So where to start in what has been a busy spring once it got going? The rarest bird of the spring (in Fair Isle terms at least) was the Roller on 11th June, although it was only seen briefly by Nick Riddford at North Light and avoided the twitching ‘masses’ (and hopefully the Bonxie that was seen chasing it over the cliffs!). That was a second for the island, with the next rarest bird, the Roseate Tern on 6th July, a third for the island. Both birds were unexpected, with neither featuring in the Prediction Competition!
The next rarest was a real mega until recent years, although a run of recent sightings (including the second and third for the island in 2011) has made it less the stuff of dreams than it was. Still, the brief evening visit of a Pallid Harrier (3rd June) was a real highlight of the spring. A reasonable spring for raptors also saw singles of Honey Buzzard (28th May), Hobby (29th May) and Marsh Harrier (26th March), and very high totals of Hen Harriers (probably seven individuals) and Osprey (with sightings on 9 dates involving at least 7 birds). The Pallid Harrier was the pinnacle of a good day’s birding which also saw Rustic Bunting, Subalpine Warbler and Quail found.
|From top left clockwise: Pallid Harrier, Osprey, Marsh Harrier and Hen Harrier. Fair Isle may not be renowned for its raptor passage, but we pick up our fair share of them.|
|Subalpine Warblers (clockwise from top left): the second male, 'eastern' female, western male and unraced female. With five birds, its been an excellent spring for this species.|
|Top row: Melodious Warbler, Marsh Warbler and Icterine Warbler. Middle row: Paddyfield Warbler, River Warbler and Blyth's Reed Warbler. Bottom row: Ortolan and Rustic Buntings.|
|Collared Flycatcher and Thrush Nightingale, both BB rarities that have an affinity with Fair Isle, the latter has now occured 60 times here.|
|Spring birding is even more enjoyable thanks to the colourful plumage of many of the migrants like (clockwise from top left): Red-backed Shrike, Bluethroat and Grey-headed Wagtail, although the Red-breasted Flycatchers were both female types.|
Amongst some of the other migrants a couple of Fair Isle scarcities put in appearances, with Great Spotted Woodpecker (25th-29th April), Great Tit (the wintering bird remaining until 1st April then at least two during 14th-26th April) and Stock Dove (16th-20th April and two on 26th May).
|Wryneck, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Great Tit - only the first of these three is annual on Fair Isle.|
|Waxwing, Cuckoo and Snow Bunting all had good springs.|
|Top: Temminck's Stint. Bottom: Pectoral Sandpiper, Dotterel and Whimbrel. Although waders don't occur in large numbers, we tend to get a good selection during the year.|
|Ring-billed Gull (left), Glaucous and Iceland Gulls were all highlights during the winter, although birding then is generally quiet with usually only around 50 species seen a month.|