of cult leader Christ Stanley.
We covered lots of ground on Unst some real cracking habitat with form. It wasn't the lack of rare it was the seemingly complete lack of everything. The truer picture is that apart for the aforementioned rares and to the best of my now hazy memory we saw just the following (migrants) throughout the entire trip; 7 Chiffchaffs, 3 Goldcrests, singles of Whinchat, Redstart, Pied Fly, Spot Fly, Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Garden Warblers, 6 Willow Warblers (a marked increase) and significantly less Blackcaps. Thoroughly working plantations or gardens when there's is no sign of life is just so bloody sole destroying.
Things got worse when we headed south, when not only was there a lack of migrants there was a massive increase in the number of 'twitching' birders. Never in my seven autumn visits have I seen so many visiting birders, to quote Andy it was like Scilly with cars. This brought our moral down even more but the dream team of Harvey, Riddington, Small and Garner finding a nearby Buff-bellied Pipit both raised our expectations and helped concentrate the rampant tickers in one place. We headed in the opposite direction!!
The following morning after listening to constant lashing wind and rain we eventually ventured out after a rousing call to arms from Martin who informed us of masses of thrushes arriving. Not quite the 'thousands' that we had expected but certainly an arrival. We spent the next few hours getting a proper battering around the familiar territory of Sumburgh Head and Farm for scant reward - in fact no reward.
The rest of our stay was pretty much the same i.e. no migrants and no new rares after HRSG's pipit and I can honestly say that by Wednesday morning I was glad to get on that plane (eventually) to Glasgow. However on reflection that's just the magic of Shetland you never know what your going to get and to be fair I've had much worse years. Perhaps It would be a little hasty for me to say that I won't be back next year?
Currently wandering around Warham with a miriad of expectant birders; though sadly most have already given up and others are wasting time blogging about it. The Rufous-tailed Robin& has probably either done one or - following a frost- is laying on it's back with it's feet in the air.
The rumour mill is already running with a story of how it was kept quiet and how more birders could have connected with it. Blah blah blah more shit for the forums.
In my experience the finder is a top bloke - the nicest of the Punkbirders - and deserves nothing but high praise for getting the news out. Had it been me it would have A taken me several hours to come to my senses and B significantly longer to scrape the shit from my underpants.
Birders! Some of you are just vile spiteful bastards!!
I'm off to walk to Wells for a nice cuppa and a spot of breakfast.
So how was Unstd? In one word - windy. Never have I experienced such prolonged westerly winds whilst staying on Shetland. Consequently birds were few and far between and any hope of a Yank (sorry) was shattered by the amazing statistics quoted by my friend the Llama, who informed me that only three American land birds have ever been recorded on Unst.
After a half day of travelling and getting settled into our comfortable chalet at Baltasound our first full day of birding dawned sunny and windless. As soon as we stepped outside Andy picked up a ringtail harrier hunting in the adjacent field. A rather dark individual with orangey under parts but hefty looking with broad wings it proved to be a Hen Harrier a new bird for me on Shetland.
The plan for the day was to head north to Skaw then slowly work our way back south. We were warned by Martin that the farmer at Skaw is a bit grumpy so with that in mind we stuck to the paths and decided against walking the burn. As a result the only bird we saw was a Garden Warbler.
At Valyie, Norwick it was obvious that there had been a bit of a clear out with only one Yellow-browed compared to at least 5 the previous evening. However a couple of Barred Warblers were new in and Andy picked up a couple of Rosefinch in the oat crop.
Returning to Baltasound we covered the immediate gardens and the Helligarth plantation. Again more evidence of an exodus with just a Willow Warbler and a few Chaffinches!
Having briefly caught up with the Black-headed Bunting at Belmont on our way north yesterday we headed back for seconds and eventually had good views of it among the local sparrows.
A return visit to Norwick produced pretty much the same birds as earlier and another ring-tail Hen Harrier was a more typical bird than the early morning one.
So begins our ‘intrepids’ trip to Unst or Unstable as the predictive text would tell you. Flights went as planned and on time and we arrived at Sumburgh just before 11am. Picking up the hire car we called in at Rob’s for a quick cuppa, where Dave found the first Yellow-browed of the trip.
Tea drunk we headed north via Tesco after dropping Dave off at Cunnisburgh. On our way through Voe a large grey warbler flew over the car – it was obviously a Barred Warbler and a quick U-turn proved us right. Hanging around for the Yell ferry we received a call from Dave who’s team – who will from now refer to as Team Smurf (after the cornflower blue house they’re staying in) – rang to let us know they had just re-found the Alpine Swift! Unperturbed we carried on with our journey northwards taking in the first pie of the trip a Johnson and Wood egg and bacon.
Connecting easily with the Unst Ferry we soon arrived at our chalet in Baltasound where we immediately discovered two things; Vodaphone and O2 don’t work and the prearranged unlocked door to the chalet was not unlocked. After enquiring with the family next door who kindly took us to the key holder we finally got in, dropped our stuff then finally went and did some birding.
The gardens around Norwick were our choice and an hour or so in the rain produced 5 Yellow-browed, 2 Brambling, Sparrowhawk and a Garden Warbler. The lack of any sort of phone signal created an intense feeling or paranoia and worse still meant that we couldn’t contact each other if either of us had anything interesting. Without the 21st century’s technology this really is back to basics birding!