Lanceolated Warbler

Score at Skaw

I know. Predictable and cheesy. Who cares? Nailed a Lanceolated Warbler and so glad we were there!

More details here:

Skaw, Unst. The last house in Britain. The last BB rarity here was Moltoni’s Warbler in June 2009.

Over 2 hours were spent in pouring rain trying to secure the identity of this bird. The views were often poor and very brief. However as dusk approached we found it again hunkered under a diesel tank. The wet feathers around the face made the bill look unnervingly long. The tertials and upperparts were wet and plumage patterns seemed to merge into dark oily-looking mass of feathers. In the separation of Lanceolated and Grasshopper Warblers, the pattern of the tertials are often cited as one of the most reliable features. On this rain-soaked bird. the tertials simply became unreadable. We had to rely on other characters in order to establish its identity. Chief amoung these were the remarkable short primary projection and the underparts streaking which both seemed exceptional for Grasshopper Warbler and correct for Lanceolated. The views of the bird in flight- its apparent darkness, lack of olive and yellow tones and small size also helped reinforce our impressions tat this was surely a ‘Lancy’. One of our group watch it literally ‘run’ along the fence line.

Never mind the nice photos-in-sunshine the next day. here’s how we saw it:

Darkness falls and a small streaky dark locustella warbler hides from lashing rain under a deisel tank. Too wet to discern some of the plumage tracks. The bill looks slightly odd and ‘long’. The tertial pattern can’t be ‘read’. I stared at this bird at this angle and at times felt just plain ‘stuck’!

Fortunately the underpart streaking really did look rather convincing for Lanceolated Warbler and surely exceptional for a Grasshopper Warbler.

As the sun set, the rain stopped and the last rays of sunhine produced a massive double rainbow. Pretty confident ‘team lancy’ began to celebrate. Despite sodden. clothing and some literally shivering bodies, this was the  moment which all members of the Shetland Nature tour rated as the best. Left to right: Graham, Paul, Chris and Andrew.

Lanceolated Warbler, Skaw, Unst. 7th October 2010. Martin Garner

The next morning (7th October) the bird looked much better; dried out, in sunshine and often in the open, all overnight nerves were dispelled.

Lanceolated Warbler, Skaw, Unst. 7th October 2010. Mike Pennington

Lanceolated Warbler, Skaw, Unst. 7th October 2010. John Hague

Lanceolated Warbler, Skaw, Unst. 7th October 2010. Mike Pennington. Streaks in lines – on the crown, mantle and breast are good Lanceolated characters.

Lanceolated Warbler, Skaw, Unst. 7th October 2010. John Hague. Crisply fringed tertials, much easy to see the next day. Funny how the bill also looks so short, when looked spiky and longer the previous evening – presumably due to wet  feathers at bill base. I noted the tertial projection sometime looked only about 1/3 of tertial length.  Much shorter than on Grasshopper Warbler.

Lanceolated Warbler Skaw, Unst 7th October 2010. Robbie Brookes. Robbie first’clocked the bird’. In his photo here the primaries are a little more drooped. They appear longer and the wing less rounded.  Always important to see a subtle bird like this in variety of postures etc.

Lanceolated Warbler, Skaw, Unst. 7th October 2010. Stu Piner

A feature which I learnt about after we had seen it was the tertial overlap. Basically that the rounded tertials are longer than all of the secondaries and protrude beyond them. hmmm- could be useful on the next rain-soaked Lancy!

Lanceolated Warbler, Skaw, Unst. 7th October 2010. Dan Brown

It was twitched by punks and drunks– do we get special points for that?

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