Unst. Day 29, Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll

Early morning at Burrafirth I came across large, tame Redpoll. It appears to be a 1cy Hornemanns Arctic Redpoll on account of its overall (BIG) size, deep bill base, bull necked appearance. The white base colour, warm buff tones about the head and face. Its definitely at the streakier end of the spectrum and this would i think usually warn people off as it did me somewhat initially. thanks to Dave Cooper and Brydon Thomason for their input, coming to see it and agreeing on the ID and also to Geoff Wyatt who saw the bird respectively and has come to the same conclusion of its identity.

The undertail coverts show ‘pencil line ‘central shaft streaks, which is in keeping with the whole birds vibe really: streaky. In fact this could be a downfall of the bird generally infront of a commitee but i’ll do my best to convey the birds presence in the description. Being used to looking at a very variable group of birds (Gulls) , Im enjoying my baptism into these , evaluating things like; overall structure, stance , bill shape and expression in a passerine that stays mostly still (whilst feeding) as you watch has been great.

Since the last post the highlights have been Dave Cooper’s Buff breast, which was joined by another the following day. I didn’t get to see Brydon’s OBP or Blythes Reed despite looking but i did see Geoff Wyatt’s lovely Red flanked Blue tail at vaylie, nice one Geoff!

Last couple of days now before i make the long journey to scilly…

Unst. Day 23, Booted Warbler

Fairly quiet in between my last post and now although since the 17th we’ve had autumns little blessings: Yellow browned warblers in small numbers but widespread over the island.

David cooper found 2 little buntings at Burrafirth on the morning of Thursday the 17th and David Haigh and I found a very secretive Red-breasted Flycatcher at Valyie in the same afternoon. Al found a Bluethroat close to home on the 18th but not too much to write home about since, until todays Booted Warbler, found by Brydon near Halligarth. A charismatic bird which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The bird showed well on occasion and called a handful of times. Perhaps some promising weather between now and when Im scheduled to leave on the 2nd, fingers crossed for both!

Unst. Day 16 , Spotted Sandpiper

A still, bright day with light Northerly winds. I’d decided to abandon the car and Dave H dropped me at Skaw first thing as I intended to do the northern sites on foot. Lamba Ness hosted a flock of c30 Lapland Buntings and a Single Snow Bunting. A walk along the cliffs proved fruitless and the only bird of note really was a Barred Warbler in a bit of cover all the way over at Saxa Vord old army Barracks, My third of the Trip.

Just as I was coming back home into Haroldswick at around 12.30 I decided to walk the vegetation on the northern end of the beach and this stunning juv Spotted Sandpiper flew in front of me at the waters edge of me as I walked.

At first views were into the light but I’d seen the short tail and wingbar cut off before the greater coverts in flight, the bird was also calling an ‘un-common sandpiper’ like ‘Peeteet’ and flushing out into the bay only to return to the same spot, I wanted to see some plumage features and had to get on the good side of the light, eventually it came and fed on the seaweed affording good views.

What a beauty and one of my favourite waders! Sadly it flew out into the bay again and was lost. Hopefully it will turn up again tomorrow, I’m very pleased with the find but I’d love some local birders to see it.

Unst. Day 8, Red Backed Shrike + a few bits since

Its been largely quiet since my previous post last Friday, the follwing day I went back to Sandwick and both the Greenish and Barred Warblers were still present. The Greenish having moved inland slightly and feeding up on a dyke with Iris beds either side in the north of the bay.

I walked almost a km round the Headland and flushed a second Barred Warbler from cover close to an old settlement, a less showy bird which would flush long distances each time I got closer.

David Cooper and Brydon Thomason kindly invitied me seawatching on Sunday morning as the winds were in the NW. a number of Sooty Shearwaters passed north aswell as 2 Blue Fulmar which were new for me! Cheers Brydon for threm. Ive had small numbers of Migrants, things like a single Reed (below) and a few Willow Warblers, probably lingerers, but the best of Which was a Rosefinch that popped up during a brief calm spell on the 6th in a garden at the top of my road in Haroldswick. The Wood Warbler is still present in the Garden.

Today started like most days have done recently: checking the beaches and short grassy areas that attract Golden Plover and other waders. In the afternoon I drove down the track to Lamba Ness and from the car, I saw a Red back shrike in flight chasing after a Bee, pulled over and got distant views.

The bird was moving over a large area but eventually saw it nicely.

This Lapland bunting seemed to come out of no where and landed only 20m away from me on the headland. I spent the last part of the day watching a House martin feeding in a Geo at Skaw.

A Nice first week up here, the weathers set in its ways for another 7 days it seems so I’ll continue looking for Ducks and Waders from the West but lets see what happens.

Unst. Day 4, Greenish and Barred Warblers

Today was supposed to be about looking for Waders from the West but whilst I walked along the dunes at the top of SandWick beach in the South East of the Island I flushed a small Phyllosc from a nettle bed which turned out to be this beautiful Greenish Warbler!

It was fairly confiding but aware of my presence, I heard it call a couple of times as it moved around the dunes including feeding on the deck quite abit. The following images are probably over kill for just a greenish warbler but I really enjoyed the find.

10 minutes after I stopped watching the bird I flushed a Barred Warbler from the dunes 100 metres back towards the car. I saw the bird well 3 or 4 times but always briefly, I felt abit like i was just flushing it further away so left it.

Other than these migrants I saw about 30+ Wheatears during the day, a Sand Martin and a Willow Warbler at Burrafirth and a pale unstreaked Acro at Haroldswick pool took 2 hours of my afternoon; Turned out to be a rred warbler. Also Ive had 4 Juv Curlew Sandpipers in fields with the Golden Plover flock at Uyeasound in the past couple of days. Getting to grips with the place and the birding now i think. more to come when theres more to tell but a good day.

Unst. Day 1

I was able to negotiate the whole of Septemeber and October off work to spend birding intensively.  The first month of this ‘Sabatical’ I’ll be staying in Bordanoost Lodge, Haroldswick, Unst, Shetland. Covid tested, travelling alone and car packed with 4 weeks food.


As I pulled into the driveway of my accommodation I saw a Phyllosc flycatch from low down in the Garden’s sheltered Sycamore: turned out to be this excellent Wood Warbler. It stayed all day and I came back a couple of times whilst trying to orientate myself and figure out where to look for birds.


My host, and mate; Allan Conlin doesn’t arrive for a week or so but David Cooper, Island resident, ex-Sussex birder and voracious bird finder generously agreed to show me a couple of sites, we met at Skaw where he had found an Arctic warbler earlier in the day.


Later whilst I was still head scratching looking for sites that I’d heard of, he called again to let me know he’d found a Greenish warbler, So I went and took that in. An excellent Phyllosc’y start to the trip.


As I said, Im here for the month so I’ll be doing the blog as much as theres need to!