Departing Fair Isle at 1415, we arrived at Tingwall airport about 25 minutes later. The taxi was waiting to transport us to Bolt's car hire company in Lerwick. With hire-car formalities swiftly processed, we realised that we stood a vague chance of seeing the White's Thrush at Skaw on the island of Unst. There was something distinctly magical about the prospect of seeing an enigmatic, much-desired mega at the most northerly point in the UK. Dissenters and doubters soon relented, and we hurtled northwards, hoping to make the 1600 ferry across to Yell. Three-and-a-quarter hours after leaving Fair Isle, we were watching a beautiful, brilliant White's Thrush. 


In terms of other megas, we caught up with Swainson's Thrush at Aith on Fetlar (feeding around abandoned barns quite happily, despite a damaged left wing) and a distant Brown Shrike at Lower Voe on Mainland just before dusk. 

I will leave the last word to a bird about which I have already blogged. But a first for Britain deserves special treatment. I still can't get over us seeing Siberian Accentor on a trip full of rare birds, rare people and rare fun. Thank you Shetland; we will be back. 

On the bunting theme, we were unfortunately already on our plane home when fellow Norwich birders Keith Langdon and Simon Mitchell found the Bressay Black-faced Bunting. We had to make do instead with a nice Ortolan Bunting​ near Brake, only my second in the UK - and a tick for Andy among our team. He bought the beers in Glasgow airport.

We saw the Buff-breasted Sandpiper distantly at Boddam a couple of hours after I had photographed some lovely Goldcrests at Aithsetter. 

In photographic terms, I enjoyed three Little Buntings that were consorting at Quendale. This species was the first BB rarity that I ever found, 30 years ago, and I have a very squishy soft spot for it. One of the birds was particularly bright.

James Lowen 

It sauntered around a cliff face, doing its little dance as it fed. It posed, in full golden garb - a true 'Spangled F**kthrush" as a well-known Dartford-based birder called it. What... a... bird. A dream come true. 


12 Oct 2016  Shetland = Siberia 

For the next three days we combined trying to find our own birds with twitching other people's discoveries. Our best finds came on Fetlar, where four of us (only; sad that the full team wasn't involved) flushed a Great Snipe (a find tick; too brief for photos; not relocated despite searching), but all of us enjoyed a delightful Pallas's Warbler. We found plenty of Yellow-browed Warblers (it was hard not to), but no other scarce migrants.

The best bird ever? We watched the long-winged, long-legged one until dusk, as it continued to feed actively. Happy happy happy birders! The frustration of Fair Isle was no more; we were on the trail of megas and the scent of more was in the air. 

Shetland is full of surprises, one of which came between us and our pint/chips/return ferries. As we trundled up the hill in the dark, Howard Vaughan flagged us down. A Bluethroat was feeding on the road, in front of their car headlights. Even better, it was ludicrously confiding. Astonishing!