Red-flanked Bluetail

Last day blues – of the best kind

Couldn’t resist a pre-dawn assault on Skaw and Norwick- checking for visible (and audible) migration. Clearly Brambling, Siskins and Redwings were on the move- expect new birds today me thinks. The 2 Little Buntings called too each other very early and seemed to fly off south.

Just offshore the educational duo of juvenile terns: 1 Common and 1 Arctic Tern showed well  plus 2 1st winter Little Gulls. The Black Duck hybrid thing flew around. Nice morning. Heading south we had another ‘from the van’ find. Graham picked up a Barred Warbler along a stone dyke at Haroldswick- just before the phone purred to say a Dusky Warbler had been found at Halligarth.

Scored at Halligarth everyone heard and got good if brief typically views of the Dusky Warbler plus 2 Yellow-broweds and several Swallows over. While Otter searching, news broke of Red-flanked Bluetail  on south Mainland.

By the time we had reached the North Mainland there was a choice. 2 Bluetails. One at Geosetter and one at Tresta. We opted for the Tresta bird found by Punkbirders.

Siskin, Norwick Unst 8th October 2010. Migrating Siskins, Bramblings and Redwing heralded ‘news birds’

Another ‘from the van’ find. Noticed by Graham – a Barred Warbler on stone dyke at Haroldswick. Pink-footed Goose was new for the week here also.


Lapland Buntings continued to be seemingly ‘everywhere’. We must have seen or heard some hundreds of birds.

Call of the Bluetail

Little story: Having been directed Stu Piner and finder Dan Brown I went on the other side of walled garden away from  the rest of the group as we  awaited the appearance of the Tresta (mainland not Fetlar) Bluetail. Needed a wee. My mid-stream urinating activity  flushed the Red-flanked Bluetail from the wall’s base. Right in front of me! So I watched as it sat on branch only c 10 feet away- no bins needed- nor easily used! Result: my best ‘pish’ ever.

Short time later bird is hidden again and I hear an odd call. Kind of like a certain call of Chiffchaff but wrong; an odd warbler? I went through a mental warbler list but couldn’t attach the sound to a species. Then  it called again – with almost chat like – stonechat like quality as well.  I realised -it must be the Bluetail calling. Excellent! For me  better than brief views of the bird. Seen Red-flanked Bluetail before but never heard the call. A new call tick!

my description of Red-flanked Bluetail call:

sort of cross between Chiffchaff ‘swee’ call and a Stonechat.


Red-flanked Bluetail. Tresta, 8th Ocotober 2010. Dan Brown. I got a very similar view as I flushed the bird by pis(h)sing.

Red-flanked Bluetail. Tresta, 8th October 2010. Dan Brown

Then a final drive to drop off our excellent tour group of Paul, Andrew, Graham and Chris at the Sumburgh Hotel. 1 week and some 115 species later. New ‘life’ birds for everyone and some top-notch scare and rare bird finds. Not sure anyone was keen for it to end. The only slight regret through the day was that a Pallas’s Warbler had been seen well up the Skaw burn. We predicted that the Sumburgh area was a likely spot for one to turn up before flights home the next morning. Must try that prophesy thing more often! Next time then!



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  1. Pingback: White-throated Robin. Really 3 years ago? | Birding Frontiers

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