Morning in Shetland. Only it was dark. Breakfast secured below decks, we hoofed it out of Lerwick. Not long after, Mr Archer and our road watching driver, had picked up a Merlin shooting across the moors. A good start. Even better was the lack of horizontal rain and accompanying howling wind, bar from the occupants of the car. This can't be Shetland.
First on site for the grosbeak, but we graciously left the finding of it till all our companions from the boat had caught up with us. Then we left to to some guy to find just down the road at the larger plantation. Actually it was in a small clump of stunted firs by some stunted corrugated shed. Nearly took my head of as it called and flew to the forest down the hill. While the weather was being kind, the light wasn't and that plus my inadequacies behind the camera meant I got no killer shots of the big finch.
After a couple of hours at pretending to try and get better shots we gave up and toured the island. First up a sea watch to see if we could find a White-billed Diver for Jono in the large group of birds of the east coast somewhere. No luck, damn, but on the plus side anther bird I can still grip him off with. Next up a bread-bin glutton of a Ring-billed Gull at Scalloway. I won't be surprised if this bird is found dead in the next few weeks from heart failure. Nobody should eat that much white bread.
Next up the fish factory at Lerwick, residence of a few Glaucous and the occasional Iceland Gull. Mmm mouthwatering, luckily there were a few other bits and bobs, bobbing around in the harbour when one got bored of big Glaucs doing bugger all. We left Jono here to go and get a real island rarity. A Blue Tit! and failed memorably.
Back on the boat, and a cabin that didn't smell of diesel spill, booze and stories again from our companions. Everyone had had a good trip.
The following morning we raced out of Aberdeen up to Speyside and a simply stunningly beautiful day. The ticks kept on coming; Cresties just north of Granton, Ptarmigan miles off at Cairngorm, and my contribution a pair of Golden Eagle hunting the hills to the south. I've now seen eagle each time I've been here. More cresties and a big turkey sized bird that I can't talk about, which nearly ran me over. Or rather strolled over me.
Then it was back to civilisation in the form a of a real bed and an adequate Chinese at Jono's parents gaffe near Glen Rothes.
Next morning I helped Mr L add to his other home patch list by picking up a Tree Sparrow. Then off to Largo Bay for more wader year ticks: Purple Sand, Bar-tailed Godwit, a good dollop of Velvet Scoter, a Surf Scoter at distance, and a some other stuff.
Breakfast at Morrisons and then we headed south. One more grouse to get and get it we did to the tune of 24 just east of the highest waterfall in England - High Force. A great little trip, which we all agreed had been one of the best ones. Jono and I had been up for making the little detour to the outer Hebs for the Harlequin, but the other two were not keen. Not keen at all. However our guide did say he would probably be daft enough to go for it if it sticks till Easter. I should still be daft enough by then too.