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Olive-backed pipit

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Thursday 14th October 2010 | Birding in Shetland

14/10/10, SHE plantation, Baltasound.

I have such very fond memories of Olive-backed pipit and it remains one of my favourite rarities. One of the main reasons for my soft spot for the species is undoubtedly because it was one of my first ever BB self finds that wasn’t either a Little Bunting, Short-toed Lark or Arctic Redpoll. And personally speaking it is a real classic autumn ‘Sibe’.

On more than one occasion I have found two in a single day and once even two together, in the same crop field as a Richards Pipit way back in October 1992. With that said though since 2003 there has been something of an OBP injunction clouded over me with several years having passed without finding one.

An hour long circuit of some of Baltasound whilst our son was down for an afternoon nap seemed like a splendid idea and having spent the morning working I had convinced myself it was earned. The neighbouring gardens of my mother-in-laws produced little more than a couple of ‘Sibe Chiff’s’ so I continued on to Setter’s Hill Estate plantation where another ‘Sibe- chaff’ showed well. My hour was not yet over so I continued on to circumnavigate the estate and check the lush gardens round the back.

Almost feeling a sense of disappointment of not having seen at least a Yellow-browed warbler I continued on back toward the main road (though two of the chiffs did appeared to be new in), where well away from the gardens I had pinned hopes on rose a fairly fresh looking pipit from the ditch. It landed for a split second but took off before I’d even raised my bins to my eyes- “Prssz-Prssz”, its rather explosive and rasping double call was instantly familiar to me, surely this had to be an OBP!

Typically it flew quite a distance, all the way back over the housing estate to the pines. I cursed my technophobic tendencies for not having my ‘Remembird’ in action as I hurried back to the plantation. I did not want to let this slip and knew well that with- out views on the deck it was lost!

Thankfully following a rather cautious approach to the pines I found it feeding in the lush grass where the following distinguishing features confirmed it’s ID;

Black on its beautiful and rather dark unstreaked olive- toned mantle

Typically striking ‘mascara marked’ facial pattern, with buffy yellow smudged lores and bold white ‘super’ and post ocular spot

Bold ink black breast and flank streaks which almost merged together on sides of breast

Get in- a classic OBP was in the bag!

I returned later that day to try to get some photo’s but in very poor evening light only managed a couple of grainy record shots. Next day though Robbie Brookes managed better ones.