Day 1... Monday 18th Feb.
The task was set… Shetland and a Pine Grosbeak! Andy and Ciaran bombed up to Edinburgh and we set off for Aberdeen. Little did we know what the trip had in store for us.
We made the ferry in good time and settled down for the long trip ahead. I managed brief views of 2 Bottlenose Dolphin as we were leaving Aberdeen.
Although the crossing was flat calm, sleeping on the ferry wasn’t comfortable (having not booked a cabin).
The weather throughout the trip was remarkably perfect… light winds, bright sunshine and not a hint of rain.
Day 2… Tuesday 19th Feb.
As the Ferry drew into Lerwick we took to deck and clocked at least 4 Otters and countless Long-tailed Ducks, Eiders and Ravens. Ravens made themselves known all over Shetland, particularly in Lerwick with at least 9 devouring the contents of a bin.
We grabbed a quick much needed breakfast at co-op then picked up the hire car and headed to Collafirth. As soon as we arrived and jumped out of the car a voice shouted ‘if you’re looking for the Grosbeak it’s here’. Bingo! Bouncing branches gave away the big unit of a finch and we locked scopes and bins onto the bird. The bright amber gem of a bird then showed on and off for the next 20 minutes, dancing around feeding and even coming down to drink at less than 10 meters at one point. It slowly worked its way down the side of a small plantation before disappearing deep into the trees. The photos do not do this juicy beast any justice at all and merely act as ‘one for the record’.
Having never been to Shetland before and with only a day on the island we decided to take in a few sights. We headed up to Esha Ness, taking in the spectacular landscape of Shetland and got crippling views of a Merlin devouring a starling by the side of the road. At Esha Ness the conditions were insane as the Fulmars put on a good show. 5 Minutes down the road after leaving the lighthouse Andy pipes up ‘shit where are my bins?’… On a rock back at Esha Ness… Andy! Big Lad maintained a theme throughout the trip… ‘shit where are my car keys?’ ‘Where is my wallet’ etc. etc.
Next on the journey was Scalloway where we had been told the Ring-billed Gull had been frequenting. A few slices of bread later and the 1st winter beauty put on a good show allowing for a few nice snaps in good light.
We then headed for Shetland Catch, a well known spot for white wingers and a few other interesting bits. As we drove up to the quay a stonking brute of a Glaucous Gull stood about 10ft from the car… like it had been waiting for us to arrive. What a massive unit of a Gull! We enjoyed superb views of Long-tailed ducks displaying in the sunshine and totted up 3 (possibly 4) Glaucs, an Iceland, plenty of Mergansers and Eider not to mention the cronking ravens surrounding us on all sides. The perfect end to the perfect day. Fully satisfied we settled back onto the ferry for a pint (not for Ciaran who had given up Alcohol for lent).