Monday, 14 May 2018

14th May 2018 Unst SW1 Clear

One of those unforgettable Shetland days... it started slowly for me with a Lesser Whitethroat and Willow Warbler at Skaw and a Pied Flycatcher at Lamba Ness. We then saw a male Red-backed Shrike at Skeggie found by Mark Warren and obtained a series of brief views of a Marsh Warbler at Setters Hill found by Al Conlin but then we stumbled across.... the first Marmora's Warbler for Shetland at Baliasta that we initially only saw very briefly. Not having any literature other than the first edition Collin's Guide with us, a quick call to JFC helped remind me of the salient features of Marmora's Warbler, and nothing seemed amiss. We'd had to drive to Houlland to get a phone signal from where our initial 'back of camera' images circulated on the Shetland WhatsApp system generated so many calls and texts (thanks for all the kind words everyone) that my phone battery quickly died! We were soon joined by Brydon, Casey, Robbie & Al and thankfully the bird, whilst elusive, was still performing in the warm evening sunlight. I then failed to see the Black-faced Bunting at Norwick found by Mark Warren but did see a Bluethroat whilst trying. After a tense wait in the company of those arriving from elsewhere in Shetland, fortunately the Marmora's Warbler then performed well until dusk, enabling some travelling from as far afield as Sumburgh to successfully see it... and whom are now effectively stranded so are staying with us overnight!

Female Pied Flycatcher at Lamba Ness

Male Red-backed Shrike at Skeggie

Marsh Warbler at Setters Hill
The above image rather sums up my series of frustratingly brief views when I was unable to appreciate any critical detail. Fortunately Al Conlin had enjoyed much better views on finding it and had also heard it singing prior to me arriving on the scene.

First-summer male Marmora's Warbler at Baliasta
Whilst we didn't have any literature with us to eliminate the (unlikely) possibility of it being a Balearic Warbler a call to JFC quickly reassured us that its dark-throated appearance and small white malar was consistent with it being a Marmora's Warbler. I could recall that the St. Abbs individual shared similar brown edgings to its wing feathers that I seemed to recall aged it as a first-summer male. Brydon kindly brought along a copy of Helm's Sylvia Warblers that reinforced our views as to its identity. A short playback of the song of Marmora's Warbler generated what two highly-respected ex-members of BBRC were quick to consider was 'a clear response' - it immediately emerged onto the top of some vegetation looking at the assembled observers. As so often, very many thanks to JFC, PVH, RR & BHT for openly sharing their expert opinions with me.

First-summer male Marmora's Warbler at Skagen, Denmark June 2005 (Erik Kramshoj)