Saturday, 24 January 2015

Scoter in the Surf: Twitching time

At 1330 on Sunday the 18th of January, news broke of a Surf Scoter up at Skaw, Unst which was found by Mike Pennington.
At the time of the text I was in Weisdale helping my Dad shift some heavy stuff, if I'd left there straight away there wouldn't have been enough light to see anything, so I prayed it stayed until the next weekend.

On the Friday of the following week I checked up with Mike Pennington to see if it had been seen, Rob Brookes had it in the afternoon so I asked Mike if he'd be willing to give me a run to it and back, to my delight he said yes and we set in plans to go on the Saturday.

1015 the next morning I arrived in Unst, to see Mike waiting at the terminal, first things first we shot off to Skaw to see the Scoter.
The rain was on so we waited in the car for a couple of minutes before heading out, equipped for the weather (well I was missing some necessary items for the kind of weather).
Couple of minutes into it and we spotted the Surf Scoter,a lifer and another addition to my Shetland List No.230 which is the 2nd addition I've had this year, just 13 to go Tommy!
It was a great looking bird though, if a 1st winter drake (male) looks good then I can't wait to see an adult male!

Also as we came to a stop a female Black Redstart flew from out under a bank, a bird which had been present for a couple of days and was my first on the Island.

The 1st-winter drake, a nice addition on a cold day (I discovered how cold it really was after going round Skaw)

The Scoter got a bit more distant so we went round the headland at Skaw, seeing the odd Fulmar and very little.
A quick check at Valyie (pronounced V-lee) produced a Song Thrush (Year tick) and a Chaffinch before we went south to Baltasound to try and find some Bean Geese.
We never did find any Bean Geese but at Halligarth we did manage a grand total of 7 European White-fronted Geese (Unst Ticks) and some Herons were around as well.

A quick cup of tea at Mike's produced a Great & Blue Tit!! (the latter my first on Unst), maybe birding from the house isn't a bad idea after all.
But no we had to brave the outdoors again, a quick pop to Skibhoul and we were off again.
Westing was our chosen destination for (hopefully) some white-wingers and maybe something better like a Harlequin or maybe an Ivory Gull, its time we had another.

Of course there was no Harlequin or Ivory Gull at Westing but there was an Otter incredibly close in (though my shots weren't the best), a couple of gulls were flying around and some Purple Sands on the beach, probably the oddest thing was five Whooper Swans flying in and then going over a hill to the north.

The Otter with its catch

Just-after catch 

A Black-headed Gull which was one of several around Westing

The Holm at Westing, with the old ruin of a crofthouse or a store

On the way out of Westing I picked up an adult European White-fronted Goose and then we were off to Uyeasound which only came up with several Teal before it was time for me to head to the ferry.

At 1415 I finally departed Unst after an amazing day for January, without the excellent driver/birder I wouldn't have seen anything at all so thanks to Mike for dragging me round and telling me about some good pieces of history! also for managing me to get four Unst ticks!.

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