Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Shetland (supposedly!)- 26.9.15

Ever since reading a few pamphlets when I was a 13 year old YOC member about birds on Shetland and Fair Isle I've wanted to pay a visit. The one story that stuck in my mind was of a fellow YOC member who whilst visiting Fair Isle was fortunate to be present when a Crossbill was being ringed. The other bird mentioned was a Lanceolated Warbler! At 13 I'd not heard of that species before but it sounded pretty amazing! 27 years elapsed and after a poor couple of years on Scilly the decision was made to finally have a crack at Shetland. I was joined by Steve Blake and Brendon Fagan and finally the day arrived. They picked me up at stupid o'clock and we arrived at Luton airport at around 5am. Also on our flight were Chris Sharp, Brendan Glynn, Paul Frost and Dave Johnson (nice to meet you Dave!) After the nightmare flight going to America the previous month I was thinking that all my bad luck had been used. Oh how wrong I was! We took off on time and I picked out The Wash and Spurn from the plane before the cloud appeared. We reached Aberdeen in good time but then spent about 20 minutes circling overhead. Thinking we were waiting for a landing space all was good. But just then the captain announced that a warning light had come up with one of the engines but that it was still working fine but that we would have to divert to Edinburgh in the hope that a technician there could fix it and then we could set off again. This changed the mood on the plane. One woman was meant to be heading straight to her best friends wedding and we all had a connecting flight to catch. We landed and waited but then the captain kicked us in the nuts with the news that it couldn't be fixed and that we would all have to be bussed to Aberdeen. A 20 minute flight diversion would now take us over 2 hours by road. That was our connecting flight missed! We collected our bags and waited for news of busses but then even more bad and somewhat stupid news broke. Because we hadn't caught our connecting flight to Lerwick our return flights had been cancelled! Quite why that is the case I don't know but Steve and Brendan G went upstairs and thankfully made the company see sense that we did still want to get over there and then get our flight home! As they walked back one of the airport guys said there was an 8 seater minibus outside. Brendan said yep that's ours for the 7 of us which started arguments with other passengers as they had their names down on paper to be first out! We ignored them and grabbed our bags and were joined by another guy. Eventually we were on our way to Aberdeen but even then the gods had one last laugh at our expence when the mega alert went off to say that a Lanceolated Warbler had been found on Shetland. We would just have to hope it'd stay till tomorrow. As we had missed our flight the only other way over was the overnight ferry so Chris booked us all on with cabins and after a £5 bung to the driver to take us to the ferry port we got on board and settled down for the 14 hour crossing! Dinner and drinks were had but we made the most of the last couple of hours of day light by having a seawatch. Thankfully for me the sea was flat calm! 5 Goosander were seen just outside of the ferry terminal and once out at sea we joined Tring birder Roy Hargreaves and picked up around 20 Puffin, 3 Red-Throated Diver, 4 Arctic Skua and only my 2nd ever Little Auk found by Roy. It wasn't just birds that were showing as we had a couple of Dolphin sp, Harbour Porpoise and over 15 Minke Whale! The light had gone so we retired to watch Wales beat England in the rugby and then I had to sleep on the top bunk which I'd not done for many years!

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