Saturday, 4 September 2010

Strange Days.

A strange day indeed - at 7am I was in the living room, with the customary ‘wake up’ brew and cigarette, scanning the shoreline in front of the house, when I picked up a Seal thrashing around about 20 metres offshore, got the ‘scope onto it to find it was scrapping with an Otter ! This went on for a good 5 minutes with the Otter always trying to stay behind the Seal and avoiding it’s snapping jaws, after a while another Seal turned up and joined in - net result, both Seals ripped the Otter to pieces !!!
After this disturbing incident, it was outside to empty the moth traps - an impressive 436, nothing unusual in the Moths, but a big count nonetheless. The second disturbing incident of the day was a dead Wren in the bottom of one of the traps. So that was 2 deaths witnessed and it wasn’t even 8am !!!
After it being south-easterly all night, did a quick check of the trees in the garden - a single Willow Warbler.

Willow Warbler.

One of the trays from the moth trap.

After breakfast (and a repeat episode of ‘Robot Wars’), news broke of an Arctic Warbler at Sumburgh Head, incentive indeed to get out and thrash the patch ! Checked the garden again before leaving, Willow Warbler still there, then as I climbed over my fence to go and check the walls along the shoreline, I flushed another Warbler out of the nettles along the fence line. Bins up, on it, bigger than Willow Warbler, wingbar, long primary projection, pale legs, stout bill and ‘super’ not meeting above the bill - Arctic Warbler !!! Garden tick, patch tick and year tick all in one go. The bird then started to move away from me along the fence line, so I followed to try and get at least a record shot, the bird then got near to a neighbours garden (who was out cutting his lawn) and took flight over the house roofs and back into my garden. As I got back to the garden, the bird popped up into a dead Christmas tree about 20 feet away, I managed to get a few record shots (mostly blurred with swaying vegetation getting in the way and messing with the auto focus). As I was taking the very last photos, another bird popped up into the tree and called aggressively - another Arctic Warbler - and then chased the first bird over the fields towards Scord followed by the Willow Warbler. Now this is where it starts to get a bit ‘silly’ - the first bird along the fence line was definitely an Arctic Warbler, and so was the second bird in the Christmas tree, however, after looking at my record shots of the first Christmas tree bird and a brief consultation with Dr double ‘R’, turns out that this bird was a Greenish Warbler !!! (shorter primary projection, dark legs, smaller size and thinner bill).

Greenish Warbler (showing shorter primary projection in second picture).
I then went off and checked all the available cover around the Scord area (Ness Engineering, Scatness Broch, Betty Mouats and all the nettles and thistles) - there was no sign of either bird, the only other Warbler that I picked up was a Garden Warbler. Called in back at home to check the garden again to see if they had come back somehow - the Willow Warbler had, but nothing else. Not giving up (and being quite annoyed at the situation) I went back out around Scatness Broch and walked all the fields and fences between there and the airport control tower - success - the Arctic Warbler was working along the fences at the back of the sheep field, managed a few distant shots of the bird before it took flight again, quite high, and landed in the Old Scatness Dig, needless to say, as I got to the dig there was no sign of it again !
A very strange day indeed, but Arctic and Greenish in the garden was fantastic !

Arctic Warbler (heavily cropped due to distance).


Marcus Lawson said...

You fooking greedy so and so!! Just goes to show that all that slogging around is far too much effort, best to just sit in the comfort of your own home with a nice cup of tea and a tab. See you in a couple of weeks.

Steve Minton said...

Not greedy, just very lucky ! the kinda thing that leaves your head a bit 'west' !