Happy Birfday too me..etc etc etc

Today is my birthday - happy birthday too me.

Tonight I went to a Halloween party in the small village of Whiston. Being a miserable shit I didn't bother getting dressed up for the occasion. There were plenty of adults dressed up, particularly women, but unfortunately being Rotherham it was at times difficult to tell whether any of them were actually wearing masks or not! At 11pm and after several pints of my friend Mr Guinness we wandered home.

According to Mr Fray his toilet apparently empties directly into the POV. This is a great comfort in that despite being some 600 or so miles away I am still contributing to the biodiversity of the POV. What is particularly rewarding is that the near resident Killdeer could be benefitting from all those pie deposits that I made several weeks back. How many birders can boast that a BB rarity might have feasted on their bodily deposits? What I find disturbing though is the fact that some birds could be feeding on the porn filled kleenex deposited from the chalet of Virkie!!!

30th October: Let's get physical

Well I was in the gym bright and early at 7am (I don't even go birding that early) and almost flat on my back 20 minutes later. The two old dears at the side of me, with a cumulative age of about 150, must have been pissing themselves at the state of me. Red faced, sweating gravy and out of breath. After a short breather I was back at it and proudly managed a full hour.


All pies and no exercise and you'll die, probably

29th October: Gym'll fix it.

Well I've been threatening it for ages but now I've finally got round to joining the gym. Not because the recent pie fest has taken it's toll but simply so I can sample more quality pies without paying the price.

Dad you've forgotten your bra

28th October: Rain rain go away

Typical you plan a day walking in the Peak District to escape the drudgery of life and it pisses it down. Looks like I'll be doing my ironing and watching the Hollyoaks omnibus. However the weekend hasn't been a total waste had a very nice meal at Tim and Kerrie's
(of sausage roll pie fame) last night, though the resulting wind problem made me glad to be sleeping alone. This would have been the weekends highlight had not my friends on Shetland phoned me at 1:30am (2:30 bst). Not quite sure what state they were in but it was good to hear from them and made me long to be up there even more, only 62 more days.
After lunch and doing my ironing, for two hours, and watching Hollyoaks I finally ventured out for a spot of birding at RVCP. Predictably it was dull but I did at least see the Slav' Grebe this time. With Strictly Come Dancing and a bottle of Rose to look forward to I am concerned that I might be turning gay!! Perhaps some of the cows in those pies had had a few hormones too many!!!
Sandwick Bakery Pie Mecca

27th October: SAD syndrome just around the corner

What joy the last day of British summer time and nothing to look forward too but doom and gloom.
Spent an hour at Catcliffe Flash this morning, probably the longest amount of time I've ever spent there. The reason being that Bethany had requested it (I normally drive straight past on my way to RV) as she wanted to get to grips with duck I.D. and being the kind parent that I am how could I possibly refuse. Highlights were ducks various, which with the aid of the Collins Guide I managed to I.D eventually and a smart male Peregrine which was my first at this site. However as I was getting Beth' back into the car I noticed an unfamiliar Ladybird on one of the rear tyres. Fortunately Beth' had seen these on Newsround and recognised it as the evil Harlequin Ladybird so we splattered it and got in the car. Actually we didn't I photographed and left it alone to wreak havoc on the biodiversity of Catciffe Flash.

Evil Harlequin Ladybug on slightly suspect Bridgestone

With Beth now hooked on ducks we decided to move on to RVCP. A walk around the Main Lake revealed bugger all even the long staying Slav' Grebe was hiding, though we did see a pantomime camel, several men dressed as busty women and a couple of young ladies in sumo outfits with this we retreated to the Cafe. Unfortunately the only pie like products that the cafe sells are Ginsters pasties which are really only edible from motorway service stations as a last resort during a long distance twitch. We settled for two giant chip butties, which to you foreigners i.e. not from Rotherham/Sheffield is chips in a breadcake*
*For bread cake see also - Balm Cake, Bread Roll, Cob, Stotty, Teacake etc etc

You should see some of the blockers on my list

With almost a week passing since a pie an emergency food parcel from the Sandwick Bakery might be in order.

