Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Shetland 2014 - Day 2 - Unst

After a bit of a celebration after seeing two stonking rares the night before, we all awoke a little bleary-eyed but ready for the next days birding... we had thought about it the day before and all agreed that Unst would be the destination for the day as Al and Sean both needed the 'Eastern' Subalpine Warbler at Baltasound and Mark and I needed the Rustic Bunting at Halligarth (that had been there since August!).

Thankfully due to a change in ferry timings, the mad dash across Yell wasn't as mental as it could have been and also gave us the opportunity to have a quick look for the female King Eider that had been hanging around with a flock of Common Eider in Basta Voe.

Arriving at the site where the flock of Eider could be seen we scoped through the flock, but we struggled for a time picking the bird out.... that was until Dan Pointon came over and pointed out it was the one sitting on a bouy with its back to us. Looking at it for a while I was quite surprised how grey the bird was.... I always thought females were a bright gingery colour, and after a bit of discussion in the mini-bus on the way to the Unst ferry, we concluded that it could well be a 1st-winter female.
1st-winter? female King Eider (Somateria spectabilis), Basta Voe, Yell
Getting off the ferry on Unst we made our way to Baltasound to look for the 'Eastern' Subalpine Warbler. We found the road it was frequenting and it was Dan again who told us where the bird was seen mostly.... a single sycamore in the last garden in the row of houses. There was no sign of the bird for a while until someone said they'd found it in a small bush around the corner from the row of gardens... no sooner had we got half way to it the bird flew back towards the gardens it had been favouring and we lost it behind the houses. A quick run back to where we were and a good scan of the gardens proved fruitless but we knew the bird was around, so we hung on a while waiting for it to re-appear again. Sean and I went back down to the single sycamore and as we got there I saw a bird fly in and disappear amongst the leaves. We looked into the tree unable to see anything moving until I moved to get a different angle and there, picking insects from the underside of the leaves, was the 'Eastern' Subalp. I called everyone over and we got great views as it crept through the branches, often hanging upside-down searching for invertebrates to eat.
'Eastern' Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans albistriata), Baltasound, Unst
After a little while the warbler flew out of the tree again and back round the corner, so we moved on to look for the Rustic Bunting only a few hundred metres away up the road at Halligarth.... This proved to be a bugger to find... I got there a little later than most people and found out that Mark and Phil thought they heard it briefly as they got there, but we searched the area for a good half an hour without any luck. We were beginning to think we were going to move on and try later when, as Mark, Phil and I walked around the front, we heard it 'tic'. Moments later it flew up from the roses in front of us and perched in the top of some sycamores momentarily before dropping into the canopy. We managed to see it a couple more times in flight during the next 45 minutes, but not well enough to photograph unfortunately... at least we'd got to see it and a 3rd lifer for me in just 2 days!

We were then told about a Bluethroat on the far side of the bay at Clingera that had been showing well in the morning, so we went over to have a look... unfortunately we couldn't find it but a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers and a Lesser Whitethroat was good compensation.

We thought we'd try further north at Norwick, as well as looking for the Temminck's Stint that had been spending a while up in Haroldswick. We stopped at the cafe for supplies and met Chris Rodger and the Shetland Nature group he was leading who had been up in the north of Unst for the morning and they told us that the Temminck's hadn't been looking too well the night before and that there wasn't much up at Norwick, so we decided to give the Temminck's a go and then head back to look for the Bluethroat again.

We searched hard for the stint with no sign of it anywhere, but we did get to have a look at the replica Viking boat that was displayed at the side of the road!
Viking longboat at Haroldswick, Unst
  We went back to Clingera to have another look for the Bluethroat finding Dan Pointon and the rest of his group already there.... they had seen it a couple of times fleetingly as it had moved around doing a bit of curcuit, so Phil and I had a walk into a little compound where a small stream ran under a bridge next to a grazed field. As I got to the bridge a bird flew out from the corner of the field and as it went past me I saw the rusty sides to the tail and instantly knew it was the Bluethroat. It flew into a patch of trees and I called everyone over to try and refind it. It didn't take long and I found it again searching through the leaf litter under some sycamores. We got great views over the next half an hour as it went around on its curcuit, once coming to land on a branch no more than 20 foot away and also seeing it out in the open in the corner of the field where I'd originally found it.
Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica), Clevigarth, Unst
It was getting towards the time to catch the ferry so we made our way back via Lund to have a look for a Marsh Warbler that had been there for a few days in a nettle bed. We got some pretty decent views of the little skulker, but not good enough to get any better pictures than just record shots.
Marsh Warbler (Acrocephalus palustris), Lund, Unst
We also stopped along the way to have a scope up of some duck which at first glance looked like a mixed flock of Tufties and Scaup, but turned out to just be Tufties, but we also picked out some Wigeon along the edge of the loch, one of which was a stunning leucistic individual.
Leucistic Wigeon (Anas penelope), Loch of Snarravoe, Unst
After getting the ferries back to the Mainland we got some fish and chips and headed home to recharge for the next day.

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