A rare day on Unst

Day 5

We awoke to silence which was a good sign. It meant the storm had passed and the winds had dropped. Was today the day for rarities? Feeling hopeful, we checked the North part of the island. It was clear there had been a fall of birds as Goldcrests were everywhere but not much else.

Goldcrests everywhere! This one was right by our feet hopping around on the ground, before flying off.

Goldcrests everywhere! This one was right by our feet hopping around on the ground, before flying off.

You can’t fault us for trying though, and we did get some rewards for the effort. First we went looking for locustella warblers, but no such luck so we tried one garden for a Red-breasted Flycatcher which had been around for a while but couldn’t see it. We did, however, have a Blue Tit (surprisingly rare bird on Shetland) and a Long-eared Owl that was roosting in a tree by a path. We must’ve walked right past it earlier!

Long-eared Owl roosting in someone's garden

Long-eared Owl roosting in someone’s garden

We then moved on to try other places. In Shetland a lot of birding and looking for passerines seems to be around people’s gardens as this is where most of the taller vegetation like shrubs and trees are found. Fields are also checked as well as the more wild parts of Shetland so almost all of the land is covered. Through checking various fields, gardens and the more wild areas, we found Twite, Bramblings, Meadow & Tree Pipits and other common migrants, but still no rarities!



While Brydon had lunch, David and I checked the small wooded area by his house. As with everywhere else it was full of Goldcrests which are great so see. There were also Blackcaps, Blackbirds, Robins and Chiffchaffs – all migrants in Shetland. A Barred Warbler also sang at one point but I didn’t see it. It had been found earlier by some other birders. I impressed myself that I could ID it on call though! Another wooded area lead us to finding a Yellow-browed Warbler, more Goldcrests and a Ring Ouzel. Lovely birds, and yet another lifer for me!

Ring Ouzel

Ring Ouzel

Another garden, this time by an old abandoned house, had a second Blue Tit and a Yellowhanmer. Two unusual birds for Unst.



Blue Tit - unusual bird for Shetland

Blue Tit – unusual bird for Shetland

Finally we tried one last field and picked out a pipit. Was it ‘just’ a Tree Pipit it something rarer? Although it wasn’t as marked as some Olive-backed Pipits, we were thinking that’s what it might be due to the coloration and the streaking… However, not being 100% sure because we’d had distant and brief views, we left it as an unknown pipit for the time being, and planned to return the next day as it was starting to get late. We’ve now seen 83 species on the islands, and it’s only Wednesday.

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