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Red-flanked Bluetail(s), finders accounts – one each in the bag! Rebecca Nason/Phil Harris

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Tuesday 16th December 2014 | Birding in Shetland

This year Autumn birding seemed to last favourably into November with strong easterly winds, gales at times, but still with a great sense that it wasn’t yet over and there were still potential rares to be found. On 3rd November, I had an excited call from Phil who had gone to Geosetter just ahead of me to check for migrants and do some bird ringing in the calm conditions before heading to work – he had found a Red-flanked Bluetail, a cracking 1st year bird which had graced his only just opened net! A superb find and a bonus surprise bird to ring along with more usual Goldcrests, Blackcap and Robins. This bird was to stay for over a week and prove popular with birders and photographers alike as it fed around Geosetter burn.

Fast forward one week, to the 8th November, after a few days of birdless gales and bad weather, the 8th saw calmer, milder ESE conditions and Phil and I had set it aside to bird all day, our route firmly planned with headed off with a certain degree of optimism. North of Lerwick, our first port of call was Kergord where we saw 3 Great Tit and a Blue Tit. A brief stop at Loch of Voe and Goldcrests could be heard in the low pines, 12 were seen in total. We headed down into Voe, stopping to view a couple of favoured spots near the harbour. A solitary Waxwing was a welcome sight and raised the game slightly in a relatively uneventful morning. Another Blue Tit was also noted, it’s been an exceptional year for Blue and Great Tits on Shetland.

We returned to the car and headed up out of the back of Voe, stopping at one of my favourite spots, Burn of Kirkhouse, a small bridge over a trickling burn, a small crop and sheltered small woodland copse. Our immediate impression was of how quiet it was as we started birding the site, moods slightly lowered at the distinct lack of migrants. A couple of Robins were all we could muster. Deflated, Phil walked up the road towards some roadside gardens and I headed along a track and fence line towards the small woodland patch with a sparse understorey just up from the burn.

A minute or two later I glimpsed into the darkened, shaded wood. I heard a Robin tick and I didn’t even raise my bins as a similar bird moved quickly from right to left and landed on a sycamore branch in half darkness within. The same bird then flicked up and towards me, landing again in half light but closer to the woodland edge, maybe only 10 metres from me.

I raised my bins, expecting to see a Robin – OH MY GOD!!! I’d found a Bluetail – was my instant thought as my eyes focused on a full head on view of a very distinct 1st year Red-flanked Bluetail . I couldn’t see any blue as it was facing me straight on, but the beige breast shone out where I had been expecting to see Robin red, the paler white throat patch was clear to see, the burnt orange flanks erupted from it’s rotund little chat form on dark stick like legs, all puffed up in the cold, a white fringed beady eye stared back at me.

Red-flanked Bluetail. Photo by Rebecca Nason.

The adrenalin kicked in as it disappeared back into the woodland shadows and out of view. I ran to the road and called Phil over, shouting that I had a bluetail! Wow, one each in the same week and one of three we’d seen in a month, after the strikingly tame Sumburgh bird back in October.

A frustrating 10 minutes went by until the bird showed again, it really was a skulking individual and very hard to even glimpse at times in the woodland canopy and denser scrub along the burn. Moments of dread thinking it may have vanished up the burn without being noticed were soon alleviated as it appeared suddenly right out in the open on a fence post near the bridge, vibrating it’s vivid blue tail as I nailed a couple of record shots. We then headed off to find a spot with a phone signal to put news out and continue our birding afternoon North. The bird was seen again that afternoon and the next day only.

Rebecca Nason / Phil Harris

Pied Wheatear at Haroldswick, Unst – 1st to 9th November 2014

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Thursday 11th December 2014 | Birding in Shetland

In flight, the wheatear in the first few seconds of first views. The following morning it showed down to just a few feet when the other images were taken.

When you look at recent form from previous autumns it might seem quite surprising that an island as geographically well positioned as Unst and as well covered as it is- there had been a drought of nearly five weeks since the last BB rarity. Nevertheless this was certainly the case for us for the second half of the autumn; there had been not a single national rarity since the Swainson’s on the 28th September.

The suggestion that myself and birding comrades Micky Maher and Mike Pennington, were perhaps ever so slightly starting to wane by the first day of November, might not be all together inaccurate. However November is a month never underestimated by us in Shetland. In fact the early part particularly has produced some quality finds for us in previous years including Pine Bunting and Hume’s Warbler and has come to be one of our favourite periods of late autumn. Plus of course the banter is always good and the reality always is that you simply have to be in it to win it- sure we’d had a quiet run but you just keep on digging in.