25th October: Can't think o' owt

An arty farty shot of a Merlin

24th October: Shetland V Scilly

Oh no not another Shetland V Scilly bird discussion I here you all moan. Well no because that would be a total waste of energy, particularly as even the South Mainland (with approximately just 30 active birders) pissed all over Scilly again. Likewise for pies there was just no contest with the only pie on Scilly being the very elusive pasties in the Turtle's Head on St Agnes. According to regular pies and birds contributor John Hague they were totally un-tickable during his visit - should have had another week at Virkie you daft Barnsley Chop. Of course you only need to scan through these pages to realise how good Shetland performed, on both fronts, this autumn and it still continues to produce the goods.

This of course raises the very important question. Do pasties count as pies? A colleague of mine wasted a whole pound by asking the know all text service AQA "what is the difference between a pie and a pasty." Their eye opening response was as follows "The difference between pasties and pies is that pasties are flatter in construction, whereas pies are round, also the pastry in pasties is thinner. A full British pound well spent Nicky!!!

So what are you opinions on the Pie v Pasties debate?

23rd October: Northern Pie Fest

Following his expedition to the frozen north I have handed over today's blog to Mr Fray.

Right then, it's pie time. First things first, a review of the breakfast pie: this was purchased from Mainlands, so automatically loses 2 points for the lack of heating facilities there. However, I brought it home and used my own microwave, so I'm not sure if that allows it to have its 2 points back? The pie itself was good, but not as spectacular as hoped for, and I would award it 8 out of 10. Definitely not quite up to the standard of lasagne pie or chicken and white sauce pie.

Now two new pies, both of which were purchased from the garage/shop at Brae yesterday. It occurred to me whilst I was there that most of the pies reviewed so far (including the two I am about to review now) are made by Johnson and Wood of Voe, which is just up the road from Brae. Therefore, the Brae garage/shop should be a fine source of new, unusual and plentiful pies.

Exhibit A is a Curry Pie. The ingredients, as you can see, include "bovine meat", which is a little bit vague and perhaps slightly disturbing. The pie was quite average, it wasn't particularly curry-some (if that's a word, which I don't suppose it is), and unfortunately it only warranted 6 out of 10. However, the Brae shop has a microwave, so that's another 2 points. There is also a bonus point available for the Brae shop which I shall explain below.

Exhibit B is a Macaroni Pie. This is without doubt the best pie in the world ever, and looked so good that I took a photo of it undressed as well as in its package. Macaroni cheese on top with a splendid baked bean bonus underneath. Easily 10 out of 10, plus 2 for the microwave. In my opinion, the new King of Pies. And what's more, the Brae shop gets another bonus point as there is a bit of a stunner who works there too - on a par with the Eshaness cafe girl, fine br**sts etc. I didn't know whether to look longingly at the Macaroni Pie or the br**sts. In the end I got completely confused and tried to put the br**sts in the microwave and pay the Macaroni Pie for my shopping.

So that's it for pies at the moment. I will continue exploring. Rob

Thanks Rob. I see six months on Shetland has not made you lose your shallow feelings towards the female form.

22nd October: Pie within a pie

I have just eaten an amazing Sausage Roll Pie a new creation by the very talented Kerrie. It would be unfair to rate this one as it truly is well off the scale. Basically it is a puff pastry pie filled with mini sausage rolls which are filled with a secret sausage mix- bliss.

21st October: Frozen Nads

After deciding not to go for the Flamborough Bluetail I did eventually venture out late afternoon. I decided to go to Pit-house West, near Rother Valley, and see if any Bitterns had returned. They hadn't and all I managed were a couple of Water Rails and due to ill fitting under garments, frozen nether regions.
Hot pie news from Shetland. My good friend Rob has uncovered a breafast pie containing Bacon, Sausage, Egg and Beans. This, it would appear, is the elusive holy grail of Shetland pies. Rob, being a well regarded pie sampler, has yet to eat this pie and has placed it in his fridge. Anyone wishing to view the pie should form an orderly que outside Sunnydell, Eastshore, Virkie. Please park sensibly at this sensitive site and respect the privacy of the residents. A charge of £1 will be made for viewing with all monies going to the Greggs rehab charity.

