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Tuesday, 15 September 2009

BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER on St Kilda

Following the deep depression that crossed the Atlantic and swept through the Outer Hebrides last Tuesday (8 September), a number of Nearctic waders (including 2 American Golden Plovers, 2 Buff-breasted Sandpipers, 1-2 Baird's Sandpipers, a juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher and a juvenile Hudsonian Whimbrel) and more recently a flock of 3 Blue-winged Teals appeared on the Outer Hebrides. The ace card in the pack however was saved for the highly remote and often inaccessible St Kilda island where Britain's third ever BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER made landfall.

The bird was found by researchers Will Miles and Sarah Money and was showing well in the Irisbed close to the island's helipad. It appeared to be a first-winter female and was still present on Sunday morning (13 September) when the two observers searched briefly. The news was released Saturday morning but due to birding politics, was not released more widely until yesterday afternoon, at the site of the Blue-winged Teals on the Howmore River.

There are just two previous records of this beautiful bird in Britain, both occurring in the first week of October - on Skomer Island (Pembrokeshire) on 5 October 1961 (British Birds 56: 205; 83: 489; 85: 337-343; Ibis 133: 220) and a first-winter male on Fair Isle (Shetland) on 7 October 1988 (fully documented by Jack Willmott in Birding World 1: 355-356; see also British Birds 83: 489; Scottish Bird Report 1988: 45; 1989: 42; Ibis 133: 220) - and just one other Western Palearctic record - on board a ship off of the north coast of Iceland in October 1987.