Frozen swonnicles

It’s cold as a witch’s tit here today, an eye-watering, snot-running north-easterly storm-force wind coupled with the occasional horizontal snow shower. Snow at that speed really, really hurts. You wouldn’t think it, but it bloody does. Not a promising day for birding in Shetland, and even the local Starlings couldn’t be arsed to come and steal my chickens’ corn this morning. Obviously a day to go out birding in the last hour of daylight and find, oh, fuck all most likely. Secretly I was hoping for a white-winged gull of some sort, the sea being altogether too rough for rare eider fantasies.

Busy sea

Took the mutts with me to lengthen my odds even further. Fly is a sort-of sheepdog, and can sort-of be trusted off the lead. Daisy is a lurcher, and cannot be trusted with sheep, rabbits or small children. Basically, anything that runs away is fair game. So Daisy stays on the lead, and the lead stays firmly around my wrist. Which means trying to look through binoculars in already wind-buffeted conditions is made all the harder by the spinning dog tugging at your arm as she tries to get away and bite Thumper’s head off. Perfect stringing conditions!

Regretted the idea within seconds of setting foot on the golf course – all the large gulls were together at the very far end of the island, so I had to walk out to them while sea spray from breaking waves on the cliffs came sideways at me across the fairways. Salt on my lenses… Iceland or Glaucous be damned, this is looking good for an Ivory at least… But it was cold… so bloody cold… and of course, once I reached the gulls there was just the usual crowd of Great Black-backeds and Herrings. Bastards. And now I was soaking wet, and cold cold cold. Dogs none too impressed either, though Daisy had killed a sitter en route – an unfortunate bunny huddled beneath a drystone dyke out of the wind – so at least one of us had had a result today.

Decided to look on the sheltered side of the island for divers, but in the end couldn’t be arsed as I lost all feeling in my hands and feet. Did however find two Whooper Swans on the tiny loch out near the Taing, so a new species for that square on the BTO survey. Not a complete disaster then, though the swans may have thought otherwise as spooked by our sudden appearance, they took off into the wind and flew backwards out to sea, vanishing from sight in a bank of falling snow. Oops.

 Pissed off Whooper


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