Wednesday 4 December 2019

Mystery Redstart in Shetland- possible Samamiscus

Its always good to find something interesting, especially if no one can identify the bird. At the weekend I was working my usual patch down at Sumburgh

I had been down at Sumburgh garden where Blackbird, Robin, Twite, Sparrow and Starling showed.

Walking up the single track road to the farm I noticed  around 20 thrush flying out of the crop with most landing on the wall.

I was scanning through when something with a reddish colour moved across my line of vision which I originally thought it could have been the Robin from the garden. Moving closer to the area a small Redstart was on the wall

First though was a Black Redstart, often see on Shetland at this time of year. A couple of photos later and I moved forward again. This bird looked odd, more like an 1st winter eastern Black Redstart, very rare to the UK

I followed it along the wall, it flew down to the back of the wall then reappeared further along and it continued up to the southern bend near the farm, then flew strongly back down.

I relocated the bird, now on the original wall going east just near the substation. It was now further away and flying down into the crop to feed.

I wanted more information so went home and looked in `Britain's Birds' an excellent reference book showing photos rather than drawings. One bird stood out and it was very like the eastern Black Redstart showed, with a few differences.

First it lacked the blackish chest, this bird had more of a collar, but had the same orange underbody colour extending along the tail. It also had a white flash to the wing.

I contact Hugh Harrop, one of the authors of the BB book sending him a photo. He shot down to the site in fading light and managed some photos as well. only one person responded to my message on WhatsApp, saying it wasn't an Eastern Black redstart, but said it was an odd bird.

Hugh got back later when he had chance to process his photos and even he was unsure. He then sent photos to a friend in Israel and an expert down south.

Thoughts are, it could be a Samamiscius raced Redstart which can be found from the Crimean Peninsular, central Asia, Turkey & Middle East- thanks to Hugh Harrop for this information, although not 100% guaranteed. It may be a 1st autumn male Ehrenberg's Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus samamiscus) which is very similar to an Eastern Redstart

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