I spent 18th-28th September having a fantastic reunion of birding mates in the UK: nine of us spent 18 months organising this trip which included five nights on Fair Isle, with the rest of the time spent on Shetland.
This was only my second visit to Shetland (and my first to Fair Isle) having previously spent a little time working as a voluntary warden on the RSPB's reserve on Fetlar in August 1989, soon after finishing my GCSEs! After such a log time it was great to be back, and the birds did not let us down - between us we found a considerable number of scarce migrants and rarities including Olive-backed Pipit, Arctic Warbler, at least two Barred Warblers, numerous Yellow-browed Warblers, three Little Buntings, three Red-breasted Flycatchers, and single Red-backed Shrike. In addition to our self-found birds we also saw three classic Shetland specialities - a Lanceolated Warbler crawling through a dry stone wall on Fair Isle, a pod of Orca circumnavigating Fair Isle whilst apparently hunting seals, and a Pechora Pipit on somebody's back lawn (!) in Baltasound, Unst.
Other birding highlights enjoyed by various group members included on Fair Isle: two Bluethroats, another Barred Warbler, another Arctic Warbler, Red-throated Pipit, and regular encounters with Jack Snipe, Lapland Buntings and Brambling. Whilst on mainland Shetland we also saw a Red-flanked Bluetail, a Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, further Red-breasted Flycatcher, Eastern Subalpine Warbler, and a Wood Warbler.
Strong westerlies towards the end of our trip meant coming off Fair Isle a day early (allowing some of us to make it to the Unst Pechora Pipit) and made birding hard work - though we were sure that there were some "yanks" lurking as a result...the first of these (a Swainson's Thrush) was found about an hour after I departed on a flight to Glasgow!
It was a magical trip, and one that I hope to repeat in the not too distant future...
|Red-flanked Bluetail, Sumburgh Head|
|Little Bunting, Lower Leogh, Fair Isle|
|Olive-backed Pipit, Quoy, Fair Isle|
|Red-throated Pipit, Setter, Fair Isle|
|Bluethroat, Pund, Fair Isle|
|Pechora Pipit, Baltasound, Unst|
|Orca, North Light, Fair Isle|
|Barred Warbler, Voe|
|Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, Veengarth|
|Red-breasted Flycatcher, Cunningsburgh|
|Yellow-browed Warbler, Cunningsburgh|