Friday 27 October 2017

Shetland day 10: leaving Shetland

Having repeatedly referred to our 'nine-day trip' to Shetland in recent posts, I got to the end and realised it was actually ten. Well it's a long time since I got that 'A' in my Maths O-level in 1985. So apologies to those who thought this torture had come to an end, this really is the last one, probably.
Male Parrot Crossbill, eyeing up a crop of cones
The bulky head and muscular jaw can be seen here
A pair sat quietly feeding in the tree just above our heads
The tree was on a steep slope so they were not far above eye level
Day 10 started as had Day 1 - wet and windy in Lerwick. The Parrot Crossbill invasion had continued all week, and small numbers of these impressive cone-crushers had been seen on the outskirts of the town. Our first session kerb-crawling around the suburbs was only partially successful: we located a couple of Crossbills, but only as they flew from a tree just over our heads and were lost to view. Otherwise a flyover Hawfinch was the best we could manage, so we made for Sumburgh Head one last time. News filtered through of a White's Thrush on Fair Isle - there was no chance of getting there, but we could at least see the island from Sumburgh!
In recent days the Parrot Crossbills had been photographed eating cones on the pavement. I have heard of photographers baiting sites for rare birds with mealworms, but baiting the pavement with cones?
Female Parrot Crossbill
Female Parrot Crossbill
A brighter rump compared to the rest of the body
Energy levels and spirits were pretty low by this point: it had been a great week and it was a wrench to be leaving, knowing that autumn migration was still in full flow, and that more rarities would inevitably be found after our departure. We could not, and did not, complain, however, having seen at least one good rarity on each of the previous six days. Time was running out before our evening ferry so we headed back towards the port.
Fulmar, Sumburgh Head
Hooded Crow
Redpoll, Sumburgh Lighthouse Garden
Starling, Cunningsburgh
Before boarding the ferry, our final look around Lerwick was more successful: returning to the same tree from which the Crossbills had flushed earlier, a male and a female had returned and gave intimate and extended views. A fitting end to an enjoyable and rewarding week. Shetlanders were every bit as welcoming as I had been led to believe, and the birding was every bit as good. My thanks to David, Howard and Bob for their excellent company, sharp eyesight and good humour throughout.
Fair Isle from Sumburgh Head
The prehistoric settlement of Jarlshof viewed from Sumburgh Head
Budget branding at RSPB Sumburgh Head
The sun starts to set for the last time on our Shetland adventure

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