But our luck was about to change; we were rounding off a circuit of what was to be the last site of the morning for me before heading home to spend the rest of the day with the family. My last trickle of optimism came as it was just approaching 14:45pm as we were just about to go our separate ways in our cars, I shared my intention to detour round the ring road through Haroldswick and thankfully MAM and MGP agreed and followed on convoy style.

Just minutes later driving up onto the side road, a stunningly unfamiliar tail pattern of a pale vagrant wheatear caught my eye as it dashed across a field to my right, causing me to grind to an instant haut. I couldn’t believe it- finally we were back in the game! As I focussed my bins on it perched face on about 40 yards from the road, I glanced over my shoulder to the lads behind and waved my arm out the window like a lunatic in the direction of the bird. Right or wrong my impulse reaction after a reasonable few seconds view was to grab my camera from the passenger seat and fire off a couple of frames, which was all I managed out the window as it flew.

Thankfully as we scrambled out of our cars I could immediately tell from MAM’s expression I was not alone in my excitement- the frantic pointing had worked! Although however there was most certainly just cause for a moment of euphoria as first thoughts were for Pied- we knew that Eastern Black-eared needed eliminated and the couple of shots I had taken in the heat of the moment only showed underparts. We called Robbie Brookes with the news who joined us straight away.

Fear slowly set in over the fifteen to twenty minutes or so that ensued while we tried to relocate it. It had only appeared to dip over the rise of a hill, but it had disappeared. Fortunately however I managed to pick it up along a fence of an adjacent field where we could all start to get distant scope views.

Eventually it gave better but brief views before disappearing again along a network of dry stone walled fields. It was now approaching 15:45pm and we had lost it completely and barely shared more than a few minutes viewing of the bird between us. Thankfully Robbie had nailed a set of images that we hoped, along with what we had seen, could confirm its ID after consulting literature. Later that evening when we got together and we reassured ourselves of Pied, as well as opinion of a couple of others with relevant experience, we could eventually rule out EBE. Thankfully the following morning it was very obliging, showing down to just a few metres. Now the subtleties that had confirmed its ID the day before, (such as the faint scaly fringing to scapular feathers) were much easier to see.

Although aware of the potential difficulties with these two species, this was the first time for us to be faced with this ID separation and so we were rightly cautious. Further reading later revealed just how difficult poorly marked first winter/female plumages can be and how much overlap there appeared to be in features between them. The fact that some authors state some individuals to be inseparable without seeing base colour to mantle feathers made us all the more careful.

Perhaps surprisingly this was Unst’s first ever rare wheatear. It was the 8th record for Shetland.

Grey-cheeked Thrush finders account – Strandurgh Ness, Fetlar – 29th October 2014

Posted by Rory Tallack on Thursday 11th December 2014 | Birding in Shetland

A late-autumn coastal monitoring walk of Fetlar’s wild and remote north-east cliffs for Rory Tallack landed him with the remarkable discovery of a highly prized American passerine. A find like this is a fantastic example of the fact the birds in Shetland can literally turn up anywhere and often when you least expect them…

Grey-cheeked Thrush at Strandurgh Ness, Fetlar. Photo by Rory Tallack.

Surveying in Fetlar for the day, Paul Harvey and I decided to split up in order to cover a long route in half the time; he headed to the south east of the island, while I set off walking the north east coast. Ten minutes into the walk, I had a call from Brydon Thomason asking if I could look out for seal pups on my way round. I briefly regretted answering the phone – this meant I couldn’t take the usual shortcuts away from the coast – but I agreed and continued the walk, checking each geo for seals as I went.

Around an hour and two seal pups later, I reached Longa Tonga, a deep, rounded geo, where two more pups were conspicuously lying on the beach below. There were 3 adult females in the water so it seemed sensible to make sure there wasn’t a third pup out of sight. I walked to the far side of the geo and down into a small dip, where I suddenly became aware of a bird on the ground, only around 5 feet away. This in itself wasn’t a huge surprise – I’d seen good numbers of Redwings all morning – and I didn’t even lift my bins. However, as I looked down, I was stunned to see this one wasn’t a Redwing, but an American thrush! Unfortunately, the bird was almost as surprised to see me as I was it and, after an awkward couple of seconds, it disappeared down into the geo, out of sight, and I saw it on its way with a single loud expletive. I hadn’t seen it for long enough to feel I’d clinched its identity, but my initial impression was of a bird with strikingly cold underparts, no buffy tones around the face and, as it flew off, it was clear that neither the tail nor the upperparts were obviously warm-toned.

