Monday, 18 October 2021

Shetland Sketches - Gulberwick -11th October 2021

Our last day on Shetland and a controversial wagtail was the target at Gulberwick just outside Lerwick. The wagtail had been found feeding in fields with sheep yesterday but we had not been able to get there before the rain set in with a vengeance and it became impractical to look for it.

Today it was clear and sunny with just the occasional shower and when we returned to the site the wagtail was immediately on show, feeding in a field beside a small side road near the church. It was considered at the time to be an Eastern Yellow Wagtail, recently split into a new species and therefore eminently desirable and many birders had come to view it yesterday.

It was, as wagtails usually are, flighty and hyperactive, wandering around the grass, picking off insects and would take flights to other nearby fields but always returned to its favoured field by the road.

Superficially it looked almost like a juvenile Pied or White Wagtail, being overall dark grey and white.However its undertail coverts showed as distinctly pale yellow. I have seen two first year Eastern Yellow Wagtails and the grey on its body looked rather dark to me but it did have a long hind claw which I understand to be indicative of Eastern Yellow Wagtail. Not being expert on wagtail identification I left it there.

Its flight call was recorded and later analyzed by sonogram and it was declared to be an ordinary Yellow Wagtail and not as everyone thought an Eastern Yellow Wagtail, although there is still some lingering doubt about its true identity. We spent two hours with this wagtail and then moved on to Loch of Spiggie to see a Ring necked Duck and a Slavonian Grebe with a bonus of three juvenile Long tailed Ducks diving with some Tufted Ducks and Scaup.

It was then time to head for the ferry terminal for the overnight crossing to Aberdeen and a long drive home via the Long toed Stint in Yorkshire.

Some said Shetland was not particularly good this year from a birding aspect but I  disagree. As can be seen from the list below there were good birds to be seen and that would never occur where I currently reside in Oxfordshire. Who could believe I would see not one but two Red eyed Vireo's in one day and stand inches from a Monarch Butterfly that had just crossed the Atlantic? 

For me Shetland is not just about birds although this is the main focus. Shetland in its own unique way has much more to offer if you are receptive. Travelling there is a huge adventure in itself, the land possesses a raw, beguiling beauty and there is the daily opportunity to enjoy birds and indulge in the thrill of seeking out your own discoveries. There are a host of cultural facets too. Attending and supporting the first talk to be held by The Shetland Bird Club for a year and half due to covid restrictions was thoroughly enjoyable as all their talks invariably are.Visiting the museum in Lerwick is also to be recommended. Even watching the filming of 'Shetland' in Lerwick's Main Street was a pleasant diversion for a few minutes one morning!

Bird List

Red throated Diver; Black throated Diver; Great Northern Diver; White billed Diver; Slavonian Grebe; Northern Fulmar;Northern Gannet; Great Cormorant; European Shag; Great White Egret; Grey Heron; Mute Swan; Whooper Swan; Pink footed Goose; Greylag Goose; Eurasian  Wigeon; Gadwall; Eurasian Teal; Mallard; Garganey; Northern Shoveler; Ring necked Duck (2); Tufted Duck; Greater Scaup; Common Eider; King Eider (2); Long tailed Duck; Common Goldeneye; Red breasted Merganser; Common Kestrel; Merlin; Red Grouse; Oystercatcher; Ringed Plover; European Golden Plover; Northern Lapwing; Sanderling; Semi palmated Sandpiper; Little Stint; Purple Sandpiper; Dunlin; Jack Snipe; Common Snipe; Eurasian Curlew; Common Redshank; Turnstone; Black headed Gull; Common Gull; Herring Gull; Great Black backed Gull; Kittiwake; Common Guillemot; Razorbill; Black Guillemot; Rock Dove; Wood Pigeon; Collared Dove; Skylark; Shore Lark; Olive backed Pipit (2); Meadow Pipit; Rock Pipit; Yellow Wagtail; White Wagtail; Wren; European Robin; Bluethroat (2); Common Redstart; Northern Wheatear; Blackbird; Song Thrush; Redwing; Marsh Warbler; Barred Warbler; Blackcap; Yellow browed Warbler (2); Radde's Warbler; Western Bonelli's Warbler; Common Chiffchaff; Goldcrest; Red breasted Flycatcher; Red backed Shrike; Woodchat Shrike; Hooded Crow; Common Raven; Common Starling; House Sparrow; Red eyed Vireo (2); Chaffinch; Brambling; Goldfinch; Siskin; Twite; Mealy Redpoll; Common Rosefinch; Rustic Bunting; Reed Bunting.

Mammal List

Grey Seal
Harbour Porpoise

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