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Yellow-browed Warbler

Yellow-browed Warbler breeds in open forests from the Ural Mountains east across northern Siberia to the Sea of Okhotsk and North Korea. It winters in tropical south-east Asia from central Nepal and Bangladesh east to south-east China and Taiwan, and south to the Malay Peninsula. (see map)

In recent years it has become more regular and increasingly frequent during the autumn in many European countries as far west and south as Portugal and North Africa. This may not just be juveniles heading in the wrong direction on their first migration but might also be the emergence of a novel migration route, taking advantage of the mild climate on the western fringes of Europe for wintering.

Yellow-browed Warbler was first recorded in Scotland on Shetland in 1886 when single birds were seen in the September and October. The third record was on Fair Isle in 1905 (where it has been seen almost annually since then) followed by Orkney in 1913. The first reasonably large arrival was in 1960 when 11 were recorded on Fair Isle which was considered to be “spectacular” at the time. As elsewhere in the UK, numbers increased remarkably between 1960-2004 causing it to be dropped as a national rarity in 1963. More recently, and quite suddenly, it has become even more common as we have started to see concentrated large arrivals of the species in the UK, with Scotland and the northern isles in particular contributing the majority of records. It has occurred almost exclusively in the autumn with late September and early October being the peak time for the arrival in Scotland.

The status of Yellow-browed Warbler in the Outer Hebrides reflects the changes seen elsewhere in Scotland. The first record was of one on St Kilda on 20th September 1957, after which it remained a very rare visitor until 1985, since when it has only ‘missed’ three years, 1989, 1996 and 1999. The majority of early records were of single birds but occasionally two have been seen together. In most years up to and including 2004, there were up to six records annually, but often only one or two, however 1988 produced nine records in the Uists and Benbecula during October and November. 2005 and 2006 eclipsed that total with 23 birds recorded throughout the islands in 2005 and a minimum of 33 in 2006 with around 15 of those on Barra alone. Numbers seen in the autumn continued to increase culminating in 2020 when an exceptional invasion occurred following some unique weather conditions and an easterly airflow. The exact number of birds involved is unknown, but the highest daily count (which was considered to be an underestimate) was 200+ on 3rd October with circa 100 present on Barra alone.

Yellow-browed Warbler has occurred here exclusively in the autumn. The first arrivals are in September usually in the last week of the month, but the earliest record was one on St Kilda on 8th September in 2022. Most records fall within the first three weeks of October, but there are a number of late October records with a few stragglers until mid-November, the latest being one in Stornoway Lewis on 25th November 1986. Some birds have occasionally lingered into early December but there is one exceptional record in mid-December, that of a bird at Brevig Bay, Barra on 16th which was seen on that day only.

It has been recorded from all the main islands except Vatersay, although there is a bias towards the Uists and Barra. It has occurred on some of the outlying islands with 13 records from St Kilda, and one from North Rona. There is also a record from Shillay, Sound of Harris in October 1961 and one “at sea”, 30 miles west of Sula Sgeir on 13th October 1986.

Yellow-browed Warbler © John Kemp

1957St Kilda, one, 20th September. (Scottish Birds 1: 62; J. W. Campbell, Scottish Birds 1: 258)
1959Butt of Lewis, one, 9th – 12th November (A. MacEachern). (British Birds 53: 426)
1961Isle of Shillay, Sound of Harris, one, 4th October (R. H. Dennis, W. J. Eggeling, J. M. Boyd et al.). (British Birds 55: 580)

Gallan Head, Isle of Lewis, one, 6th October (the late S. L. B. Lee). (British Birds 55: 580)
1964North Rona, one, 18th October. (Scottish Birds 3: 420; Scottish Birds 5: 160)
1974Lionel, Lewis, one, dead, 1st October. (Scottish Bird Report 1974: 458)

Leurbost, Lewis, one, 27th October. (Scottish Bird Report 1974: 458)
1985North/South Uist and Benbecula, five, October. (Scottish Bird Report 1985: 118)

Lochmaddy, North Uist, one, 15th October. (Hebridean Naturalist No9: 43)
198630 miles W of Sula Sgeir, one, 13th October. (Scottish Bird Report 1986: 250)

Stilligarry, South Uist, one, 18th – 23rd October. (Scottish Bird Report 1986: 250)

Stornoway, Lewis, one, 25th November. (Scottish Bird Report 1986: 250)
1987Lochboisdale, South Uist, one, 17th October. (Scottish Bird Report 1987: 41)
1988Uists and Benbecula, nine, between October and November. (Hebridean Naturalist No10: 61)
1990Hirta, St Kilda, one, 22nd – 23rd September. (OH Bird Report 1989 and 1990: 79)

