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Rare American visitor graces Burra garden

The rose-breasted grosbeak feeding in Lynn Goodlad's garden - Photos: Hugh Harrop/Shetland Wildlife

A WOMAN in Shetland is buzzing with excitement after learning that the colourful bird feeding on a coconut in her garden was the first ever record of a rose-breasted grosbeak in the islands, and only the fifth ever in Scotland.

When Lynn Goodlad noticed the bird on Tuesday morning she initially thought it was a toy and someone was playing a trick on her.

But when finch-sized bird started moving she quickly realised that she was dealing with something very special.

After failing to find the bird in her guidebooks she went online and posted a photo on the Shetland Birds & Wildlife Facebook page.

Within minutes the phone started ringing and online comments began to flow in. The Rare Bird Alert twitter feed posted a photo to the global twitcher community.

“It just snowballed from there. It has been amazing and a little surreal,” Lynn described her morning.

She said a constant flow of people had started arriving near her family’s home at Bridge End, in Burra, hoping to get a glimpse of the rare American visitor.

This is the first ever record of the bird in Shetland.

The rose-breasted grosbeak’s breeding grounds are the open woods of Canada and northeastern USA. The bird usually spends the winter in Central America, the Caribbean, Peru and Venezuela.

Rose-breasted grosbeaks are very rarely seen in the UK, and so far most records occurred during the autumn months and mainly in southern parts of England including the Scilly islands.

Hugh Harrop of Shetland Wildlife was one of the first of the local birders to visit Lynn on Tuesday.

He confirmed that following a sighting in Norfolk in May 2006 this was the second ever UK record of the bird during spring.

“Presumably this bird has been blown off course during migration from South America back to North America,” he said.

“Another explanation, of course, is that the bird turned up somewhere in western Europe last autumn, and is basically continuing its natural northwards migration.”

He added that groups of Scottish birders were already on their way trying to catch the overnight ferry from Aberdeen to arrive in the islands in the morning.