Thursday, 25 April 2013

It's grrreat!

25th April
A pre-breakfast call from a very excited Henry at the Haa alerted us to the first Great Spotted Woodpecker on the island since 2009.
This spring, it is fair to say, is proving to be a slow-burner, with the strong SW winds that have dominated recent days (gale force at some stages and rather wet with it at times) keeping movement somewhat limited. A slightly calmer and more southerly wind today did see some new birds in though including a rather stunning Great Spotted Woodpecker at the Haa.
Gone are the days of photos of woodpeckers on Fair Isle forlornly hanging onto fence posts or creeping grimly along stone walls, they now have a plethora of feeders around the island to choose from! This one stayed most of the day at Haa, where it emptied the seed feeders in the search for its preferred sunflower seeds.
A couple of Chiffchaffs included a bright individual that showed some plumage characteristics of Iberian Chiffchaff, although further observations suggested that ‘common’ Chiffchaff was perhaps more likely. There’s a Chiffy dropping in the post that should provide the answer!
I don't think the photos do justice to the yellow tones of this bird, which was certainly an interesting individual in the hand.
There was also a Willow Warbler (with another on 22nd), whilst other warblers recently included the first Grasshopper Warbler of the year on 23rd and Blackcaps on 23rd and 24th. A further long-distant migrant arrived on 22nd, when a smart male Redstart was trapped, with possibly the same one seen again on 24th. The best of the rest on 25th included a Waxwing (which moved from the Haa to the Obs), three Lapland Buntings (following one on 23rd and two new birds on 24th), 11 Swallows (the highest count so far this year) and a distinct rise in Bonxie numbers.
This Waxwing posed obligingly outside the kitchen window after a quick northward migration up the island.
An increase in Twite today was accompanied by an increase in Linnets to 10, including this bird singing at the Obs. After a probable breeding attempt last year, are we about to see the colonisation of Fair Isle?
Perhaps not the most exciting of migrants, but six Collared Dove and 15 Woodpigeon today represented a distinct increase (although this tail-less bird is presumably the one that has been lingering around Haa recently, occasionally trying to do impressions of Quail in flight.
A Great Tit at Utra may have been a new bird, although the absence of the lingering birds at Barkland and the Obs could suggest it is one of those having a wander.

Was this one of the recent birds searching round the island for the shortest sea crossing to get home, or could it have been a new arrival from the south?
Other sightings in the last few days included up the 3 Cormorant, Water Rails (23rd and 25th), Black Redstart (23rd-24th), Stonechat (remaining until 24th), an increase in alba wags (including two White Wagtails), 3 Goldfinch, 7 Siskin, 2 Common Redpoll (24th) and 2 Reed Bunting (24th).
A welcome splash of colour on the Obs feeders, this Goldfinch and Siskin were clinging onto the feeder as it swung wildly in a gale!
A few waders heading north included Whimbrel (increasing to 8 on 25th), Green Sandpiper and Knot (22nd and 25th), whilst wildfowl included the first Pink-footed Geese of the year (6 on 24th and one still today), a Wigeon (23rd-25th) and 2 Red-breasted Merganser (24th).
One last woodpecker photo as it was a Fair Isle tick for me (which means I owe Henry a pint, best make that a coke!). It was also the first predictable species of the year in our Prediction competition, with only two people getting three points for a spring prediction and five getting a single point for predicting it out of season.
With a strengthening NW wind from tomorrow, I guess things may stay slow for a while, although there'll probably continue to be one or two surprises. A lot of people had thought that the large scale invasion of Northern woodland species into the UK last autumn may have resulted in a few spring records for Fair Isle this year, and with at least two Great Tits and a Great Spotted Woodpecker so far, that seems to be holding true. Maybe that will be the source of the next good bird (Pine Grosbeak anyone?) or perhaps one of the southern goodies hitting the south of England recently will make it up - I'd certainly settle for a Rock Thrush!

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