Monday, 23 October 2017

Shetland day 8: Buffy & The Damp Pie Slayer

While we were on Unst on 4th October, news had broken of an American Buff-bellied Pipit back at Grutness on the Mainland. On the morning of the 5th, after a mooch around Hoswick, we headed there for probably the closest and most extended views of any of the rare birds seen during our nine day stay. All the while Shetland entertained us with its unfamiliar place names, and we amused ourselves with word play around them when the birding was quiet. We checked out gardens at Gardins, got Parrot Crossbills at Gott, an Otter at Gutcher and nothing at Noness.
Here's Buffy: the American Buff-bellied Pipit at Grutness...
...and here's the Damp Pie Slayer: Howard at Gott. If the marketing folks at Swarovski Optic, or indeed the Scalloway Meat Company, would like to feature this guy modelling their wares, please contact me to discuss my commission.
The Pipit was sheltering from the strong winds in the lee of a low wall against which we were leaning
'Dark legs my arse' said a gruff voice beside me. It was Bob, passing a caustic comment on the Collins Guide description of Buff-bellied Pipit in winter plumage
We enjoyed amazing views down to about six feet
The settlement of Gord, of which there were two, provided particularly good value: every time we approached we had found Gord; every time we left we had forsaken Gord. When we stumbled across the second one we concluded that Gord moved in mysterious ways, and wondered how we would break the news to the devout that there was more than one true Gord. The pun-making threatened to get out of hand at times, and the less said about the anagram competition based on the 'Cunningsburgh Rustic Bunting', the better (we failed to see that bird on three occasions).
For those who like that sort of thing, the next few photos highlight some identification features as per Van Duivendijk: grey-brown upperparts with only faint streaking...
...complete pale eye-ring, pale lore and distinct supercilium
Centre of tertials and tail-feathers very dark and contrasting with rest of upperparts
Slender, Meadow Pipit-like bill

Breast well-marked with short, well-defined streaks
At a more culturally sensitive level, evocative names like Veensgarth and Halligarth were a reminder of Shetland's Old Norse heritage, while from more recent history, other road signs conjured up images of famous rarities which had graced the islands: the Levenwick Siberian Rubythroat, the Baltasound Cape May Warbler and of course the Uyaesound Siberian Thrush, co-found by my travelling companions the previous year.

One of the best birds seen in our nine day stay on Shetland

Snow Bunting at Sumburgh Head

Like the Pipit, the Bunting was being buffeted by strong winds

Snow Bunting against the dry stone walls of Sumburgh Head
After a couple of sessions watching the Buff-bellied Pipit at point blank range, we headed up to Sumburgh Head again where a Snow Bunting had been reported. A gale was seriously ruffling the feathers of this skittish bird, but we managed to photograph it from the car window. After a scan of the waders at Pool of Virkie, we ended another rewarding day with a trio of Slavonian Grebes at Boddam, home of the Pink Panther (Boddam. Boddam. Boddam, Boddam, Boddam, Boddam, Bodd-aaaaaaam-diddle-diddle-dam...).
Curlew at Sumburgh Head
Shag at Grutness
Slavonian Grebe - one of three at Boddam
The famous Sumburgh Head lighthouse


  1. love it... Can we also get in the fact that my hat was an Fair Isle Riddington please...

    1. Do the Fair Isle hat people have 'marketing folks' Howard?

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Jonathan, was quite proud of that for its awfulness.