The bird was now out of sight, but I was quite sure it hadn’t gone far. I phoned Paul and Brydon, leaving Paul a message to say that I’d found a catharus thrush, ‘probably Grey-cheeked’.  I knew it would take him at least an hour to get to me – he would be as far from his car as I was from mine – and at that point I had the feeling I might need a hand to see it well enough to confirm the ID. Fortunately, however, I relocated the bird quickly and, after a couple of failed attempts to get close, pinned it down to an area of boulders at the far end of the geo and fired off a handful of distant shots. I moved to a better position a few metres closer and slowly peered over a ledge, camera poised. It was gone. Somehow in those few seconds it had disappeared completely.

My phone rang. It was Paul – he was on his way but had still not reached his car, which meant at least another hour, probably more. A quick look at the back of my camera revealed a series of distant smudges on a rock, but fortunately there was enough there for me to confirm my initial thought: I had stumbled upon a Grey-cheeked Thrush on a cliff in the middle of nowhere! I phoned a couple of friends and then set about trying to re-find the bird once again. For around half an hour it eluded me completely, before briefly giving itself up on the cliff-top to the north east of its original geo. It promptly disappeared again and this time I decided my best bet was to wait. I found a promontory from which I could see two or three hundred metres of cliff to the north, and sat down. To my surprise, I soon picked up the bird about 100m away, feeding on a grassy slope near the bottom of the 30m cliffs. I stayed on it until it flew into another geo, then moved closer and waited once again. Again it reappeared, feeding on the next grassy slope, slowly but surely moving north-eastwards along the cliffs. I phoned Paul. He was now only a few minutes away and was with Malcie Smith, the only other birder on the island at that time. By the time they arrived, it had just moved out of sight, but I knew exactly which geo the bird was in. We positioned ourselves on either side in order to keep track more effectively as it moved, and over the next 45 minutes we watched as it fed along the cliffs, occasionally disappearing out of site for minutes at a time and, at one point, giving fantastic views down to just a few meters.

Rory Tallack

Swainson’s Thrush finders account – Norwick, Unst – 28th September 2014

Posted by Paul French on Tuesday 9th December 2014 | Birding in Shetland

Swainson’s Thrush finders account by Paul French

Shetland has had some great birds this autumn. The likes of Siberian Rubythroat and Myrtle Warbler have filled the notebooks and emptied the pint glasses of many birders, including mine, and rightly so. However, when I look back at my time on Shetland this autumn, and indeed any autumn, it’s always the birds that you have a personal involvement in the finding of that mean the most.

Walking along the back of some houses at Norwick with Garry Taylor, we were stopping regularly to scan the rigs and gardens. As I turned to say something to Garry, he saw a passerine fly out from the Japanese rose bushes and land on a gravel driveway.

“What’s that?”

The bird had barely registered in my vision and I turned to face it, getting a naked eye view of what looked to be a dumpy passerine. It then darted into the rosa, leaving me with a confusing impression.

“That was a Catharus!” said Garry, who had managed to get his bins on to it.

Garry had managed to clock it as a Catharus thrush, and had also gained an impression of an eye ring, indicating it was most likely a Swainson’s. We called Gav Thomas and Bill Aspin on the radios and they rapidly arrived on the scene. We then sat back to wait for it to show again. And we waited. After 30 minutes of waiting, a new plan was needed. Garry went to the house door to talk to the owner, and myself, Gav and Bill positioned ourselves at either end of the driveway. Just then, the bird chose that moment to hop back onto the driveway in front of the three of us. After a few seconds of uninterrupted views, the prominent buff eye ring and breast spotting were safely recorded and the celebrations began. It’s not every day you’re involved in the finding of an American passerine, and this one was all the more memorable for being a proper team event. We put the news out, and the first people on the scene were the Shetland Nature group who all enjoyed decent views. The thrush then spent the rest of the afternoon around the gardens and ruined crofts at Norwick, showing well on occasions perched on the garden wall.

