Saturday, 11 August 2012

Promising forecast...

Fair Isle still looks very summery, with many flowers still in bloom and some lovely weather (although some foggy spells as well), but the autumn is here...
We’re now open again after the break for staff holidays and it couldn’t be better timing to get the following shipping forecast: Fair Isle, southwest backing southeast 4 or 5.
On Fair Isle in the autumn with an easterly wind it feels like anything is possible, but we’ll just have to wait and see what turns up. In the meantime, there have been a few signs that autumn is already with us.
The rarest sighting (in Fair Isle terms) were two Sandwich Terns in South Harbour on 3rd, totally eclipsing (for me at least) the 30 or so White-beaked Dolphins that were cruising north past Meoness at the time! Even better news from the world of terns was the Common Tern that fledged from Buness, the same site that still hosts our only surviving Arctic Skua youngster. Young Puffins are also on the move, with several fledglings heading out to sea.
'Alan' the young Arctic Skua follows a parent across Buness. The only Arctic Skua chick to survive long enough to be ringed, it's amazing it has gone on to survive to fledging and has (so far) avoided the Bonxies.
Storm Petrel trapping has continued (with almost 600 ringed this year), the 4th Leach’s Petrel of the year was caught (in the early hours of the 4th) and others were heard that night and 5th.
A good year for Leach's Petrels, with more heard and seen around the nets than usual. Hopefully there'll be more caught, as petrel ringing can continue into September, weather permitting.
Waders have been well represented, with the lingering Wood Sandpiper remaining until 7th and being joined by a second bird on 4th. There were up to 3 Greenshank, 6 Dunlin, 2 Sanderling (with the first juvenile from 8th), occasional Whimbrel and a Green Sandpiper (4th & 9th). There were fewer wildfowl, although 3 each of Greylag and Wigeon, along with a single Teal, were seen.
A juvenile Dunlin on Easter Lother Water, one of six here.
The first juvenile Willow Warbler appeared on 5th, with up to 3 seen later in the week, and a couple of ‘new’ Chiffchaffs joined the summering birds. A Dunnock (2nd) may have been a summering bird, like the four Robins and Blackbird, but the Fieldfare at Skerryholm on 6th was definitely a new migrant, as were Kestrel (8th), Collared Dove (1st – 7th) and Swifts (3rd & 9th).
Juvenile Willow Warblers are usually amongst the first autumn migrants.
The alba Wagtail roost in the Obs garden started to build up and included the first Whites of the autumn, whilst ringing activity also showed the presence of three juvenile and an adult female Linnet.
The Linnets were all trapped separately over a few days, but the presence of three young juveniles and a female in active primary moult, combined with the sighting of birds nest building at Schoolton for two days in the spring and the presence of at least one adult until mid-July, would strongly suggest breeding on the island. Although Linnets are now relatively common in southern Shetland, this would be a first breeding record for Fair Isle.

Dusky Brocade, one of several species attracted to the moth trap recently.
Bog Asphodel, one of the more beautiful flowers on the island.
Field Gentian is in flower at a few sites on the island now.


  1. Its fantastic to see the Buness Pair get a Chick 'ALAN' off! could you tell me if the parentage are still the pair of two dark phase birds. During both 2009 and 2010 chicks were born with physical abnormalities (Cleft upper and lower mandibles)to their bills that left them unable to sufficiently ingest any food that was regurgitated by the parent birds. As a result they starved and no birds fledged. Ironically this year this chick is the only bird to have to give it to the parent birds! After seeing sub adult Arctic Skuas off spurn the other day I don't half miss the 'falcons of the sea'. Thas made my day, best wishes. Jack

  2. They are still two dark phase adults on Buness. This year they laid two eggs, one of which failed during hatching (I didn't see that one, but perhaps a bird with a deformed bill could have struggled to get out the egg?). After no Arctic Skua chicks surviving last year (only one was seen and that was predated at a young age), it feels like a victory of sorts to get one fledged this year - scanning the seabird reports, it seems to be only the 29th Arctic Skua chick to fledge on Fair Isle in the last 11 years (and many of the previous 28 were then predated by Bonxies).


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