1 Oct 2010

Be Bop Parula.

Northern Parula has become increasingly scarce since the halcyon days of the early eighties. The last bird on British soil was as long ago as 1995. This is truly a bird that could have been designed by Faberge or the unfettered imagination of  child. The colours are spectacular and the bird is a living jewell.

When news broke of one on Tiree Saturday evening our intital reaction was 'its to far' and we went for the Norfolk empid instead - a rarer bird but not such a stunner to look at. Northern Parula has long been one of the birds I most wanted to see in the UK and plans were eventually made for a raid across the border and on to the Inner Hebrides.

Logistics meant having to stay the night on Tiree until Thursday but the trip was on. Gleaning as much information as I could from Stu Piner at RBA and John Bowler (the finder and local RSPB manager) things were looking good - even more so when John texted me just after 08.30 Wednesday morning to say the bird ws showing well in his front garden! Meeting Paul & Vicky Wren from Oxford enroute was fortuitous for both parties as they hadn't got a car and I hadn't got accomodation! They shared the cost of the hire car and through dropping them off at their accomodation I managed to get a room at the 'closed' Scaranish Hotel.

Within twenty minutes of sorting out the hire car we pulled up at Johns house and before we'd even got out Paul picked up the bird feeding in willows less than 5 m away. In the sunshine it looked simply stunning and was constantly on the move picking off insects from beneath the leaves often hanging upside down to do so. Occasionally it flew out to catch a fly in middair snapping its bill as it did so.

Whilst watching the Parula John pulled up in his Landorver and we had a chance to thank him personally for his help. After 2 hours during which time the bird was constantly on show we decided to head off and explore the island planning to return in the evening to have another look. With the weather fine and sunny and a clear night forecast it looked as if the bird might move off and our thoughts proved to be correct.

First stop was a large grassy area near Crossapol where I picked up two Buff-breasted Sandpipers in the long grass. After watching these for awhile we headed off to sort out the accomodation before going west to search the coast around Sandaig for some Lapland Buntings we'd been told about.

After an hour or so searching I found the birds about 1 km from where we'd parked the car feeding with Snow Buntings and Twite just above the tideline.

We went back to see the Parula just before dusk at which point it had returned to its favoured roosting spot amongst some stunted shrubs known as the 'wood' on the south east side of the large hill with the radar station on top. Once again it was feeding non stop and we also picked up a Blackcap and Willow Warbler in the same bushes.

After a fairly sleepless night I woke to find the moon still shining but the cloud coover and wind had increased. It looked ominous and sure enough on checking both John's garden and the 'wood' soon after first light it was clear not only the Parula but the other migrants had moved out during the night.

Tiree is a fantastic place. The scenery is awesome and the island was teeming with birds. Its certainly a place I'd hope to visit again.

1 comment :

Alan Whitehead said...

Great account and superb photos. I'm very envious! Couldn't make it due to work. Hope there's another on Scilly later this month?