17 Oct 2010

Shetland. Day 4. Sorting out the Redpolls.

Wednesday saw us on the road again before dawn to get the ferry to Yell and then onwards to Unst in teeming rain. Finding the plantation where a Coue's Arctic Redpoll had been reported the previous day we met a single birder who'd seen the Redpoll fly off a few minutes previously. Luckily for us it returned with a Common Redpoll but was pretty flighty and shot off when Mark exclaimed 'f*cking hell, look at that'. I wan't convinced about the Coue's bit....................Still it was another lifer for Mark, Matt & Damon.

With rain still teeming down we travelled to the 'bird garden' at Nordale to check and see if the previous weeks Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll was around but despite a good Redpoll flock being present we couldn't locate anything other than a few Lessers and some Common's.

It really was wet and miserable so a deomocratic decison was reached to return to Baltasound and use the car as a hide to see if the Coue's returned. It did and we had stunning views.

We were  able to compare it directly to a Common Redpoll (below) and I'm hoping someone can tell me why it was a Coue's and not a first winter Hornemann's. The rump was snowy white and stuck out a mile when the bird was in flight! It was nice to catch up briefly withYell birder Dougie Preston before he shot off to try and photgraph a Shoort-toed Lark nearby.

Our plans were changed when we got a call from Geordie Jim, another visitng birder, to say he and his mate had found a Red-flanked Bluetail in Kergord Plantation and it was showing well. So off we went. Mind you the youngest member of the group found the early starts all a bit much and had to have a nap in the car on the way.

Was it ever ! Despite the poor light taht meant shutter speeds were down to 1/20th of a second I spent a happy hour watching this little stunnner down to 3 m with four other people! At one point it even landed on a branch above my head as I sat on the wet ground and the rain drops it dislodged fell around my ears. Brilliant stuff. Although I've seen four before this was the highlight of the trip for me.

Heading off we got news the Rose-coloured Starling had been seen again so we decided to give it a go before dusk. Splitting up I found the bird on a back garden feeder and rattled off a couple of shots before setting off to find the others. The Starling took the direct route and as I'm telling Mark to follow me he's telling me to follow him as he'd just seen it fly onto a garden feeder.

Comment of the day from a visiting birder who pulled up with no binoculars but a large camera. When asking where it was and being shown by Mark - 'it's not very pink is it'.

A check around Helendale again on the way home was disappointing - I was the only one who heard a Yellow-browed Warbler and with darkness again precluding any further activity we decied to go out and celebrate a successful day with a curry and a few beers.

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