Saturday, 10 October 2015

Fair Isle - Part three

Sunday would be my first full day on Fair Isle. After a full Scottish breakfast I headed south once more to bird around the crofts and gardens. The Pallid Harrier was still about as was the Yellow-browed Warbler that I saw the previous evening. However around 11am a text went around that a probable Blyth's Reed Warbler had been found at Upper Stoneybrek. The bird had been seen briefly  but well before disappearing into a thick patch of Michealmas Daisy and Rosehip. The finder, James Walsh, had gotten enough on it to be pretty sure it was a BRW.
Anyway, we all gathered at the spot looking into the garden from the road but by now the bird was keeping to cover and all we could see were occassional glimpses and shaking plant stems.
Birders wait for the probable BRW to show
After a good forty minutes of nothing it was decided to put a net up.

Assistant wardens Ciaran Hatsell and Lee Gregory put the nets up
A bit of gentle pishing and bird bolted from cover and straight into the net. Rather than bring it back to the Obs it was processed in the Bird Obs van and first thing measured was wing length which at 60mm was well within the range for BRW. All the other features and biometrics stacked up and so the ID was confirmed. Once the bird was ringed it was held up for us to get some photos.

Blyth's Reed Warbler, Fair Isle, Shetland
After that it was released and immediately dived straight back into its favourite patch of Michaelmas Daisy and Rosehip. There it stayed giving only occasional views until late that evening when it started to become more confiding as it fed around the Angelicas in the garden. I got some okayish pictures then but thought that if it stayed it would be worth giving it some time the following day to try and get some better shots. My only previous BRW ever was one on Mizen Head, Cork in 2007. That was considered the first Irish record at the time (although since usurped by a Cape Clear record from 2006 that was initially considered a Reed Warbler until re-identified from photos). There is also a very interesting account of an Acrocephalus spp. found on Cape Clear in 1969 by Clive Hutchinson, Ken Preston and Tim Sharrock which certainly has all the right credentials for BRW (see Partricide by Anthony McGeehan). Anyway, my views of that 2007 Mizen Head bird were fleeting and I haven't seen the species anywhere else since. It was interesting to see the bird in the hand but I really wanted some smart classic images if possible. More on that tomorrow.

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