20th October: Cheer up you miserable git.

With the divorce papers, greeting me first thing, today was showing all the signs of being a great day! Bugger it I have decided that I have no control over this situation so there’s no point moping around and making me and everyone else miserable.
A planned shopping trip to Murderhall with Bethany and my mums store cards was the order of the day. I think I‘m getting too in touch with my feminine side as I’m starting to enjoy these shopping jaunts – god help me. There is a decent pie establishment at Murderhall – Crawshaws. Unfortunately, following the spectacular floods during June it remains closed. Do not be tricked in visiting the Pie King in the Oasis as it is shit and don’t mention the Chav pies from Greggs. Three full days have now passed since consuming any pies, though I did make a splendid Paella tonight, which half sounds like Pie!!

19th October. View from the afternoon

Following the aesthetically pleasing views last week the view from the office window can only be described as depressing. The only plus point is that the round thing in the foreground looks like a huge pie. With the days, getting rapidly shorter birding jaunts after work will be rare. The onset of a long dark winter is upon us though the thought of a return to Shetland in 71 days will keep me going.

18th October: Back to Reality

Back to work this morning although apparently I should have been back yesterday - oops. Rob phoned me last night to tell me he’d just found a White-rumped Sandpiper on the POV unfortunately his euphoria was short lived when I informed him that the Punks had just found a Blyth’s Pipit at Sumburgh. Keeping his finding streak going he then goes anb finds a Radde’s Warbler in the Toab turnip field. If only he’d put as much effort in last week! Anyhow, back to the important stuff – pies. That good old Rotherham lad (we have a nose for pies) Russ has come up trumps with an exclusive photo of a previously unknown pie a Cheese Burger puff no less which he has awarded a generous 8 points on the pie scale.

17th October: The big weigh in

After consuming a great deal of quality pies over the last eleven days it was time to take to the scales. With the morning ablutions out of the way I stood on the scales. Now my weight before embarking on this trip was 12 stone and 5lbs, to my utter amazement my new weighjt was 12 stone and 4 lbs. There you go it goes to prove that several gallons of Guiness and countless pies are good for you.
As for the Lancashire Hotpot Pie. I ate that whilst waitng for the car park bus in a very wet Birmingham Airport. This however did not spoil the flavour and experience of this quality pie and I gave it the maximum cold rating of 10 on the pie scale. Arriving home at midnight I hit the sack and slept solid until 8am.
With no work today my main plan was to go and the see the Slavonian Grebe that had been residing on my local patch, Rother Valley Country Park, for the last week or so. On arrival it was showing well infront of the duck feeding area but was then chased around by two lairy photographers who kept running after it each time it dived. After a week of sensible behaviour on the Shet's this was slightly annoying particularly as the Kevin Keegan type perm one claims to be a pro photographer! Anyway I'd already got some shots so I went home and with great sadness to eat my last Shetland Pie, a delicious White Sauce and Chicken.

16th October: Who ate all the pies?

A very wet blustery start to the last day didn't see Rob and I venture out until 12 though to our credit we did work the Sumburgh Head, Farm, Hotel and Grutness areas thoroughly, though via a refreshment stop with the very hospitable Mr Ellis. Early afternoon saw us head to the Sandwick to get a selection of fine pies. Bugger me on entering the shop it became clear that they had sold out!! Disaster. The only remaining pies were a couple of 'meat' pies so I popped them in the microwave and promptly consumed them. However I did manage to get a bakery carrier bag which I will give to the lucky person who can email me a shot of the elusive sausage and bean pie.
We then checked a few fields for Golden Plover flocks but spirits were low following the pie disaster. There was always a chance however that Mainlands would come up trumps and they did just that. Not only was there a selection of previously ticked pies but also a rather new phenomenon in the form of a Lancashire Hot Pot Pie. A review of this pie will follow as it's still festering in my hand luggage. A White Sauce and Chicken Pie was also purchased t this point.

