25th- 27th September – Shetland update 2   Leave a comment

The morning of the 25th saw the Islands buffeted by a strong NE wind. I tried seawatching from Sumburgh Head, but although I saw lots of Gannets, Fulmars and Kittiwakes plus a scattering of Razorbills and Bonxies, birds that would have been new for my year list like Sooty Shearwater or either of the storm-petrels were absent.

The wind died somewhat during the morning and I combed the fields around Sumburgh Farm for migrants, but apart from the odd Wheatear and Goldcrest I saw little, a Merlin was probably the best bird. As I was heading back to the car Paul texted me to say that a Lanceolated Warbler (a Siberian species related to our Grasshopper Warbler) had been ringed on the island of Whalsay. Having established that it had been released back into the small pine plantation where it had been trapped, I headed northwards and caught the ferry from Laxo to Whalsay, arriving mid-afternoon. The plantation was very small yet surprisingly dense; for over an hour, myself and three other birders saw only Goldcrests. I had a glimpse of a bird on one of the lower pine branches which was only a few inches off the ground and on investigating saw a small greyish-brown warbler creeping through the grass like a mouse. It flicked over a broken twig showing the long undertail coverts characteristic of the genus then vanished for good. This ultra skulking nature is typical of the Lancies I have seen in Siberia or on wintering grounds in South-east Asia, but given the right viewing condition they can sometimes be seen well.

The island of Whalsay.

The little plantation at Skaw. The trees might only be six feet high but it was a devil of a job to find the Lancie.



On the 26th I tried to get a flight from Tingwall to the island of Foula as several rare birds had been seen recently. It is about a 40 minute drive to Tingwall from Paul’s so an early start was required but unfortunately all the seats on the seven seater plane were taken. As I was in the area I opted to look at the big plantation at Kergord. A few Bramblings and Chaffinches were in the area along with a few Chiffchaffs and a single Yellow-browed.



Kergord, the only truly wooded habitat on Shetland.

This could be a lane in Devon……


I returned to Virkie via the Loch of Tingwall where I saw a pair of Whooper Swans along with a few ducks. The wind had dropped now so I opted to put up the nets in Paul’s garden and soon trapped five Goldcrests and a Dunnock. The latter may be a common garden resident in Dorset but in Shetland it is a  scarce but regular migrant. I also saw another Yellow-browed in the garden.


The orange feathers in the crown of this Goldcrest show that it is a male.


I later headed for Scatness where a Little Stint was seen with the Dunlin, a Great Northern Diver swam offshore and a Redstart was seen along with an influx of Song Thrushes. I heard from Paul that there was Little Bunting at Quendale and headed there but had no luck, however whilst searching Paul rang again to say he was watching another Little Bunting at Sumburgh quarry. I retraced my steps past Scatness and reached Sumburgh quarry just before dusk, but still in time to watch the bunting feeding in the open.


It was too dark to photograph the Little Bunting, so I took this picture of a very similar looking bird from the internet.


On the 27th Paul arranged for me to meet his mate Micky Maher on the northern island of Unst. I had to leave at 0715 to get the ferry to Yell and then on to Unst, arriving about 1000. I met Micky at Haligarth, the northernmost wood in the UK. We soon had good views of a Blyth’s Pipit that had been there for a few days. Later Micky took me to the northernmost house in the country at Skaw where we saw five ‘north-western’ Redpolls, the large Greenland/Iceland form of Common Redpoll. We then headed to the northwestern peninsula of Lamba Ness where we saw two Snow and two Lapland Buntings. Other migrants in the area included a few Redwings, Bramblings, Goldcrests, Willows, Chiffs, Blackcaps and Robins. A crop field held a Wood Warbler, a bit of a surprise to those of us who are used to seeing them singing high in oak in the New Forest.


Redpolls have been considered to consist of one, two, three, five or even six (but never four) species. Currently the British recognise three species, the rest of the world recognise two!

Larger and more heavily streaked than the nominate race of Common Redpoll, the rostrata and icelandica races are rare visitors from Greenland and Iceland respectively.

The pale, yet heavily streaked rump is characteristic of ‘northwestern’ Redpolls.

Blyth’s Reed Warbler, a vagrant from eastern Europe/western Siberia/central Asia. A colder shade or brown than Eurasian Reed Warbler with a supercillium that shows mainly in front of the eye.

The short primary projection and plain tertials can be seen in this photo. A brownish panel in the wing was visible from certain angles.

I really enjoyed my time on Unst but as I headed back south and got phone reception again, I heard of the other birds I had missed; a flyover Rough-legged Buzzard and a Booted Warbler on Unst, a Red-flanked Bluetail on Whalsay and an Isabelline Shrike and Olive-backed Pipit back at Toab near Virkie. I headed for the Whalsay ferry but missed it by minutes, so decided instead to head back to Virkie where two good birds awaited me. On arrival I found a lot of disappointed birders, both the shrike and pipit were being seen occaisionally, but both were ranging over big areas and I didn’t catch up with either.

Returning to Paul’s, I found he had opened the nets in his garden and trapped five Linnets, two of which had already been ringed, apparently some five miles away.

Posted September 30, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: