It was still dark when we awoke at 4am, but a few hours later the sun slowly started to rise and we could see land appearing in the distance – Shetland. It was exiting to think we were almost there! As the sun rose we noticed more birds too. Flocks of Eiders and Common Scoter drifted past the ship as we edged ever closer to the islands.
Time went quickly and before we knew it we’d arrived in Lerwick itself. In the harbour we spotted our 4th Auk species in 24 hours – Black Guillemots. There were also a couple of Grey Seals that swam close to the ship which was nice.
We met Phil and Rebecca who were going to take us to Unst at the ferry port, and within half an hour we were watching a Siberian Rubythroat. What a great day! When I say day, I mean morning and 0830 at that! What a great welcome to Shetland!
With that being the 11th British record it’ll be a hard bird to beat but we’ve got a week of searching ahead. After the excitement of that we were taking back to Lerwick we were saw a Yellow-browed Warbler, Goldcrest, Blackcap, Blackbird, Starlings and a Chaffinch all in the same tree. To add to that a Hooded Crow was chasing a Merlin metres away and a Twite flew over as well. Not bad start to the morning at all and it wasn’t even 9am!
By the time we’d reached Tescos, we’d also stopped off to see White Wagtails and a small loch where 6 Whooper Swans, a Moorhen, Wigeon, Mallards and a few waders were present. There were Redshank and Turnstones by the side of the road and feeding in people’s gardens too.
Upon leaving Tescos we stopped again to admire the local wildlife. This time, opposite the supermarket, 2 Common and 2 Grey Seals were lying on the rocky shore watching the cars drive by. They were joined by a couple of Purple Sandpipers. I was amazed to see so much, especially in the main town! So very different even compared to rural Hampshire.
It was time to head North once again so we could unpack. The lodge we’re staying in is on Unst, making it the most northerly self catered accommodation in the UK. It to was rather crazy to think we could go much further north but we could so that’s what we did! Our journey was long mainly because we stopped off regularly to do some birding. We got to see the only Rookery in Shetland, and check gardens for passerines. More Yellow-browed Warblers and Goldcrests were found but not much else.
By lunchtime we arrived at the ferry port and waited for the next ferry to Yell. While we waited an Otter swam past – how lovely! There were also 10 or more Kittiwakes too and Oystercatchers with Ringed Plovers on the beach. The ferry crossing was quick and provided us with another change to see an Arctic Skua and more Gannets.
It took about half an hour to drive from one end of Yell to the other and then it was time for the third ferry crossing of the day. It was also quick and during the brief time we were on it we watched Great Skuas chase Gannets.
At last were on Unst, our home for the next week, but before we were taken to the lodge it was time for more birding. First stop was a beach were a Wryneck was showing brilliantly! Then a wander around the local gardens to check for passerines. This time we saw Brambling, Chaffinches, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks.
The lodge is lovely and looks out onto a sandy beach and cliffs so there’s plenty to see. It’s got everything you need after a long day of birding. We arrived just before the rain set in. There we met Brydon who runs Shetland Nature and is our guide for the week so he showed us around and then left us for the evening to relax. More birding would begin tomorrow.