Martin arrived in Shetland last night, I picked him up from the last flight into Sumburgh. Talk about a kid in a toyshop – he was sooooo excited! And correspondingly loud. I could see all these people I knew giving me very strange looks, while mothers were hiding toddlers away from it all. Great to see someone so fired by the prospect of some birding though! I took him home and got a few glasses of wine down him but he was still bouncing around like Tigger when I went to bed…
This morning, Thursday, we headed out into the field to remind him what Shetland birding is like. We started off at Sumburgh Head just after dawn, where Goldcrests were hopping around our feet and Song Thrushes exploded from grassy cover. We called in at the quarry, where the Little Bunting found last night by Shetland Nature guide Gary Bell was still present, and showing well:
All that before breakfast – a good start. We went back home, and opened the nets in the garden before setting about a panful of porridge. Mid morning, we set off to Quendale, hoping for a Blyth’s Reed or a tasty locustella – after all the Blyth’s Reeds in Shetland during the last week or so and all those PGs on the mainland yesterday. We’d barely got out of the car at Quendale, when Rory Tallack, another Shetland Nature guide, phoned in with a Lanceolated Warbler at Sandness – a mighty impressive find in the god-forsaken west side of Shetland. Feeling under pressure now, we set off up the burn in glorious sunshine. Ten minutes later, this little beauty appeared:
Olive-backed Pipit! Martin got noisy again. BOOM!! (Boom! is his new favourite word.) And started doing his Tigger routine, interspersed with extraordinarily lifelike Scooby doo impressions. (Next time you meet him, get him to do his Scooby noises, they’re great.)
We managed to get a few pics, but sadly no sound-recording. Carrying on up the burn, we visited every single iris bed on the east side of Fitful but found not a single acro or loco. Still, we could barely complain, with a BB in the bag, four Yellow-browed Warblers and this particularly drab Common Rosefinch, a worn adult bird we presume:
News from elsewhere in Shetland kept on arriving too, new birds including a Bluetail on Whalsay, an Isabelline Shrike and another OBP at Hestingott (just down the road) and then a Booted Warbler on Unst, the last bird found by Micky Maher and Shetland Nature tea-lady Brydon. (There! I’ve done it! Three mentions of Shetland Nature in one post and I qualify for a free bacon roll at Gutcher caff.)
Heading back for a late lunch, we stopped at Virkie to scan for waders, a Little Stint and a Curlew Sandpiper being the best on offer, before the aforementioned Isabelline Shrike appeared on distant fence wires, brandishing a large bumblebee and waving its tail around. Views were distant but by no means bad – it looked like a fairly standard 1W isabellinus, although I wouldn’t put any money on that without seeing it a bit better.
Rest of the day involved some work for me, and a quick lap of Sumburgh in the evening, but no more milestones to relate. Martin still said ‘BOOM!!!’ at regular intervals even so. His tour group are going to need ear plugs this week. Me, I’m off for a lie down…