Wild Weekend: Shetland Spring Extra

More and More

by Martin G.

a Greenish Warbler Quendale May 2013This Greenish Warbler was a bit of a highlight find over a Shetland Nature ‘Wild Weekend’.

Following on from the Shetland Spring Birding holiday, I lead a shorter ‘Wild Weekend’. A new group with similar itinerary. We saw many of the expected highlights and specialties and adding some new rare bird finds. Feedback is always appreciated ūüôā

“Hi everyone at Shetland Nature,
 I finally have time to write to you to thank you for the fantastic holiday I have just spent with you.  I was on the Wild Weekend trip from 31 May to 4 June. I just wanted to pass on my appreciation to you all for the well planned, compact and thorough itinerary on this holiday.
 I especially wish to send my thanks to our tour leader, Martin Garner, who made this a very special trip for me. Martins knowledge, enthusiasm, patience and caring nature was fantastic. He managed a group with differing abilities with great skill and humour.
 Many thanks to you all again, and I hope to have another holiday with you soon (Autumn Birding? Martin trying to persuade me!!)
Kind regards, Jonathan Russ”

Jonathan did very well too, as we always hope for guests, finding some of his own ‘good birds’ including his male Red-backed Shrike:

Red backed Shrike spiggiedrake Red-backed Shrike at west side of Loch Spiggie. We found 2 males in the space of 10 minutes around Spiggie. What a treat! This was a ‘from the van’ find.

Bonxie b Spiggie June 13

Bonxie Spiggie June 13Near the shrike this Great Skua flew up from a bathing club on Loch Spiggie. This one has ‘extra white’ in both wings.

wild weekend group june 13

Our wild weekend group with stunning backdrop of South Mainland, Shetland on day two. the group had juts been watching Snow Buntings on Compass head. Little did we know what lay ahead…

We left Compass and in my mind I thought we could head to Quendale Mill. Lovely tea shop, local history and maybe chance of the odd migrant bird. Main aim was a cup of tea!¬†The migrant quality was slightly higher than expected. Arriving at Quendale I took the group ¬†into the shop. Having ordered drinks I though I’d have a quick look in the garden. A quick ‘spish’ and up popped and striking looking acrocephalus¬†Warbler- quick check of features. Superb! A Marsh Warbler. I ran back to the shop and called the group out:

Marsh Warbler d Quendale spring 2013

Marsh Warbler Quendale spring 2013

Marsh Warbler a Quendale spring 2013

Marsh Warbler in the garden at Quendale Mill. A slightly odd bird, with, like the Great Skua above, extra white in the plumage, most obviously with an all white central tail feather.

The Marsh Warbler then flew out towards the embankment by the mill. As not everyone had seen it well we headed over to view the bank. ¬†a few minutes later and the above mentioned Jonathan, said- “is this it”. I looked up to see not an ‘acro’ but a phylloscopus flitting against the light. “No”, I said “it’s a phyllosc”… hold on, did I just glimpse a wing bar, suddenly a full view- YES! it’s ¬†a Greenish Warbler!
Greenish Warbler  3 Quendale May 2013

Greenish Warbler  4 Quendale May 2013

Greenish Warbler  2Quendale May 2013

a Greenish Warbler Quendale May 2013

Greenish Warbler at Quendale Mill. A grand few moments of bird finding. I quickly rang Roger Riddington to put the news out on the Shetland grapevine- I knew Paul Harvey was keenly pursuing a record year list for Shetland. 


The next morning we headed north to Unst.

Common Crane b unst May June 2013Unst was most enjoyable as ever and the 1st summer Common Crane out on wee show for us every day.

Here was one of the reports we put in to the Nature in Shetland Website:

“Unst:¬†Common¬†Crane¬†at Haroldswick.¬†Red-backed Shrike, 8¬†Tree¬†Sparrows¬†and¬†Brambling¬†at Norwick”

Doesn’t so that amazing but the Brambling was smart male and 11 Tree Sparrows ( I thought it was 11 and not 8- must look it up) in Shetland was easily the most I’ve ever seen.

