Autumn migration is on, not just for the birds but an army of birders that descend on Shetland for a 3 week period to see as many rare birds as possible
This week I have met up with a number of people i know from Sheffield and others who came up during the last two autumns. It good to see them again and to find out what motivates others. Gone are the days when everyone went to the Scilly Isles, Shetland now has its fair share of rare birds.
With more eyes looking out, good birds are found on a regular basis. Outside this period there many only be able 40 or so people out in the field so a lot of birds are missed.
People have different ideas when trying to find birds:-
1. There are some that go to favourable locations either based on previous experience or recent records and cover every inch (centimeter now) of ground.
2. Some that wait for news of a rare bird found by someone else. I talked to two types again those in number one that will shift location quickly if news comes in of a good bird. A couple of people I have found sit in a car perhaps half way down the mainland and shoot of in any direction where a rare bird is found but only go for mega rare birds and are not bothered about anything else.
3. Others up for a good time taking in the scenery and birds but don't chase about as much
4. Those that come on an organised birding tour, being taken to rare birds
Some respect people's property and a few don't, giving birding a bad name. Most Shetland people are happy to welcome birders and share experiences.
But its all about the wind direction, easterly winds are the most precious but sometimes westerly winds still bring good birds to Shetland. These birds have been discovered all over Shetland in the last few days
Brown Shrike, Great Snipe, Hoopoe, Arctic Warbler, Greenish Warbler, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Gt Reed Warbler, Lanceolated Warbler, Paddyfield Warbler, Barred Warbler, Yellow Browed Warbler, Common Crane, Red breasted flycatcher, Olive backed Pipit, Red Backed Shrike. Pallid Harrier, Bluethroat, Short Toed Lark, Rose Coloured Starling, Radde's warbler
I spend more time concentrating on taking photos not just of the rarer birds but the common ones as well. Most birders (Twitchers) are not interested in seeing a flock of House Sparrow, Starling, Twite or Raven they have no time for them, which is a pity.
Anyway over the past few days I have caught up with Yellow Browed Warbler, Olive backed Pipit, Little Bunting and Red Backed Shrike but only managed to photograph the Shrike, I first saw this just sitting in a bush 6 feet away, it then moved to the back of the garden but would fly around giving great views. Only three other birders present
This cannot be said about the Olive Backed Pipit, with around 40 other birders crowded into a small car park i decided to leave them to it as the bird had not been seen for around 45 mins but managed to see it perched on a fence two gardens away.
The Little Bunting gave several great views but i could never get my camera onto it before it flew away but i was the only one present for most of the time. The Yellow Browed Warbler at Quendale was only seen once, but i didn't have any luck with the Arctic Warbler. One photographer managed one photo in 6 hours watching.
One bird that kept me entertained was a Willow Warbler who managed to collect several Bluebottles and spiders - Down in one !
Not good viewing conditions after Monday with gales and heavy rain, but still birders are a hardy lot with many braving the elements.