1/2 hour of Migrant Madness
It was on Unst where the most favoured memory (amoung many) of the week’s holiday with Shetland Nature happened. So let’s fast forward:
Team effort is a key element for Shetland Nature holidays, both in the group and working with Shetland residents. Tuesday afternoon, Unst resident Robbie Brookes contacted us to say he’d seen and acrocephalus Warbler at Skaw that looked interesting. Worth a check, we arrived at Skaw to banks of mist rolling in on NE breeze. Woah, special conditions. We soon located a Garden Warbler, a Spotted Flycatcher and another bird ‘flew’ in’ to join them but remained obscured. With a little effort we were soon having great views of a spring Marsh Warbler and discussing the finer ID points. Up in the background popped a female Red-backed Shrike. Fantastic! 2 minutes later another Red-backed Shrike, both on view at the same time. Hold on. Fog, nor’ east winds Now we’re cookin’. In the next half hour we found 6 Spotted Flycatchers and a Lesser Whitehroat. Then the icing on the cake: 2 of our guest returning from the beach said a couple of bird had been flitting about on the stream. Quick stroll down and BOOM! a Little Bunting; regular in autumn but very rare in spring. What a stunning bird and a life tick for most of the group.
Little Bunting, Skaw, May 2013. This was like a little wee jewel feeding along the stream at Skaw. Having already seen Marsh Warbler, 2 Red-backed Shrikes and bunch of other migrants the previous half hour, this rare spring bunting (c 11 spring records ever in Shetland), brought adrenaline to a peak
Dunlin, on seaweed strewn beaches around Unst and Yell. Dunlin gave lovely breeding displays with wing-lifting and trilling calls. Both the Shetland breeding schinzii subspecies and more northerly bound ‘alpina’ were seen, the latter often with the Sanderling. This presumed shinzii was unusual in having such obviously white tips to the scapulars…
Against this peak birding moment in Unst we savoured the majestic Hermaness with oodles of Bonxies, singing and displaying Dunlin and Golden Plover, another majestic seabird cliff, stunning spring Snow Buntings on Hermaness and Lamba Ness, Arctic Skuas and Arctic Terns.
Here some off the Unst ‘regulars’ – seen on most days:
and the Bonxie (Great Skua) show on Hermaness couldn’t fail to impress, beginning with superb views of Golden Plover: