Monday 27 September 2010

Warblers, near and far

Sadly the early morning trap round on Fair Isle didn't produce either quality or quantity, so we departed the island with just Lesser Whitethroat and Robin (!) to add to the trip list. The weather was glorious, almost flat calm and unbroken sunshine... Not exactly typical Shetland!

After arrival at Tingwall, the obvious destination was Sandwick to search for yesterday's Whites Thrush. Although it didn't come as a surprise following a clear night with a full moon, it was disappointing to hear that there had been no sign since first light, and our best efforts didn't change that. We turned up 2 Yellow-broweds and a Pied Fly before moving on down to Sumburgh Head for the Arctic Warbler.

I'd not seen this species since the mid 90s, so was keen to get good views and look at the ID features. An adult bird, there was only the barest hint of a wingbar on one side. The supercilium was really strong, often flaring upwards to the rear, but not meeting above the spiky and long bill. Primary projection was also rather long (approx two thirds the tertial length), legs bright yellow/orange, and underparts pale silver toned. It showed superbly at close range in the thin strip of roses, and I fired off yet more photos. That's an 8GB card full so far, and I've been deleting the obvious duffers as I go along!

After dropping TC off at the airport, we had an amble round the Boddam area. No sooner than we'd parked the car and started checking a patch of bushes, a Barred Warbler crashed through in front of us, popped up on top and then winged it miles down the road - a nice find, even if there are loads up here currently.

From here, we paid brief visits to Quarff and Aithsetter, where news broke of a Paddyfield Warbler at Quendale. Since this would be a new bird for Dad we headed down there, and almost immediately saw 'the bird' briefly in flight from the Iris beds on the burn. Initial impression was of a rather cold toned bird, but views on the deck when it landed were extremely sketchy and not close. Subsequently it only showed when flushed by local birders at close range, despite careful searching, so we never saw it well - they were down in the burn while we had a higher vantage point up above, though further from the bird. It did call on landing a couple of times: a chek or zek note.

I think by the time we left, some well respected guys were pretty convinced that the bird we were watching was in fact a Blyths Reed, and certainly everything I could see was consistent with that option, though I didn't see enough to be confident. Whether there had been a Paddyfield in the area earlier on, I couldn't say... But given the quantity of suitable and dense habitat on site, I wouldn't be at all surprised!

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