So here's how Shetland went:
I only had a week on Foula this year and had cautioned myself into not getting too disappointed if it didn't produce, after all we were quite early this year and the last couple of years we've had long spells with no rare birds, in fact the first year we had long spells of no birds at all!
We all met up on the Ferry in Aberdeen on the Thurs evening and old timers Frenchy and myself regaled Shetland (autumn) virgins Aspin and Grist with tales of rarity finding exploits. Actually that's not true we showed them some pics and told them to get ready for a week of fuck all and near mental breakdown, well it's best to not get their hopes up!
When we arrived in Shetland I dropped the virgins at Seafield while Frenchy and I went to Tesco for meat and milk etc and took it to the airport at Tingwall. Frenchy was on the morning flight whilst the rest uof us were going over on the 4pm one. We were quite nervous as we knew the frenchman would be going all out to find something before we got in.
When I met up with the others we set off south for our first target, Pallid Harrier. We saw it but it doesn't look much like one! It had suffered an attack by Fulmar by the look of things and was covered in oil making it incredibly dark, it showed no pale collar between the face and the boa and was generally just black above with rufous covs and underparts. It also had a strange whitish spot on the crown which made it look like a cross between a Marsh Harrier and a Pallid, strange looking bird.
Bit of a mess and not too educational!
We had a walk up the burd and irises at Quendale but found nowt but the other way to the coast had a single Yellow browed, nice scored our first scarce of the trip. Fair Isle was showing welll too in the cracking weather.
Is this the best island in Britain?
I then showed the lads some of my favourite sites including Geosetter from where the Foul Isle was visible. Looks impressive doesn't it?
Many would argue that this is....
When we arrived on Foula Frenchy had already done the biz and found a Buff breast which Gristi was overjoyed about cos I think it was one of his targets. But most intriguing was a bird Geoff Atherton had found a couple of days earlier, a yellow legged stint, we couldn't really do much with it on the camera monitor so Geoff said he would come up to Ristie that evening to get them on the computer.
Our home for the next week
Once we got the images downloaded it took us about 2 seconds to realise it was a cracking Least Sand, and second for Shetland. The Shetland boys would definitely be chartering in for that so we got the news out. Next day Frenchy refound it feeding in rock pools at the south ness and we all got good views. But the boat or planes couldn't come in 'til Monday.
Saturday was otherwise good steady birding, I didn't see anything else rare but plenty of scarce migrants including a Rosefinch from the window of the digs. Bill tried to claim an new Buff breast but maybe it was just one mobile bird, who knows it should have been a second with the number around but we never saw two together.
Sunday the wind swung round to the north east, a direction I'd never experienced on Foula, and it felt rare!
Monster wind direction!
Sure enough the wind produced and within a couple of hours Frenchy and I had scored big with a Pechora. GET FUCKIN IN!!! Back of the net, a bird that was very high on my wanted list for finding. Shame it din't land! we only saw it in flight calling but having seen them in China and on Shetland previously we were confident. A bit later on I scored again jamming in on this highly mobile Arctic Warbler that had obviously just arrived. It was on view for 15 minutes then just vanished never to be seen again!
Thanks to Aspin for these pics
It was generally more of the same for the next couple of days with the numbers reducing day by day. The twitchers finally got in for the Least on the Monday and all went home happy, it's the first in Shetland since about 1955 so a tick for everyone.
We had an influx of observers when Ken Shaw arrived to stay in Ristie with us, actually it was us crashing his booking so maybe we arrived early to stay with him! A couple of days later Kev Shepherd and Paul and Neil Wright arrived for the annual couple of weeks and then Andrew Grieve turned up. Kevin scored with A buff bellied Pipit his second in 3 years which caused a bit of a stir especially for Ken who needed it for Scotland. I didn't bother going to look for it as it was giving people the run around and I'd seen the last one. Bill has some cracking shots of it which he'll no doubt have pics on his blog in due course http://babbthree.blogspot.com/
The birding slowed down a little so I took the opportunity to play with the camera getting some nice scenery shots and playing with a couple of filters I've invested in to get different effects.
I'm really pleased with this rainbow the sky was incredible!
And these two with a slow shutter to blur the water came out nice too
Most of the team on the last morning, Gristi had already fecked off
So here's one of the lone wolf!!
Had another bash at the Least on the final afternoon, here's Frenchy doing the same
Paul Wright called us all up on the radio for a Crake he'd found in the Hametoun burn so we set about trying to nail it, actually we just set about it bastard thing couldn't have been in a worse place. We failed miserably to id it but it was obviously a Spotted/Sora, niggling doubt cos of all the Yanks about made us worried we'd let a big one go but the lads nailed it the next day and it was just a Spotted. It was touch and go if we'd get off due to low cloud but it cleared just in time. Mixed feelings all round really Bill wanted to stay, the lone wolf had to be off to get back to work and I wanted a curry!
Taking a break form Crake bashing
The next day we toured south mainland and found 8 Yellow broweds and a Barred Warbler, Gristi went home followed by Bill and I the next day, but not before we'd seen this cracking Lesser Grey.