Bird Hide Photography – The Work Behind the Scenes

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Friday 7th November 2014 | Photography

Bird hide photography is now very well established as an almost prerequisite to an itinerary for travelling nature photographers throughout Europe and beyond. Across a growing number of photo-tour companies there is a plethora of opportunities, subjects and species which can be worked on from hides. The imagery from such innovations of course speak for the selves as they tend to show species, (often shy and secretive) illustrating exciting, intimate and awe-inspiring behaviour- all of which is of course extremely popular to both photographers and admirers of natural history photography.

The whole concept of this approach to nature photography is a huge motivation for me and I find it exciting, emotive and very rewarding. It is this kind of photography I really like to work on as I love the whole process of the assignment, from getting to know how a particular species use a certain site and planning where and if a hide will work. Just to even simply watch wildlife without them knowing you are is simply magical in itself. Then the building of a hide to suit the site and subject. Building the actual hide is just as much part of the overall gratification as the actual taking of images for me.  As a time served joiner/carpenter it is a really good fit to combine these skills and knowledge of species and sites.

Some of the sites I have innovated and established have taken a few years planning and labour, you could even go as far to say ‘blood, sweat and even tears!’ (well nearly at least!) What I tend to do is build semi permanent and purpose built wooden kit hides which can be transported to site using quad and trailer, or even tractor with one of the larger more permanent hides. It has to be said of course that these have improved over the years and I have learned that shop bought ‘pop up’s’ are just not for Shetland – I call them ‘blow aways’ instead!

Two of my hides are constructed and just slide on or off trailer, like my two man diver hide and my one-man-wigwam, which is just small enough to drag/slide across moorland, but over a short back aching distance! Often there is days of work goes into each assignment in the repeated visits to move a hide over a period of weeks which is essential, especially at breeding sites.

Eventually over the past few seasons I have built a selection of hides which I can move around to suit subject and seasons and they can therefore play a very productive role in itineraries and workshops I run or collaborate on. In 2014 for example I really enjoyed working with Markus Varesvuo on Merlin, Red-throated Diver, Arctic Skua and Great Sua. I also had a film crew use my Long-tailed duck hide when we worked on ITV’s Alison Steadman’s Shetland.

Often now visiting photographers who perhaps want to do their own thing are also booking hides for exclusive use, such as the Arctic Skua and Great Skua club sites in the summer which only need a ‘walk in’.  Seeing the potential in this approach to photography and photo-tours and creating a niche here in Shetland is something I have found very exciting and I am very much committed to developing these assignments further and working on other species and seasons.

Read more about opportunities for Bird Hide Photography with Shetland Nature

Otter Heaven in Shetland – A visit from Arizona

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Wednesday 5th November 2014 | Otters, Reviews

A lovely account from guests Fiona Clark and Jim Boggs visiting all the way from America on one of our tailored Shetland Otter Experience holidays in February 2014 along with a couple of images from their trip. Their account communicates perfectly the insight and experience that these itineraries offer for guests wanting to really learn about otters, their behavior, ecology and where, when and how to study them. We run itineraries like these all year round but they are particularly recommended during the ‘night and day’ seasons from late autumn through to early spring. Contact us for details on these packages info@shetlandnature.net

I have something of a magnificent obsession when it comes to otters. When I lived in Seattle, I spent almost all of my free time (plus a lot of time when I was supposedly working on my graduate studies) on a beach in a nearby park, tracking and then eventually watching the North American river otters (Lontra canadensis) that lived there.

In my quest to learn more about these “river” otters that lived on the coast and did their fishing in the sea, I came across the work of Prof. Hans Kruuk, who had done extensive studies on coastal or marine foraging Eurasian otters in Shetland and on the Scottish mainland. While there are some significant differences, the North American river otter and the Eurasian otter share many similarities, and Prof. Kruuk’s work helped me tremendously in understanding my local otters. A seed was also planted: my husband Jim and I clearly needed a trip to Shetland at some point.

Being typically broke students back then, the trip had to wait for a good few years. But in February 2014, Jim and I joined Brydon Thomason in Unst for four days of otter watching. From searching online and reading about Brydon, his knowledge on otters and work he does it was clear he was our man. I liked Brydon from our very first email exchange: he too was a fan of Prof. Kruuk’s work and was clearly an otter enthusiast of the first order. We soon agreed that February would be a fine time for a trip. As with the otters in the Seattle area, Shetland’s otters are usually active in the daytime. In winter, the otters seem to concentrate their activities into a shorter time period since the days are so short. This can make them easier to find and more fun to watch. An added bonus is that you can stay in bed till a civilized time since it would be too dark to see anything if you got up too early.

