Shetland Trip – Day 1 – 26/ix/16

This weekend I returned from a two week trip to Shetland, where the birding was some of the best I have ever experienced in Britain! Over the next week I’ll write a day by day account of the trip, beginning with some birding I did on the journey north.

My first bird of the trip was a pretty good one. During the drive, news had broken of a rare Arctic seabird in the harbour at Anstruther, Fife, and it was still present when I arrived at 12:30. It was a BRUNNICH’S GUILLEMOT, a new species for me and a mega-rarity in a british context. While I was there it dived regularly but was never seen feeding, it also spent a lot of time preening but appeared to be in a bit of a mess with the flight feathers from both wings in heavy moult. However, the black feathers of the upper body, moulting white chin patch, short deep bill and white line at the bill base were all seen as it showed well coming within a few metres at times.


Sadly this bird was found dead in the harbour on the 30th September, and was clearly in a malnourished state. There has been some doubt about the identity of this bird, with some suggesting it may be a hybrid Brunnich’s x Common Guillemot. The corpse has been retained and will be subject to DNA analysis, the results of which are eagerly anticipated!

I reached the Aberdeen area with several hours to kill before my ferry, so decided to have a go for the Semipalmated Sandpiper which had been present at the Ythan estuary to the north. Unfortunately there was no sign of the bird which had last been seen, fluched by a Peregrine the previous afternoon according to Birdguides. However, a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper and a wealth of other more common waders were pleasant consolation.

With a little time still remaining, I payed a quick visit to the nearby Forvie NNR where a 1st-winter Red-Backed Shrike showed well next to the visitor centre, though remained deep in cover. I did manage the record shot below.


Following this was a quick drive down to the ferry where I boarded successfully and spent a somewhat sleepless night looking forwards to the quality birding which awaited.


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