It was now time to say my good buys to Rob and the two Andy's and depart for the airport.
Once gain with a heavy heart I said goodbye to the wonderful Shetland, however this time I will be back much sooner 10 weeks and 4 days exactly.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this trip the best yet: Rob, Helen, Andy, Andy, Rachel, Katrina, Hugh, Pete and Ken and anyone else I might have missed.

I came for the birds but stayed for the pies

15th October: From bad to worse

A walk around Exnaboe and Toab this morning produced very little except for a Garden Warbler and a single Yellow-browed. To make things worse the Toab shop had no pies and the weather turned yucky. With all these things in mind I returned to Sunnydell and went back to bed. Rob tried to get me to go to Quendale with him but I was by now far too comfy. I got up, after a very refreshing two hour kip to see Rob and Sparky walking down the lane! Where was the car? Well my former trusty chariot had broken down halfway between Fleck and Quendale. Rob had managed a lift by charming the pants off some single grannies. What with rain, no birds, no pies and no car could the day get any worse? I'm sure it can and probably will I wonder if they make a Prozac Pie!!

Secret Piedaphile ring uncovered at Virkie

We recovered the car from Quendale and after towing it for a while got it started. A visit to Mainlands produced no pies and worse still I was almost tempted towards the dark side for a Chicken Tikka Samosa. The evening improved with some nice people in the Sumburgh and beating the Punk Birders at pool - finally we can beat them at something.
Last day tomorrow so a visit to the Sandwick bakery will be in order to clean up on the pies.

14th October: And On The Seventh Day

A bit of a lie in this morning, after another late one. First port of call was for yesterdays Bluetail. Fortunately things were a little friendlier here today and the bird was showing down to just a couple of metres and we spent a good half hour photographing it.

Red-flanked Bluetail (M N Reeder)

A report of an unidentified Locustella at Quendale was intriguing enough to go and have a look. After an hour there we had had enough the fact that it had changed from being a possible PG Tips to a Lancy filled us with a bit of sceptism. As Sparky had been sat in the car all mornng we thought it only fair to take him for a walk in the Exnaboe areea where we saw absolutely nowt. We returned to Sunnydell for refreshments though again being Sunday pies were not on offer, although there were two catergory D Pork Pies in the fridge. Whilst entertaining the local tour guide we were alerted to a Dusky Warbler at Sumburgh Farm. On arriving the bird was feeding in the sheltered garden before becoming very mobile and elusive.
Rob needed fags at this stage so a trip to Mainlands Stores was required. On arrival I headed straight to the chiller cabinet and caught sight of a couple of savoury chicken pies - bonus pie on the sabbath. As there were two Rob and I were able to share them and gave them a joint rating of 7 on the Pie Scale.

Following the pies we headed for Boddam. We took time to cover the gardens, shoreline and fields but had bugger all and decided that the fat lady was well and truly tuning up.
The run of finding things beginning with 'P' continued

A Request from Toab.

Could birders visiting the Pechora Pipit park safely and not climb on the walls or vice versa.

Oops (Helen Moncrieff)

13th October: A Bad Choice

Despite not drinking last night I still woke up with a hangover!! Perhaps I am now starting to sober up. Despite this I went for a wander around Toab scoring a couple of Yellow-broweds and even better views and photos of the Pechora.

After returning for breakfast we decided to have a quick look in the Quendale area for the Hornemanni Arctic Redpoll and if any new migrants had dropped in. There was very little apart from a couple of Yellow-broweds and the odd Chiffchaff. We only had flight views of the Redpoll flashing its very striking snowy white rump. A quick visit to Noness failed to produce the Woodlark but gave us chance to visit the Sandwick Bakery. An amazing array of pies was on offer and I chose to go for the Cheese, Bean and Tattie. An excellent choice a good weighty pie with a generous layer of quality beans and mashed potato topped with cheese. Heated up in the microwave for 1 minute 20 seconds and consumed in no time at all a full 12 points on the Pie Scale for these two hot beauties.

Hot Pie on Pie Action

Pies consumed we decided to head for the plantations of Kergord. Both Upper Kergord and Kergord were disappointing only producing single Yellow-broweds at each. Our visit was cut short by a pager message of a White's Thrush at Sumburgh followed by another of a Red-flanked Bluetail at Scatness. To make things worse those bloody punks had found the latter leaving us slightly vexed. A frantic drive to Sumburgh resulted in crap views of the Thrush and only a very brief view of the Bluetail at Scatness.

