Saturday, 11 August 2018

11th August 2018 Unst W1-2 Clear

Leaving our front door a Merlin raced across my view heading towards Lamba Ness but a walk around Skaw failed to produce any migrants. Norwick only added the continued presence of the 2 Knot and a Willow Warbler. Haroldswick hadn't produced a migrant but Jim from Ungirsta very kindly stopped to tell us that he had seen a Greenland Gyr perched on a pile of wood, but whilst locating his camera, the bird had vanished and that was 4 hours earlier and he had seen no sign of it since. Before we had even left Haroldswick, with Jim driving a little way behind us, we noticed a commotion among Lapwings and Starlings and saw the Falcon flying low over the mires. Quickly stopping the car, bringing the traffic on the single track road to a halt, we unfortunately saw it was trailing a yellow tape from its legs and there was what looked like a small metal bell although we didn't hear it in the manner that we have on encountering various Falconer's birds over the years at Beachy! However, after parking our car, it didn't stop us enjoying what was an apparent white Gyr evading the attention of Oystercatchers that were continually mobbing it as it circled ever higher over Haroldwick pools where we eventually lost sight of it high in the sky.

Escaped white morph Gyr (or hybrid resembling a Gyr) at Haroldswick
In 1992 Steve Gantlett & Richard Millington drew attention to the artificial hybridisation of Falcons and stated that any hybrids which escape are likely to cause identification headaches (BW Vol. 5 No. 3) and a year later Dick Forsman stated such hybrids are often quite impossible to identify (BW Vol. 6 No. 2). However, whilst it would be nice to see today's bird perched, based on our encounter of it being seen only in flight, it certainly showed the long-bodied & long-tailed jizz and in being so white and having pure white underwing-coverts and translucent remiges when viewed from below, it's hard to imagine that it wouldn't have passed muster had it been present here on Unst in say February/March and not been carrying its tape and bell ! Here's the appearance of an adult photographed by Jim Scarff in the Canadian Arctic in August 2006:

Adult white Gyr in the Canadian Arctic in August 2006 (Jim Scarff)