Common Crane over Virkie
Spring comes late in the far north, and April often flatters to deceive. Although the rapidly lengthening days are a joy, and the weather can often be very pleasant, settled anticyclonic conditions are often not particularly good for migrants. Mid April 2010 fell slap-bang into that category and, while resident breeders were hard at work advertising territories, migrant hunting was thin. After work on the evening of the 13th I had set out for ‘no more than an hour’ but within five minutes of the back door, I spied fellow Shetland Nature guide Gary Bell, and we fell into idle chat. He’d seen nothing either, although within moments of standing there a Peregrine flew low overhead – my first of the year! Ten minutes later, I was about to move on when an unfamiliar, slow-but-purposeful silhouette came into view on the far side of the Pool of Virkie. It was a Common Crane! A scarce but near-annual visitor to Shetland, these majestic creatures are always a welcome sight, en route to Scandinavian breeding grounds. This one circled low a couple of times over the Pool, giving us some fine views and Gary the chance of some long-distance photos, before heading off over Toab and towards Quendale. All too brief, and too quick for us to get any other local birders onto it, it just shows that, even when things look unpromising, the unexpected is always just round the corner in a Shetland migration season!