Sunday 16 October 2022

Blackburnian Warbler on Bryher, Scilly, October 2022.

 Sensational news broke on Thursday 13th October when a first year male Blackburnian Warbler was found on Bryher, Scilly. Blackburnian Warbler is a dream Nearctic warbler and high on every British birder's want-list. The Bryher bird is the first for England and just the fourth UK record but the first truly twitchable bird. 

1w male Blackburnian Warbler, Bryher, picture by Steve Rogers.

Previous records have all occurred on islands and been short stayers.

The first for Britain was on Skomer Island, Dyfed on 5th October 1961 and fully documented in British Birds 85: 337-343.

The second record was a first winter male on Fair Isle, Shetland on 7th October 1988. (British Birds 83:489).

The third record was a probable first winter male on St. Kilda, Outer Hebrides. 12-14th September 2009. (British Birds: 102:427).

The species is widespread in north-east North America and south-east Canada. It migrates south through the Eastern seaboard, reaching its wintering quarters in Central America, Columbia, Peru and Ecuador.  A friend who visited Ecuador this winter said he saw hundreds in the highlands.  The species status is of Least Concern.

The species name derives from an English naturalist named Anna Blackburne (1726-1793) who lived in Warrington. She had a brother in the States who sent insect and Bird specimens to be identified. Descriptions were then sent to Linne for the Systema Naturae.

My own adventure to see the Bryher bird involved a small charter boat from Penzance called the Vanessa Jane. Ten of us departed Penzance at 7am and three hours later were picked up at Scilly, mid channel by the Meridian. We were hoping to land at Bryher but local by-laws and customs denied us this benefit. We saw the bird by 10:45 and were home again at 19:30. Total cost £93. We also had close views of five Great Shearwaters and a dozen adult Puffins on the way.

Intrepid travellers included Martin Elliott, Linton Procter, Graham Lawlor, Mike Spicer, Pete Clement, Pete Aley, Tony Mills, John Overfield +1, and myself.  I don't travel a great deal these days, but this one was an exciting twitch.😊

Pictures by Steve Rogers

Video by John Chapple.

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