This has been a remarkable week in several different ways.
Whilst I was on Skerries last Friday, Hugh Harrop (no relation as far as I know) discovered a male Green-winged Teal on the Loch by his home at Hillwell. When he went to see it, sharp-eyed Roger Riddington noticed that the female it was with had a striking head pattern and suggested that it might be a Green-winged. I first saw them the following afternoon, and waited until I had a clear view of the female’s wing pattern. It too supported identification as Green-winged (the greater covert bar was extensively pale cinnamon-buff – paler on the outer feathers – and of relatively uniform width, similar in width to the tips of the secondaries). RR also saw the wing pattern later that afternoon, and thought it looked consistent with Green-winged (though his interpretation of the precise pattern was slightly different). Since then RR has managed to get some good flight shots which confirm that its wing pattern is consistent with carolinensis.
The arrival of the first wave of migrant moths and butterflies (Silver-Y moths from 13th and Red Admiral butterflies from 14th) was followed by the arrival of some very rare vagrant birds elsewhere in Shetland. Some of these (Marmora’s Warbler, Crag Martin) presumably arrived on the same warm southerly vectors which brought the insects, but others are harder to explain (Black-faced Bunting, Song Sparrow.) Locally there was a Terek Sandpiper at Virkie – which I managed to see from the house! Other notable migrants have included two Red-backed Shrikes, Crane, Hawfinch (also added to the house list), Bluethroat, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Garganey, Tree Sparrows and an interesting Acrocephalus at Ackrigarth which on the basis of the available evidence (poor views, clearly heard calls, and photographs) seems to have been either a slightly atypical Marsh or a fuscus Reed.
Whilst rare and scarce migrants are exciting, breeding bird surveys and the fortunes of our regular and ‘common’ migrants are of primary importance. Some of those which I have NOT yet seen on Shetland so far this spring – but did see last spring – are Turtle Dove, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Redstart and Whinchat. The very low numbers of some of these migrants are a cause for concern.