ANOTHER busy week for North Isles wildlife as migrant birds continued to move through, with a few standing out from the crowd.
A thrush nightingale on Fetlar on the 15th was an excellent find, as these are extremely rare birds in autumn. An ortolan bunting was on the island on the same day.
Whalsay’s short-toed lark remained until at least the 19th, while a citrine wagtail was on the island at Vatshoull on the 17th. The same day also saw a rustic bunting at Haroldswick.
Goshawk is a very rare visitor to Shetland, but one was seen near Haroldswick, Unst, on the 16th. Larger than the more common sparrowhawk, while it seems to be increasing as a breeding bird in Britain, this population is thought to originate from escaped or released falconers’ birds. Some of the Scandinavian population is, however, migratory and probably the source of this particular individual. Another striking bird of prey was the osprey seen around Unst towards the end of last week.
But the bulk of the migrants have been made up of whinchats, redstarts and a selection of warblers, including yellow-browed as well as spotted and pied flycatchers.
Flycatchers are birds with character. Spotted flycatchers breed right across a large area of Europe, including mainland Britain, but numbers have decreased markedly in recent years. With their grey-brown upperparts and streaking on the breast and forehead, they characteristically dart out from a perch to catch a passing insect, usually returning to the same perch several times before moving on. Pied flycatchers are a tad smaller than spotted. In spring adult males sport very distinctive black and white plumage, but at this time of year we expect to see mostly young birds of the year, resembling adult females, with pale, plainer underparts and olive-brown backs but still with the distinctive white markings on the wing. They also move down into Africa during our winter, but tend to remain north of the Gulf of Guinea and thus north of the equator.