It’s been a while since I last updated the diary – it’s been a busy few weeks, and I’ve been away on my travels – out to America for a week. Undoubted wildlife highlight of the trip was the best views I’ve ever had of Black-and-white Warbler – a stunning piebald New World warbler foraging up and down the trunks of trees in the style of a Treecreeper. Wonderful.
America’s blessed with really colourful warblers – our European warblers are a different kettle of fish altogether – much more subtle and understated. Still, they have the ability to set the pulse racing too – and Whalsay’s had it’s share of interesting warblers in the past month. First out of the blocks was a somewhat confusing beast found by a friend in Symbister; initially thought to be a Sykes’s Warbler, opinion moved towards a retrospective identification as the somewhat commoner Booted Warbler (though this was only the third record of that species for the island).
Last week began with a Paddyfield Warbler trapped and ringed in the plantation near the house – another third record of the species for Whalsay, and all in the past 10 years. Nowhere near as rare as these two species but in some ways more satisfying was yesterday’s arrival: a Barred Warbler in my garden.
Years ago I built a glasshouse here, and planted two apple trees in it. These days they crop heavily, and while I was in America a number of apples had dropped and started to rot. These I baited the garden with – rotting fruit attracts flies, and flies attract warblers!
I spied this bird flying into the garden in the late morning – long-tailed and pale grey. I was immediately suspicious it would proved to be a Barred – and sure enough, it was. A good scarce, if annual, species. The bushes in my garden are big enough now to make migrant warblers feel a little more at home; and the added attraction of fruit and flies helps to keep them there. It spent the rest of the day hanging around the apples and feeding voraciously on flies, pausing to regurgitate a neat oval pellet of undigested material – something I’d not seen before.
So, not the garden’s first Barred Warbler, and definitely not it’s last – but certainly the happiest one to date. Here’s hoping for some more interesting migrant birds in the weeks to come. Autumn’s upon us…