9th October 2010. Dawn to Dusk birding with Messrs. Riddington and Harvey. Spent the morning working the Sumburgh area and Scatness, quick lunch at Paul’s and afternoon in the Quendale area. Dusk at Roger’s the previous evening (8th October) had incoming Redwings and Goldcrest in number suggested ‘arrival’. With wind in SE (2-4) and some overcast/ low cloud conditions good. Morning brought definite arrival.
Little Goldcrest ‘carpet’ at Sumburgh -(up to 50 birds), Reed Buntings (6), Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher (2 – one still sporting juvenile breast and mantle feathers), Robins, Chiffchaff, migrant Dunnocks and LOTS of Redwing and Song Thrush – a Fall! Best was the Pallas’s Warbler at Sumburgh Farm (found by Mark Reeder late previous day).
Pallas’s Warbler, Sumburgh Farm. 9th October 2010. Gary Bell. The one species our tour group thought they had missed. Not so, all members present the next morning – short walk from their hotel rooms. Nice finale before flights home.
More Lapland Buntings (15-20), Redwing and Song Thrush numbers increasing – flocks numbering hundreds of Redwing. Several Wheatear and this wacky looking partial albino Wheatear which has been around for while. 1 Ring Ouzel, abietinus Chiffchaff, Reed Bunting and plenty to see.
Olive-backed Pipit number one
Bottom of Quendale Burn. Met Mark and Andy coming down. Chatted with Mark then headed up burn. Noticed RR and PVH with focused attention. caught them up – Paul said Roger had seen interesting Pipit. Just then ‘the bird’ flew up – obvious strong flyer Tree Pipit type- flew fairly close past – even in flight BRIGHT plumage tones olive/ yellow, black and white – “looks like an Olive-backed Pipit” – just as Roger had strongly suspected despite limited/obscured views on the ground. It promptly landed on dyke and all 3 of us agreed, no doubt now. It’s an OBP: weakly streaked olive mantle, strong head pattern, bold black streaklng on white over underparts. The flew back into burn. Rang Mark Reeder to get them back. Bird very ‘jumpy’ flew up and over our heads and called- classic OBP call -softer, shorter than Tree and less buzzy at the end – more on that later. One more flight and distant landing on fence post-then lost.
No photos, no recording of call – just enough for a submission!
We proceeded up the burn now accompanied by Messrs Reeder and Mackay. Long walk and much searching collected already present: 2 Yellow-browed Warblers, a calling but elusive Dusky Warbler, a Red-breasted Flycatcher (photo of the bird here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ajmwildlife/5083498172/lightbox/,) odd Robins and Chiffchaff, 20 plus Goldcrest, 800 plus Redwing ‘circling’. At the very top of the burn, news and photos from Brydon. Our Olive-backed Pipit seemed a little eclipsed by Brydon and James finding a PG Tips (Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler) on Fetlar.
Olive-backed Pipit number two
Late afternoon we decided to finish off with a circuit of the fields above Hillwell Loch and the Eel Burn. Surprisingly, searching of the burn was interrupted by several unmistakable calls of an Olive -backed Pipit. Unlike earlier the bird was sitting very low in the vegetation -almost preferring to run than fly. When in flight very short distance covered before pitching and moving on ground through thick vegetation. This time I managed a few poor photo as and sound recordings. First view of the underparts and it seemed remarkably heavily streaked – perhaps more so than earlier in the Quendale burn. At one point Roger stood ‘over’ the bird and despite failing light managed very acceptable photos. We mused about this being a second bird – but didn’t think we would sound very convincing.
However one feature suspected of the bird in flight, later easily evident in the photos, it was that a significant chunk from the inner part (some tertials and inner secondaries) of the left wing was missing. We were confident that at Quendale the bird was fully winged (no gaps) – well seen in flight overhead.
Our 2 bird optimism would probably have stayed as a private conversation – except that 4 days later, Roy Hargreaves discovered a flighty, fully winged Olive-backed Pipit at the top of the Quendale Burn. Our reasonable speculation is that this was the bird first seen at the bottom of the Quendale Burn (our bird number one) and the ‘clipped wing’ Eel Burn bird was once only observation (bird number two).
Photo below all of the Eel Burn bird. OBP number two!
Olive-backed Pipit. Eel burn. 9 October 2010. Dusk!
Olive-backed Pipit. Eel burn. 9 October 2010. Roger Riddington.
We had certainly talked earlier in the day about the possibility of seeing this species – chiefly because multiple records of Dusky and Pallas’s Warblers had arrived in Shetland in the past 24 hours and, with Olive-backed Pipit, the 3 species often turn up in Britain at the same time.
Calls of OBP
I have waffled on for a while now that I think the calls of Tree Pipit and Olive-backed Pipit, often described as indistinguishable, seem to me to be sufficiently different as to be useful in the field. The encounter with these 2 birds and their calls, immediately made me think of OBP and not Tree Pipit. I think the sonagrams show why. The OBP has no strong modulation at the end – it fades a little whereas the Tree Pipit has obvious strong modulation at the end. Roger described it better than I can thus:
“…(re Quendale OBP)… which I transcribed as a reedy “tzeeee”, differing from Tree Pipit in the fact that the “zz” was at the start of the call and the ending of the call was a clean “eee”.”
Tree Pipit, Spurn, East Yorkshire. September 2010. Sonagram of calls.