Been a while

Well, it has been. Last week was hellish busy, so never got a chance to celebrate my first new bird since, ooh, ages ago. Come to think of it, I don’t think I saw anything new last year… no, that’s a lie… nothing new in Shetland – it took a holiday trip to Scilly in October to add a vaguely tarty Blackpoll Warbler, and a vaguely underwhelming Wilson’s Snipe. Which may or may not constitute a species.

So… news of a Caspian Plover on Fair Isle was always going to be compelling. Had a meeting on Friday lunchtime, so no chance to go on spec first thing on Friday. Instead a frantic race to Tingwall, on the afternoon plane with seconds to spare, and the unpleasant prospect of a return trip on the Good Shepherd on Saturday.

News on landing at the airstrip not good at all – an empty charter plane stood to one side, and disconsolate birders were mooching about pretty aimlessly nearby. Met J, a birder I’m coming to know better now he’s bought a house on Shetland – he’d gone in on spec in the morning, and got lucky as one of the Obs staff relocated the bird after 5 hours of daylight searching. It’s shown for a while feeding, then vanished again. And not see since.

Spent the next couple of hours all on my own trekking around the south end, trying to locate the bird, and catching up with island resident friends I’d not see for months. Weirdly, no sign of any of the charter flight birders, apart from a couple by the grid out onto the hill.

Still, have some sympathy, as there was no sign of the bird at all. A nice smattering of migrants though, and saw a good variety of year ticks, best being a really showy Grasshopper Warbler I kicked from the ditch by the school.

5.15, and scanning Da Water, a nice marshy bit of field – a couple of Dunlins down there, and… a wader calling overhead. To say I picked it up on call sounds hugely arrogant, but in fairness, I just knew it was a call I didn’t recognise, so looked up. Treated then to a flyby as the female Caspian Plover passed overhead, then banked around in a level loop to fly steadily out of sight over the brow of the hill the school stands on. It was heading back towards Pund, where it had been seen earlier, but really wasn’t showing any sign of dropping down, and after 2 more hours of searching the Pund area, I’d not refound it again.

So, mixed feelings. I got about 30 seconds of very good flight views, which is a lot better than nothing. But not as good as getting to burn it up on the deck.

On the plus side, it was good to catch up with folk I’d not seen for a while, particularly JR, the bird’s finder. She described how it would feed in the open, walk into tussocky grass, and simply vanish. It was easy when out and feeding, confiding even, but hugely evasive once it stopped feeding.

Trip back on the Good Shepherd a joy on pretty flat sea – 3rd time lucky, and the first occasion on that boat I managed to keep my breakfast down.

Currently sweltering in the south of England. 27 degrees… that’s twice the temperature in Shetland.  No wonder I’m struggling.



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