Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Shetland day 1 - boom! What a day

A great first day on Shetland - couldn't have asked for much more. Early in the morning Paul dropped me off at Hestingott to look for the long-staying Blyth's Reed Warbler there. At first it was cold and I 'only' had about four Yellow-browed warblers in that garden there. As the sun warmed the atmosphere up a bit, there was more bird activity in the sunlit side of the garden and sure enough the Blyth's reed showed very well. It was feeding busily on insects and I had plenty of time to study the important ID features: bold supercilium, very cold toned flanks and underparts, generally very plain from above - especially tertials and alula very plain, with slightly contrasting rufous wing panel, short primary projection, and long and broad tail, often cocked up.

Blyth's Reed Warbler, Hestingott, Shetland

In this image the very blunt-tipped and rounded wing is apparent - P4 clearly emarginated, and P3 is equal in length to P2 and P4 is only slightly shorter: 

I was very pleased to see this bird - it was a WP tick for me, and it has been many years since I last saw one in India. 

After I had enough of this bird, I walked down Toab and birded in the gardens there. Very soon I came across another acro in a garden, and immediately I knew it's another blyth's - my eyes were tuned in on the ID features I had studied just a short while before. It showed quite well too. Again in this image you can see the whole set of features:

Blyth's Reed Warbler, Toab, Shetland

I was really chuffed with this bird - to find one after two hours of birding in Shetland was quite awesome. 
There were many Yellow-browed Warblers today - by far the commonest migrant around. My daily total must have been over 20. Some showed pretty well, such sweet little tough birds:

This individual is on the duller end of the variation spectrum, but not quite there for a hume's:

There were 3-4 Wheatears here and there:

I met up with Martin, Sharon and Will and we headed slowly towards Lerwick to pick up our car. Soon we received news about a pod of 5 Killer Whales of Boddam. We spent the next couple of hours trying to intercept them as they made their way slowly north, but sadly failed. We did have to cute Otters though. After a short stop in Lerwick I checked with Will the area of Leebotten, Noness and Sandwick. There were plenty more yellow-brows and one Lesser Whitethroat that Martin says must be a blythi, and that's it more or less. Two Harbour Porpoises were nice. Several flocks of Pink-footed Geese went through all day long:

Rock Pipit

Meadow Pipit

In the afternoon Martin, Ian and I headed to the wild west to chase after the Pechora Pipit at Norby. We saw it quite quickly with a large group that was there. Mainly brief, silent flight views but it did perch exposed for a few seconds after having a dip in a small stream:

Pechora Pipit, Norby, Shetland

These images don't do it justice. The bird is very wet here and plumage patterns are diluted. In typical views the mantle pattern was bold, and the head pattern was nicer. Another great bird, another WP tick. Gripped.
On the way back we stopped for the Arctic Warbler at Weisdale Voe. It was wet and cold and windy and it was getting dark, but we did relocate the bird and I had brief views of it. Not the best views ever but good enough to identify. Yet another quality bird to end this fantastic day!
Can't wait till tomorrow. Good night.

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