It can't quite believe its a year since I was last on Unst... time does indeed fly. However, I'm not complaining, as it's great to be back up here again, thrashing up burns and through iris beds. This year there are just the two of us, me and Paul Eele, staying in a cosy little two bedroom cottage in Baliasta, called Scraefield.
We left Newark promptly at 7am on Saturday morning, Paul having come across from Norfolk the previous evening. After an uneventful drive up, we arrived in Aberdeen in plenty of time for the ferry. For the first hour or so out of port we did some seawatching from deck, with 4 Arctic Skuas being the highlight, along with a couple of Harbour Porpoises. Retiring inside, we settled down in the bar, noting that there seemed to be only a handful of other birders on the boat, which was a bit surprising. We flaked out about 9.30 for a slightly unsettled sleep in the sleeping pods, not helped by some quite lumpy seas between Orkney and Shetland!
Having arrived and picked up some bits in the Lerwick Tesco we headed north up Mainland, stopping for a couple of hours at Sandgarth, in Voe. This is a cracking looking site, although possibly with too much cover... We bagged our first Yellow-brows of the trip here, with three in evidence. A party of Redpolls gave us the runaround but eventually showed well enough to see they included at least two Mealies. 1 or 2 Goldcrests were the only other migrants here.
|Paul bagging a YBW|
Two ferries later, we arrived on Unst, and were out in the field by 2.30. Around our cottage in Baliasta we had a nice male Brambling, and single Garden Warbler and Blackcap. We failed to see anything at all at Houlland, in increasingly blowy conditions, so went round to Skaw, which was a bit more sheltered and where another Garden Warbler was accompanied by two Blackcaps. We rounded things off with our fourth YBW of the day in the burn at Burrafirth.
A wander at Norwick was pretty quite, with single YBW and Song Thrush at Valyie, a flight-only Lesser Whitethroat and 8 Swallows south. There were a few waders on the beach, with around 20 Turnstone, a Sanderling, a few Ringos, and a Little Stint that dropped in for a moment before haring off south, calling. The small clump of trees in the valley at Northdale held a Barred Warbler, present for several days now, and another very skulking and flighty Lesser Whitethroat, with a Chiff and a YBW in the Rosa by the cottages. At Burrafirth, the YBW was still in the burn, and we kicked up a Jack Snipe. By now the weather was pretty grim, so we decided to have one last stop before calling it a day - Setters Hill Estate. This produced our eighth YBW of the day, along with 2 Chiffs and our first Robin.
|YBW in typical habitat, on an Armco barrier.|
With winds still set firm from the south-east, its all to play for over the next couple of days!