Spangled F*** Thrush

The crowd at the latter were getting argumentative so we decided to go and have another look at the Thrush. Better views were obtained so we returned to Sunnydell and I took Sparky for a walk in to Toab.
A phone call from Bethany (my daughter) informed me that the Lada (see post 6th Oct') was coming round which thrilled me no end!

12th October: I'll have a P please Bob

I arose at 8:15 surprisingly without the usual banging hangover but could not actually feel anything below my neck. On route to the bog a glance at the windsock indicated south easterlies. I forced some breakfast down me and wandered down the road past the Virkie willows. A single note call overhead that seemed vaguely familiar almost woke me but I put it down as a Starling.
Rob appeared outside Helen's with a cup of tea which seemed a good idea, it all gave me a chance to check I'd not made a mess of the bathroom which of course I hadn't! Tea drunk Rob and I headed back to Sunnydell. On the POV both Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwit were close to the road so I took a photographic diversion. Whilst photographing them both I thought I heard Rob shout me. He shouted me again so I thought it must be something urgent like the Toab shop ringing to say they'd had their pie delivery. No such look it was just to say that Andy M had just found a Pechora in the Toab turnip field. Of course it would have been impolite not to go and have a look so we did. We picked it up in flight immediately and I noted the call and its similarity to the Starling I'd heard earlier - SHIT! I managed a few lucky shots as it perched on the fence.

Pechora Pipit. (M N Reeder)

Also there were 8 Lap' Bunts and and the Short-toed Lark in the field but not many people seemed to notice that. Following last years Shetland domination by the Punk Birders this year was shaping up as the year of the drunk birders.

In the field quite literally. (A Mackay)

With this in mind we headed towards Sumburgh. Compass Head was alive with Thrushes and Meadow Pipits but the Grutness garden had just two Goldcrests. Walking along the top between Compass Head and the light house produced little else except for a Merlin. As we reached the lighthouse garden Andy M pulled another gem out of the bag in the form of a seven striped sprite from the east (that's a Pallas's Wobbler to them that don't know).

Seven-Striped Sprite (M N Reeder)

R B Fly (M N Reeder)

The hangover was subsiding and hunger was kicking in so we descended down the hill with a fry up in mind. A quick check of the Grutness garden produced a new Yellow-browed. A fine fry up was had by all followed by a trip back up to the lighthouse for the newly arrived Dusky Warbler found by another good old Rotherham lad and a sheep shagger. The Dusky Warbler had done a bunk but another Yellow-browed was new in and the R B Fly' was showing ridiculously well. Concious that big things were happening we decided to check out the Boddam area. Instantly we had an abietinus Chiffchaff and yet another Yellow-browed but nothing else. A 'proper' Arctic Redpoll had been present in the Quendale Area since early morning associating with a party of Twite unfortunately it wasn't among them whilst we were there. With the rain getting heavier we decided to head back to the Virkie area. A visit to Mainlands Store gave me the opportunity to sample a corned beef and tattie pie. Not a true pie in the strictest terms more a slice of a much larger one. There was excessive crust on this pie and the tatties were hard. To be honest Sparky had half of it and seemed to enjoy it though like I said earlier he eats shit so can't be relied on to give an accurate rating. With this in mind I awarded it a rather mediocre 5 on the Pie Scale.

Pie Dog (M N Reeder)

Whilst there I replenished Helen's single malt stock with a new bottle of Ardbeg to make up for the one we had drained the previous evening.
I decided to lay off the alcohol this evening and do the driving instead so no doubt my body will be in a state of shock in the morning.

11th October :Washing my pants

Due to the horrible weather spent much of the day washing my pants, updating the blog and catching up on much needed sleep. I have had a disturbing report that the Nordagerdi crew have scored highly in the pie stakes at the Lerwick CO-OP. Looks like I'm going to be seriously gripped off when the smug pie faced b'stards return.
Took Sparky for a walk to Nordagerdi (with thoughts of raiding the fridge) it dawned on me that dogs really are man's best friend they return your loyalty with love and affection and don't piss off with another dog when you're at your lowest ebb in life. Took Sparky for yet another walk this time into Toab.

