2nd – 3rd October – Shetland update 6 – a tale of two shrikes.   Leave a comment

The 2nd was a lovely day, sunny with a strong westerly wind but with very few migrants about. The day was taken up with searching for two species of shrike, the Isabelline Shrike which has been moving around the Toab/Virkie area for the last week and a Red-backed Shrike in the Sandwick area.

Much of the morning was spent wandering around Sandwick/Hoswick but to no avail and I had an equally unsuccessful afternoon at Toab. I returned and did a little ringing in the garden, catching a few Linnets coming to roost, including another control, ie one ringed elsewhere.


The view for Sandwick looking north.


I tried photographing this herd of Shetland ponies …..


… only to find that they wanted to follow me around everywhere.


I can’t make fun at Shetland names when Dorset has places like ‘Shitterton’ and ‘Scratchy Bottom’ !


No sign of the Isabelline at Toab but a Spotted Flycatcher showed well.

The 3rd started nice and still so I continued ringing in the garden until about 0930. Best birds caught by far were two Twite, a relative to the Redpoll and Linnet which occurs widely on the northern and western isles of the UK. The wind soon got up so I packed and headed north to Sandwick. Despite searching, along with some 10 other birders for the rest of the morning I didn’t see the Red-backed Shrike, but whilst photographing a Black Guillemot offshore I did see an Otter swimming in the surf.


The pink rump on a Twite is absent in females.


Black Guillemot or Tystie as it is called locally, in winter plumage.


Shetland has its own subspecies of Wren, larger and darker than in the rest of the UK.


Bar-tailed Godwits with a single Black-tailed Godwit at the Pool of Virkie.


In the afternoon, at long last, I caught up with the Isabelline Shrike and in spite of wet, windy conditions and poor light even got some photos. I returned to the Sandwick area in late afternoon and was rewarded with views of the Red-backed Shrike, which was on view for just a minute before flying off into the distance. Red-backed Shrike once bred widely in the UK but now is a rare visitor, however it occurs far more often the Isabelline Shrike, which breeds only in central Asia and western China.


The word ‘isabelline’ is supposed to originate when Queen Isabella vowed not to change her clothes until the Moors were ousted from Spain. It took longer than she expected and her underwear was a buffy-grey ‘isabelline’ colour by then.





Posted October 3, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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