As I mentioned in the last post, late last evening I had a phone call from my friend Brydon to say that there had been a probable sighting of a Snowy Owl on Unst during Saturday afternoon. At first I thought it was a wind-up, but after a brief conversation I knew it was true and started wondering if I would at last catch up with one of these mythical birds. It would be the last of the three birds on my 'birds from the far north' list - the other two which I've already seen being white phase Gyr Falcon and Ivory Gull - most birders have a rarity list, mine was quite modest. I arranged to pick him up at 7.15am the following morning.
Bang on time, Brydon arrived back after just done a night shift on the ferry and hadn't had any sleep. Looking at the map, we decided on our route up the hill and set off to park the car. To be quite honest, even though I was eager with anticipation at the thought of finding it, looking at the terrain, I was wondering how the heck we would find a bird that could basically look like any other rock ! After just under half an hour, we had reached some flattish ground at the top and started to scan around with the hope of finding a large whitish bird sitting on a rock. Not to be however. We walked on. Then, all of a sudden, as I glanced around to my left a huge ghost of a bird flew off from the base of some rocks. My first reaction was YES!
It flew off around to our right and landed again on a large boulder a few hundred yards way. Quickly getting the camera out, I fired off a few record shots and then sat and watched it. We were very lucky to then watch it for quite a time from several places. The photographs below don't really do the bird justice as they are quite large crops and for most of the time it was against the light. I'm sure that over the next few days, there'll be a number of folk that go and take a look and our thoughts are that it will become even more 'flighty' as people try and get that bit closer.
Judging by the number of droppings and pellets we found, it may well have been here for a while. The hills are seldom visited in the winter as there aren't any sheep up there and it was only because a local person was out for a hill walk, that it was found. Lets hope that after the initial interest, it stays around for a while longer. My thanks goes again to Brydon Thomason for the late night phone call.
The day after yesterday(ish)
5 months ago