Monthly Archives: November 2011

very late Blue-headed Wagtail

in Northumberland

Near to the recent Eastern Black Redstart, this Blue-headed Wagtail was found yesterday. I did get a call and I guess as the bird’s finder Gary did, thought surely the odds would favour an eastern bird. Blue-headed Wagtails are pretty darn rare anywhere on the east coast from October onwards. Furthermore eastern birds are not always just grey and white, indeed some in autumn can look similar to a male Blue-headed Wagtail. However this bird looks VERY like a Blue-headed Wagtail (northwestern/ nominate flava), and although call types seem to vary in eastern bird (including both raspy and sweet calls), this sees to have been heard only giving more western-like ‘sweet calls’. Not seen today AFAIK. I have some musings on aging but welcome any thoughts on that one! Quick post having received these wonderful images taken by Alan Curry.

Have a look:

Blue-headed Wagtail, Low Newton, Northumberland, 27 Nov. 2011  © Alan Curry

Last Day for Shetland Nature Groups 2011

Still scoring…

Last day for the 2011 tours. I really enjoyed this group of 6 guys over the last week. What a hoot! Wild winds but still plenty of birds. We opted to take the early boat and see what we could score as we headed south. We did OK! Some birds were seen only briefly by a few which meant that not everyone saw everything, but everyone saw something:

Stopping at Loch of Voe we scored 2-3 ‘Northwest’ Redpoll and a briefly seen Eastern-type Lesser Whitethroat

Northwest Redpoll,  Loch of Voe, Mainland Shetland, Sept.  2011 © Rich Baines. Perhaps a bit small and pale for classic Greenland rostrata, we wondered if they were more ‘Icelandic rostrata‘- a scary zone! The ‘Flamboreans’ found 2-3 of  these about a week earlier in the same place.

Carrying on south, a juvenile Pallid Harrier flew right across the road near Channerwick and behind the minibus. Seemingly most likely the Hillwell bird wandering further north.

juvenile Pallid Harrier, Hillwell, Shetland, October 2011 © Roger Riddington.

The farmyard at Fleck was next where the 1st winter Citrine Wagtail gave good if brief views to some. we did try for the Isabelline Shrike at Hillwell but time ran finally ran out. What a great group and another – really it was- amazing week on Shetland.

juvenile Citrine Wagtail, Fleck, South Mainland, Shetland, October 2011 © Dougie Preston

1 field: 3 rare waders

Fetlar- never fails

A day trip to Fetlar as part of our Shetland Nature experience, so far, has not failed. With previous strikes such as Taiga Flycatcher, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, White-billed Diver, Sykes’s Warbler and Grey-cheeked Thrush, its hard not to go with a little anticipation. With conditions still windy and uncompromising on Thursday 6th October, we caught the early boat. We were not disappointed. Peter Stronach had scored a Dotterel the previous day. Before our arrival  he added American Golden Plover and we chipped in with a Pectoral Sandpiper. Not a bad day out! These guys too were great company being the only others birders on that day, and alerted us to a smaller wader (the Pec Sand) in the flock.

first winter Dotterel, Fetar, 6th October 2011 © Peter Stronach

first winter Dotterel, Fetar, 6th October 2011 © Martin Garner

At different times all 3 rarer species appeared in the same field with the roving Golden Plover flocks.

juvenile American Golden Plover, Fetar, 6th October 2011 © Martin Garner

.juvenile American Golden Plover Fetar, 6th October 2011 © Peter Stronach

juvenile American Golden Plover, (below) with European Golden Plover showing difference in underwing pattern. Fetar, 6th October 2011 © Martin Garner

juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper, Fetar, 6th October 2011 © Martin Garner. The third of the rare baby waders.

Otter, Fetar, 6th October 2011 © Andrew Dodds. This large (dog) Otter was photographed from the van as it hurried back to its holt at very close range. All adding up to an excellent day on Fetlar.

Catching the late boat back to Unst just gave us enough time to head for the second night running to Northdale. Up to 3 juvenile Hen Harriers had been coming to roost for the last couple of nights an unusually high number for Shetland. I was keen to see if a rather orange and somewhat hooded bird would appear. This indivdual had given our group several very brief views. Well I think this is it (photo below), somewhat orangey, somewhat hooded but still a European bird. Glad I could finally put it to rest and stop harping on about it!

juvenile Hen Harrier, Unst, 6th October 2011 © Martin Garner

Olive-backed Pipit

Windiest day

Tuesday 4th October proved to be the windiest days so far on Shetland. So birding was not easy. Much was done from the van or in the most sheltered places in the morning. Funny thing (and I need to remember it). Even in the most unlikely conditions, Shetland can score. We managed a scattering of birds like Yellow-browed Warblers, Pied Flycatcher and juvenile Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit. Some folk (I will blame John Sweeney as I know he was involved!) however worked a tiny patch of some of the most sheltered habitat on Unst- Baltasound school, and early afternoon found not one but 3 good birds. An Olive-backed Pipit, a Rustic Bunting and a Common Rosefinch. The bunting eluded us but the other gave great repeat views. Shetland really is amazing!

Olive-backed Pipit, Baltasound, Unst, October 2011 © Stef McElwee.

Olive-backed Pipit, Baltasound, Unst, October 2011 © Stef McElwee. I went back 3 times to watch this bird. On 2 occasions I was all by myself watching it walk around my feet. Fantastico! While it has become much more regular it still ranks as one of my ultimate ‘Sibes’ (= vagrant bird from Siberia). Thanks to Penno (in school teacher mode) too.

I enjoyed the company of Dave F and Brian S and their group at the pipit. Brian got this lovely bit of video capturing the slow-motion walking action of the OBP.

Olive-backed Pipit, Baltasound, Unst, October 2011 © Martin Garner (above 2 photos). This Olive-backed Pipit had some of the most densely marked black streaking on the underparts of any I have seen. Stunner!

The Call

of Olive-backed Pipit I maintain is pretty distinctive such with practice you can tell one from a Tree Pipit if you just hear one without seeing the bird.

You can listen to a recording of the call of the Baltasound OBP:  >>here<<

photo of a spring Olive-backed Pipit taken in April 2009 in Sichuan by John Furse




wing formula – Eastern Black Redstart

Close ups:

With some discussion on the wing formula etc of the recent Eastern Black Redstart on Holy Island, here’s a quick blog post with a couple of photos showing what seems to me to be emargination on p6.  This seems right for ‘phoenicuroides‘.

Brilliant pics thanks to Tris!

1st winter male Eastern Black Redstart, Holy Island, Northumberland, 21.11.2011 © Tristan Reid.

Evening talk in Cheshire – 2nd December

Coming soon to CAWOS

I am looking forward very much to being back on old ‘home turf’ with the Cheshire and Wirral Ornithological Society on:

Friday 2nd December 2011 (7:30 pm for 7:45 pm start)


in Knutsford, Cheshire (map)………..FULL Details – hope to see you there!

Lesser White-fronted Goose


The old guy is still hanging around the Sheffield area. I have seen him/her twice this month. Bit scary if it was in a distant flock of European Whitefronts don’t you think? Also featured here with more info/ comparison shots of real Lesser White-fronts.

(some kind of) Lesser White-fronted Goose hybrid. Sheffield area, Nov. 2011.  © Andy Deighton