Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Journey for a Junco!

At 1100hrs on the 11th of May, news broke that would send a majority of the Shetland birding community racing to see it. A DARK-EYED JUNCO, a rare North American bunting with only four previous records and the first since 2003 was found by Donald Robertson in his garden at Toab (not a bad one for the garden list!).
A photo online asking for an ID of this shocked many of those who looked at it, it probably took them a second to quickly put out the news but soon people were flocking.
And me? well I was playing football during breaktime in Mid Yell and I just stopped there and then, gawking at the text I'd just received.
Over the course of the next like 3 hours, I was trying to figure out a way to get down there to see this rarity, luckily somehow, I managed the bus timetable right, got someone to run me back up to Yell and also got to give the chance for a much younger birder, Joe Petrie, to come and see it!

I took us over an hour and a half to make it down but with the help of Paula Moss, Joe & I made it down the South Mainland.
On the way we phoned up Hugh Harrop who gave us directions straight to the bird (thanks Hugh!) and also he said about two Cranes at Levenwick! I hadn't even heard of them! (presumably the Yell birds because they weren't seen today).
Soon we had made it down to Toab at 1815 and the rain had started, we couldn't see Hugh so I gave him a call and he said two birders were walking towards us so we mobilised.
Roger and Glen appeared around the corner and pointed in the general direction, so the pace evidently picked up.
Right round the corner was Hugh with one of his massive cameras, I did see this dark thing which I took for a Sparrow under a trailer (this was it).
Hugh said it was hopping around on the grass behind the trailer so I crouched down and there it was! Joe and Paula both laid eyes on it and we all enjoyed a very nice Lifer!
So the Junco was my 233rd bird in Shetland and Joe's 42nd ish (we are still working out his list), also my 118th for the year!

Initial shots/views of the Junco

Joe spying at it under the trailer

The Junco happily hopped along the grass before flying off, we headed to Donald Robertson's garden to see if it had returned and I was delighted to see a Sedge Warbler! year tick no.119 and Joe's first ever! that though didn't stay for a photo.
Though soon we were back to the Junco as Paul Harvey was waving us back over to see it.
We got slightly better photos and here's one of the results before it flew off again.

They are beauties these Junco, a stonking male, shame we didn't hear it call

Well anyways it was time to head so we said our goodbyes and nipped up to South Punds, Levenwick for the Cranes.
A few minutes initial searching and I spotted them pretty close in, a year tick for me (120), Paula's first in Shetland and Joe's first!

The pair, I've seen photos of them mating, maybe Shetland's first breeding record?

Joe and Paula watching the Cranes

Two happy Crane twitchers

So we headed back north, Joe managed another lifer in the form of a Swallow and soon we were up at the ferry waiting to catch the 2015 home.

A happy boy with 11 (!!!) Lifers under his belt including the Junco, he's hardly passed 50 yet!

Well it was some day, I can't help but thank those who helped out, Dave for sending me the news, Hugh for the directions and help to see the birds and Paula who drove us there and back so we could see it. Who knows though, maybe we'll be doing something similar next week, how about Spectacled Warbler on Whalsay?


  1. Congrat's Logan on a successful twitch , Junco's are really great looking birds , and wow life ticking DE Junco , Common Crane & Swallow on the same day is awesome well done Joe

  2. First of all I like to appreciate this article, you are written this well. Images are really stunning.. Keep blogging!!