Saturday, 13 August 2011


So in answer to yesterday’s blog title, now we know what was next: PALLID HARRIER! The day had started well, with sunshine and an easterly breeze and, despite there being no birds at all caught on the morning trap round, we were fairly confident that something would turn up. My census revealed an increase in Willow Warblers in the North (it’s great seeing them in the geos and on cliff tops, real ‘migration in action’ stuff) and the whoosh of wings as three Ruff and a Black-tailed Godwit came in from the sea over my head to land on Easter Lother.
Incoming! Black-tailed Godwit and Ruff arriving from the North.
A nice surprise was to follow with the relocation of the Short-toed Lark at the airstrip and news filtered in from the south that the Red-backed Shrike was still present, a Redstart and Reed Warbler were new in and Willow Warblers were up to 21. A good morning.
Another brief appearance from the elusive Short-toed Lark.
Nick Riddiford was the man to follow in the afternoon when he first saw a ringtail harrier near Malcolm’s Head that disappeared before he could get to his binoculars then found an Arctic Warbler in his garden.
The Arctic Warbler in Schoolton.
Whilst twitching the warbler, Jason spotted the harrier in flight near the School. Being not far behind, Carrie, Liz and I were keeping an eye open for it when it flew in front of us! Although only a brief fly past, the intense orange of the underparts immediately set alarm bells ringing and it wasn’t long before the crucial features were noted to clinch the identification as a juvenile Pallid Harrier. This amazing bird then spent the rest of the afternoon roaming the island apparently looking for food and showing well to everyone who was interested.
Can you tell what it is yet? The first fly past that showed the key features.

You beauty! What more needs to be said?
Although not the ‘mega’ that it was just a few years ago, this is still a pretty special species and only the second record for Fair Isle, following the first for Britain found on the island in 1931. That bird was found by Myers Jimmy, who you can read more about at:, hopefully the acceptance of this bird will be a more straightforward process!
Whilst watching the Arctic in the Schoolton garden, the harrier flew along the Meadow Burn directly behind it. Brilliant!
I’m now listening to the wind howling from the south-east outside and heavy rain is forecast for the night. It scarcely seems reasonable to expect more birds tomorrow, but let’s wait and see what happens…

Watching a Willow Warbler on Dronger, I realised I was being watched by this fluffy young Fulmar.

One of the nice things about August is that as well as the good migrants, several seabirds are still present. Here a young Bonxie practices chasing an Arctic Skua.

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