Wednesday 4 September 2013

Cheeky Arctic Monkey

4th September
When I was birding on the east coast, I remember that any spells of good weather in the autumn always seemed to strike Shetland (and Fair Isle in particular) a day or two before they reached us; a fall on Shetland always made things seem more promising for the next morning’s birding. If that’s still the case, then gird your bins for a potentially rather interesting weekend. With easterly winds set to kick in from Friday, we were hoping that maybe a bird or two might get pushed ahead of them and arrive on Thursday (when the forecast is for very light north-westerlies), but things seem to have started earlier than we expected.
Common Rosefinch on Wednesday at North Light was the pick of the new birds for the day, seemingly swept along on the never ending supply of Meadow Pipits that are pouring south at the moment (around 100 were counted from the Good Shepherd as it made its way to Grutness yesterday for example), but today saw a notable (albeit small) arrival of birds.
The Obs Icterine Warbler,which showed well outside the library all day.
The day started with an Icterine Warbler at the Obs (with the lingering bird still at Midway), and quickly stepped up a notch with an Arctic Warbler in the Gully just after breakfast. A BB rarity (for now at least) on not especially promising conditions (a brisk southerly wind following days of westerlies) as one of the first birds of the day – nice. A Corncrake in the Plantation was also good, whilst a Common Rosefinch at Lower Stonybrek may have been yesterday’s bird relocating down the island. The first Lapland Bunting of the autumn was on the airstrip and other migrants either appeared for the first time in the month or increased in numbers, with 20 Willow Warbler, 5 Garden Warbler, 2 Sedge Warbler, Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Grasshopper Warbler, 7 Whinchat, 3 Pied Flycatcher, Tree Pipit, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and 8 Swallow. Also increasing were Meadow Pipits, with 913 (exactly!) counted on census.
The supercillium stopping short of the nostrils, large bill, mottled ear coverts, prominent square wingbar on the greater coverts, second wing bar on the median coverts and dusky underparts are all  useful identification features of this classic Arctic Warbler. Wing, bill length and bill depth measurements also fell outside the range of Greenish Warbler, in this particularly robust individual.
Hopefully it’s a promising taster of things to come, I suspect there’ll be a few more good birds (and hopefully good counts of common migrants) to report soon – and a few more things arriving down the east coast as well. Good luck and enjoy it!

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