Saturday 23 February 2019

Mainland Shetland

I picked up Adrian Webb and Jerry Warne just off the M25 in Leatherhead on Friday evening and we set course north for Aberdeen. Saturday morning we caught an early flight out to Sumburgh along with a few other hopefuls, following nothing but negative news since Thursday night. We weren't feeling overly optimistic but the sight of jammy Cliff Smith at the airport gate boosted morale!

We were in no massive rush to get to Bixter and as we began to close in on the site, the pager sounded with news that the Tengmalm's Owl was still present! We semi-expected it to still be present, hence our non-cancellation of the flight, but to hear this at such an early stage in the day was so uplifting! A slight dip in the twitching emotional rollercoaster came as we arrived on site - Adrian said 'we might be watching a Tengmalm's in a couple of minutes' but it soon became clear things weren't so simple. Word was that one local had been in the plantation, spotted the roosting owl from below and was in the process of working out how to set a scope up from Jackie's driveway to allow viewing. The next hour or so was tense as the scope was set and the 70-ish birders present queued to go forward in twos and threes to bag a view. We were about halfway down the queue but before too long had secured views of the slumbering TENGMALM'S OWL in a spruce.

The atmosphere calmed and the crowd was full of smiling faces once everyone had had their turn. We re-queued and got further views a couple of times as the crowd diminished, seizing the chance for a less pressured view of the bird! Several Snipe provided a fitting backing track.

Tengmalm's Owl at Bixter

A quick look in Lerwick produced fabulous views of two Iceland Gulls at Shetland Catch: an adult and a juvenile. I've seen very few adults before. A Black Guillemot, two Long-tailed Ducks, nine Eiders, The Kittiwakes (10) and Fulmars (50) provided decent entertainment, and two Ravens flew over. A coffee shop nearby had 13 Purple Sandpipers on the adjacent shoreline. Loch of Clickimin had three Goldeneyes.

adult Iceland Gull at Shetland Catch, Lerwick

juvenile Iceland Gull (right) at Shetland Catch, Lerwick

Fulmars at Shetland Catch, Lerwick

Purple Sandpipers at Lerwick

We returned to Bixter in the evening where the Tengmalm's Owl gave jaw-dropping views as it became active at dusk.