Thursday 30th September
It's always nice showing people around Unst and going to some of my favourite places and seeing the reactions when we visit the various locations. Tie this in with looking for birds as well and it makes it very enjoyable time - weather permitting ! We didn't see many birds today, but we did see Lapland Buntings, Snow Buntings, Redpolls, Bramblings and a probable Icterine Warbler at Skaw. Also at Skaw, we had 3 Siskins that were very confiding and allowed us within 5ft. Unfortunately the light level was pretty poor which meant I was shooting at ISO 1250 just to get me a shutter speed of 1/160 second - not fast enough to freeze their movement as they fed, so I had to slightly prejudge the moment when they were relatively still.
SiskinAfter lunch, we headed down to Lund, prior to me having to do the school run. Lund was rather quiet after the last week or so as now the wind was coming from the SE, the bay was slightly sheltered. In the nettles behind the beach, we found a couple of Goldcrests feeding, a Willow Warbler and a Robin. This bird gave us the run around for a short while as it ducked and dived through the nettles and only gave up its identity when it finally sat on the wall for a brief moment.
In the evening, Catriona and I had one of those rare occasions out without children in tow. We went for a very pleasant meal with Geoff and Andrew at one of the local eating houses - and very good it was too !
Friday 1st October
Today, Geoff and Andrew were heading off back down to Mainland before heading back to the deep south and I was going to Lerwick to pick up my friend Tim who had arrived for a week. No trip to Lerwick takes place with out the obligatory 'chores', so, once I'd met up with Tim, it was off around town at a fast pace to get the jobs done.
Over at Esherness in north west Mainland, were a couple of birds we thought we'd take a look at, these being Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Buff-bellied Pipit. It wasn't quite that simple however as we also had to keep an eye on the weather. The forecast for later in the day was for the wind to increase to a force 9 gale from the south east - good for blowing the birds to Shetland but not good for getting us back to Unst ! It took us about 40 minutes to get firstly to Tangwick and to try for the pipit. On arriving at the location, even if we'd wanted to open the car doors, it was very difficult - the wind was pretty strong. As we sat there, a pipit flew in to the place I'd been told where may show. Due to the wind, the vegetation blowing around and the fact it was really keeping its head down, I must admit we didn't positively identify it - it could have been anything! Despite this bird being rarer than the sandpiper, I was looking more forward to catching up with the B-b Sandpipers (there was in fact 3 there). Arriving at the lighthouse car park, the wind almost took the doors off - not good for trying to photograph birds in the open.
In a very short time, we located the birds, methodically feeding across the short cropped grass in to the wind. We circled around them, firstly to get the light behind us and also as this would get the wind behind me to help shield the camera set up from movement by the very strong gusts. Due to the wind strength, I had to up the ISO to give me enough shutter speed to also try and stop any movement of the lens etc. The birds were pretty confiding and two of them came to a frame filling distance - which in fact was too close using the 500.
As we knelt down watching them, we saw two men walking up towards us some distance away - it was Geoff and Andrew - who had decided to check these birds out as well. After half an hour, Tim and I headed off and fortunately didn't get stuck on Mainland ! Getting back to Unst around 3.30pm, we decided to 'twitch' a Red-breasted Flycatcher that had been seen during the day just a few hundred yards from our house. We saw the bird briefly, but by now the light was pretty bad - maybe tomorrow ?
Saturday 2nd October
Well, what a night , The gale came through and with it hopefully a few wind blown migrants ! Just after 7am, we headed off over to Skaw as on the web last night it had said there'd been a Redflanked Bluetail and also a Bluethroat there. Not much in the way of birds there but what raging sea, it was boiling with 'anger'. It turned out that it was Skaw on Whalsay, not Unst - not my mistake but the website. Going up to Lamba Ness, it was more to see the raging sea than expect to see any birds, so not staying long it was on to Norwick. Parking by the beach next to a mini bus, I presumed it was a bird tour, but who ? Noticing on the seat a particular brand of jacket, I knew it was Brydon so at least if there was anything about, they would have found it. Sure enough, not long after first speaking, one of his group found a Little Bunting in a tattie crop with a large flock of Bramblings. The bird showed well which enabled us to good views and also pictures.
The rest of the morning was spent looking for (in vain as it turned out ) the Arctic Redpoll which had been around the Norwick/Northdale area. I'd seen them several times but Tim wanted one for his 'visit list'. We saw plenty of other Redpolls and also more Bramblings,, Lap Bunts' and also a few Snow Buntings, but no Arctics'. After lunch, we went to look for the RB Fly' again just along the road. The bird was still there but I think due to the wind, it was keeping to the shelter of the small stand of trees which made picture taking virtually impossible - I don't like using flash on birds. It did show very briefly before darting back in to the foliage, so no apologies for the quality - maybe tomorrow ?
All in all, the last few days have been really enjoyable, some really nice birds and good company and not bad weather - even if, at times, it's a job to stand up in the wind !