Hirta, St Kilda, different bird, 24th September. (OH Bird Report 1989 and 1990: 79)

Sollas, North Uist, 4th October. (OH Bird Report 1989 and 1990: 79)
1991Skipport plantation, South Uist, one, 11th October. (OH Bird Report 1991: 66)
1992North Locheynort, South Uist, two, 4th October. (OH Bird Report 1997: 78)
1993Grean/Cuithir, Barra, one, 15th – 16th September. (OH Bird Report 1997: 78)
1994St Kilda, one, 21st September. (OH Bird Report 1997: 78)

North Locheynort plantation, South Uist, one, 16th October. (OH Bird Report 1997: 78)
1995St Kilda, one, 31st October. (OH Bird Report 1997: 78)
1997North Loch Eynort, South Uist, 23rd October to 1st November. (OH Bird Report 1997: 78)

Loch Druidibeg, South Uist, one, 30th October to 1st November. (OH Bird Report 1997: 78)
1998near Sollas, North Uist, one, 24th September. (OH Bird Report 1998: 82)

Smerclate, South Uist, one, 15th October. (OH Bird Report 1999: 80; Scottish Bird Report 1999: 103)
2000St Kilda, one, 25th September. (OH Bird Report 2000: 95)

Askernish, South Uist, one, 5th October. (OH Bird Report 2000: 95)

North Locheynort plantation, South Uist, one, 6th October. (OH Bird Report 2000: 95)

Bayherivagh plantation, Barra, one, 21st October. (OH Bird Report 2000: 95)

near Oban Trumisgarry, North Uist, one, 30th October. (OH Bird Report 2000: 95)
2001St Kilda, one, 20th September. (OH Bird Report 2001: 49)

Langass Lodge, North Uist, one, 21st – 22nd September. (OH Bird Report 2001: 49)

Bornish, South Uist, one, 3rd – 5th October. (OH Bird Report 2001: 49)

Northbay, Barra, one, 12th October. (OH Bird Report 2001: 49)
2002Uigen, Lewis, one trapped, 17th September. (OH Bird Report 2002: 51)

Snishival, South Uist, one, 24th September. (OH Bird Report 2002: 51)

Brevig, Barra, one, 24th – 27th September, trapped, 26th. (OH Bird Report 2002: 51)

Clachan-na-Luib, North Uist, one, 10th October. (OH Bird Report 2002: 51)

Northbay, Barra, one, 12th October. (OH Bird Report 2002: 51)

Stilligarry, South Uist, one, 13th October. (OH Bird Report 2002: 51)
2003Paiblesgarry, North Uist, one, 23rd – 27th September. (OH Bird Report 2003 & 2004: 80)

Carinish, North Uist, one, 26th September. (OH Bird Report 2003 & 2004: 80)

Ardmhor, Barra, one, 28th September. (OH Bird Report 2003 & 2004: 80)

North Loch Eyenort, South Uist, one, 28th September. (OH Bird Report 2003 & 2004: 80)

Brevig, Barra, one, 18th October. (OH Bird Report 2003 & 2004: 80)

Glean, Castlebay, Barra, one, 18th October. (OH Bird Report 2003 & 2004: 80)
2004Nask, Barra, one,  8th – 9th October. (OH Bird Report 2003 & 2004: 80)

North Loch Eynort, South Uist, one, 8th – 9th October. (OH Bird Report 2003 & 2004: 80)

Snishival, South Uist, one, 11th October. (OH Bird Report 2003 & 2004: 80)

Barra, one, 11th October. (OH Bird Report 2003 & 2004: 80)

Carinish, North Uist, one, 14th October. (OH Bird Report 2003 & 2004: 80)

Langass, North Uist, one, 19th – 20th October. (OH Bird Report 2003 & 2004: 80)
2005Lewis and Harris, On Lewis, five birds were recorded between Oct 10th and 18th: Cliff (Uig), 10th; Stornoway Castle grounds,11th  -12th; Barvas, 14th; South Galson, 16th; and Tolsta, 18th – 20th. In addition, two were at Tarbert, Harris, on Oct 22nd, with one remaining to the 23rd.  (OH Bird Report 2005/2006: 171-172)

