I travelled up to Shetland on 02/10/14 with Matt Willmott and Neil Harris to spend a week based at Vidlin on central mainland. Though two of us had seen the species before we were all somewhat aghast to discover that what has to have been the showiest White’s Thrush ever at Durigarth had gone. We spent some time birding the area anyway turning up our first Barred Warbler.
The next day we headed to Unst to twitch the Eastern Subalpine Warbler at Baltasound which showed well.
Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Baltasound
A Barred Warbler performed outrageously in the same vicinity.
Barred Warbler, Baltasound
Barred Warbler, Baltasound
A Wryneck at Norwick also gave itself up nicely.
Then the bomb dropped. I had joked that the one thing which would make up for the thrush leaving would be if we walked in to a Siberian Rubythroat and one had just been found at Levenwick. Against the odds, and the betting, we got there with an hour’s light left thanks to Matt’s driving skills and saw the bird well, if briefly. Over the next three days I saw the bird several times but never managed to photograph it as I was unwilling to put the hours in preferring to concentrate on birding.
We travelled south on Saturday twitching a Bluethroat at Breiwick on the way and were then birding at Gott, where we found a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers, when we received news that the Pallid Harrier which had been knocking around for a while was just over the brow of the hill at Tingwall.
We had reasonable views of it and arrived at Levenwick just before the Rubythroat, which hadn’t been seen for hours, was relocated.
Sunday was spent birding but produced little and a twitched Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll was bird of the day. Monday was another day of atrocious weather but we birded all day on central mainland finding nothing of note but for several Yellow-browed Warblers. We stayed local again on Tuesday and again found little of note until I flushed a bird from a field at Eswick which sounded bang on for Olive-backed Pipit. We never managed a view of the bird on the ground and had to let it go. A couple of hours later Matt and I split up to do Vidlin plantation and I was scrapping about trying to see a calling Yellow-browed Warbler when Matt began shouting. He had just flushed an Olive-backed Pipit from an area of rough grass, it conveniently perched up on a garden wall giving him excellent views before flitting in to a tree beside the house. The bird was still there when I arrived and we each had several more views of it before dark. I also heard it call, just like the bird we had flushed earlier.
The following morning, two rounds of the plantation yielded a Pied Flycatcher, a Blue Tit and we had a brief flight view of what we assumed to be the same Olive-backed Pipit. Shortly after, Mark Ponsford and Pete Massey arrived with Jack Willmott who found an Olive-backed Pipit feeding in the grass clearing. We dropped down to join him and discovered that there were actually two birds there which gave excellent views for half an hour or so before we left to continue birding elsewhere.
Olive-backed Pipit, Vidlin
I dragged us down south again that afternoon to twitch a Lanceolated Warbler at Quendale which was a new bird for me. It gave us the run around but we eventually got excellent views of it by teasing it on to a sheep trail which it obligingly ran along before scuttling up a grass bank and pausing in the sunshine.
Thursday was our last day in the field and we spent it birding around central mainland but again Yellow-browed Warbler was our best find.