Champions of the Flyway!

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Shetland, Sep-Oct '21 (part one)

Bramblings - large influxes, close views and strong vismig made them one of the birds of the trip 

A slightly delayed summary (busy times) of our excellent trip to the Shetland mainland over 28th Sep to 5th Oct. It was part Terriers reunion, part new or reintroduced team baptisms, and the five of us - myself, Rich, Dan, Will and Darren - had the pleasure of each other's always entertaining company over seven days birding in one of the more unique and picturesque of the UK's birding landscapes.
Ravens, Siskins, Pied Flycatcher

We were based in the village of Hoswick, nestled in a small bay on the east coast, about equidistant between the tip of Sumburgh Head to the south and Lerwick to the north; our accommodation for the week was ideal, having the full run of large ex-hotel, with promising habitat literally surrounding us. While we didn't plan it, we hit a loose pattern of birding a patch hard from dawn 'til lunchtime, and then either exploring somewhere new or diverting for the odd convenient twitch in the afternoon; where there were two particularly productive sites close to each other, we'd split the day between them.
Snow Bunting, Shore Lark, Wheatear, Spotted Flycatcher

Our immediate local patch of Hoswick and Sandwick was great, with lots of gardens spread across a wide area, as well as a wooded burn, juncus beds, productive farmland and of course coastline all within a few km, and we spent several mornings (and odd evenings) giving it a serious hammering. Otherwise, we enjoyed the mighty Sumburgh Head several times, and fell in love with Quendale to its west - an ostensibly modest-looking natural valley at Shetland's south-westerly tip, which we covered on multiple occasions, with satisfying results.
Hooded Crow, Eastern Lesser Whitethroat, Eider

While none of us are twitchers per se, we agreed that if a decent bird turned up either en route somewhere or within immediate striking distance, we'd drop in for a swift one. We did so several times, with entertaining results - entertaining in that we enjoyed not only a few cracking rarities, but the anthropological comedy melodrama of the twitches themselves (for another time, perhaps).
Red-breasted Merganser, Whooper Swans, putative Tundra Peregrine

Despite best efforts we didn't score a big one for ourselves, although we found plenty to keep us ticking over and fired-up to check that next promising corner of habitat.... a Tundra-type Peregrine (above, and more of later) hunting on Sumburgh Head was a stand-out, and we'd plenty of back-up (Little Buntings, Red-backed Shrikes, Yellow-brows, a very interesting Lesser Whitethroat, etc) - but many of the highlights, twitches notwithstanding, concerned shared migration experiences.
Little Bunting 

We enjoyed plenty of rarities nearby - Red-eyed Vireo, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Western Bonelli's Warbler, etc - as well as many scarcities, but the more holistic adventures of birding as a team and drinking in the ebb and flow of migration against such wonderful backdrops was the real thrill. More to follow shortly.
Flock of Twite, Shetland Wren, Wheatear