Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Shetland 2014 - Day 1 - A White morning and a Yellow afternoon

So it had come to that time of year again. The end of September had been hotting up with loads of Red-breasted Flycatchers, Barred Warblers, Wrynecks and the odd mega appearing around the country like a Masked Shrike appearing at Spurn, East Yorks. I started off my journey north after going to see Kylie Minogue at the London 02 arena, then driving straight up to Aberdeen overnight to catch the ferry to Lerwick that afternoon.

The weather was beautiful in Aberdeen and the ferry journey was pretty relaxing too - not too choppy and I went up top to have a look for some seabirds as the ship headed north past the Aberdeenshire coast.

Leaving Aberdeen
On the way there were plenty of auk and Gannets offshore, some of the Gannets coming extremely close.

Gannet (Sula bassana) from the ferry.
Further along the coast, just off the coast from Rattray Head, I managed to pick out a few more seabirds including a couple of Arctic Skuas, a few Sooty Shearwaters, a single juv. Pomarine Skua and a single Bonxie. The dark soon settled across the sky and I decided to go and get some sleep ready for the next days birding.... It was going to be a big one!

I woke up at 6am to a cracking fry up on the ship and a tense 3 and a half hours to wait until I could get birding.... the reason it was so tense was because for the previous few days there had been a White's Thrush that had sticking to a garden near Boddam on the mainland, a bird sorely needed by 4 out of the 6 of our group, but I was going to be on Shetland a long time before the rest of them, so I had to get off the ferry, wait a couple of hours for a bus and then walk to the garden to (hopefully) see the bird, as long as it was still there, and then meet the rest of the guys when they arrived and travelled up to see it.

Thankfully my wait eased a bit from a text from Phil when he got to Aberdeen to tell me that the White's was still in the same garden. Eventually after waiting in the rain at the bus-stop, a half an hour journey on the bus and a quarter of an hour walk I found the garden at Loch of Brows where a group of birders were already stood by the walled garden peering into the undergrowth.

As soon as I peered over the wall I could see the White's Thrush was strutting its stuff underneath the branches of a small sycamore, bobbing from side to side keeping its head perfectly still - presumably to tempt worms up to the surface. It was an amazing dance to watch and astonishingly (as so often happens on Shetland), the small group I was watching it with with decided to move on leaving just myself and the White's Thrush alone at the garden. 

White's Thrush (Zoothera aurea), Durigath, Mainland
I spent nearly 45 minutes watching the thrush search for food until another group, this time from the excellent Shetland Nature appeared as well as the rest of my group who had finally made it on to Shetland (although minus Marks luggage!!). We carried on watching it until we'd had our fill, opting to come back later for a second look after we'd dropped down to Grutness to look for the Myrtle Warbler.

We pulled up to the car park at Grutness and wandered up to the garden where there was already a crowd waiting for the warbler to appear on its curcuit of the gardens. After only a couple of minutes it flew in to the garden giving a little 'chip chip' contact call.... Although the weather still wasn't great, we got some fantastic views of this Nearctic gem as it went around the garden looking for insects, occasionally perching out in the open showing off it's bright yellow rump.

Myrtle Warbler (Setophaga coronata coronata), Grutness, Mainland
Myrtle Warbler (Setophaga coronata coronata), Grutness, Mainland
We watched it dash round the gardens a few times until we decided to go back up to the White's Thrush and have a second look. This proved to be a good decision as the bird had moved to the opposite side of the garden under a fuschia bush but often coming right out into the open still performing its little dance. I even managed to grab a few videos which I've edited and uploaded to YouTube. Click the following link to see it:

White's Thrush (Zoothera aurea), Durigath, Mainland
We watched it for quite some time until it was time to go to Tescos, get supplies for the week and then head up to the Decca to get unpacked and ready for the next weeks birding!

Quite a staggering start to our yearly Shetland trip.... but we weren't to know that it certainly wasn't going to be downhill from there!

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