Sunday, 16 June 2013

Roller over and other recent sightings

16th June
It’s been a busy week as we finished the Directors’ meetings, have had a plethora of visiting cruiseships, got stuck into seabird monitoring with gusto and carried on with ringing and census. Today should have seen us at sea all day counting the island’s Kittiwakes, but fog has put paid to that (for the morning at least), so it gives me a chance to finally catch up with the blog.

The Collared Flycatcher wsan't seen again after 9th, but here's a nice comparison shot that Will has put together of it (on left) and a female Pied Flycatcher caught later that day.
And a picture of it in the field after ringing, by Roger Riddington. You can read a full account of this bird and find loads more pictures on the Birding Frontiers website here .
On the seabird front, there are a few glimmers of hope: Razorbills and Bonxies now have chicks, Gannets are doing OK and several pairs of Arctic Skuas are still incubating eggs. It’s still looking very poor for Guillemots, Kittiwakes and Shags though. Other passing seabirds have included 3 Red-throated and 2 Great Northern Divers (10th), ‘blue’ Fulmar 13th and Cormorant (14th), whilst 5 Storm Petrels were seen from the Good Shepherd (11th).
No doubting the biggest bird news on the migrant front, with Nick Riddiford getting a very brief view of a Roller near North Light on 11th. There is one previous record for Fair Isle (in 1981, which Nick also saw!), but sadly this one was not cooperative and, despite a good percentage of the island’s population being mobilised, it was not seen again. Whether it headed straight to Shetland, hid on the island somewhere or the Bonxie that was in hot pursuit of it managed to catch up with it, we’ll never know (unless it appears in a Bonxie pellet later in the summer).
There was also a continued small arrival of migrants, although in very small numbers. Highlights included an Ortolan (10th and 14th, which arrived in prime Cretzschmar’s time and on the same day as a Grey-necked Bunting on Helgoland, but was definitely an Ortolan!), Icterine Warbler (13th-15th with a second on 14th), Osprey (which went south on 10th), Sandwich Tern (13th, the first of the year of this scarce migrant) and a run of Marsh Warblers (2 on 10th at Schoolton, with presumably one of these singing at Lower Stoneybrek on 11th,a new bird at the Obs from 13th-16th, one at Schoolton on 15th and another new bird at the Obs from 15th-16th), whilst the Subalpine Warbler remained until 14th.

The Icterine Warbler at Schoolton (14th), with presumably the same bird at Haa, Skerryholm and Burkle on 13th then Utra on 15th. Another was in the Kirn o'Skroo on 14th.
Marsh Warbler at the Obs this morning, one of a good run of sightings of this typical late migrant.
 Most common migrants gradually headed off, although there were Crossbill (12th), Black Redstart (11th-14th), Tree Sparrow (11th-14th), Spotted Flycatcher, Tree Pipit and Whinchat (14th, when there was also a Painted Lady, the only butterfly sighting of the period), Redstart (10th), Sanderling (10th-11th) up to 3 Chiffchaff lingering, with the last Blackcaps and Willow Warblers on 10th and Garden Warblers on 11th (although a later one arrived on 15th). No Snow Buntings were seen after 9th, the last Redwing lingered until 10th (when it was singing at Barkland), when the last Song Thrush was also seen. An unseasonable arrival of Greylags saw 36 pass through on 14th when there were also 3 Swift (the peak count so far for the year)
Amongst the breeding birds, the Lapwings chicks in Da Water are doing well, Curlews also now have youngsters, there are fledged House Sparrows and Starlings all over the place and one of the Peregrine chicks has made it out of the nest (which is now the most dangerous time for them as they have to learn to survive on the wing, but also avoid the threat of Fulmar oiling). Two Short-eared Owls are also still present, although presumably these are late migrants, rather than a first island breeding attempt.
Interestingly, this picture of one of the breeding pair of Peregrines appears to show that the bird is ringed on its left leg. Sadly, FIBO technology isn't up to the standards of CSI and we can't make out any more details.
The sun now seems to have burnt through the fog,so it looks like we'll be forsaking Sunday lunch in order to get on with the seabird monitoring. Last year a River Warbler was found during the Kittiwake count (on Steensi beach whilst the team were having their picnic!), so who knows what we'll have to report tonight!
Although the number of predators on Fair Isle is relatively small, juvenile Starlings still have to run the gauntlet of cats, Peregrine, skuas and gulls. Visits to the gull colonies regularly provide evidence that Herrings (like this one) and Lesser Black-backed Gulls take Starlings, with rings found in their pellets.

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