Before I begin, apologies for the lack of pictures in this post (there are links to other people’s).
Day 10 was very much a day of two birds. I had a slow start on Unst, having a much needed shower at the leisure center before enjoying a bacon butty and mug of tea at a local shop. At about 10 I checked the news, and learned that there was very little about, other than an Arctic Redpoll (of the subspecies ‘hornemanii‘) had been seen briefly the day before near Baltasound. I decided it was worth a look, so headed down. There were a few others present, but sadly no sign of the bird. However, they informed me that it had been present earlier in the morning, so we continued our search. After a short while, I was scanning the burn through my bins when a large pale finch crossed my field of view – that had to be it! I followed it and watched as it landed on a small rock in the stream – an enormous pale redpoll, pure white on the front with a steep forehead, buffish wash to the face and neat red forehead patch. No sooner than it had landed, it flew again disappearing over a bank but revealing its clean white rump in the process. We followed and soon found the bird feeding at the bottom of a fence. We watched for a short while at some distance, before the bird flew once again, this time disappearing away to the east. At this point several other birders arrived, and we were just about to tell them it had gone, when I once again picked it up in flight. It flew straight towards us, went low overhead, then continued west until it was lost from view. It was an all-to-brief encounter with a stunning bird. Here’s a link to a photo of it:
Delighted that I had seen this bird, I jumped back into the car and made for the mainland, planning to spend my remaining time there. However, as I reached the ferry terminal a text came through from Geoff Wyatt:
White’s Thrush, Houbie, Fetlar
Not for the first time I quickly changed my plan and after a few hours around the ferry terminals I found myself at Gutcher, waiting to board the Fetlar ferry. However, as time ticked by more and more cars full of birders filled up the ‘booked’ queue and I soon realised there were no remaining spaces. Ditching the car, I walked along the queue of waiting birders asking if anyone had spaces. Fortunately two kind souls did, and we soon boarded the ferry. It was early afternoon when we arrived, and the convoy of cars raced over to Houbie. The crowd assembled quickly on arrival, and after a short time the WHITE’S THRUSH was flushed from the plantation. It flew down the burn in full view, the striking black and white underwing pattern and large size were striking! Over the next ten minutes it did several more flyby’s showing well, but never landed in the open. After a little while, it settled into some dense willows, out of view, but with some careful positioning several of us were able to obtain views into the undergrowth. By doing this I was able to get two brief glimpses of the bird, but it was incredibly well camouflaged – an absolute stunner!
It was also nice to see my self-found Red-Breasted Flycatcher still present at the site too!
As darkness set in, I grabbed a lift back to the ferry with two welsh birders I had met, and then followed them back to mainland, finally getting to bed at around 1. Well worth it though for two cracking birds!