On the 18th of September news broke around 1200hours about a BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO at Netherdale, Dale of Walls in the West Mainland, chiefly found by Rory Tallack, I wasted no time in organising a trip out there, I knew this thing would be gone the next day or would die (as these birds have a tendency to do this side of the pond) so I was not chancing anything.
I organised with my granddad to head west from Lerwick around 1530 and we were on site by 1620 (after having gotten lost due to a bit of confusion with the junction and the poor weather not helping) and as soon as we arrived I could already see a trio of birders at the back of the croft looking quite intently at a clump of Japanese Knotweed so I set off.
It didn't take long but soon John Coutts got me onto, what was to be, my 272nd bird for Shetland, a Black-billed Cuckoo!!!! I couldn't believe my eyes at what I was seeing, I have dreamed of finding one of the American Cuckoos, but seeing one that day made me happy enough!
It moved around quite frequently and even decided to come and land about 15-20 feet away from the four of us! giving more than amazing views, soon the bird became a bit more mobile and Gary Bell turned up to get some views and photos, I was pushing time a bit so I headed off, though this wasn't the end of my twitch.
The Black-billed Cuckoo in all its wonderful glory
On the way back I had a message from Paula who was on her way out to twitch the bird too, I ended up meeting her just outside Walls and I traded cars to take her back out there to see it, I thanked Tommy for the trip out and Paula and I headed back west to see the bird.
We arrived back at Dale of Walls at 1745 and the light was fading and the bird had gone AWOL down the burn, so Paula and I went separate ways, I headed up back towards the croft and Paula began working the bushes along the burn, about 10 minutes later we had our first success as Gary Bell had the bird come zooming up the burn and land in a bush by the bridge as a couple of local and south birders arrived, soon we were all enjoying great views of the bird and after a few more minutes it shot off back to croft, with the bird gone we decided to head off too.
Though we weren't even the last people to see the bird that day, Andy Cook from Fetlar had come to see it with the last drips of daylight, we quickly flagged him down and gave him the last details of the bird, I got a message from him later that day to say that he'd got it so it seems everyone who went that day got it.
The next day of course the bird had disappeared as expected, even though a few people had tried to twitch from south it could not be located, hopefully it didn't succumb to death or starvation like others but it was a glorious bird to see so thanks for Tommy and Paula for running me about that day!
A Link to the Rare Bird Alert Finders in the Field Write-up by Rory Tallack