Monday, 18 October 2021

Shetland Sketches - Kergord - 7th-8th October 2021

Having diverted from Kergord to go and see the Monarch Butterfly at Sumburgh yesterday, on learning that the Rustic Bunting was still at Kergord we decided on giving it another try. Kergord is not that far north of Lerwick and the bunting was frequenting a tree and bush lined wet ditch running down between two sheep fields. Parking the car we made our way down the field to join a group of twenty or so birders standing well back from the ditch and hoping to see the bunting. There were more birders standing the other side of the ditch in the opposite field. Depressingly we learned that the bunting had only been seen twice in flight, in the last two hours.

This was not unexpected news as Rustic Buntings are notoriously hard to see  preferring as they do to skulk and feed on the ground while hidden in deep vegetation and rarely come out into the open especially when there is a group of birders in attendance. The current location of the bunting was known as it had been followed as it flew from one part of the ditch to the other but it was impossible to see it. For half an hour we stood around with not a lot happening and hope fading fast.

Then a birder asked if anyone objected to the bunting being flushed and with the consent of us all he and a colleague climbed the wire fences guarding the ditch and proceeded to cautiously  walk either side of the ditch.Not a lot happened for a minute or so but then the bunting flew up and perched in a tree for thirty seconds. I did my best to record the moment but as you can see not very successfully.

However we had seen it which was a minor miracle in itself.



The bunting flew further down the ditch and as before disappeared into its depths.There was no point in waiting any longer unless someone again decided to flush it which was obviously not going to happen as everyone was happy with the view they had got and departed the field.

The next day the weather had changed markedly from sunshine and clear skies to rain and low cloud. There was no sign of the Rustic Bunting but a Bluethroat had arrived in the very same ditch. We returned on a very wet and miserable morning and parked our car as before, under the dripping trees by the farm entrance. 


We went through the gate to the sheep field and descended the gently sloping wet field almost to the bottom, to join around ten or so birders waiting for the Bluethroat to show itself. We were told it was showing intermittently but generally being elusive.

We stood in the field, our clothes becoming increasingly damp as a soft rain fell. The Bluethroat eventually came out of the bushes a couple of times to seize prey from the grass but would immediately fly back into deep cover. There was then a long period where nothing happened and most of our fellow birders conceded to the weather and left, deciding to be content with the limited views of the bluethroat. We stuck it out hoping for one more view that would be more than just seconds only. I was not optimistic.


For a while there was still no sign of the Bluethroat until, finally it flew out and to our amazement perched on the wires of the fence guarding the ditch. It remained here scanning the grass on the field we were standing in and then proceeded to feed just like a Robin, perching on the wire and hopping down onto the grass to seize whatever had caught its eye. It found a small green caterpillar and proceeded to deal with it in the grass before returning to the fence. It must have been on show for 3 or 4 minutes at least and we could only congratulate ourselves on our good fortune and decision to stick it out in the rain.











We waited for an encore from the Bluethroat but it never came, for as more and more birders came down the field to join us it remained resolutely hidden and never ventured out into the open. I can only surmise that the bird felt emboldened when there was only the three of us stood in the field but when more birders arrived and 'a crowd' formed it reverted to its former bhaviour of remaining for the most part hidden deep in the ditch.


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