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Arctic Warbler

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Tuesday 28th September 2010 | Birding in Shetland

Only but a few weeks since fellow Shetland Nature team member Roger Riddington posted his Arctic Warbler finding, my luck was also once again in with the finding of one of these fantastic ‘phylosc’s’.

Hot on the heels of the ‘Sibe Chat’ the previous day I found the Arctic warbler lurking around amongst the sycamore trees of the West Manse garden, next door to my family home. At first I had two very brief glimpses from bellow, and then after a rather frustrating ten minutes wait it showed well, although not too approachable. It shared the garden with two close cousins, also bearing their bars and stripes – Yellow-browed warblers, one of which gave the ‘Arctic’ a real hard time often chasing it away. This was in fact very advantageous as it caused the Arctic warbler to be at times quite vocal. It’s quite loud and distinct ‘Dipper like’ call made it very easy to re-locate the following day.

Like many fresh- autumn first winter Arctic warblers the bird showed one prominent wing bar and also a very faint and diffuse second, which was actually very hard to see. The wings and tail fringing had lovely fresh and slightly brighter green tones, but this was only noticeable when the bird was out in the open in certain lights. This bird showed a slightly heavier supercilium than some, typically stopping well short of the fore crown. Other features combining to make for a straight forward identification were the darkish looking eye stripe (fading into a lovely mottled and water colour like vermiculation on ear coverts), the fairly stout and longish bill (with a distinct yellow base) and the yellowish legs.

Although this was my third consecutive year to find an autumn Arctic warbler and one of several this autumn, finding a ‘wing-barred phylosc’ is always a real treat indeed! This is the second year running when records in the isles have approached double figures. The number of records in Shetland in recent years far and way out number Greenish warblers, a complete reversal of records in the rest of the country.