Today the girls and I were heading off down to west Mainland to have long over due work done on the Audi - the front windows were going to be fixed at last ! I'd already told Brydon not to find anything scarce on Unst - something always turns up - so off we headed on the 9.50am ferry. Most of the day was relatively uneventful, took the kids swimming, did some shopping and decided to keep the courtesy car until Monday and pick our car up then. Things changed on the way back as we arrived at Toft however, as a call from Brydon told me he'd found an OBP (Olive-backed Pipit) in Baltasound and was I around to take a picture? OBPs are a true Siberian rarity and, unless either seen well or heard, can be quite difficult to tell apart from Tree Pipit.
It took another hour and a half, before were were back in Baltasound, so quickly changing the car for my Suby (which had my tripod etc in it) we I headed off up to SHE (Setters Hill Estate) to look for this vagrant. It didn't take long as the bird took flight and called as it flew around me in a semi circle and landed again in some boggy grass. The light was pretty horrible - 1600 iso only gave me around 250th second - but at least I got a record shot. The following morning the light was a little better so I headed off there again and soon found the bird in almost the same place. It was very flighty and getting anywhere near close enough was virtually impossible, so again I had to make do with some record shots. Despite being a typical LBJ (little brown job) it did have quite distinctive head markings, so hopefully, my getting to see this bird will stick in my mind, should I be lucky to come across one again.
A large crop of an Olive-backed Pipit
Saturday 16th October
Despite the fact that it was actually quite a nice morning, we spent most of it at home doing 'chores' until that is, I got the 'call' from Brydon to say that there were Waxwings over at Norwick. Rather than go straight away, we headed off about an hour later only to get there too late. When he phoned, he'd had them feeding less than 15ft from him and was getting frame filling head shots and in the sunshine at that. By the time we arrived most of them had moved on and all we had were two briefly on a fence, I grabbed a couple of shaky shots, which it seems, I've now deleted anyway. Despite this, there were still other birds around to enjoy including Redpolls, Blackcaps, Robins, Bramblings and Goldcrests.
Tuesday 19th October
This morning, we had the first sign (weather wise) that winter isn't too far away, it snowed or rather it was 'wet' snow. Yesterday, the wind had veered northerly and had gained strength and the temperature had dropped a few degrees. I had some stuff to do at home today so, after dropping the kids at the creche, I had a quick look at Skaw before returning back home. I'd not been there for a few days as I'd heard that the crofter had 'thrown a wobbly' recently about visiting 'twitchers' walking all over the croft land - as usual, the minority causing a problem for the majority etc etc. Just having a quick walk around the beach area, I saw a Robin and a couple of Redpolls. Heading back to the car, a bird flew out from some dead vegetation - bright pink breast, white rump, black head etc, it was a stunning male Bullfinch. Bullfinches are scarce migrants here, with varying numbers turning up from time to time, but they are certainly not common. At first the bird was quite flighty, but it soon settled down to feed again and allowed me to get quite close. When I lived in the Cotswolds, Bullfinches were often very shy and difficult to get close to, here because of hunger, it's a bit easier. But saying that, thought has to be given to the bird and not harass it in the name of picture taking, its life may depend on it...........