27 Oct 2015

Another week another Island - Chestnut Bunting, Papa Westray

I was in Vienna last week when Fred Fearn sent me a photo of an unusual bunting that had been found on the remote Orkney Island of Papa Westray. The bird was partially obscured but the thoughts were it was a Chestnut Bunting, a bird that so far hasn't made it to the British list due to the uncertainty about escaped cage birds in the past. This bird had all the right credentials though turning up at the same time as other Siberian vagrants on the Northern Isles such as Whites Thrush & Siberian Rubythroat. The bird was forgotten though as it had promptly disappeared and no more thought was given to going to see it.

However, the bird was re-found at the weekend and with space available on a flight I found myself picking up Al early morning and setting off for the airfield. Luckily we received news the bird was still present from the ranger on the island so we  were pretty confident! At the very least Papa was a new island for me.
Co-pilot Orton keeping an eye on proceedings in the cockpit

Jonathan (the ranger) met us of our flight and led us to where the bird was feeding unconcernedly in long vegetation. For the next couple of hours it played hide and seek occasionally showing but only partially whilst feeding voraciously.

Our patience was rewarded though when it flew onto an adjacent dry stone wall.

It showed here for a few minutes before flying over the wall into the next field and suddenly appearing below a 5 bar gate no more than a few metres from where we stood. It showed here unconcerned by human presence, occasionally feeding,  before scuttling off back to feed in its favoured area of pineapple mayweed and annual meadow grass!

A great trip and a fantastic island. Although we didn't see many other birds I did pick up a flyover Lapland Bunting and a small flock of barnacle Geese. With a relatively uneventful flight home (apart from the plane not starting and having to be jump started with the airfield fire engine!) it was a long but satisfying day.
Papa Westray International airport...........................

Hopefully this will be the 1st Chestnut Bunting on the British list! The close views gave us opportunity to check for any signs of captivity such as abnormal feather wear and broken / damaged claws.

Sunset over northern Scotland.


The Secret Birder said...

Though you might enjoy my new birdwatching blog (apologies if not):

The Secret Birder said...


I enjoy your blog - though you might be interested in my new one