Orkney twitchers claim European first with red-winged blackbird

Media caption,
The bird has been flying between a patch of shrubbery and gas canisters

Bird spotters in North Ronaldsay are claiming a first after recording a red-winged blackbird in the island.

The bird, which is common in North America, has never been sighted before in Europe.

Enthusiasts from as far away as Bristol and Devon have been arriving at Kirkwall Airport to charter planes.

The bird, an adult female, was photographed by Simon Davies, principal ornithological assistant at the island's bird observatory.

Image source, Simon Davies/North Ronaldsay Bird Obs
Image caption,
The bird was photographed by Simon Davies

North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory said once found, the bird quickly settled into a routine of flying between a bed of irises and some gas canisters.

Since news of the find was reported on social media, bird spotters have been flocking to the island with at least three planes chartered to take enthusiasts from Kirkwall Airport.

Image caption,
Adam Wilson travelled from Devon to catch a chartered plane to North Ronaldsay

Adam Wilson, who travelled from Devon to Kirkwall airport to catch a specially chartered flight to North Ronaldsay, told BBC Radio Orkney it was "a unique opportunity".

"There's never been this opportunity before. There might never be this opportunity again. So you take it while it's there.

"When you go abroad and see birds, there's loads of them and you get a bit blasé . When you get one, and your main focus is that, you learn more from studying that bird than you would if you saw it abroad."

It's thought a combination of the peak spring migration and strong winds over the Atlantic could be responsible for the bird landing in the Orkney islands.

Image caption,
A group of twitchers head out to catch their plane to North Ronaldsay

"Just a week or two ago, there was a hermit thrush turned up in Shetland, which is also from North America," Adam Wilson said.

"That gives precedence to this bird being a wild bird."

He said it was "exciting" to be heading off, hoping to add the bird to his "tick" list.

"You're never certain that you're actually going to see it. I mean, it's there. But it might not be there when we get there.

"So, I see it as a nice day out. And if we see it, it'll be a bonus."

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