Monday, October 4, 2010

Still all to play for

Fortunately we decided to give the Pallas's Gropper a miss first thing this morning and wait for the inevitable crowd to bugger off before heading to Levenwick. As a result, we were not in any way involved in the debacle that was to follow. The Great Grey Shrike was still in the willows first thing, and then we finally caught up with the Radde's Warbler at Sumburgh Farm. This was showing quite well and I managed to get a half decent photo of it:

Mark was getting increasingly twitchy though, and we were beginning to think we might have to take him to the doctor for some Ritalin. Eventually we gave in and set off for Levenwick via the Toab shop (still no pies!). But all Mark's pre-tick nerves were in vain: just as we arrived the first doubts were beginning to be expressed about the bird, and on viewing photos on John's laptop, it was obvious that it was in fact just a Grasshopper Warbler. Arse. I need Gropper for my Shetland list, but couldn't raise the enthusiasm to give the irises more than a half-hearted kick before giving up.

As we were walking back up the hill, news came through that the Booted Warbler at Channerwick had been re-identified (or rather confirmed, as the original observers apparently suspected that's what it was) as a Sykes' Warbler. As that was going to be our next port of call anyway, we shot off to see that. After half a dozen flight views it finally showed reasonably well down near the beach, but not for long enough to get any photos. Hurrah. A splendid tick, which made up for not seeing a Pallas's Gropper. And I'm sure I'll see one of those eventually if I keep coming to Shetland for long enough!

Next on the agenda was a pie twitch to Sandwick. Arriving just after those bastards from Levenwick had cleaned out the shelves, it looked like we had dipped again, but no, Mark in his role as self-styled President of the British Pie Munching Association, did his 'do you know who I am?' routine to the woman behind the counter and as if by magic a batch of lasagne pies appeared! Unfortunately by this time I had already purchased a Chinese chicken sandwich, which was very nice, but no substitute for a lasagne pie. A quick look around a very windy Hoswick produced nothing more than a Pied Flycatcher, so it was back to the house for a cup of tea. Back at Virkie there was a 1st-winter Little Gull on the Pool – another Shetland tick for me.

And so to the 'score' (or should that be skor?) – does a misidentification count as an own goal? If so, it's 1-1, or perhaps 0-0 if the Gropper cancels out the Swainson's? No doubt the Levenwick Lepers will argue that it's really back to 1-0, but either way there's still plenty of time (9 days to be precise) for us to come back. We'll just have to be doubly on our guard now to avoid joining the ever-growing list of 'gurners' (see Brown Flycatcher thread on Birdforum!) this autumn.

Post-pub edit: I felt John Hague's description of the Sykes' Warbler's supercilium deserved a wider audience: "it sort of peters out behind the eye like a dribble of spunk." I'd love to see the finders include that gem in their BBRC description!

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