Berneray to Barra, a good autumn with about 14 birds: the first was at Castlebay, Barra from 29th September to  1st October followed by an influx of at least 12 between Oct 15th and 23rd; at least two were at North Locheynort plantation and at Lochboisdale, with singles at Newton, Lochmaddy, Lochcarnan, Loch Druidibeg NR, Snishival (possibly two here), Howmore, Northbay, Barra, Brevig and Nask; the last one was at Eochar on Oct 30th and Nov 4th. (OH Bird Report 2005/2006: 171-172)
2006Lewis and Harris, It was an exceptional autumn for this species, with a major arrival in early October, when seven birds were seen in the space of three days: Barvas and Port of Ness on 3rd, New Tolsta, North Tolsta and Tarbert, Harris on 4th, Lower Bayble and Portvoller on 5th. The only later record was one at South Galson on 22nd. (OH Bird Report 2005/2006: 171-172)

Berneray to Barra, following on from 2005 it was another exceptional autumn for this species with even more seen, a minimum of 15 were on Barra from 26th September to 20th October (most in a day were four and one was trapped and ringed); at least ten other singles elsewhere; at Langass, Carinish and South Glendale (probably two different at each of these places) and Lochmaddy, Newton, Loch Druidibeg NR and North Locheynort plantation from 3rd – 23rd October. (OH Bird Report 2005/2006: 171-172)
2007Lewis and Harris, Following two excellent autumns in Lewis and Harris for this species, 2007 produced just two records. Singles were at Luskentyre, Harris, 7th-11th October and Brue on 17th. (OH Bird Report 2007: 131)

