Having already seen the Buff-bellied Pipit on the beach at Scousburgh earlier in the week, betters views were wanted by most so we got there very early on the Friday. Arriving at the car park in great birding conditions, I glanced down at the valley below and noticed some movement in one of the many iris beds about 80 metres away.
Getting brief views through the bins, the bird was obviously a 'Reed Warbler' type bird. Mentioning this to PH, JL & SB, we walked down to the beds and walked through them, unfortunately flushing just rabbits. PH, JL & SB walked off but I stayed put and instantly saw a lot of movement in an iris bed. A Warbler straight away came into view, and through the bins, I instantly identified the bird as a GREAT REED WARBLER. In only a 3 second glance, features noted were strong supercilium, heavy and slightly downcurved bill, tawny coloured flanks, general dark upperparts and very long dark primaries, the latter ruling out Thick-billed Warbler straight away.
The bird disapeared into the iris bed and I called the others down. Unfortunately a thorough search soon after revealed no GRW, and with the arrival of MB & VHF, we started searching all other iris beds and the large reedbed slightly further down the valley.
1.5 hours passed with nothing, and I was starting to get tense. PH, SB & MB went to search for the Pipit, but magically and thankfully PH spotted the GRW in one of the lower iris beds nearly 250 metres away. Our crew rushed down, and with news now out, other parties started to arrive, and the bird was seen several more times in flight, enabling myself and others to get record shots.
The Great Reed Warbler was last seen early that afternoon and was not seen the next day. The majority of the time the bird stayed in the extensive reedbed between the patch of iris beds.
At the time I had no idea how mega a Great Reed was on Shetland, until pointed out that Pechora Pipit is a more commoner species.
It was great to find another rare bird, and for 20-30 people to see it was even better. Hopefully next year I can find a true mega species.
long dark primaries,
tawny coloured flanks
size of slim Song Thrush
heavy downcurved bill
pale underparts excluding flanks
strong but shakey flight
in better light dull reddish brown upperparts
Great Reed Warbler at Scousburgh
The reedbed below Scousburgh