Saturday, October 2, 2010

Lots of birds; lots of birders

We arrived at Sumburgh at 11:00 today after an uneventful journey to find Shetland literally sinking under the weight of birds. I can't remember there being so many migrants around in early October as there are at the moment. A fairly thorough flog of the crop fields around Toab and Exnaboe produced: Short-toed Lark, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, 4 Lapland Buntings, Redstart, 4+ Whinchats, Stonechat, loads of Bramblings, Garden Warbler, 2 Reed Buntings and lots of Goldcrests.

Around 5pm, Mark and I were at Sumburgh Head, where there was a very skulking Sedge Warbler in the rosebushes (Shetland tick!) when we were startled by a loud noise coming from the direction of Levenwick. It was the sound of a gauntlet being forcefully thrown down by John Hague, Andy Lawson & Dave Gray who had found a fucking Swainson's Thrush! If I'd been wearing a hat I'd have taken it off to them. You may have to wait a while for John's gripping account and photo though, as the WiFi where they are staying is currently not working.

As both of us had only ever seen one Swainson's (mine was 20 years ago and Mark's even longer than that) we thought we ought to go and have a look at it. Arriving at Levenwick we were greeted by a scene more reminiscent of Scilly than Shetland – there are about 50 people visible in this photo, and by the time we left I reckon the crowd had about doubled in size – unprecedented!

Anyway, we did see it, although not very well – I only saw it in flight a couple of times, but managed to see the distinctive Catharus underwing the second time.

One other notable sighting today was the Exnaboe 'Hitler cat', which some people may remember from my old blog a few years ago. He's still going strong, and was obviously contemplating a bit of trampolining when we saw him.

Will the challenge be taken up by the Sunnydell-ites? Stay tuned to find out....

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