All images © Peter Garrity


29-09-2018 to 06-10-2018 Shetland

(L-R) Tony Morris, Me, Andy Deighton, Tom Lee, Tom Hines, Roy Twigg

I have finally got around to recording our 2018 trip to the Shetland Islands and although it was not the best in terms of rare species, the weather held up and we did have a number of highlights. I have only shown images of the rarer species of birds but there are always some great opportunities to see and photograph other birds and animals as well. My buddies were as usual Roy Twigg, Andy Deighton and Tony Morris but we often bump into other friends and fellow birders such as the two Toms shown here (all Blades!!).

I always enjoy the trip over and in particular the flight from Edinburgh to Sumburgh, passing over Fair Isle, enjoying my Tunnocks Caramel and then nearly always a bit of a "lively" landing.

Tony Morris enjoying the flight

We normally book a hire car at Bolts and Roy generally does the lions share of driving - he prefers this due to travel sickness, or so he tells us. Andy and I tend to do a bit as well to reduce the risk of leaving the road significantly during our stay.

Roy at the helm, Andy with the maps

Not unusual for Roy to fall asleep at the wheel (we were parked!)

This year we stopped in Hoswick but our digs, although comfortable, weren't quite as nice. We have probably been a bit spoilt in previous years but nevertheless we got on with the birding business at hand. 

Roy mashing, almost fully dressed, which is a bit of a novelty in the house!

In terms of liquid enjoyment the Scalloway Hotel is a must, the food excellent and the company better (friends pictured at the top in the bar). We couldn't help but notice a picture which had an uncanny resemblance to one of our party!! We were in hysterics....well I was.

Tony with his ancestor!


Rather than go through every event on the trip I have pictured the key birds below (the ones I managed to photograph) and the various twitches that went on. Struggling for birds initially, it was Common Rosefinch at Leebitten on 30th Sept that first grabbed our attention.

Common Rosefinch at Leebitten

Next was a trip to Lunna Kirk on the same day for what was initially identified as an Icterine Warbler but then confirmed (Roy did say it had short primaries!!) as Melodious Warbler. A lovely sunny spot at the church gave us views of the bird feeding on the local insects including basking bluebottles.

Melodious Warbler at Lunna Kirk

Grutness is always worth a visit and often turns up Snow or Lapland Buntings. Our visit on the 1st Oct was no exception with at least two birds on the coastal edge.

Snow Bunting at Grutness

Boddam is a lovely bay and Otters are often seen here. We had picked up a Common Rosefinch in a bush on the beach briefly but as we wandered around also picked up a small group of Redpoll (rostrata) with a Twite, which were really nice.

Redpoll (Rostrata) with Twite - Look at the size comparison

The next highlights, as they often are, came on our day trip from Mainland up to Unst which always becomes a bit of a hairy, Brands Hatch race from ferry to ferry. Poor Yell, it generally becomes a bit of a blur as we hit the sound barrier with Roy's foot creating a temporary dint in the floor beneath the accelerator pedal. We were luckily close to Haroldswick as the shout of a Pechora Pipit came out very close to the Cafe/shop. An extensive flush was organised as the crowd built unbelievably it seems from the whole of Shetlands.

Roy decided to walk down a short track to the side of the open pool/marsh area and as often happens he flushed the bird unexpectedly. It landed in the large open field behind the pool and we relocated on an adjoining road as the flush continued to push the bird towards us. The bird came up again and at mega distance I fired off a few shots with the 500mm plus 2 x TC. I didn't expect anything but surprisingly I got a few record shots clearly showing the heavy flank markings and the upper wing bars !

Pechora Pipit - Haroldswick, Unst

As the search continued for the Pipit an interesting Wagtail turned up which was considered to be an Eastern Yellow Wagtail. Unfortunately I missed the opportunity for decent shots and only managed some distant record images below.

Eastern Yellow Wagtail (putative) - Haroldswick, Unst

A visit to Norwick, Unst was rewarded with this Barred Warbler which had been feeding on the drive of one of the cottages. We nearly always see them on Shetland but this one was quite accessible and a nice bonus for the day.

Barred Warbler - Norwick, Unst

We visited the walled garden at Haligarth hoping for something and did find a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers, although surprisingly these were an exception on this trip. Below are my only shots....very frustrating for a "Togger" but always a delight to see and hear.

Yellow-browed Warbler - Haligarth, Unst

We had news of a Citrine Wagtail on Bressay so made the ferry on the 4th Oct. The bird was a little elusive at first and only distant views were had. We persevered around the Old Hall with the walled garden to the North of the ferry terminal as the bird had been showing well here on the previous day. We noticed the bird had dropped into an adjacent garden and luckily the owner allowed us to get right up to his garden gate. Incredibly the bird just walked around his lawn, merely six feet away and gave wonderful views for the group. 

Citrine Wagtail - Bressay, Shetland

The resident Pied-billed Grebe had been showing on and off at Loch of Spiggie and after a couple of attempts we had distant views and a few dodgy photographs.

Pied-billed Grebe - Loch of Spiggie

A strange organised flush at Quendale which was fruitless - I can't even remember what we were looking for?!?

"Some lovely scenes always in Shetlands"




Another visit to Boddam on the 5th Oct provided at least two Common Rosefinch and on the same day we had further Snow Buntings at Grutness.

Common Rosefinch - Boddam

Snow Bunting - Grutness

Retirement Video

We always have a good few laughs when in Shetland and I had plans to do a retirement video based upon a "Who" track and featuring Roger Daltry singing "I'm Free" and running topless on a remote beach...........I will let you judge for yourselves whether it was worth it!! Filmed at the beautiful location of Levenwick.

Here's a few pictures and I personally think Roy looks really sweet in the wig!

After a few dips but a few nice birds as well, we headed back to Edinburgh and hoped to get the White-winged Scoter at Musselburgh. Another dip unfortunately but we did get a few nice Velvet Scoters and a Slavonian Grebe. Ah well the end of another enjoyable trip with friends and although I'm missing 2019, I hope to go back in the future.

Velvet Scoter - Musselburgh

Slavonian Grebe - Musselburgh