Sunday, 3 February 2013


Pine Grosbeak - Shetland Mainland - Collafirth
A stunning 12th for Britain we refound yesterday -  just before we left Shetland!

Collafirth - Shetland Mainland 02.02.2013
Rebecca Nason

Phil Harris and I had been in Shetland for 10 days during the end of January beginning of February 2013. On the morning of the 1st February news filtered through that a local man, Bert Ratter, had photographs of a Pine Grosbeak he had taken in his garden in Collafirth on the 29th January. As with many Shetlanders he knew the bird to be something of interest and sent the photos to local birder Paul Slater who put the news on the local grapevine. The bird had not been seen since however. We were unable to go and search for the bird that day due to other commitments but along with friend Tim Cleeves who had just cancelled his flight south that afternoon we would carry out a thorough search the following day before we departed Shetland on the overnight ferry. Later that evening news came through that the area had been searched by a few birders but the bird had not been relocated, however we still intended to go the next morning.

The following morning February 2nd, we arrived in North Collafirth at around 09.30am and began making a plan of where to start as there were several gardens with suitable habitat. As we reached the most northerly of these we were distracted by a ringtail Hen Harrier flying along the roadside, we followed this for a short while before heading back to our first search area.The garden of Saltoo had plenty of suitable cover including lots of young pines and along the roadside just north of the garden was a small Pine plantation only 10x5metres in area with 20-25ft high trees. Tim began searching the plantation along the roadside as several Chaffinches were calling from within, whilst Phil and I walked around the outskirts of the garden.

We had covered three sides of the garden and had seen a few Chaffinch, Redwing and Goldcrest (more passerines than we had seen in the previous 10 days) and were now on the opposite side of the plantation to Tim. After a short time we both became aware of an unusual flutey song coming from within the plantation but only in very short bursts, we both agreed that it was unlike any song/call we had heard before and the best we could come up with was a Redwing in sub song. I reached for my iphone as I had an App on there with bird songs and began to play Pine Grosbeak so we could compare it, within 20 seconds the identical song was coming back at us from within the plantation, we stopped the song and waited and within 2 minutes I spotted movement at the front edge of the pines and there it was a superb 1st Winter Male/Female Pine Grosbeak.

The bird then flew over into the smaller pines of the garden, we frantically waved Tim over and spent the next 10 minutes getting great views before it flew back to the plantation. We quickly got the news out via the Shetland grapevine and Rare Bird Alert. Within 15 minutes Roger Riddington and Rory Tallach arrived followed by other local birders shortly afterwards.

It later transpired that another local man, Alastair Williamson had seen and photographed what he thought was a Crossbill in his garden in nearby Urafirth back in November 2012! So actually the Grosbeak had been present for over 3 months! 


  1. Thanks a billion for relocating it Miss Nason you've made many an old birder very happy over the past few weeks! All the best Arch x

  2. Thank you Archie . . .glad you got to see it! ;-)