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Yellow-rumped Warbler finders account – Virkie – 29th September 2014

Posted by Roger Riddington on Tuesday 30th September 2014 | Birding in Shetland

Yellow-rumped Warbler at Grutness. Photo by Roger Riddington.

Monday 29 September dawned overcast, with little wind. Opening the mistnets in the garden for a couple of hours seemed like an obvious strategy, just in case the strong SW winds of the past couple of days had brought anything to Eastshore. With a thin rim of clear sky on the eastern horizon the sunrise was beautiful as I padded down the drive to open the net by the gate, although the sun was soon swathed in thick cloud as it rose further.

With one net open I went down to open the other two, and heard a distinctive call coming from behind the rose bushes along the western dyke. A moment after hearing it, a low-flying Swallow appeared and I assumed it must have been the Swallow – another moment later, something with a yellow rump and wingbars flitted ahead of me, into the main bank of trees, calling: an emphatic, rather full and metallic “tchick” call. It was an American wood warbler! Ooooeerr!!

Having always hoped to find an American wood warbler in Shetland, I always imagined that the reality of such an event would be a heady cocktail of elation and terror – ‘it’s a great bird but what on earth is it?’ In fact, on this grey September morning, I knew pretty much straightaway what this one was. The rounded yellow rump patch, the wingbars and tertial edges and a thin slit of yellow in the crown they all added up to Yellow-rumped Warbler!

The bird showed nicely in the trees around the main mistnet ride, flicking from side to side above the furled net. I phoned/texted fellow Virkie birders: PVH was at Sumburgh Head but would soon be on his way, Rob Fray and Gary Bell were asleep and unrousable. Within 10 minutes, PVH and the handily nearby Pierre-Andre Crochet arrived, and soon had views of the bird. Pierre set up his sound-recording gear while we waited for more views – it was still too dark for photos, the light was hopelessly poor (3200 iso, 2/3 under and 1/100 poor). We watched the warbler on and off for another five minutes before it made a flycatching sally into the air but, instead of returning to the garden headed off across the field, and we lost it above the boulders on the beach. And, sadly, that was the last we saw of it!

It wasn’t seen at all for the rest of the day, but what was surely the same bird (it looked identical) was found by Gary Bell the next morning (30th September) at Grutness, about 1.5 km as the crow flies from our garden.

Roger Riddington