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Arctic Redpoll on Mousa

Posted by Rob Fray on Wednesday 22nd September 2010 | Birding in Shetland

Having spent much of the spring and summer working on Mousa for the RSPB, I was keen to get back to the island for one last visit before the small ferry to the island finished for the winter. Unfortunately, with the last scheduled trip being 18th September it seemed as though the chance had been missed. However, the combination of a bit of calm weather and some maintenance work on the Mousa pier being required meant that there was an unexpected opportunity to have a brief visit on 20th September. I was accompanied by my brother Richard, who was visiting Shetland for the first time in many years after emigrating to Arizona in 2003 and who had never been to Mousa before.

It would be nice to write that we flogged round the whole island, checking all the nettles, geos and stone dykes, before finally getting our just rewards by finding a rare bird. However, all we did was get off the boat, walk 20 yards and then almost stood on a hornemanni Arctic Redpoll. It remained faithful to the area around West Ham for the rest of the afternoon and, as often seems to be the case with this species, allowed close approach.

Arctic Redpoll now has pride of place as Mousa’s rarest ever bird; the only previous BB rarity on the island was a Greenish Warbler in June 2004. This was, by my reckoning, my 41st visit to Mousa this year, so I was probably due to see something good. Richard, on the other hand, saw a rarity on Mousa during his first ten minutes on the island!

Rob Fray