Swainson’s Thrush finders account – Norwick, Unst – 28th September 2014

Posted by Paul French on Tuesday 9th December 2014 | Birding in Shetland

Swainson’s Thrush finders account by Paul French

Shetland has had some great birds this autumn. The likes of Siberian Rubythroat and Myrtle Warbler have filled the notebooks and emptied the pint glasses of many birders, including mine, and rightly so. However, when I look back at my time on Shetland this autumn, and indeed any autumn, it’s always the birds that you have a personal involvement in the finding of that mean the most.

Walking along the back of some houses at Norwick with Garry Taylor, we were stopping regularly to scan the rigs and gardens. As I turned to say something to Garry, he saw a passerine fly out from the Japanese rose bushes and land on a gravel driveway.

“What’s that?”

The bird had barely registered in my vision and I turned to face it, getting a naked eye view of what looked to be a dumpy passerine. It then darted into the rosa, leaving me with a confusing impression.

“That was a Catharus!” said Garry, who had managed to get his bins on to it.

Garry had managed to clock it as a Catharus thrush, and had also gained an impression of an eye ring, indicating it was most likely a Swainson’s. We called Gav Thomas and Bill Aspin on the radios and they rapidly arrived on the scene. We then sat back to wait for it to show again. And we waited. After 30 minutes of waiting, a new plan was needed. Garry went to the house door to talk to the owner, and myself, Gav and Bill positioned ourselves at either end of the driveway. Just then, the bird chose that moment to hop back onto the driveway in front of the three of us. After a few seconds of uninterrupted views, the prominent buff eye ring and breast spotting were safely recorded and the celebrations began. It’s not every day you’re involved in the finding of an American passerine, and this one was all the more memorable for being a proper team event. We put the news out, and the first people on the scene were the Shetland Nature group who all enjoyed decent views. The thrush then spent the rest of the afternoon around the gardens and ruined crofts at Norwick, showing well on occasions perched on the garden wall.