All photos (c) Rob Fray

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A grand day out

A massive westerly storm had passed through Shetland over the weekend of September 14th/15th 2019, which looked ideal for bringing something across the Atlantic. The storm had abated a little by Monday 16th and I had a grand plan to go and find a load of American waders at Eshaness, in the north-west mainland of Shetland. Plans such as this rarely work…

After an hour or so of messing around in the rain during the morning, searching through Golden Plover flocks from the car, the weather finally started drying up around 11am and I headed towards the lighthouse at Eshaness. My journey was rudely interrupted half a mile before reaching the lighthouse by a splendid juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper walking around in the road! This was a good thing.

After watching and photographing the Pectoral Sandpiper for a bit, and making sure it didn’t get run over, I parked up at the lighthouse and started wandering the extensive area of short turf and small pools south of the lighthouse. There were a few bedraggled Redshanks and Turnstones, but seemingly nothing else of note, but for some reason I did a second circuit of Gerdie Loch and came across a small grey long-winged calidris wader hunkered down on the shore. This was only going to be one thing, and as I approached it got up and flew a short distance, calling and exhibiting a fine white rump. Yay. White-rumped Sandpiper. A big squall then arrived, so I legged it back to the car to take shelter and get my camera, and then set about trying to refind it, which took ages as it had moved from its initial location on the loch. Eventually I found it on some short turf near the lighthouse, running around and feeding like mad with a couple of Ringed Plovers It gave really nice views here, and was later seen by quite a few other people.

Buoyed by this fine American wader double act, I embarked on a thorough search of the grass and pools to the north of the lighthouse. No more American waders were in evidence, although the Eshaness hat-trick of great birds was completed when a spectacular adult Long-tailed Skua cruised over my head just inland of the cliffs, to complete one of the best day's birding I've had in Shetland in many a year.



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