House yearlist on the crest of a wave

Finally, after some 5 weeks of near constant westerly-hued winds, some good old-fashioned south-easterlies. And rain! It felt so old skool. So strong were the winds that getting to grips with passerines in wind-lashed trees was a significant ask, and much of the day was spent seeking out pockets of relative shelter to see what could be found.

A good start in the ruined crofthouse halfway down my drive – 6 Goldcrests, taking the house yearlist onto the at one stage seeming unattainable dizzy heights of 100 species. Shortly followed by a Song Thrush, and I am now holding out for the impossible, 110 species.

goldcrest doing fearless

Goldcrests were much in evidence all around the house, surrounding fields and patches of cover. Also a couple of Robins, and a Barred Warbler in the plantation. All promising. Bird of the day though slipped through my fingers – walking along the coast to check out the sheltered geos near the golfcourse, I flushed a locustella from the long grass at my feet. It flew about 6 feet, landed, scuttled across some flattened grass, and dropped down into a small ditch. I made the schoolboy error of fumbling for the camera rather than pressing on to not lose sight of the bird, and the 10 seconds or so I wasted turning it on and shedding the lens cover proved fatal – when I went into the ditch, the damn thing had vanished. I called for the others on the isle, and they gave it some half hour scouring the field, but it was needle in a haystack time. I stuck on in deteriorating weather and gave it nearly 2 hours, but never saw the bird again. Nightmare.

All the meantime, in the back of my mind I was worrying about what else might be on the isle, so as the locustella hunt became increasingly desperate I bailed out to Symbister to see what the bright lights of the many gardens there had to offer. The rain was becoming heavier and more penetrating, but while warblers and crests proved hard to come by in those conditions, finches were made of sterner stuff – 5 Bramblings, and a Common Rosefinch.

Finally met up with JLI on his return to the island after a day on the mainland, and we went back to my end of the isle as it seemed the best bet to find something in an hour of remaining daylight. We drew a blank in the plantation and heligoland yard, but as we walked along the road below my house, a lark flushed from the ditch beside us – Woodlark! A genuine pukka Shetland rarity. And it obligingly seemed really keen on my fields, and so while we waited for BM and JA to come and twitch this mega, I was able to watch it from the driveway and so add it to the yearlist. 102 species…

>small fanfare<

A final search for the locustella proved to be predictably fruitless. Another big day tomorrow, with any luck.

Later. Have just noticed I saw a Goldcrest earlier in the year. Bugger. Song Thrush now the 100th species.


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