Visiting migrants keen to stick around

MANY of last week’s migrants are still present and there have been new visitors around this week.

The juvenile rose-coloured starling (sometimes referred to as a rosy starling) was still at Sandwick on the 21st. The common name refers to the pink plumage sported by the adult male, but the juvenile is like a sandy-fawn version of a juvenile common starling with a pale throat and contrasting dark wings and tail. However, the rose-coloured starling juvenile has a yellow bill, unlike the juvenile of the common starling which always has a dark bill.

The rose-coloured starling is a rare migrant from south east Europe and south west Asia, wintering in the south east of its breeding range, but is now regularly recorded in Britain. In Shetland it is recorded from March to November and has become more frequent over the last 30 years.

During the 1970s there was only one record; in the 1980s two records but from 1990-2002 15 individuals were recorded. From September to November the rose-coloured star­lings which arrive in Scotland are juveniles with around 68 per cent of the records coming from Orkney and Shetland.

A red-backed shrike was also at Sandwick, with other records from Exnaboe, Quendale Cunningsburgh and Eswick.

The juvenile red-backed shrike has grey, vermiculated underparts and chestnut upperparts. Shrikes characteristically perch very up­right, swooping down to catch insect prey, before returning to the same or a nearby perch. Red-backed shrikes are fairly common passage migrants. Breeding from western Europe through to central Siberia, they winter in Africa.

National rare migrants were the Arctic warbler at Exnaboe, a Paddyfield warbler at Virkie, a thrush nightingale also at Virkie, and an olivaceous warbler of the eastern race on Foula.

Two ospreys were at Sandwater this week. These large fish-eating birds of prey can be identified at a distance by their unique wing silhouette – narrow wings with four long projecting feathers.

Ospreys are very scarce passage migrants with most being seen in the spring. Birds seen in Shetland may be migrants from Scandinavia.

Another interesting and very colourful visitor was the kingfisher seen at Cunningsburgh. Kingfishers breed over much of Europe and as far north as northern Scandinavia. Vagrants to Shetland may be from Europe, possibly from the eastern Scandinavian and Baltic populations which migrate.

Locally rare migrant species seen were ortolan bunting at Virkie and a red-throated pipit on Foula. Common redstarts, garden warblers, willow warblers, spotted and pied flycatchers were widespread.

Joyce Garden


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