Monday, 25 June 2012

Tales of the River Warbler

The River Warbler showing its distinctive mottled breast.
A big surprise on Sunday evening was the discovery of a River Warbler in the Obs garden, which Jason discovered as it ran underneath a Reed Warbler he was watching. The nets were quickly opened and it was soon caught where, even more surprisingly, it was found to be the bird seen at Steensi Geo on 11th – 13th June. The damage to the tail (in particular the missing feathers and lack of most of the tail coverts), wings, head and back all matched the earlier sighting, so the presumed cat attack it suffered has obviously not proved fatal. Sadly the lingering Hawfinch was not so lucky as it was found predated on Saturday.
The bird is replacing its lost tail feathers, so it may linger at the Obs for a while yet. Without such distinctive features, it's tempting to speculate whether this would have been treated as a new bird from the previous sighting, which had not been seen for ten days and was at the opposite end of the island.
A few migrants have still been coming through, with a Dotterel on Hoini (21st), Turtle Dove on Meoness (23rd), Grey-headed Wagtail on Buness and then at the Obs (21st – 22nd) and three Marsh Warblers (at Schoolton until 22nd, on which date another was at Haa, with a third trapped on 24th) the highlights.
An unseasonal Pink-footed Goose (that arrived on 16th) lingered on Meoness, 3 Common Scoter appeared offshore and migrants that were either lingering or newly arrived included Kestrel, 3 Collared Dove, 4 Chiffhcaff, Willow Warbler, 2 Blackcap, 3 Garden Warbler, 2 Whitethroat, 2 Sedge Warbler, 2 Reed Warbler, 2 Spotted Flycatcher and Whinchat. A Robin and Blackbird were also still In the Obs garden.
Possibly south-bound waders included a couple each of Golden Plover, Common Sandpipers and Dunlin whilst Turnstone increased to a dozen.
Most of our recent work has been centred around the seabirds, with things still looking ok for some species. A full island count revealed 216 Arctic Tern nests with eggs, a huge improvement on last year, so we’re really hoping they can fledge young.
'Team Tern' on Buness
The variety of nest styles used by Arctic Terns was interesting, with flowers, lichen and sheep droppings amongst the 'themes' chosen by some of the birds.
The auk colonies are also doing better than last year with the first Razorbill chicks now fledging and several birds still bringing in food for their youngsters. A visit into the colonies early in the week didn’t produce any of the scenes of starving witnessed last year. Amongst the ringing in the colonies, a Razorbill was retrapped with a ring from 1979 (when it was ringed as an adult), whilst another ringed bird was possibly even older but we’re still digging out the details. It's always sobering for staff to find a bird older than them (although for me we'd probably have to catch an albatross for that to work!) and it would be great to think that in over 30 years time, FIBO wardens will still be catching some of the seabirds we ring this year.
Common Gull chicks on Buness, a sight not witnessed last year. We also have Arctic Tern chicks this year whilst the first couple of Arctic Tern chicks were also noted. Many of the small birds have fledged young now including Fair Isle Wrens, Rock and Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Pied Wagtail and Twite.


  1. Interesting to note the claw abrasion. I recall a conversation with the one and only Nick Riddiford about a Great Reed Warbler that spent a good spell down the cliffs that they later caught and showed the same stubby claw bases....only on the MAGIC ISLE! keep up the great work guys, jealous as wishes, Jack

  2. Thanks Jack. With the abraded claws, scuffed skin on the 'knees' and damage to the wings, tail and forehead, I'm glad this was a warbler and not something that had a higher escape potential, otherwise getting it accepted might have proved tricky!


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