Otter Unst June 13

A post dinner walk along the south shore at Baltasound. I am more novice at Otter tracking but we scored very nicely. This fella spent about 25 minutes diving into the water, catching some seafood special and climbing back out on the same rock to munch its way through dinner. Fantastic, and prolonged views for all the group.



Red-throated Diver, Fetlar, ¬†photo: Brydon Thomason. These give lovely views on Loch of Funzie, but the Red-necked Phalaropes, late arriving and sparse in ¬†number didn’t show for us.

We also DIDN’T see the next very interesting bird, but I suspect we could have done and just overlooked it. We arrived back at the ferry terminal to see Richard Ashbee. We got chatting and he asked me to check photos of a Marsh Harrier he had seen (good bird on Fetlar) and some Snow Buntings. The Snow Bunting pics were immediately a bit of a shocker:

fetlar snow buntSnow Bunting showing characters of Siberian Snow Bunting ssp. vlasowae, apparently a 2cy (1st summer male)¬†on Fetlar, early June 2013 photo by R. Ashbee website. Richard¬†photographed this bird in the field north of Loch Funzie. We were there, just never¬†¬†looked in that direction. Compare the upperparts with (below) this male Snow Bunting at Compass head which is a male has all white rump which means it is of the nominate form ‘nivalis‘. Male Icelandic Snow Buntings (ssp. insulae) have a dark centre to the rump.

Age? Certainly these 2 Snow Buntings are males. They look like they might be the same age. The bird below at Compass has dark tipped primary coverts but some white at the base of the primaires. The bird above ¬†(vlasowae candidate) has dark tipped primary coverts and no white at base of primaries. Adult males often have all white primary coverts and some white at base of primaries. I think that means the vlasowae candidate is 2cy (1st summer) male. That means it will get even whiter (and an even better candidate)! Just wish I had seen it. ūüė¶

Snow Bunting Sumburgh May 2013Male Snow Bunting at Compass head which is a male of the nominate form ‘nivalis‘, possibly a first summer (2cy) male.

Red Backed Shrike kobylini like North Dale b Unst May 2013

male Red-backed Shrike showing more extensive grey and reduced brown above and paler tertial fringes of kobylini, the eastern form. Will do more on this bird and ones like it very soon. This one was with ‘normal’ male at Northdale on Unst in week one. In total I think we found at least 10 different Red-backed Shrikes. Nae bad!

carbo cormorant and shags Lerwick may 13


Cormorants compared in Shetland. Top photo: 2cy ¬†Atlantic Cormorant (‘carbo’) with similar aged Shags (Martin Garner). Bottom photo 2cy Continental Cormorant (‘sinensis’) at Hillwell Loch (Roger Riddington). We saw the ‘sinensis‘ on the first week.


Lots more seen in jam-packed long weekend. We finished with lunch sitting in beautiful surroundings ending our trip list with a bit of quality: This  drake Ring necked Duck (photo by Larry Dalziel) at Asta Loch.

wild weekend guys

Some of our guests enjoying Sumburgh Head and the very close Puffins

female Eider Sumburgh may 13

Eiders were encountered in lots of places, including occasionally almost tripping over a female in long grass…

and next spring 2014?

Female Woodchat Skrike near the famous bus shelter, Baltasound, Unst¬†(photo by Unst’s man and the bird’s finder: Mike Pennington who runs the Nature in Shetland site). This bird only stayed for one day and was the one rarity we came close to seeing, but didn’t. Shame it’s feeding zone was just along from the Baltasound Hotel¬†where we stayed. We arrived one day too late. There’s always next SPRING.

Now we are planning for May/ June 2014. Details coming soon!

About Martin Garner

I am a Free Spirit
This entry was posted in Buntings, Cormorants, Cranes, Shetland, Shrikes, Warblers. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Wild Weekend: Shetland Spring Extra

  1. Pingback: Great grey shrike in the Netherlands | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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