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White-throated Sparrow on North Uist

Posted: 01 Oct 2016, 20:55
by BrianR
A frustrating time today spent in a Lochmaddy garden. Around midday I heard an unfamiliar call - a sharp, metallic chink coming from thick undergrowth. There were other birds alarming - mostly Wrens and this may have set it off. The unknown bird called continuously for a good 5 minutes before falling silent and I walked a short way before it alarmed again about 50 m from where first heard but again in thick undergrowth. I glimpsed a sparrow-like bird but couldn't even be sure this was the bird making the call. I left to inform Gwen who lives nearby but she was out so I left a note. Returning to the spot around 13.20 hours as I walked up the valley in the garden there was the distinctive call again. On this occasion I had rather obscured views of the calling bird against the skyline in a bush. Certainly sparrow-like and I thought it could well be a North American sparrow (although these are related to buntings of Europe rather than our sparrows). From what I could see the most obvious markings were a pale median crown-stripe bordered by fairly well-defined lateral crown-stripes. A bit later I found three birders looking into gardens (they were killing time waiting for the ferry after seeing the Eastern Kingbird on Barra the previous day). We spent another hour or so hoping it would reappear (also joined by Gwen) but it did not call again. Later listened to the call of White-throated Sparrow and this fitted the bill. Unless we can pin it down tomorrow it will be unresolved.

Re: White-throated Sparrow on North Uist

Posted: 20 Oct 2016, 21:44
by BrianR
Well amazingly the bird is still present as I got good views this afternoon. I approached the garden from the Sponish side and before I reached it I had seen a Mistle Thrush which was an addition to my North Uist list for the year. There were plenty of Redwings among the trees in the garden and a couple of Chaffinches but there didn't appear to be anything out of the ordinary. After a short while I caught sight of a bird that looked interesting in an elder bush (in fact the same bush that I had the frustrating views almost three weeks previously). There was to be no repeat of this experience today as there it was seconds later in full view - a very nice 1st-winter White-throated Sparrow. Quickly it slipped away into cover but not before I had noted all the salient points. At least six looked for it later but I don't know if they had any success.

There is one previous Outer Hebrides record - one was shot on the Flannan Isles in May 1909 (the first record for Scotland). Well what a year for North American passerines this has turned out to be - who would have thought we would have both White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows.

Re: White-throated Sparrow on North Uist

Posted: 29 Oct 2016, 18:42
by AndrewS
The sparrow was still present today. I heard it calling and saw it briefly on the ground around the base of a hazel bush mid morning before it went back into cover. I waited over an hour for further views without success.

cheers, Andrew

Re: White-throated Sparrow on North Uist

Posted: 04 Nov 2016, 19:45
by BrianR
Not surprisingly there have been several enquiries about this bird, particularly concerning access. Lorna, in whose garden the sparrow has been seen, has been away for a while but is now back in residence. She has no objection to birders visiting her garden and hopefully Andrew's sighting will not be the last. Anyway, as things stand with this elusive bird, it is unlikely that there are going to be many birders coming over from the mainland.