Tuesday, 7 January 2014

December Birds

I'm dreaming of a white-horses Christmas. The view from the Obs on Christmas morning - another windy day. The weather has been rather wild over the winter, with the Good Shepherd unable to sail for 19 days at one stage.
Fair Isle managed to avoid the Ivory Gull ‘influx’ during December, although Susannah and I came close; being in Sunderland when news broke of one there. Sadly, despite spending an afternoon checking fish quays, beaches and car parks in a few of my old County Durham haunts, it had moved on. To then get a call a few days later from the Farne Islands wardens to tell me they were watching two Ivory Gulls in Seahouses (by which time I was in the car park of Sainsbury’s* in Bedford [*other supermarkets are available for receiving gutting bird news in]) didn’t help. The Yorkshire bird then turned up a couple of days too late (we’d already driven past it) and there was no chance of getting to Orkney or the Hebs birds (although we possibly sailed past the former on our way home). As the Parnaby family are off on our travels again through January, I’m hoping the Ivory Curse (good movie name there if anyone wants it), doesn’t strike by delivering one to Fair Isle whilst we’re away. I’ve a suspicion that somewhere in Shetland will get one of these Arctic beauties sometime in February/March, so fingers crossed one of the dead seals around Fair Isle will do the job for us then.
Not on Fair Isle. This fine ad Med Gull was at Marsden on the Durham coast and one of four or five we saw during our failed search for something even better (although Med Gull would have been a good enough bird in Durham itself back in my day).
Anyway, amongst the birds that actually turned up in December, there were Iceland Gull sightings on 9th and 17th-19th and Glaucous Gulls on 5th, 18th (3) and 28th, whilst one Black-headed Gull lingered through the month. There was a scattering of wildfowl, although we never get large numbers, with up to 2 Whooper Swans, 3 Pink-feet, a Barnacle Goose (to 3rd), 20 Wigeon, 5 Teal, 2 Long-tailed Duck and singles of Common Scoter, Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser. Whilst out at sea there was Great Northern Diver (26th) and a very unseasonal Puffin (29th).
Also unusual for the time of year were Black-tailed Godwits on 5th and 19th (spilling over from the North Ron wintering flock perhaps?) whilst other waders included peaks of 130 Turnstone, 30 Redshank, 13 Curlew, 5 Lapwings, 15 Purple Sandpipers and a Jack Snipe.
Typical wintering fodder were up to 15 Redwing, 10 Blackbird, 2 Fieldfare, a Song Thrush, 5 Robin, 6 Twite and 28 Snow Bunting, although a Meadow Pipit on 29th was less usual, as this species is largely absent from Fair Isle in the winter (only a few of the smaller birds tough it out, with the wintering passerine list above being added to only by Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Pipit and Fair Isle Wren). Birds lingering from earlier in the year included Grey Heron (to 13th), Merlin and two Water Rail (the latter two species seeming set to winter), whilst a Woodpigeon from 22nd was no doubt a bit puzzled as to where it had ended up.
Any other wildlife? New Year guising.
We hope you all had a good Christmas and New Year, we certainly did! Best wishes to you all for 2014 from all the Parnabys and everyone else from FIBO and thanks for your support during the last year.

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