Monday, 16 April 2012

Early birds.

An dawn start today for a Tystie and Fair Isle Wren survey, but things didn’t go entirely to plan. The day began well when a female Sparrowhawk was ringed in the Plantation, but shortly afterwards a combination of falling in the Field ditch and a snow shower made me regret the decision to leave my jacket in the ringing hut. Still, despite the cool weather, the wind had eased for the first time in days, a few birds were around and in the end an enjoyable time was had by all!
Tysties really are great little birds, displaying groups were putting on good performances today, although the total was down on the previous count (probably due to the less than perfect survey conditions).
Numbers of migrants around the island were still fairly low, but at least there were some, a definite improvement following days of strong northerlies. Finch passage was led by an impressive Hawfinch that arrived yesterday and continued to show well today, with 18 Siskin, 2 Chaffinch, a Linnet (trapped at the Obs), and an increase in Twite (to 58) also noted.
Given the lack of tall trees to hide in the tops of, Hawfinches on Fair Isle tend to be easier to see than elsewhere.
The selection of other migrants today included 5 Lapland and a Snow Bunting, 3 Willow Warblers, 12 Chiffchaff, 13 Wheatear, two Dunnock, five Woodpigeon and 223 Meadow Pipits, with two White Wagtails yesterday.
Most Lapland Bunting sightings are birds in flight, but this smart male was quite cooperative at Da Water.
Visible migration included several groups of Curlew (with a total of 70 recorded) and corvids: with 16 Hooded Crows and six Ravens thought likely to be migrant birds, whilst the three Rooks and six Carrion Crows definitely were as they don’t breed on Fair Isle.
All of the regular seabirds are now around the colonies, with Puffins ashore in numbers this morning. These Shags are part of a sadly dwindling population of this species on Fair Isle.
Bonxie numbers reached 60 last week and birds are settling back into territories, so the next counts will be the breeding surveys that start next month.
Lingering birds included the Green-winged Teal, the White-fronted Goose and four Pink-feet (up from two last week), a Green Sandpiper (since 11th), a juvenile Cormorant in South Harbour and a Kestrel (from 14th).
The Green-winged Teal is usually loosely in the company of Teal, although with todays count of eight being the highest Teal count of the year so far, it's not always easy to form a flock.

Cormorant is a scarce, but regular, visitor to Fair Isle. The pattern of the bare facial skin on this bird seems to safely identify it as the commonest British subspecies 'carbo'.
Finally, some more Tysties to make up for the fact I didn't manage to photograph a single Fair Isle Wren today despite surveying them. With only 28 singing males counted it seems that some of them are keeping quiet until it warms up a bit (although the total number of pairs is usually only 30-40).

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