25 Oct 2013

I told you I'd be back - Cape may Warbler, Unst

On my return from Shetland I said I'd a funny feeling I'd be back before the month end..............
Mike Pennington's stunning find of a Cape may Warbler on Unst gave me suitable enough reason. Fred & spent time looking at all the travel options.With no scheduled flights available, as many people had booked to go and see the Siberian Rubythroat on Fair Isle and work commitments meaning a three day round trip on the ferry was an impossibility. Fitfully sleeping I was aware of my phone ringing downstairs around 11.30. It was Dave Mac. He'd organised a plane and someone had dropped out and Dan Pointon had given him my name..........Nice one Danny boy.

Was I interested? A no brainer. Moving my stuff into the spare room I didn't sleep at all and was up and on the road at 04.00 to meet up with the other guys. A tense couple of hours until news broke that the bird was still there in poor weather and we were off. Luckily permission had been granted  to land at the deserted Unst airfield so we saved a good 2 hours travelling time from Sumburgh.

Bad news greeted us on arrival. The bird had gone AWOL and everyone was splitting up and looking in different areas. I stayed looking in the flower bed of the Old Manse reasoning that, with no phone reception, I could see others at all the points it had been seen the previous day. As I was talking to someone I caught glimpse of a small streaky bird fly up out of the overgrown flower bed and over the garden wall. Now, this bit is important. It flew over the side nearest the deserted church where it had been regularly seen in sycamores.

Entering the field I started walking the long grass adjacent to the garden wall and up popped.........a male Blackcap. Hmm. This definitely wasn't the streaky little bird I'd seen.

Just then Jim Nicolson pulled up in his car and we got chatting. He told me the birds favourite place was the sycamores behind the ruined church and I should stake it out. After a few minutes idle chat he headed . The church was literally 2 minutes walk away from the Old Manse and the next nearest area of cover. Suddenly the shout went up. It was back in its favourite place!

30 seconds later and severely out of breath I joined a happy group of birders watching Britain's first twitchable Cape May Warbler showing down to a couple of metres in the leaf litter.

The bird performed well for over an hour and a half to its appreciative audience. It's quite a bright bird for a first winter so I'm assuming its a first winter male.

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