Sunday, 17 November 2013

    As I mentioned in the last blog, we were heading away for the October break, this time we were going to have a week in Cornwall and then the following week would be split between The New Forest, London and the North Cotswolds. As a 'sooth mouther', I do find the October holiday rather long; however, from a Shetlanders point of view it makes sense. One reason is that in the summer months when the days are long, there is more of an opportunity to get work done on the crofts etc than in autumnal months. I believe that it is also called the 'tattie break' as in times past, families would all help to harvest the potato crops. From a birders point of view, October is also one of the best months for less common migrants to arrive to the isles - which is why I'd prefer not to go away.

  We left on the home early afternoon on the 11th October and, after 12 hours on the ferry and then 13hrs the following day on the train, we were met by our friend Roger at St. Erths railway station (near St Ives) at around 9.45pm. During our stay there, we pack quite a lot in and I must say, I did enjoy it. However, as always, as soon as I'd left Unst, Brydon found some birds ! Firstly on the Friday he found a Black-bellied Dipper (the continental race of the British one) over near Woodwick and the following day, he found a Paddyfield Warbler at Skaw - what else is going to turn up I wonder ?

  During our visit to the other end of the country, we visited Lands End (Skaw is much, much nicer). Lands End was a 'must do really' seeing that we live a short distance from Britain's most northerly point. However, once past the 'tourist tat' (yes I know, we were tourists too) the coastline was rather nice. I can remember going there in the early 1960s with my mum and sisters ( we had an aunt who lived in Falmouth at the time) and seeing some Choughs; this time I saw at least 20 or more which was rather nice.

The Skaw of the south....

 .... however, if you look in the opposite direction.........


   After being 'free' of  the 'health and safety' brigade around the cliffs up on Unst, it was disappointing to see so many fences and signs spoiling the vista; however, given the number of visitors that Lands End gets compared to Unst, it's probably necessary......



  The following days after Lands End, we visited Falmouth, St Michael's Mount, a night out in Truro and the Eden Project. Below are few pics from the following few days.......




....as to the last picture, I reckon we (as a nation) have become over protected by the health and safety 'police' !

  The following day, we heeded off to towards St Austel and the Eden Project. It was somewhere I'd wanted to visit for a while as many years ago, a friend of mine who'd been there, said wait a few years for it to mature. All I can say is that it was well worth the money (about £20 per adult) to get in and I could have spent much longer there. So what were the most memorable bits ? It all was, but the highlights were, the tropical dome - with the high level viewing platform and watching folk go past on the high level zip wire (pics below) - I think I'd need a bit of 'Dutch courage to try it myself though. The wire is over 600mtrs long and is the longest in England - here .......


 The tropical dome, looking up to the high platform

From the platform looking to the previous viewpoint


  The zip wire over the dome (a person is just visible just off centre)


   A few days later, I was back in the Cotswolds with Sula (after two nights in the New Forest) and Catriona went to London with Rona. At the start of this post, I asked what would be found next on Unst? Well, I don't think anyone would have predicted what Mike Pennington discovered on the 23rd Oct not far from the school - a Cape May Warbler from America, wow! Only the second record for the species for Britain and the Western Palearctic and a first for Shetland. Rather than type it all out, here's a link to Mike's finders report - here. At first I was gutted that I had to be away when Mike found such a rarity on my 'home patch' so top speak; would it hang around or disappear overnight? that was the question on everyone's mind - or even would it stay until we got home? As it turned out it did, thankfully.

  Arriving back on Unst mid morning on Sunday 27th, I was soon off up to Hillside to have a look. There were only a few birders/twitchers up there and almost immediately, I saw the bird on the wall and despite some folk describing it as a drab little bird, I thought it was rather nice.  

  Over the next few days I saw it a number of times, often a very close quarters just a few yards away feeding on the ground. Over the period that the bird was seen, I believe around 250 people saw the bird, many flying up or getting the north-boat for just one day on Shetland. There were also 11 or 12 charter planes that landed at Baltasound airport, passengers paying upwards of £550 each for the pleasure. It was last seen on the 2nd November.......

A wet and windy twitch :)





   On the 2nd November (the last date the Cape May was seen), I got the call from Brydon to say he'd re-found the Black-bellied Dipper up the burn at Hermaness next to the boardwalk. Reaching there some 20 minutes later, I met up with Mike at the car park and after a short walk, we reached the burn where both Brydon and Dick and Ali Foyster were waiting. A short while later and we were watching the bird feeding on small fish in the burn. While they are fairly widespread down south, on Shetland this continental race of Dipper are less than annual visitors. It was both an Unst and Shetland tick for me and for Mike it was his 304th species for the island.....

Black-bellied Dipper

  The following afternoon, I got 'the call' again from Brydon, 5 'Northern' Longtailed Tits had just turned up in Haligarth. Apparently Mike and Rory had just been in there and had seen nothing; then, a few minutes later someone else (Chris Roger) went in and found these cracking little birds. For me it's bird like these that give me a 'buzz' so to speak - birds that generally come from a colder climate than ours. The last (and only time) I saw some of these birds was in southern Sweden many years ago. By the time I reached Haligarth, the light was fading fast and it was pouring with rain. With the 500 on the tripod, I had to shoot at 6,400 ISO just to get me 1/50sec at f5.6 - not ideal for a fast moving little bird in bad light, so for me this is just a record shot.......

'Northern' Long-tailed Tit

  Over the next week, I was pretty busy at home (and Catriona was away) we also had a couple of America guys staying in the cottage. I did have a few hours out though, including a walk up to Hermaness (to look for the Dipper and a walk to the cliffs) Also I had the almost obligatory drive up to Skaw and Lamba Ness. We also had a feint aurora - although I didn't see it in 'real time' as I'd got to go to Lerwick the following day and didn't want a late night. So what I did was to set the camera up on the tripod, lock the remote release on and then it would take pictures all night until either the battery ran out or the memory card filled up..........

Hermaness is an eery place out of season

Skaw
 

Messing about with slow shutter speeds

Aurora over Baltasound at 1.15am
 
 
 
   Robbie



 










2 comments:

MW said...

Firstly, what a superb looking l-t-tit; wouldn't mind coming across one of them!
Secondly, some great pics as is usual, and I especially like the slow shutter speed, water ones. Favourite is the third one, brilliant effect.

Akiko Chii said...

Love the pictures.