News broke on the morning of Tuesday 3 May that a 1st summer Rose Breasted Grosbeak had turned up in a garden at Toogs, West Burra. This was in the garden of Lynn Goodall who first photographed the bird at the feeders, she thought it was a toy blown into the bushes, that was until it moved.
The photo was posted on Shetland Birds & Wildlife Facebook site and was identified as a Rose Breasted Grosbeak all the way from North America, only the second ever UK spring record ,the fifth for Scotland and the first for Shetland. The only other spring record was a female that stayed at home in Norfolk on the 4 and 5 May 2006
All day people had been to see this little beauty, around 30 at the peak, with far more making their way north when news broke.
Thanks to Hugh Harrop and Julie Redpath for the directions, as when I arrived no one else was about. In fact for the hour and fifteen minutes it was present no one else arrived which is amazing, but not in Shetland where you often have a great bird to yourself.
It was a 15 min wait for the bird to turn up, but in the meantime Lynn had a cup of tea for me, that's how good Shetland people are. It first showed over in a neighbour's garden and I also thought it was unreal as it sat motionless on a fence post.
It disappeared, but House Sparrows had moved in on the feeders so that was a good sign. A few moments later the Grosbeak landed in the bush at the far side and looked around before quickly making its way to the front of the bush and onto the feeders, which wasn't so good for the Sparrows who moved away quickly.
The Grosbeak fed constantly keeping the sparrows away, occasionally landing on the ground to feed. After its fill it flew to the other side of the garden to drink water from a plant pot. After a while it moved into another bush and seemed settled when I moved away. This may have be its roosting place for the night, the sun providing some warmth.
All the time it was present it came very close, within a few feet and was never alarmed. Rose-Breasted Grosbeak feed on seed and insects , normally staying in treetops rarely coming onto the ground to feed.
I left around 7.30 pm after an hours viewing, at that time the bird seemed happy enough in the bush, and was seen by Lynn at 8.00 pm
The next day the bird was still present and started to attract a long line of visitors, but Wednesday was poor weather with rain and overcast conditions. This didn't stop the bird singing and I heard it several times on my visit.
Facebook is awash with photos but everyone likes to take images of their own, I was so lucky to have the bird to myself and it never seemed to be alarmed. Working with an 800 mm lens and a crop sensor I kept my distance while still achieving good close up's.
These birds are long lived with a bird 12 years old in the wild while a captivity one surviving for 24 years. Normally birds arriving in the UK are autumn and winter visitors with one staying 14 days, however spring birds generally move on fairly quickly making it more risky for long travelling birders
On Thursday 5 May the bird wasn't seen, its now moved onto pastures new. A sorry story for the weekend birders who had no doubt, planned a trip to Shetland.