It's the end of the season, the final guest has left (a day late after the planes were cancelled yesterday) and most of the staff have gone after a very busy season. Many thanks are due to all of them for their efforts this year - it's been another good one, so thank you Will, Richard, Teresa, Ann, Graham, Becki, Tracey, Steffan, Billy, Noa, Kieran, Daniel, Jake, Alex, Livvy, Chris, Rachel, Tim, Maggie, Liz, Jenny, Janet, Sally, Julia, Rob and Tegan and of course, Susannah. The Directors of FIBOT have also provided their usual mix of enthusiasm and expertise, which is so important to the Obs. There are many more people who help the Obs in a crucial way during the year and so thanks are also due to the many islanders who have helped out during the year including Angela, Hollie, Deryk, Raluca, Alice, Iain and Kenny who have all done various jobs at the Obs and for the many others who have helped out in other ways including Robert & Fiona, Jimmy & Florrie, Nick & Elizabeth, Elena, Tommy & Liz, Neil & Pat and Dave. Massive apologies to anyone I may have missed and thanks to all the islanders for their friendship and support. Susannah, the kids and I are very lucky to live on Fair Isle, not just for the birds and the beauty of the island, but especially the people.
Thanks also, of course, to all of you who have helped FIBO to continue its work, by visiting, volunteering or joining the Friends of Fair Isle.
I'll try to complete a more thorough summary of the year later, but as a brief look back, 2013 will be remembered from an ornithological point of view as another poor year for most seabirds but an excellent one for rare migrants. A regular dose of rarities (although a lack of many large falls) has brought us over 70 descriptions (around half of them for BBRC), a current year list of around 212, with over 3500 birds (of over 110 species) ringed and two additions to the Fair Isle list (Swinhoe's Petrel and Red-eyed Vireo taking the island list to 381: with a few potential splits maybe on the cards [my money is on the Subalpine Warblers, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, and hopefully Eastern Grasshopper Warbler, with a few geese maybe to come as well] I wonder how long it will take to get to 400?).
Today's plans for a quiet day were somewhat scuppered by the appearance of Killer Whales actually in North Haven. The five animals then spent a few hours hunting seals from Buness to North Light, although they often went missing for spells. What a way to end the season!
|Dum, dum. Dum dum. Du du duu du, du du duu du...|
|...DA DA DA DAAA. |
When Killer Whales are too close to fit in frame, you know it's been a good day.
|Not all the seals were quick enough to get out of the way; the Whales' first foray into North Haven was soon accompanied by a cloud of gulls and a few chunks of floating flesh, evidence of a succesful kill.|
|Hopefully the photographs may enable us to learn more about the history of these individuals. Five animals were involved in today's sightings, including one adult male and at least one probable immature male.|
|Don't look behind you! The group then moved into Furse where they spent around half an hour circling this seal trying to dislodge it from its tiny haven.|
|The scale of these enormous beasts was readily apparent as they repeatedly circled just below the cliffs.|
|Tail-slapping by one individual in particular may have been a signal to other members of the group, or perhaps it was an attempt to startle the seal and get it to make a break from its precarious position.|
|The bull would occasionally hold back and seemingly watch the rest of the group as they hunted.|
A quick update on birds as well from the last few days, which has felt very much like the end of the autumn. A few arrivals still occurred, with Red-breasted Flycatcher and 2 Linnet (27th), and a day of finch movement on 28th brought a new Bullfinch (which remained to 31st), 5 Greenfinch and 3 Crossbill. On 31st there was a Long-eared Owl (in another quiet autumn for the species) and 31 Woodcock. Lingering birds included the Olive-backed Pipit (to 31st), Richard’s Pipit (to 29th). Other lingering species included up to 209 Snow Buntings, 2 Lapland Buntings, small numbers of Common Redpolls, up to 2 Grey Wagtail, a Tree Sparrow (still present from the late spring), up to 2 Black Redstart and small numbers of Blackcap (although the last Chiffchaff so far was seen on 29th). There was a noticeable clearout of thrushes on 31st as the birding started to settle into the winter routine.
Typically, a few white-wingers started to appear with up to 2 Glaucous Gulls (an adult and juv) and a first-winter Iceland Gull (1st), whilst Little Auks on 28th and 31st were also typical for the time of year (although the latter heading over the Kirk was less typical). A Great Northern Diver, up to 23 Long-tailed Ducks and a Sooty Shearwater (from the Good Shepherd on 29th) were the highlights from the sea, whilst the marshy areas yielded an impressive 132 Snipe (28th) with up to 5 Jack Snipe amongst them. A few Whooper Swans and small groups of Pink-footed Geese passed through, whilst a Hen Harrier lingered to 1st at least.