Friday, 10 October 2008

Pished off

If nothing else, I'll be a bit fitter by the end of this holiday. Yet again, we walked miles today, but failed to find anything new. I think all the birders who've visited Shetland in the last couple of autumns have been somewhat spoilt by the weather - this year it's constant strong southerlies or south-westerlies with frequent heavy rain, and consequently much more difficult to find anything.

But at least we're trying. This morning we thought we ought to have a look for yesterday's possible Lancy at Toab. We didn't really expect it to be there, so we were surprised when Mark flushed a Locustella from the ditch at the side of the road, just up the hill from where it was seen yesterday. Unfortunately it was an absolute bastard to get anywhere near; it flew four or five times (always long before we got to where it had gone down), and we eventually lost it in gardens at Hestingott.

Identifying Locustellas is tricky enough even with good views, but in flight the only relevant characters you can see are size, tail length and general coloration. I have to say that with the views I had of it, I would probably go for Grasshopper rather than Lanceolated - it didn't strike me as being particularly small or short-tailed, and looked rather olive-toned. Probably best left at that really, given that we didn't get anywhere near seeing it on the ground!

Next we went to Garths Ness, which was a silly idea on the face of it, as it was very exposed there, but the plan was to walk up Burn of Garth. It proved to be sheltered but birdless. Mark and I carried on over the hill and walked all the way to Quendale Mill, while Rob went back to the car and met us at the mill. Quendale Burn was also sheltered, but mostly devoid of birds, apart from 5 or 6 Blackcaps and a Chiffchaff.

Finally, this evening a couple came into the shop at Toab and told us they'd seen a Little Bunting just round the corner, so we went and had a look at that. Comparing photos of this bird with the one at the lighthouse, it looks like a different bird, as the flank streaks are blacker and more sharply defined.

The weather forecast for the next couple of days at least is for more of the same. I shall need a change of scenery soon - last year Andy L and I had a day out in West Mainland, which is massively underwatched. We didn't see anything, but 'a change is as good as a rest' as it used to say on the Durex adverts. Never did understand what that was supposed to mean!

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