Brydon picked us up in Lerwick and we talked otters nonstop all the way to the superb lodge at Barrafirth in Unst. Next morning we found a mother and two cubs at the very first place that we stopped to check for otters. We went on to see a staggering 29 different otters over the course of our four days at various sites around the islands along shorelines Brydon studies. And these were not fleeting glimpses of far distant otters. We spent hours watching some of them.

We also saw some otter behaviour that I had only read about, or inferred from seeing otter tracks on my beach. This included watching (and hearing – they were loud!) a courting couple, and also watching two family groups come together. Jim particularly loved to see the cubs play wrestling, and trying to eat fish that were almost as big as they were. He still talks about being so close that we could hear one of the cubs chomping on a fish. Seeing all of the loving interactions between otter mums and their little ones has also stayed with us: I had seen some of this on my beach, of course, but due to the terrain there I had never had such prolonged views of these mother-cub interactions. Knowing my interest in all aspects of otter behavior, Brydon also took us to see otter holts, lay up areas, and bathing pools so that I could get a much better understanding of how otters in Shetland use the landscape. And what a landscape it was, with miles and miles of deserted beaches, spectacular cliffs, and moorland glowing in the winter sun.

Having spent around seven years trying to learn the habits of the American otters, I knew that finding all of these otters in Shetland, and being able to watch them for extended periods, was no accident. It was the result of Brydon’s deep knowledge of otter distribution and behavior, which comes from his years of fieldwork and his high level of field craft. As one of my wildlife tracking teachers used to say, “animals are not randomly distributed on the landscape.” Knowing when and where to look for otters dramatically increases your chances of finding them. Knowing how to use the wind and the landscape to your advantage allows you to remain undetected by the otters. This allows you to watch them as they go about their daily lives, without disturbing them in the slightest, and to me this is one of the greatest privileges imaginable. Even so, seeing 29 otters in four days was rather extreme, even with all of Brydon’s skills, and is not something that we will be expecting the next time we visit Shetland. We are, of course, going back. Four days was too short, however, so we are going for a week next time.

Fiona Clark

Five Star grade awarded by Visit Scotland

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Friday 24th October 2014 | News

Brydon Thomason receiving the award from Visit Shetland manager Steve Mathieson.

We can hardly put into words how thrilled and proud we all are to have recently been awarded a Five Star accolade by Visit Scotland. What makes it all the more special is that we are the first and only company in Shetland to achieve this grade from a national tourism organisation. To be one of only four Wildlife Experiences in Scotland to have achieved such a prestigious Five Star grading is something we are extremely proud of.

Obviously this means a great deal to me personally, but there are more than just myself who have worked hard towards achieving this. First and foremost without the love and support of my wife Vaila, I’m sure none of it would have been possible! It is the support and collaboration of so many others that has helped us continue to grow with the work they do and none more so than Karen Hannay and Gary Bell. But others who lead tours and collaborate on itineraries such as Rob Fray, Richard Shucksmith, Rebecca Nason, Martin Garner, David Tipling, Micky Maher, Allen Fraser and James Tait have all helped towards this achievement.

The wildlife that visitors experience here is second to none and yes, I am understandably biased, but to have the experience we offer our guests accredited to this level, really is something we are all extremely proud of. This is heartfelt not only from a Shetland Nature perspective but in a more holistic sense this is a fantastic achievement for Shetland tourism in general.

Visit Scotland’s Quality assurance scheme

VisitScotland’s world-leading Quality Assurance schemes are highly regarded by consumers as a decision-making tool when planning their breaks. QA provides consumer reassurance as an official rating by the national tourism organisation – a testimonial to what a business provides – and helps them reach their full potential and truly shine.

VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance Scheme currently boasts over 7,000 participants and has been used as an example of best practice with countries all over the world, including Sweden and Namibia.

VisitScotland Islands Manager, Steve Mathieson, said:

“Nature tourism is incredibly important not only to Shetland but to Scotland as a whole. I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to Brydon and his team at Shetland Nature on this fantastic achievement.

“Five-star status shows visitors that they can expect a fantastic and enjoyable experience, whilst learning all about the amazing wildlife offering here in Shetland.

“Our natural environment is the number one reason why people visit Scotland – let’s celebrate it!”