Tonight was Shetland soup night. The Nordagerdi crew were already in place at Helens, blagging the best chairs and supping half the wine - though to be fair they did at least take some.
The Nordagerdi Gay Boys (M N Reeder)

The lovely ladies of Toab (M N Reeder)

The soup was presented in two great vats and was excellent served with bread and a plate of smoked sheep which was also very good. After wiping out the wine we moved on to the single malts which were polished off in an hour or so. The next hour and a half were a bit of a blur as I spent it hung over the bog, no doubt a dodgey pie was the culprit here. I reappeared around 3am. Simon, who had apparently collapsed and Dave had gone back to Nordagerdi but John was still sat there doing his best impression of a northern (England) drunk. Incidentally John's pies, from the Lerwick CO-OP, were not acceptable on grounds that they had been mass produced rather than hand crafted like the fine pies of Sandwick and thus reside in catergory D i.e. Pies that have not occured in a natural state. At around 4am we returned to Sunnydell, we couldn't really stay much longer as Helen had gone to bed almost an hour earlier!

10th October: The day after the day before

Got up at a ridiculous 7:30am with a dose of killer man flu. The windsock indicated southerly winds and it was incredibly mild. With renewed enthusiasm, after yesterday's success, I headed in to Toab with both birds and pies in mind. I stopped to have a look in Helen's garden, probably the best in Toab, and immediately saw the Yellow-browed. The garden opposite also had one and the Lesser Whitethroat was still present in the former. The sight of those lazy B'stards from Nordegerdi heading up the road in the car and shouting that they were going to get to the pies before me, filled me with dread, what if they got their hands on the rare sausage bean and tatty pies that I had yet to add to my pie list? However I was comforted by the earlier words of Helen informing me that sausage, bean and tatty are only stocked on every second Tuesday and as this was Wednesday I could rest at ease that they would not get their filthy mitts on this rare of pies. On entering the shop I was disappointed at the selection on offer and chose a steak pie. What a dreadful choice quite the poorest pie that I have ever purchased and only worthy of a 1 on the pie scale. I really doubt that heating this pie would have made any difference and expect that even Sparky (the legendary Llamas dog) would have turned up his nose and he eats shit.

Terrible Pie (M N Reeder)

At least someone was thinking about birding and Andy Mc turned up a nice Short-toed Lark in the stubble field behind Toab of Toab Hall. On returning for refreshments Rob informed me that Helen had invited us for Shetland Soup on Thursday night. Hopefully this is exactly what it sounds like and not some local custom!
As Sparky was due a jab at the vets in Scalloway we headed towards there stopping at several locations on the way. Feeling a bit pissed off about the current home situation I consumed a couple of drams to cheer myself up and fight the man flu before we made our first stop at No Ness for a Woodlark. On exiting the car I glimpsed the bird in flight over the house where it appeared to drop into the adjacent field. Further investigation revealed that it must have carried on though my alcohol fuelled I.D was strengthened by the fact that Andy Mc heard it call. A quick call to the Sandwick Bakery turned up a very good Scotch Pie (small) and again due to the reheating facilities scored a 10 on the pie scale.

A traditional small Scotch Pie (M N Reeder)

Close to the bakery was a small flock of Common Redpolls and I managed a shot of one which appeared to be a Mealy. Common Redpoll (M N Reeder)

We dropped Andy Mc off at Fladderbister whilst we had a quick look for the Melodious Warbler at Voe of Quarff. It was clear that this was going to be a pain to see and we left empty handed. A quick look around Scalloway produced yet another Yellow-browed and several Brambling. After Sparky's vet visit we picked up a thoroughly pissed off Andy who had thrashed the Fladderbister area to death for nowt. A Red-breasted Fly at the Lighthouse tempted us up the head where it showed near the fog horn. With the light fading we headed back to Sunnydell. A call from the Nordagerdi crew of a many pipit in the burn at Swinister was considered too late in the day by three of us though Andy L thought it worthy of a look. It now turns out that there were as many as five species involved. A rather splendid Chinese was thrown together by the talented Andy L followed by a trip to the pub to take the piss out of the pipit boys. But this failed as only two of their party were present the other apparently going to bed 'early', though given the literature available up there I very much doubt it. After leaving the Sumburgh at 12:30 we sat up until 2am leaving drunken postings on several birding websites - which seemed fun at the time!!