Berneray to Barra, about 21 were seen between Sep 28th and Nov 3rd: perhaps as many as ten on Barra with records from Northbay, Balnabodach, Skallary, Brevig, Gleann/Castlebay and Nask where up to three in gardens (Sep 28th to Oct 14th); otherwise there were singles at South Glendale (Sep 28th and Oct 9th), Snishival plantation (Sep 29th), Peter’s Port (30th), Lochmaddy (Oct 2nd), Carinish (9th), North Locheynort plantation (Oct 15th – 17th), Bornish (20th and 28th), Loch Druidibeg NR (24th), and near Oban Trumisgarry (Nov 3rd). (OH Bird Report 2007: 131)
2008About 16, 24th September to 21st October: Port of Ness and Gisla, Lewis,; Newton, North Uist; Lochcarnan (two together), Loch Druidibeg NR and Snishival plantation, South Uist; Eoligarry, Ardmhor plantation (two trapped and ringed), Northbay, Brevig (Creachan Community Woodland), Castlebay and Nask, Barra; St Kilda. There was one later (a bird with no tail), Crothair (Great Bernera), Lewis, Nov 13th. (OH Bird Report 2008-10: 104)
2009At least nine, 4th October to 10th November: Carinish, North Uist; Loch Druidibeg NR (two together), Howbeg, North Locheynort plantation and South Glendale, South Uist; Brevig (trapped and ringed, Creachan Community Woodland) and Castlebay, Barra (two together). (OH Bird Report 2008-10: 104)
2010At least 16, 24th September to 2nd November (at least 12 in October): Port of Ness, Shader, Port Geiraha, Uigen (two trapped and ringed, second bird stayed until Nov 2nd at least) and Laxdale, Lewis; Ardhasaig, Harris; Loch Druidibeg NR, South Uist (trapped and ringed); Eoligarry, Ardmhor plantation, Northbay (two sites), Buaile nam Bodach, Brevig (Creachan Community Woodland) and Gleann/Castlebay, Barra. (OH Bird Report 2008-10: 104)
2011At least 12, 17th September to 26th October (there was only one between Sep 26th and Oct 13th): up to three, St Kilda (third week of September), up to two, Castlebay, Barra (October 24th-26th) otherwise singles at Tarbert and Drinishader, Harris, Loch Druidibeg NR, Howmore and Snishival plantation, South Uist, and Brevig/Creachan Community Woodland, Barra. (OH Bird Report 2011-13: 263-264)
2012Perhaps six different on Barra (two at Northbay House, Morghan, otherwise singles at four other places), 24th September to 12th October. There were at least 15 others, 24th September to 20th October: two trapped and ringed, Uigen, Lewis, Oct 13th (another trapped and ringed on 22nd); two, Borasdal, Harris, on 13th, and up to two in a garden at Bornish, South Uist, Sep 27th to Oct 2nd; otherwise singles at four other places on Harris, two on South Uist and one on Lewis and North Uist. (OH Bird Report 2011-13: 263-264)
2013From the numerous reports from Barra it appeared likely that at least 19 passed through there from 23rd September to 24th October (at least 13 were present on Sep 27th including nine in the area by the football pitch at Castlebay; there was a massive influx into Scotland the previous day with over 300 on Shetland alone). At least another 30 were logged between 21st September to October: two, Rodel, Harris; up to two, Langass, North, Loch Druidibeg NR, and North Locheynort plantation, South Uist; singles at seven other places on North Uist, six on Harris, four on Lewis (one trapped and ringed at Uigen), and one on South Uist. (OH Bird Report 2011-13: 263-264)
2014Continuing change in status and the record number last year was easily exceeded. There was an absolute minimum of 72 with the first on 23rd September, most in the second week of October and a couple of stragglers into November: a minimum of 28 were scattered throughout Barra on Oct 8th; up to four or five were at Tarbert, Harris, and Lochmaddy and Paiblesgarry/Knockintorran, North Uist; up to three, North Locheynort plantation, South Uist; otherwise one or two at five places on Lewis, eight on both North and South Uist and on St Kilda. There were late birds in November at Cheese Bay, North Uist (5th) and Stornoway, Lewis (15th). (OH Bird Report 2014-2016: 160)
2015About 45 were seen this year with the first on 18th September and last on 4th November. Many more occurred in September than the previous year. Up to four were recorded on any one day on Barra (sightings at eight places), two, Gisla, Lewis, otherwise single birds at two other places on Lewis, also two on Harris, three North Uist, one Benbecula and five South Uist. Seven were seen in November (2nd-4th): Port of Ness, Lewis, Claddach-vallay and Callernish, North Uist, and Eoligarry, Northbay and (two) Earsary, Barra. (OH Bird Report 2014-2016: 160)
2016Once again difficult to work out how many involved in this years migration but there were probably in excess of 80. The first was on 26th September and most had come through by the third week of October. Once again there was an estimate of 28 on Barra on one day (Oct 9th), up to three were in a Bornish garden, South Uist and one or two at three places on Lewis, six on Harris, eight North Uist, one Benbecula, and nine South Uist. There were two late birds on North Uist in November: Claddach Knockline on 10th and Carinish from 23rd (last seen on the first day of December, our first record for this month). (OH Bird Report 2014-2016: 160)
2017As usual all records were for the period mid-September to early November and all single birds apart from mentioned. Lewis: Carloway and Barvas, 11th October. Harris: Luskantyre, 18th September. North Uist: Lochmaddy, 9th October & 4th November. South Uist: Iochar, 23rd September. Carnan, 3rd October. Loch Druidibeg NR, 6th & 8th October. Stoneybridge, 6th & 8th October. Locheynort, 9th & 29th October. South Glendale, 26th September. Barra: The majority of records were from Barra, reflecting the number of resident and visiting birders in this period. Ardmhor plantation, 12th-13th September & 21st-23rd October. Brevig, 19th September. Castlebay, one reported sporadically 20th September – 29th October then two present 1st November. Glean, 22nd October – 5th November. Northbay, irregular 14th October – 5th November with two 29th October. (OH Bird Report 2017: 110-111)
2018Autumn: Lewis: One Bragar 30th Sep. In Stornoway singles at the Castle Grounds first two weeks of Oct. One Port of Ness 11th to 17th Oct, one Steinish 15th and 16th Oct, one Skigersta 20th Oct, one Ardroil 21st Oct, one South Dell 22nd Oct and two at Crulivig 23rd Oct. Harris: One reported 13th Oct, no location given other than Harris. North Uist: One Langass 26th and 27th Sep then one 14th Oct. One Clachan-a-Luib 15th Oct. South Uist: On the 17th Oct there was one at Bornish, one Locheynort, one Snishival plantation and on the 19th Oct one at Locheynort. Barra: A relatively quiet autumn for this species on Barra, present from 3rd to 20th Oct with mostly single birds but peaked with a max of six on 15th Oct, numbers gradually falling over the next couple of days. (OH Bird Report 2018: 117)
2019Bornish, south Uist, one, 27th September to 1st October

Port of Ness, Lewis, two, 28th September; three, 29th September, one 30th September to 1st October

South Dell, Lewis, four, 29th September

South Glendale, one, 29th September & 4th – 6th October

North Locheynort, South Uist, one, 1st & 19th October

Knockintorran, North Uist, one, 4th October

Druidibeg plantation, one, 6th October

Langass, North Uist, one, 9th – 14th October

Lochmaddy, North Uist, one, 10th October

Claddach Knockline, North Uist, one, 11th & 14th October

Acairseid, Eriskay, South Uist, one, 13th – 14th October

Grenitote, North Uist, one, 15th October

Bornish, South Uist, one, 18th October

Barra, 24th September to 3rd November max count 8 on 1 day, seen in many palces, exact count not known.
2020A record year here after the biggest influx ever into the UK with an estimated 200 birds on the islands on 3rd October and our first ever December record on Barra

