Monday, 3 June 2013


3rd June
There are some days that you know are going to be good, some that you hope are going to be good and others that just somewhat sneak up on you but end up blowing you away with their superb birding. Today saw a cloudy start and light south-west winds, not ideal for migrants, but in late spring they are the sort of conditions that could always result in a good bird dropping in. So when an early start for trap rounds (and Guillemot population monitoring) saw a smart male ‘western’ Subalpine Warbler trapped in the Plantation, we were pretty happy with our lot.
What a great start to the day! Our seventh Subalpine Warbler of the last three years, but only the second to be positively identified as a 'western' bird.
Census seemed to be living up to the expectations that we had peaked with our early morning southern highlight, until a Rustic Bunting was found at South Reeva, before going on to show fairly well to all comers around Utra scrape then Hesti Geo.

A much scarcer species in recent years in the UK (and potential replacement for Olive-backed Pipit on the British Birds rarity list), this was our second Rustic Bunting of the spring after a blank year in 2012.
There were few other migrants noted and, as the weather closed in with a miserable drizzly fog in the afternoon, the wardening team got on with a few of the other less than glamorous Obs jobs (getting the boat in the water for seabird work, taking the empty gas canisters to the boat, pumping diesel for the generators etc). Having completed our tasks, our attempts for a nice cup of tea before dinner were interrupted by the shout of ‘Graham has had a Pallid or Monty’s over Da Water’ and we were off! Thankfully the conditions had improved and, after a couple of glimpses elsewhere during which time it looked like it was going to give us the slip, the bird put on a reasonable (albeit brief) show in the same area, enabling the identification to be confirmed as Pallid Harrier. After confidently predicting the sea fog would cause the bird to linger on the island, it then gained height over Utra and headed off in a southerly direction high out to sea. Despite messages to North Ron, it wasn't picked up there, perhaps it headed straight to the Orkney mainland, or it may even have turned round and still be lurking on the island somewhere.
The UK's first Pallid Harrier was found (and shot) on Fair Isle in May 1931, this bird represents the second spring record for the island following two autumn birds in 2011. It's a second-calendar year bird (i.e. a first-summer), possibly a female although it best left unsexed on the views we had.
The Pallid made up a cracking hat-trick of excellent headline birds from far-flung locations, with the day’s supporting cast getting a boost from potential harrier twitchers who turned up an Osprey, a male Hen Harrier and a Quail, what a fantastic end to an already glorious day (with toad in the hole for a delayed dinner rounding things off nicely!).
Despite heading out to sea (where it was seen circling amongst Fulmars!), this Hen Harrier returned to the island and lingered in the harrier hot-spot of Da Water. Remarkably, there may have been two male Hen Harriers on the island this evening, whilst three species of large raptor in a day on Fair Isle is pretty impressive in itself.
Further sightings included lingering Marsh Warbler, Red-backed Shrike, 2 Short-eared Owls and an Iceland Gull (with 6 Snow Buntings and a Redwing also adding to an oddly mixed bag of birds), whilst new migrants included 4 Collared Dove, 26 Swallow, 11 Carrion Crow and 3 Spotted Flycatcher.
This immature Iceland Gull toured the island today.
As the forecast suggests a day of fog (not good for migrants), followed by some north-east winds then calm days (which can be good for migrants) and we enter the period that has produced Bimaculated Lark, Citril Finch and a couple of Cretzschmars’s Buntings (amongst others) on Fair Isle perhaps there could still be some more surprises left for us this spring.

No comments:

Post a Comment

My Blog List