Lesser Florican - August 2023

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Sunday 31 December 2023

Olive-backed Pipit on Shetland - 2nd October 2023

During our break on Shetland back in early October, the dream was to always find something good, whether that be an absolute mega, or, a species rarely encountered in southern England. For this year on Shetland, it turned out to be the latter, but just so happened to be one of my favourite eastern vagrants.

It was a very windy day (no surprises), so Emily and I set about trying to locate an Otter. I thought Toft would be a good bet and after some searching, we located one swimming out along the distant shoreline. With this success, we then wanted to head to Esha Ness on the west coast, so diverting through central Mainland seemed the most sensible route. A quick look at one excellent garden near Sullom Voe found a young male Crossbill; thinking Crossbill could be a theme, a large conifer plantation at Voxter was too tempting not to stop at. No Crossbills (or anything for that matter) were found, so instead we diverted our attention to a small, walled garden, packed with Sycamores. 

We cautiously entered the garden, with me going through every likely mega that could be here and set about scanning the appealing understorey, only for Emily to casually say a pipit flew up from the ground in the centre of the garden. I had my suspicions on the most likely pipit it could have been, and despite being perched mid-canopy, I failed to find it initially. Ems stated it was most likely a Meadow Pipit, but when I eventually locked onto it, it was clearly a Tree/Olive-backed Pipit. The pumping tail was a good sign, as was the obvious and short white supercilium, but due to the angle, I couldn't make out any dark lateral crown sides. The ear spot, although present, wasn't conspicuous, so it was a relief the pipit flew back down to the ground and started rummaging amongst the leaf-litter... at this point, there was little doubt, as now the dark lateral crown sides, the black-white ear spot and lack of streaking on the mantle meant this could only be an Olive-backed Pipit. I fired off many photos and then enjoyed watching its elusive nature. The pipit then flew off around the garden, calling as it went, only to return soon after.

I found some signal and sent some pics off to Dave to make sure I wasn't losing the plot, and with thumbs up, the news went straight out. It was at this time we left the site and continued on our merry way to the west coast. 

Massive kudos to Emily for picking the bird up in the first place, something she does every time with me!

Olive-backed Pipit at Voxter

The walled garden at Voxter