9th October: Scored with Rob!!

Eastish (M N Reeder)

With the wind in the east and the excitement mounting we all headed out to various parts of the Exnaboe, Virkie and Toab areas relatively earlier than the previous days - well actually about 8:30. Very little in an hour or so search so we returned to Sunny Dell for some mechanically recovered pork products. Belly full of hog fat we discussed the burning issues of the day namely where to go. Rob and Andy Mc fancied Quendale and Andy L wanted to twitch the 'rares' on Whalsay with John, Dave and Simon. I was torn between the two and chose the former even though it stinks of cow s--t and never comes up with the goods. So with all the enthusiasm of a convict on his way to the 'chair' we began to work the upper valley of Quendale. Rob and I checked round the crop field whilst Andy disappeared. Well after around forty five minutes and just two Goldcrests it became clear that the Whalsay option would have been better, particularly as the others had seen the Arctic Warbler. Bizarrely we continued right up the valley to the large stretch of iris beds. A Yellow-browed Warbler obliged us at the start of the beds but almost to the end we had seen nothing else when a very pale brown warbler flicked up and dropped right back in. The expletives followed, we knew that this was something good and tried to push it out into the open. Almost immediately it flew up and slightly back down the valley, I boldy offered Paddyfield Warbler but knew of the Booted Warbler pitfall. Neither of us had seen the head pattern but felt it was too big for Booted and too pale, slight and long-tailed for Marsh/Reed Warbler. Several flushes later we managed to see the dark eyestripe, large white supercilium with the contrasting cap appearance and also noted the slightly warmer tone to the rump. Happy with our I.D Rob rang Andy with the news of this splendid find. And in a scene reminiscent of Broke Back Mountain congratulated ourselves on our first joint rarity find during twenty one years of birding together.

Paddyfield Warbler (Dougie Preston)

After a while the crowds started (well about 20 this is Shetland remember) to arrive including some of the local luminaries. Full of self satisfaction and enthusiasm we started back down the valley where we found a further two yellow broweds and a couple of Chiffchaffs. A celebratory Chicken and White Sauce Pie was purchased from Mainland Stores, where the pie shelf was full to busting. As ever this pie was both succulent and filling though due to the lack of reheating facilities only managed a 10 on the Pie Scale.
A fine pie (M N Reeder)

Convinced that this was the start of the big one we headed for the Sumburgh area and on arrival realised that we were talking crap. The next hour or so was spent seeing very little but still content with our haul we headed back to Sunny Dell for light refreshments. Anticipating the low listers of Nordegerdi needing the warbler we were in for a haul of free beer - how wrong we were, all three claimed to have seen one before so we had to buy our own. Three pints later I was falling asleep in the bar and feeling the pain of walking around a boggy iris bed for 3 hours. The only option was back for some much needed sleep.

8th October: Lazy Git

The thing I like about these birding trips is that you awake every morning with renewed enthusiasm - wrong. I actually woke at 10am and had to force myself out of bed. Had a bit of a sulk about the current marital situation and threw myself up the lane to Exnaboe. Having gone just a hundred yards I came across the other team of John, Dave and Simon. They were off to sample the head - Sumburgh Head that is, so I invited myself and jumped in with them. The head was very quiet apart from the usual flock of Twite the highlight being a chat with the very lovely Helen.
Twite (M N Reeder)

Our decent down the hill improved with two Lesser Whitethroats and a Chiffchaff. I decided to split from the group and check out the Farm site of last years Bluethroat and proper Arctic Redpoll. The Farm was very very quiet apart from the mad dogs so I continued towards the hotel garden. The marshy area between the farm and hotel produced the first Jack Snipe of the trip as well as many Snipe. The hotel garden was empty so I continued towards Grutness to meet up with the others and have a look at yet another Yellow-browed Warbler, by far the commonest warbler on the islands. After meeting up with Dave and co we returned to the Jack Snipe, which showed well to two of them on the edge of a ditch. Still feeling unenthusiastic I returned to Sunny Dell and sat by the POV (Pool of Virkie) trying to photograph the Killdeer and assorted waders. Spent the rest of the afternoon drinking tea surfing the net and making a huge curry which went down very well. More beer in the Sumburgh followed by a drunken hour discussing the merits of being single. Bed at 1am.

