Monday, 5 October 2015

Fair Isle Part one

On Friday morning 18th September my long awaiting maiden voyage to the Shetland Islands and the fabled Fair Isle finally arrived. Booked relatively late in the depths of January, it seemed like a long time coming but in the end it was upon me before I knew it.
I traveled from Norwich via Aberdeen (where I must have been the only person at the airport not coming off or going onto a North Sea gas platform). A second flight to Mainland, Shetland had me in Sumburgh before 4pm. I jumped into a cab at the airport giving the driver instructions to take to me to the Sumburgh Hotel, wait for me to check in, then drive me to Sumburgh Lighthouse and come back two hours later to bring me back to the hotel. I had a rendevous with a Western Bonelli's Warbler. Usually these well laid plans come apart at the seams but this time it all fell into place. I arrived at the lighthouse compound and had brief but tickable views of the WBW -  a lifer to start the holiday off. Poor conditions kept the bird low although I did have a Spotted Flycatcher and a Shetland Wren for company while I waited to get a shot.

Spotted Flycatcher, Sumburgh Head, Mainland, Shetland
Shetland Wren, Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, Shetland

The light was running out and I had to meet the taxi at 6.30pm, chances of a photograph were looking slimmer and slimmer until with about two minutes left before I needed to go, the bird popped up briefly for a look about before dropping down and out of sight.

Western Bonelli's Warbler, Sumburgh Head, Mainland, Shetland
With a shot in the bag I turned on my heel and headed down to the main car park where my taxi arrived within minutes. Back at the hotel I checked the gardens for migrants in the fading light, all was quiet but I did meet two other birders (Bert Mitchell and Stephen Keightley - both Fair Isle veterans) who like me were overnighting at the Sumburgh Hotel before taking the 10.55am flight from Tingwall to Fair Isle. I joined them for dinner that night and a few scoops at we watched the opening match to the Rugby World Cup (England v. Fiji).

View from the lighthouse compound on Sumburgh Head

Sumburgh Hotel (with the hotel gardens in the foreground and Sumburgh Airport runway behind)

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