Friday 28 October 2016

Back to Shetland...... Coue's Arctic Redpoll for Bird Number 310 and Great Company

Tuesday 25th October Strong S-SW Occasional Showers

Early morning singing session, to take my mind off the ever-rocking Good Shepherd as she sails away from Fair Isle, starts the day.
Goodbye to Lee Gregory at the Quay. I will miss this wonderful birder and friend. It has been fabulous to be in his company these last few weeks.

The sea swell is I suppose normal yet enough to cause some white knuckle moments as I cling on and sing.
A single little auk passes the boat but I can’t count it on the year list; carbon transport involved. A sooty shearwater does likewise and I wake Nina, a volunteer from the Fair Isle Bird Observatory who is heading home and sleeping in a corner of the deck. I am sure she would to see such a great bird.
Grutness, goodbye to Shaun, Deryk, Kenny and Ian and many thanks. A great crossing, it is always such an adventure and with me a complete lottery over whether I will chuck up or not.
This time I didn’t.
I feel tired and sleep for a few hours! The day goes by with me oblivious to the harbour activities and when I wake up the quay is empty, The Good Shepherd has returned to Paradise.

My evening is spent in great company. Into the superb Sumburgh Hotel for a meal, my first cider is a gift from the proprietor, hence a donation to the charities.
Steve Minton, a local birder from Scatness arrives. He only be described as an Alexei Sayle character, not the subtlest bloke I have ever met! His birding credentials are exemplary and as for his garden list, is there a garden in Britain that has a bird list of 201? If there is one somewhere I would love to know about it.

Richard Bonser arrives with Stef McAlway (sorry Stef if my spelling is off a bit!) and Juan Brown arrive and the stories of birding binges lift the laughter to the rafters. Birds seen, escapades and near drownings; birders like this should have an outlet where the stories can be collated and enjoyed by all.

Wednesday 26th October Strong SW Occasional Heavy Showers

Three aims to the day; get to Lerwick as soon as possible to find a tick the Coue's arctic redpolls there. Then get the repairs required for my bike done and finally get the ferry to Kirkwall, Orkney.
Heavy rain and a strong south-westerly, which is mostly coming from behind me, makes for a reasonable cycle despite the lack of gears. Oh for that moment when with bike fixed I ride with a full set of gears again.

The views along the main road north alternate between moody magnificence when showers hit and brilliant beauty when the sun shone brightly.
A proper Shetland downpour when I reach Lerwick, I take shelter at a bus stop and chat with a lovely old couple wo wave when they get onto their bus eventually.
The rain slows and find the cemetry where a flock of redpolls has lessers, mealies and two Coue's.
Half an hour later, Coue's arctic redpoll goes onto the year list, 310 – the crossbar goes higher.

Into Leriwck centre and in through the entrance of the fantastic Shetland Community Bike Project. Incredibly to me they manage to repair all of the things required, front and back brakes, front tyre and inners. All completed in time for me to get to the ferry to Kirkwall, Orkney. 

Maybe having a meal before getting on the boat wasn't such a good idea. I saw it all a couple of hours later as the end of Finding Dory (isn't she cute as a baby fish!?) was approaching and the ship was rocking violently in the large swell south of Sumburgh Head.

I lie down between seats in the ship's cinema and try to sleep.

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