Radde’s and Sykes’s Warblers


Radde’s Warbler, Sumburgh Farm, 4th October 2010

Gorgeous bird to see. Many years ago Dougie Percival suggested a book should be written about how to identify birds on arse-end views only. Given the views some of us seem to regularly have of birds – could be a market for this me thinks!

Our Shetland Nature group opted to head south today. Good result! Joined the small group looking at the locustella Warbler at Levenwick. Managed several flight views and once on the deck. Rather strangely it did ’flash’ what appeared to be pale tips to the tail feathers on a couple of occasions in flight – perhaps mix of feather wear and sunlight – or something! This being the main impression that lead to putting news out of  Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler. Some useful photos taken just before we arrived, unfortunately  showed heavily marked undertail coverts and overall rather Grasshopper-Warbler-like bird. No shame on the finders- they are out there looking, (and flip- they had already found a  Swainson’s Thrush!).

I did get another tick. Met Pierre-André Crochet. We have corresponded much and just missed each other last year. Respect- a proper scientist and proper keen birder.

Meeting Pierre-André Crochet at Levenwick, Shetland. Respect!

News broke that the Booted was really a Sykes’s Warbler just 5 mins down the road. headed there via a quick, but wasted  look for the Swainson Thrush. Got 2 good but brief perched views of Sykes’s Warbler and lots flight views. More acro than phyllosc! It looked remarkably long-tailed in flight and rather plain and especially warm pallid sandy tones above.

Roger Riddington alerted by James McCallum had re-identified the bird and put the word out. Some of his photos of the bird  below. Thanks Roger!

Sykes’s Warbler. Channerwick, Mainland, Shetland 4th October 2010. Roger Riddington (all 3 photos).

As well as being very long-tailed and rather long-billed looking – slender and acrocephalus like in overall structure, the upperparts are plain (especially the tertials) and the subtle contrast between rose/ pinky washed wings and tail and greyer-toned mantle seems a good Sykes’s feature.

The Shetland Nature team are now well-trained in flight identification of locustella, acrocephalus and phylloscopus Warblers.

The Radde’s Warbler at Sumburgh showed superbly. Hacking back north we jammed a Redstart at the Toft Ferry and juvenile Black Tern (rare bird in Shetland, and triple checked – to no avail – for features of American Black Tern!) at the Gutcher ferry.

Radde’s Warbler, Sumburgh Farm, 4th October 2010

and a proper photograph of the Sumburgh Radde’s- thanks to Gary Bell. Neat bronze patch over the closed wing is just discernible, often quite obvious in the field.

All agreed. The scenery was stunning all day.


About Martin Garner

I am a Free Spirit
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