Lewis: first arrival 26-Sep and last seen 22-Oct. Highest count was 7 at Ness 27-Sep with 5 and 4 on 2 & 9-Oct again at Ness. 2 seen at North Tolsta 1-Oct, Ness 11 & 13-Oct, South Dell 5 & 9-Oct, otherwise singles at Ness, Reef, Shawbost, Skigersta, South Dell and Portvoller on various dates. Harris: singles only at Scalpay 30-Sep and Luskentyre 10-Nov. North Uist: First arrival 27-Sep and last seen 4-Nov. Highest count was 14 at Callernish 3-Oct with 40+ present on the island 3-Oct. Found throughout the island at numerous locations with counts of, 9+ at Lochmaddy 5-Oct, 6 Paiblesgarry 5-Oct, Knockintorran 5-Oct, Carinish 4-Oct, Clachan-a-Luib 3-Oct, 5 at Langass 6-Oct, and Locheport 5-Oct. Benbecula: first arrival 3-Oct and last seen 15-Oct. Highest count was 7 at Torlem 3-Oct and then 3 at Liniclate 6-Oct and Balivanich 4-Oct. Singles seen elsewhere at various locations. South Uist: first arrival 2-Oct and last seen 17-Oct. Max count was 8 Loch Druidibeg 3-Oct. Seen at numerous locations with counts of 7 at Askernish 7-Oct, 6 North Locheynort 9-Oct, Howmore 6-Oct, 5 at Askernish 6-Oct, and Loch Skipport 6-Oct. Barra: first arrival 20-Sep and last seen 7-Nov apart from an exception late record of a bird at Brevig Bay 16-Dec, our first December record. Seen throughout the island with numerous sightings including 10 at Creachan 6-Oct, 8 at Ardmhor plantation 7-Oct, and 6 at Garrygall 8-Oct. Circa 100 birds was estimated to be on the island on 3-Oct. St Kilda: A single bird seen on 28-Sep.
2021Northbay plantation, Barra, one, 3rd October

North Bay/Morghan, Barra, one, possibly two, 3rd October

Creachan Woods, Barra, 4th – 5th October

Castlebay, Barra, one 5th – 6th October, two 7th, one 8th – 9th

Gleann, Barra, one, 5th October

Barra, three “on the island” 6th October

Cuidhir, Barra, two, 7th October, one 8th – 13th

Langass Lodge, North Uist, one, 8th October

Nask, Barra, one, 8th October

Barra. One, 11th October

Carnan, South Uist, one, 19th October

Cuidhir, Barra, one, 29th – 30th October
2022Hirta, St Kilda, one, 8th September (earliest record to date)

Eoligarry, Barra, one, 14th September  Later ID’d as an Arctic Warbler

Iochar, South Uist, one, 22nd September

Hirta, St Kilda, one (new), 29th September

Brevig, Barra, one 1st – 5th October

Castlebay, Barra, one, 2nd – 4th October

Asco quarry, North Uist, two, 3rd October

Loch Portain, North Uist, one, 3rd October

Clachan, North Uist, one, 3rd October

Amhuinnsuidehe, Harris, one, 4th October

Carnan, South Uist, one, 4th October

Miavaig, Lewis, one, 5th October

Bru, Lewis, one, 7th October

South Galson, Lewis, one, 7th – 10th October

Drium Runndargo, nr Barvas, Lewis, one, 8th October

Creachan, Barra, two, 10th October; one 12th – 14th October; two+ 15th October

Loch a’ Ghainmhich, Lewis, one, 10th – 12th October

New Tolsta, Lewis, one, 11th October

Stornoway Castle Grounds, Lewis, one, 11th – 12th October

Manor Park, Stornoway, Lewis, one, 12th October

Callanish, Lewis, one, 14th October

Gramsdale, Benbecula, one, 15th – 16th October

Bolnabadoch, Barra, one, 15th October

Northbay, Barra, one, 15th October

Earsary, Barra, one, 15th October

Carnan, South Uist, one, 20th October

Portvoller, Lewis, one, 23rd October

Creachan, Barra, one, 23rd October

Castlebay, Barra, one, 25th October

Callernish House, North Uist, one, 3rd November

Castlebay, Barra, one, 3rd November

North Locheynort, South Uist, one, 4th November
2023Creachan, Barra, one, 7th – 9th October

Snishival Plantation, South Uist, one, 9th October

Earasay, Barra, one, 9th – 10th October

Creachan, Barra, one, 14th – 15th October

Borve, Barra, one, 16th October

Castlebay, Barra, one, 17th October

North Locheynort, South Uist, one, 22nd October; two, 23rd October

Cuithir, Barra, one, 26th – 30th October

Ardveenish, Barra, one, 26th – 30th October

Creachan, Barra, one, 17th November