After the report of the Pallas's Warbler at Skaw yesterday, I thought I'd head over fairly early to check the place out. Just after I arrived, three visiting birders who'd been staying at Northdale arrived and told me that the bird had been seen flying over the hill yesterday afternoon so I didn't bother to head up the burn and look for it. On the way back, I passed a small flock of 13 Barnacle Geese feeding near the Haroldswick heritage centre. I've seen them here before, but not as confiding as these.
Later on, I called in at Haligarth to try and find the Dusky Warbler. The bird was still there but was heard more often than seen, so no photos sadly. The rest of the morning was spent starting to fit the new exhaust to my Suby', unfortunately I couldn't finish it due to some bolts that were firmly rusted in place which would require an angle grinder.
Sunday 10th October
Today was to be a relatively bird free day as we were going down to Lerwick to take my better half Catriona to the Northlink ferry as she was going away to work in Ethiopia for a week.
On the return back, we had a wait of 45 minutes for the ferry at Toft which gave a me a bit of time to watch the Kittiwakes that use the terminal to roost on. I think that of the commoner ones, Kittiwakes are my favourite gull.
Monday 11th October
This evening was the first sign of an aurora over Unst this autumn. I check the website spacew.com on a regular basis for predictions or the likelihood on seeing the northern lights and last night was a good forecast for the northern hemisphere. Around 8.30pm I looked out north from here and despite the thin cloud cover could see a green glow in the sky. The main problem from our house is that we look towards the street lighting of Baltasound and on anything but a very clear night, there can be light pollution. Here's to many clear nights this winter as there is a prediction of good auroras this winter.
Tuesday 12th October
Last night on Nature in Shetland there was a report of a Shore Lark on Unst at Lamba Ness. I saw one here (in fact it over wintered) a couple of years ago and managed to get a few pics but was never really happy with them. I was hoping that one would show up again but wasn't really expecting one this early in the autumn, so last night I was REALLY hoping it would remain over night. So first port of call today was to be Lamba Ness. Parking the car at the top, we did my normal circuit and drew a blank. Continuing on around the cliffs, I heard a call and then saw a palish bird flash past us and land 50 or 60yds away - it was the Shore Lark. Carefully retreating with my girls, we went back to the car so I could get my camera and tripod. I did briefly consider the bean bag, but then thought it would be too low to the ground - there are lots of tall spiky bits of grass that I would be trying to focus through. I soon relocated the bird, but it was feeding very quickly and was covering a lot of ground. Unfortunately there was very little in the way of cover for me to approach it, only a few hollows and the occasional small rock, it wasn't going to be easy.
Finally after about half an hour of crawling over the wet grass, I got as close as I dare (if I over did it, the bird would fly as the cliff edge was not far behind it) Moving on my stomach and moving the camera+500+tripod was not easy and I'm now paying for it with a bad back ! Looking back, I should of attached the tripod head to the 'frying pan' which would of allowed me to slide the camera set up over the grass with relative ease but still give me a low view point. The pics below are still 50% crops but as I said, I dared not try and get any closer.
After seeing this stunner, we headed down to Skaw for a quick look but 'all' that was there was around 80 Snow Buntings (still good to see none the less) a Robin and a Chiffchaff. Robins are not common birds on Shetland and we usually only see them in spring and autumn - and at the moment there are quite a few about (probably less than a dozen on north Unst) Unlike the ones in the gardens down south, these birds aren't quite so approachable, behaving like their continental cousins and are secretive and are quick to take flight. Fortunately today however, this one remained for about 10 seconds.
Passing back through Haroldswick, we saw 3 winter plumaged Slavonian Grebes and a female Longtailed Duck in the bay, although they were too far out to photograph.
I heard today that Brydon had seen a Snow Goose on Fetlar and that it was last seen heading north. Lets hope it heads across to this island as it would be a 'first' for Unst and also a new bird for me.