Thursday 2 January 2020

Dusk in more ways than one.

It was Friday afternoon (4 Oct), I arrived home from work just after 5pm and it was a nice calm evening and just right for opening the two mist nets in the garden to see if there was much about as dusk approached.

Not long after I got set up, my birding friend Barrie, from down in the village called round for a catch up. as we chatted we watched a couple of Blackbirds, some House Sparrows and Starlings moving about the garden and surrounding fields.

Then something flew into the net. On approaching I could see it was a female Blackcap. I don't often get them in the garden so it was good to see some evidence that the Autumn migration was in progress. Soon after a Wren flew into the net. This was a retrap and was originally ringed in the garden back in May this year. I suspect it was one of the adults that had nested in an old tea pot that we have hanging in one of our bushes.

By now the light was starting to fade when we spotted something pop out of a small tree in the corner of the garden fly low across the wild patch of rough grass that was once the lawn heading straight for a row of Fuchsia bushes. What it hadn't spotted was the net that was just in front of the bushes and it became the third catch of the day.

As we wandered across to the net Barrie commented that it looked interesting. Now when Barrie says it looks interesting it usually means that it is something special. As I approached I didn't recognise it as something I had seen before and told Barrie not to say any more.

I extracted it from the net and started to take a closer look at it. It was a one of the Phylloscopus warbler species but which one. It was the same sort of size as a Chiffchaff but with rounded wing tips and it was generally brown on its back and pale/buff underneath. There was a clearly defined supercillium from the base of the beak to well behind the eye and it had a thin pointed beak.

From the plumage it was narrowed down to either a Dusky Warbler or a Radde's Warbler but the bill ruled out the latter. The wing length was 55mm with P4 to P6 emarginated.

Happy with my identification, as it was a first for this species for me, I asked Barrie what he thought it was and he agreed that it was a Dusky Warbler. After a few photos were taken the bird was released into the bushes it was aiming for.

Dusky Warbler (Phylloscopus fuscatus)

Underside of the Dusky Warbler

By now it was almost dark so the nets were closed.

An initial check of the Orkney Bird Reports indicated that this was in the low teens of the number of sightings in Orkney and subsequent checks revealed that it was the 13th sighting for Orkney and the first reported sighting for Burray.

Despite watching the garden for any reappearance the following day it wasn't seen again.

This bird usually breeds in Siberia and heads to South-east Asia for the winter. It is described in my bird books as being a rare Autumn vagrant in Western Europe, so a very special bird indeed.

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