A final day of strong northerlies finally eased to a beautiful calm day on 11th, then increasing NE winds on 12th and 13th – perfect timing and it certainly seems to be delivering.
It has to be said though, that a Grey-cheeked Thrush at the School on 11th was not what we were expecting. The fourth for the island (following the first for Britain in 1953 and further records in 1958 and 2007), it showed well (usually in a field amongst Golden Plover), which was just as well as it chose the slightly inconvenient time of the Sheep Hill (the round up of the sheep from the north of the island) to appear. Thankfully, everyone connected with this diddy thrush, although it had gone by the time the afternoon plane arrived.
|Initially found near the school, the Grey-cheeked Thrush moved further away during break time! It spent most of its time feeding in an open field after that though.|
|This distant shot at least gives an idea of the size of the bird, which was more reminiscent of Wheatear in its behaviour as it foraged, rather than one of the European thrushes.|
In order to fulfil the classic ‘Fair Isle East meets West’ obligation, a Blyth’s Reed Warbler was found at Springfield the same day, with what may have been a different bird at Schoolton on 12th-13th (the Springfield bird apparently missing a tertial that was present on the Schoolton individual).
|The Blyth's Reed at Springfield spent its time moving between two small rose bushes, although it could be surprisingly elusive.|
|I eventually caught up with the Red-throated Pipit at Utra scrape just before dusk, where it showed quite well in the fading light, it was located initially by its distinctive call.|
|A Richard's Pipit powers away from Meoness heading back to its regular haunt in the long grass near Taft and the Museum.|
A Little Bunting in the Taft area on 11th-13th may have been a new bird, with a second in the Havens on 12th. The Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Short-toed Lark completed the list of ex-BBRC species (well, not including Yellow-browed Warbler, which thankfully hasn’t bothered the rarities committee for a good while now) and both remained until 10th.
Other scarcities included 2 ‘Northern’ Bullfinch (the first Bullfinches on the island since 2011) on 13th, the Great Grey Shrike (which remained to 11th), the lingering Dotterel (to 13th, which has got a while to go before it beats the latest date for this species on the island, 6th November), Great Spotted Woodpeckers (which increased to 6 on 12th) and a small surge in Yellow-browed Warblers with 7 on 11th and 9 on 12th, although just 4 on 13th. The size of the influx of the latter two species is shown by the highest annual ringing totals for them being recorded this year, with 5 and 16 ringed respectively. Also of note from the ringing recently was a Czech-ringed Blackcap trapped on 12th.
|A Great Spotted Woodpecker on Tor o da Ward Hill was presumably one of the new wave of arrivals.|
|This ringed Goldcrest was at the back of Dronger, but appears not to be from Fair Isle, sadly not enough detail was discernible to enable us to find out further information.|
There have also been smaller numbers of Greylag and Pink-footed Geese, along with a peak of 45 Barnacle Geese (13th), a lingering Whooper Swan and a scattering of ducks including Pintail, Shoveler and a peak of 11 Long-tailed Ducks (11th).
|Barnacle Geese over Meoness.|
|Pintail and Shoveler are both fairly scarce migrants on Fair Isle, so these two together (ignoring the flock of 60 Wigeon just a hundred yards or so away) were unusual. I'm hoping for a Gadwall next...|
Phew, that’s us up to date now – as you can see, it’s been busy! With easterly winds forecast to continue into the start of next week, there could well be more birds on the way. How about a Pallas’s Warbler (after a run of multiple records from 2003-2005 there have been none since), or maybe something even better (to be honest, there’s been talk about a few of the possibilities in the bar in recent nights, but I’m not going to jinx any of the predictions by naming them here!).