Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Shetland highlights 2013

We after 12 days on Fair Isle and mainland Shetland here are some of the Highlights
Thick-billed Warbler, Lanceolated Warbler, Syke's Warbler, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (all lifers) Olive-backed Pipit, Short-toed Lark, Red-breasted Flycatcher, 35+ Yellow-browed Warblers, 2 Barred Warblers, Dotterel, and several each of Jack Snipe and Lapland Bunting. Oh an who could forget the great scenery, hospitality and fantastic company.

6th,7th, and 8th October

The first full day on Mainland Shetland was windy and damp with drizzle on and off all day. We spent the morning birding around the accommodation, finding Spotted Flycatcher, a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers, and Blackcaps. After that we headed to Voe in search of the Arctic Warbler that had been present for a few days. The Warbler wasn't present but we did find a new Red-breasted Flycatcher and a supporting cast of 2+ Yellow-browed Warblers, blackcaps, Great spotted Woodpecker, Siskin and Chiffchaff. The rest of the day was spent birding different spots around the Island but only produced more Y B Warblers and  2 Goldfinch (scarce on Shetland).
The 7th was less windy but with low cloud and almost constant light rain. We headed to Yell in search of the Buff-bellied Pipit but it failed to show in the time we were there. We did get great views of the Eastern Subalpine Warbler as the rain got heavier around late morning. We spent the rest of the day birding around Yell finding yet more Y B Warblers with every area we looked at having one. A Siberian Chiffchaff was also found and was a first for me as I have never seen one that has had enough plumage characteristic to tick with confidence. A Reed warbler gave us the run around for well over an hour at one garden before giving itself up and showing well, if only it could have been a Blyth's Reed!
The 8th was our last day as we were travelling home, and what a mad and exhausting series of events that was. We did however manage to get great views of the Short-toed Lark at Sumbrugh before we left. The journey home involved delayed flights from Shetland, plane breakdown (again on Shetland), running for plane at Stansted with minutes to spare, and problems in the car park. In all I was rather glad to make it back home at 8pm and still can't believe we made it.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

4th and 5th October

Well the 4th was a bit of a nonevent as the weather closed in and meant we couldn't get off Fair Isle, what added to the pain was the news of a Thick-billed Warbler on mainland Shetland. It took all day before we were actually told that there would be no flights but to be honest from the weather we were pretty sure that would be the case. We did get out during the afternoon but migrants seemed thin on the ground with the best being a few Brambling.
The 5th dawned a lot brighter and hopes were high that we would get off on the first flight. Just as we were going to sit down for breakfast we were given the news that the Thick-billed Warbler was still present, tension was high.
As we touched down on mainland news of an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler made the smile on my face a whole lot wider! We were soon on site and after a wait of over an hour we got our first brief flight views. Better views soon followed and we got views of it as it worked its way through a line of willows. We had it a couple more times in flight before we headed off for the Olivaceous Warbler.
It didn't take long before we were watching it flycatch and work its way through a sycamore tree. A superb bird that brought up the 400 on my UK list! Bring on tomorrow!

Thursday, 3 October 2013

3rd October


2nd October

Well I think hard work is an understatement, the wind was strong and at times gusting to gale force. An early Olive-backed Pipit eluded to better things but in all it was a slog. Covering 15 miles in the day the Pipit remained the highlight with most birds sensibly keeping their heads down. A Hen harrier was the highlight of the afternoon and a flock of 6 Redpoll avoided identification as they dropped in briefly before being blown to another part of the Island. The weather forecast for tomorrow is more of the same but with the added delight of rain!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

1st October

With an increasing south east wind hopes were still high of quality birds being dumped on the Island. However the reality is little has come in. A Richards Pipit was new but very mobile so none of us got it. The Dotterel was still in with the Golden Plover flock and showed well. A few finches had also dropped in and Thrushes seem to have increased. This afternoon I headed out to do some digiscoping.
Dotterel and Great spotted Woodpecker photo by Craig Holden.

29th and 30th

Well the last couple of days have been spot on for the weather but as yet we have seen comparatively little by Fair Isle standards. After covering most of the island between us the best we have managed is a few Yellow-browed Warblers, Lapland Buntings,Sykes's Warbler still present,  Red-breasted Flycatcher, Redstart,mealy Redpoll, Great spotted Woodpecker, Jack Snipe, Dotterl, Ring Ouzel, Bluethroat, and a few Pink-footed Geese. We hope the weather finally delivers the goods tomorrow.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

And another tick.

Well dawn broke still and foggy and after walking from the Obs towards the south it was evident not many birds were about, even the Yellow-browed Warblers were thin on the ground. After a couple of hours of trudging we ended up at the shop where we were treated with great views of the Sykes's Warbler and even better views of the Barred Warbler.
As I was about to join the que for lunch news came through of a Lanceolated warbler at Shirva so I jumped aboard the bus with the rest of the boys to be whisked off to the southern part of the Island. We were treated to mind blowing views of the bird as it crept through a ragosa rose with it being less than a metre away at time, a truly unforgettable experience.
After lunch I went back to get second looks at the Lanceolated and photograph the Sykes's Warbler. Both performed faultlessly and kept the smile on my face.

We are on.

Well we managed to get on to Fair Isle and were greeted by blue skies and a mini bus waiting to take us to the Sykes's Warbler. The bird showed reasonably well by the shop to a small crowd of just 8. We then walked the wetter parts of the east as we headed back towards the OBS for dinner. After a good luck we birded the western half of the island arriving back at the shop around mid afternoon for second like at the Warbler. We managed superb views and is distinctive jizz made it look at very different beast to a Booted Warbler indeed. Highlights of the day included 12+ Yellow-browed Warblers, Barred Warbler, Water Rail showing to about 10 feet, 4+ Jack Snipe, 5 Lapland Bunting and a young Storm Petrel that had been found out in the open.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

And they are off.

Arriving at around 3pm we checked into the hotel and headed straight out to bird around the hotel. We covered about a square mile before heading off to Toab. With the sea being mirror flat we notched up several harbour Porpoises, whilst the highlights of the birding were 1 Barred Warbler at Toab, 6 YBW, 1 Redstart and a Whinchat.
We all have our fingers crossed we can get the plane on to Fair Isle tomorrow.

And so it begins.

So after a few years of promising myself a trip to Fair Isle I am sat in Stansted airport with 5 other Suffolk birders waiting to board our flight. I have to confess that I have been a little bit excited about the prospect of what I might see, so on Monday 23rd I made the decision to cut all links to the internet. This meant no twitter, Facebook, RBA or any other news services, I also stopped looking at the weather forecast and just went with the ethos that what will be will be and there is no point speculating or getting anoyed with not being there to see things. It wasn't until 7pm last night that I was aware of what was present and the forecast. Now the phrase chomping at the bit comes to mind, the birds are there and the weather looks awesome. Stay tuned for (hopefully) daily updates. P.s. please pray for me that the Lanceolated Warbler and Whites Thrush stay till Friday!

Monday, 16 September 2013

Shrike 2 in 2 days

Well after twitching the smart juvenile Red-backed Shrike on the patch yesterday I thought it only right to take in the 1st winter Lesser Grey Shrike at Leiston. It showed well but distantly during the hour or so I was there but the light was always good. Will it be 3 Shrikes in 3 days, I doubt it.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Digiscoping on the Deben

Spent the afternoon on the Deben digiscoping a few of the birds that were hanging around on the falling tide. Not many waders were about with turnstones being the commonest of the close waders but none ventured close enough to get a decent photo. An Osprey plane flying over was nice to see. Hopefully I will be able to get down to the river again in the near future to get some photos of other waders.