Monday 15 October 2012

Peter Roberts at Gortantaoid

Thanks to Peter for this splendid report of a day out up north with Pia.
Since UK & Ireland has been experiencing a bumper autumn for extreme rarities in large numbers, I woke this morning and thought I'd try and put Islay a bit more "on the map" while giving the new dog a decent walk. On the map the little patch of native scrubby woodland up at Gortantaoid, beyond Killinallan looked exactly the right sort of spot to attract and maybe hold a migrant or two - one of the most isolated and NW bits of cover on Islay - so off we went - Pia myself and the dog. Amazingly this one-off effort on my part to finally get off my arse and do some birding worked rather well:
Yellow Browed Warbler - (photo: St Abbs Birders)
Little groups of Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers (5-10 of each) were around the old steading up there and, after a lot of standing and watching, some goodies in the thin woodland itself. First off there was a delightful little male Firecrest watched closely on several occasions - lovely almost black and white striped head, bright green mantle and lots of bright orange on the crown. Then a single Brambling appeared, feeding voraciously on the abundant Rowan berries. An odd slightly nasal, fairly high-pitched call struck me as odd and after a bit of further searching and a false start when a drab Chiffchaff showed up, I came across a lovely little Yellow-browed Warbler . It was a really bright and classic example, well pronounced double wing bars, broad, long supercilium etc. As Hume's Leaf Warbler is now split from Y-B Warbler and has occured in UK I paid special attention to it - the brighter, better marked plumage and the distinctive contact call (checked out again on CDs on getting home) definitely rules out this much rarer species.

It is just a pity that Gortantaoid is such a long way from anywhere otherwise I'd be keen to visit regularly - how much more of "our share" of rare migrants have gone by unnoticed here and in large more dense tracts of woodland?

(For the record, the ref. for Firecrest and Yellow-browed Warbler is NR338733 and birds seen about midday).

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