Promoting opportunities for young birders – with A Focus On Nature

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Thursday 23rd October 2014 | Birding in Shetland

This season we have been delighted to work with and support A Focus On Nature by offering them the prize of a week in Shetland birding in prime time autumn migration. They used the prize for their University Birdwatch Challenge competition, which we hosted over the first week of October. The two mustard keen young birders were David Hunter, (a 3rd year Zoology student at the University of Reading) and Amy Robjohns (a 2nd year Environmental Science student). Helping and supporting organisations such as AFON create and facilitate opportunities for young birders, naturalists and photographers is something we feel very important and are delighted be part of. Here Amy shares her experience of a week’s Shetland autumn birding with us…

David Hunter and Amy Robjohns

Summarising my recent trip to Shetland is tough as I had a wonderful time with fantastic memories. I’m really grateful to A Focus On Nature and Shetland Nature, as well as their sponsors including Swarovski Optic, Opticron and Wildsounds, for giving me such a great experience. I’d never really been up north before, so to get the chance to go birding on the northern most island in Britain (Unst) during prime time autumn migration has provided me with new experiences and unforgettable memories! I think the 31 lifers says it all, but it’s not all about the new birds. It was great to see mammals too – Otters and Grey & Common Seals – and to see just how different it is in Shetland.

Seeing Grey and Common Seals right outside Tesco in Lerwick was quite something, made even more amazing by the fact that we’d already seen Black Guillemots, a Siberian Rubythroat (Yes – a Siberian Rubythroat!!), Yellow-browed Warblers, Merlin… [the list could go on] and it wasn’t even 10am by the time we’d seen all this (and more) and done our weekly shop! This was all thanks to Rebecca Nason and Phil Harris, the SN team members who met us on arrival and gave us our first taste of the Islands. We had a great day with them, a lovely couple who certainly knew their birds!

Siberian Rubythroat. Photo by Rebecca Nason.

I was then still rather amazed that we continued to travel north… We’d already spent about 10 hours on a train and 14 hours on a ferry, yet there was still more land to cover! The scenery was also something I was struck by. It’s so beautiful, and more wild than down south. There are less trees too.

From Monday to Friday we birded mainly around Unst (the most northerly island in Britain) with Brydon, owner of Shetland Nature. It’s always a good experience to bird with experts and this was no different.  We saw a lot  – mostly common migrants for Shetland, but also some more unusual and scarce species such as a Great Grey Shrike, Bluethroat and Wryneck, oh and Blue Tits – which is bizarrely a rarity in the islands! We got to learn a lot of fieldcraft and improve our birding skills as well as seeing loads of birds.

Great-grey Shrike. Photo by Brydon Thomason.

While we were birding with Brydon, we found some good common migrants but it was the Olive-backed Pipit, a rarity from Siberia and a Black-throated Diver, a rarity on the islands, that was particularly exciting. The excitement of discovering, learning their identification, assessing features and how to separate them from commoner species were all parts which made finding birds so much better than twitching birds!

Olive-backed Pipit. Photo by Brydon Thomason.

We also got to visit Hermaness, the most northerly point in Britain which was great. Some Gannets were still breeding, and the Great Skuas were spectactular, especially when they flew really close to us!

Friday was probably one of my favourite days. It started with 2 Glaucous Gulls from the living room window, and then we were off to Fetlar. There we found a Barred Warbler, Black-throated Diver alongside a Red-throated Diver and just to make the day even better, had amazing views of Otters! After this, we then had another Olive-backed Pipit and a Siberian Stonechat. What a day!

Amy and David at Hermaness. Amy and David looking out to Muckle Flugga.

Saturday was our final day so we slowly made our way back towards Lerwick, birding as we went. This gave us a chance to explore Yell for a bit which was nice, and we got close up views of Scaup – one of many species I’d never seen before, and also Twite. We then finished the day and trip on an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler. What a way to finish!

On our final day Brydon invited Logan Johnston, a very sharp eyed 15 year old local birder to join us which was really cool and interesting. Comparing notes from each others local patches was quite something!

On our final day Brydon invited Logan Johnston, a very sharp eyed 15 year old local birder to join us which was really cool and interesting. Comparing notes from each others local patches was quite something!

This trip was a great experience for me, especially as I’d rarely travelled up north, so was able to see species that are much less common in Hampshire which was wonderful. Birding with an expert also helped a great deal as I feel I’ve learnt a lot, particularly about fieldcraft which will come in handy for the future! In short, I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to go to Shetland and loved every minute of it!!

Amy Robjohns