Saturday, 28 July 2012

Late July update

Seabirds dominate the workload of the Wardening team in July and Bonxies in particular make a big impression.
Puffins seem to be having a reasonably good year, this colour-ringed bird is part of a study into adult survival rates at Roskillie, the colony just behind the Obs. 
Late-July is not usually associated with much in the way of migration, so a Coue’s Arctic Redpoll on 14th was a pleasant surprise. After being glimpsed briefly in the Obs garden, it flew south leaving us with a frustrating ‘pale redpoll sp’ sighting for the Log. Thankfully, Jason took a punt on it having headed to the Plantation, so drove down there and caught it! The combination of measurements, plumage (including virtually unmarked undertail coverts, white rump, white wing bars and build (including the ‘loose’ plumage and small eyes) all clinched the identification as Coue’s Arctic Redpoll. As would be expected for a worn summer bird, the plumage was quite dark and it certainly didn’t look like a ‘classic’ autumn bird, making it a particularly interesting individual. Although a July Arctic Redpoll may seem unusual, one was also caught here in 2007. In recent years at least, the occurrence of a few ‘northern’ finches has become a regular feature of the summer and this year there were two Mealy Redpoll (23rd), a flyover unidentified Redpoll  (21st) and two Siskin (21st) to accompany the Arctic Redpoll’s arrival. 
Coue's Arctic Redpoll, an interesting identification challenge (photo by Will Miles).

In the field it looked an even paler bird (photo by Will Miles).
The River Warbler lingered to 15th but the Paddyfield Warbler wasn’t seen after 11th. Other lingering birds included the Whinchat (to 14th), a Dunnock (to 15th), three Chiffchaffs, a Blackbird and at least two Robins (including one in Hesswalls on 16th and a bird trapped in the Gully on 18th, which may have been new arrivals). Other migrants included a Willow Warbler (16th – 20th), Sand Martin (26th), two Swifts (to 17th) and Collared Dove (21st).
Waders and wildfowl tend to move early and the latter were represented by lingering Common Scoter and Red-breasted Merganser and highlights of the former included a Wood Sandpiper (on Da Water on 27th), three Black-tailed Godwits on Meoness (26th) that increased to five the following day and a Common Sandpiper (24th) amongst small numbers of commoner species. There were also two Grey Herons in the south and two Red-throated Divers over the island (21st).
Good news on the breeding bird front included the single remaining Arctic Skua chick fledging (28th), a record year for Bonxie chicks, with over 300 ringed (and the first fledged one seen on 24th) and fledged Arctic Tern chicks (from 23rd), although only a few of the latter survived.
The first fledged Bonxie of the year takes to the wing over Suka Mire.
The only Arctic Skua chick to survive to fledging on Fair Isle since 2010, this bird relied on blending into the background on Buness to avoid detection by Bonxies.
Away from the seabirds, four Swallow chicks were ringed at the airstrip, although a fifth was found dead under the nest, apparently having choked on a Map-winged Swift.
Storm Petrel ringing has resulted in over 300 being caught so far this year, with Leach’s trapped on 17th and 25th (and another seen around the nets on 22nd) and hopefully there’ll be more to come if we get a few more calm nights.
The Leach's Petrel on 25th, this one was heard singing as it approached the nets and continued to do so in the hand.
Eiders with ducklings can be seen in several places around the island, the youngsters are not quite as adept as their parents at dealing with the surf.
The scarce Bog Pimpernel is currently in flower, one of several bonny plants that repays a bit of time spent on your hands and knees in the boggy areas of the island!

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