Shetland autumn birding

What with all these migrants deluging us so early in the season, and reading Blurredforum and seeing how many folk are planning on coming here this autumn for a week or two, some thoughts that may help those that do:

1. Thou shall not claim to have put any of the Shetland archipelago on the birding map. Nor shall you act as if you in some way pioneering the art of finding migrants here in Shetland. We’re all of us just following in the footsteps of those who’ve gone before here. Want to be in the vanguard of Western Palearctic pioneer birding? Go to Faroe. In the meantime, show respect where it’s due to the figures of the distant and not so distant past. On the subject of respect…

2. …Thou shall not trample through any crop you happen to stumble across hoping to flush a Pechora from its depths. Nobody here is growing those crops for the benefit of birders. They’re growing them to feed either stock, or people. They don’t want you trashing them. Similarly…

3. …Thou shall not climb over drystone walls. They collapse easily under the weight of a lardy birder. And they cost a fortune to get someone to come and repair.

4. And on the same vein, thou shalt not climb over wire fences putting all of your not inconsiderable weight on the wire. Some farmer or crofter paid good money putting a stockproof fence there – they don’t appreciate you knackering the tension scrambling over it. Use the gates provided (and cut down on your pork life, take some exercise)…

5. Thou shall not just wander into people’s gardens. Most folk here are more than happy for you to do so, but it’s good manners to ask first if you’re a visitor. Think how you’d like it if it were your garden that filled with random trainspotters wanting to photograph some rare piece of rolling stock that happened to be in a siding nearby.

6. Thou shall not beat hell out of any small trees or shrubs you find in order to flush that skulking migrant. This applies to trees and shrubs outside of gardens too. This is Shetland, and the wind, sheep and rabbits being what they are, chances are even those trees were put there deliberately by someone. They take a painfully long time to establish and grow. Don’t set them back by thrashing them to splinters.

7. Thou shall give your “crew” a funny and/or cool and/or self-deprecating name. It wouldn’t be the same without one.

8. Thou shall not sit in the South Mainland waiting for someone putting the legwork in to find a bird for you to twitch. You’ve come all this way – at least make an effort.

9. Thou shall know your common birds. Not everything here in the autumn is a rarity. (Sorry, a rare). It’s a truism, but rare birds are just that – rare. Even here. Sometimes a Siskin is just a Siskin.

10. Thou shall put at least the required amount in the tick box at Fair Isle bird observatory in the happy event that you go there and see a new bird. Why? a) it’s good manners, particularly when the sums in question are small, and b) Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust are fundraising to build a new observatory, and every donation counts towards something important for the community there, the Trust’s work itself, and us smelly masses of birders having a focal point and a warm bed and a decent meal at the end of the day.

The Shetland Bird Club have some guidelines available via the always excellent Nature in Shetland website >here<

Meanwhile, here are some other useful life-lessons that may also prove helpful:

2 Responses

  1. Totally agree in short. If you’re not going to behave, put effort in or contribute to the local economy then F*ing stay at home cuddling your pager.

    You missed out: Thought shall live solely on a diet of locally produced pies, chocolate biscuits and large mugs of hot tea.

  2. Locally produced pies… lasagne pie… mmmmmm….

    Buy them! Eat them every day while you’re here! You can eat salad when you’re south. As long as you don’t forget your vitamin T *, you’ll be fine.


    * aka Tennants. Or yellow tins.

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