7th October: That'll teach me

After falling into bed at 5am we were awoken by the ever helpful Mr Harrop who called Rob at 7am to discuss the previous days claim of a Dendroica/Siskin s.p. in Kergord. I had absolutely no interest and the mother of all hangovers. This called for medicinal action and two paracetamol were prescribed. After drifting back into a coma I finally got out of my pit at 9:30am and went for a wander around the Toab area. Unfortunately this is not like mainland Britain and the shops here don't open so today would be a pie free day - good job I had the foresight to eat three the day before. The day as a whole was a bit of a blur and the only avian highlights were a Tree Sparrow and the Killdeer again. A quick tea of Pasta, shower and off to the Sumburgh Hotel again for more alcohol. After last nights over indulgence we retired at a respectable 11:30pm.

6th October: Marital Stress Relief

Following my wife's decision to trade me in for a newer model (in my opinion like swapping the Jag for a Lada), this years Shetland Bird and Pie fest couldn't have been more welcome. It was with great delight that I boarded the 7am flight from Birmingham - Aberdeen and even more delightful that I managed to get myself on to an earlier Shetland flight. This meant I could be in Shetland by 10:30am and out birding by 11 - hoorah. So with great expectation I was met by my good friend, and Shetland property baron, Rob. Bags dumped, clothes changed and kettle on my Shetland trip began.
First port of call was the ridiculously long staying Killdeer at the Pool of Virkie some twenty yards from Rob's front door. After a short walk along the shore it dropped in obligingly in front of us. A quick walk in to Toab produced 3 Lapland Buntings in the crop field, including a fine male, and the first two pies of the trip - mince and onion eaten cold scoring a respectable 7/12 on the Pie Scale. There were no other varieties available on this visit.
After Rob had picked up the last member of our party we headed for Hoswick where a Barred Warbler and at least two Yellow-browed Warblers had been present. After a few minutes both Yellow-broweds were on view but the Barred had vanished.
Our next point of call was for an Olive-backed Pipit at Swinister. In addition to an OBP we had the added bonus of a quick stop at the Sandwick Bakery shop for one of their legendary Lasagne Pies. This stop did not disappoint with the target quarry showing well on middle shelf of the chiller. The added advantage of the Sandwick Bakery is that they have a microwave which automatically gives them a two point advantage on the pie scale. This 'king of pies' lived up to expectations and scored the maximum 12/12.
The hallowed Lasagne Pie

The OBP was, as typical, a right little bugger to see but eventually gave itself up to the masses (all 9 of us) when it walked across the narrow burn. Unfortunately I had a faff with the camera and didn't even get a blury shot to put on Surfbirds to prove that I'd seen it!!

With the birding and pie munching at an end it was time to head back for some tea - what more food you fat bas***d - look I've been on a divorce induced fast for the last six weeks and am starting to resemble that Mr Muscle bloke!! With tea (pitta bread pizzas) out of the way it was time to hit the bright lights of Sumburgh! Several pints of the black stuff later we headed for the swinging night spot that is the Ness Boat Club. On arrival we had a crisp fiver crowbarred from each of our tight northern fingers. I think the fact that there was a hen party inside helped us part with our hard earned cash. After initial scepticism it turned out to be a good night with some of the very friendly local ladies inviting Rob and I back for a party. After more beer and getting to know the locals a little better we staggered back to Sunnydell at 4:30am a personal best of being awake for some 26 hours! The day had gone well Birding, drinking, party and waking up at the side of someone in a strange bed the only problem being that this was Rob's bed!!!