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Tuesday 26 September 2023



The Geosetter Burn, Shetland

Massive thanks to William Carter for finding this incredible bird! πŸ‘

I was at work. At 9.56am a message came up on the WhatsApp Shetland Rare group from William Carter, a visiting birder who had found a BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER at The Geosetter Burn!!!!! OMG!!! The torture of knowing I wasn't going to see this until the evening or even not at all, was almost unbearable.

Flew home in my lunch break to load the car up with birding gear and moved the car closer than it was for a quick get away at the end of the day. Saw a picture from Dougie Preston on Twitter at lunch time – I couldn't belive what I was seeing, what a bird! Warblers are my favourite birds and this Blackburnian Warbler was on another level, striking, stunning and pristine!

I had some time in lieu, so Catherine very, very kindly let me finish at 3.45pm. I flew to the car and drove to the Geosetter Burn. Parked up to find only a handful of people here! If this had been Norfolk, there would have been 1000 plus for this mega bird! The weather was dull and later it was raining.

I crossed the Geosetter Bridge, climbed over the stile and followed the fenceline along the burn to join a few others. The panic that sets in until you see the bird, almost takes your breath away! Suddenly the Blackburnian Warbler came into view at about 4.30pm – there are no appropriate words to describe my first viewing of this striped black, green, yellow and white warbler, flicking around feeding in the willows at great speed! I became VERY emotional, which was partly because my late father also loved his warblers and I know how much he would have loved to have seen this. I COULD NOT BELIEVE WHAT I WAS SEEING! Was this better than the Yellow Warbler? difficult to answer, but right now it felt INCREDIBLE! I never thought I would see one of these!

It was freezing cold as the evening progressed, but I didn't give a hoot! This bird was insanely difficult to photograph in the fading light, but got one or two ok shots. I took 482 pictures!!! Most will be deleted. I certainly have not got any sunny shots that I have seen on the net, that others have taken earlier in the day. That's the luck of the draw, if you are at work, there is nothing you can do about it. I feel insanely privileged to have seen the Blackburnian Warbler and a MASSIVE thank you to William Carter, you have made a lot of people extremely happy indeed! 😊 πŸ‘ πŸŽ‰ 🎊
Previous records: 5th October 1961 – Skomer, Pembrokeshire. 7th October 1988 – Fair Isle, Shetland. 12th to 14th 2009 – St Kilda, Western Isles. 20th September 2023 – Skellig Islands, County Kerry, Ireland.
Yellow-browed Warbler and Blackburnian Warbler!

The Blackburnian Warbler had a circuit going on, but the best place to stand was by the willows, higher up the burn on the other side of the Geosetter bridge. It would occassionally sit on the fence line on the other side (the house side) and at one point there was a Yellow-browed Warbler sitting with it – you couldn't make this up!!! There was also a Goldcrest in there and later on I spotted a flycatcher, which had a slate grey back – it was sitting with its back to me and I couldn't see any collar at all – I was told later this was a Red-breasted Flycatcher, but it didn't look right for that. A man called Andrew and myself were the last to see the Blackburnian Warbler at 6.45pm, when we walked back to our cars. As I walked alone back past the burn at the bottom to my car, a weirdly shaped bird with a flight pattern I didn't recognise flew out of the burn and across the other side of the road! Goodness knows what that was!
Drove home in lashing rain and nowhere to park in my street again! Ironed uniforms, cooked tea, put washing machine on, all things I didn't want to do, then started the blog! If I wasn't at work, I would be back first thing in the morning, I hope its still there tomorrow. What else will be found?! Exciting days ahead in Shetland. I LOVE IT HERE!!! πŸ’–


  1. Brilliant. Thanks for sharing your excitement. You got some great photos

  2. I loved reading this! Your passion and excitement shone through. I’ve never seen one in the UK but did see one on its ‘home’ wintering ground in Colombia last January which I really enjoyed. Great blog!

  3. Clearly a birders paradise in Shetland - can you please send some of these birds down to Norfolk - it’s been a very quiet Autumn here so far!!!

  4. Great set of photos. It really was a beautiful bird