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Tuesday 26 September 2023

Twitch North to Melby for a Possible Eastern Towhee!!!

I had a single Redpoll at Clickimin Loch, a few Blackbirds, Starlings and House Sparrows. I spent ages looking for the 'showing well' Barred Warbler – not for me it didn't! 😂 Vivien called me on WhatsApp video and it was great to see Lucy too! They had both been out to lunch. I sat on a seat along the path at Clickimin whilst we were chatting and a bit later on Catherine, my lovely work colleague walked past, as I was peering into a bush at a possible Barred Warbler movement – nothing came of it, gave up. Checked Helendale and only saw a Wren. It was so windy though and this has not helped anyone find any new birds today.

Parked up along Sea Road – the strong south westerly wind was whipping up the sea and it was spectacular to watch the waves crashing over the rocks close to the road, a beautiful sunny day here in Shetland. I walked up to West Hall for another look at the Bluethroat, where finder Lyn was with Ray and another couple who told me they read my blog and a friend of theirs said to say hello, how lovely, thank you. A while later, everyone left and I continued to watch the Bluethroat, no good for photography at this time of the day as I was looking straight into the sun. Three Swallows flew over. Scanned West Hall garden carefully for any migrants.

Suddenly a message came up on the Rare Bird WhatsApp group from Jill and Rob Wilson, saying they thought they just had an Eastern Towhee twice briefly at Melby House and if anyone was in the area, can they help look. I knew it was rare, as I had no idea what it was, I confess! I immediately rang Rob and Jill and chatted to them about their find (see their account link further down) and to ask of the exact location in Melby – Jill said she and Rob had seen Eastern Towhee's in the 'states'. I hesitated for 5 minutes, only because of the time, but then decided it would be crazy not to go. So headed north on the long and winding road to Melby House, which is at the end of the shoreline of Melby beach, a very pretty area, which I have visited a few times before. Quite a few people from out of area, approximately 20+ turned up, including Phil Harris, Paul Harvey, both with their thermal image cameras, Ann, Julie Redpath and other faces I recognised, but didn't know their names. Everyone searched very hard indeed until dusk.

When it got to the point that I decided it couldn't be in the garden and surrounding scrub, I decided to jump in the car and search the gardens in the direction that Jill and Rob had seen the bird fly. Paul H. asked if he could have a lift and we searched three gardens along the beginning of the Huxter Road. Paul saw a Goldcrest and a Wren which he was able to find with the thermal image camera. Met a lovely family here, who very kindly invited us into their garden – they seemed very amused by all our madness, but seemed quite excited when I said this bird was a possible 2nd for Britain! The first Eastern Towhee in Britain was on 7th June 1966 trapped and ringed on Lundy, Devon. This would be a potential first, for probably every birder and twitcher in the UK!

Paul walked back to his car at Melby House and I drove further along the Huxter Road and attempted to check a few gardens on route, but too dark now. It was a very LONG drive home on twisty roads to find there were no close spaces in my street at all. A long walk with heavy gear! I'm back at work tomorrow, so need to have the car packed up ready to go at 4.30pm. I really hope this bird is found again, what a spectacular find for Jill and Rob! Read their account here. I think its definately worth checking all the gardens along the Huxter Road in the morning – obviously from the outside and not tresspassing! Good luck to everyone searching tomorrow! With lots of people looking, something else will more than probably be found too!

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