Occasionally something very magical happens here in Shetland – one stumbles across something totally unexpected, something that sweeps you off your feet. The moment your paths cross, you know this is an extraordinary encounter.
It happened earlier this morning whilst out birding here on Whalsay with PS and JLI. PS has quite a history on the island – he lives down in the Highlands, but seems to have an uncanny knack of uncovering the remarkable whenever he sets foot on Whalsay. We owe him all manner of good birds down the years – he’s got Veery, Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, and Lanceolated Warbler to his name already. To that illustrious roll-call we have to add another warbler today… Whalsay’s first ever Eastern Olivaceous Warbler.
Britain’s 20th ever, and showing just how compelling a place Shetland is to see rare birds, this was the archipelago’s 8th record. All within a couple of minutes walk of home. BM, a qualified ringer, trapped this one in a mist-net, hence the in-hand photo of an otherwise very skulky and elusive warbler. It called constantly whilst moving through the bushes of a small plantation, the call betraying the otherwise largely invisible bird. Meantime there are other migrant birds all around – while I write this there’s a Barred Warbler flycatching in my garden, and a Redstart devouring a cranefly on the windowsill beside me. Migration is in full swing.
The adrenaline rush of these chance encounters with the indescribably rare is hard to put into words. They’re to be cherished, that’s for sure. Meanwhile the wonder of witnessing bird migration all around me is simply marvellous.