Saturday, 8 March 2014

Signs of spring.

The Kumlien's Gull is one of a number of decent birds for Fair Isle recorded this winter, although the lack of cold spells seems to have acted against any real winter movements. Still, the year list had reached 72 by the end of February, eight ahead of the same stage last year!
After a few days away getting a top-up of woodland species (I suspect that may be the last Nuthatch and Long-tailed Tit I ring for a while, although you never know…), it’s good to be back home.
Ringing a male Eider at Seahouses. Sadly, my lucky red and white Fair Isle scarf was unable to prevent Man City beating Sunderland 3-1 in the League Cup final later in the day (a match that was written up with great glee in the Fair Isle Times by one of the isle's younger Newcastle fans!).
After a couple of pleasant days, southerly gales (with gusts of up to 75mph yesterday) have kicked in, bringing wintry showers with them, so March hasn’t really brought much of a spring feel to it yet.
It's been good wave watching weather. Although these Herring Gulls are probably hoping for some calmer weather soon.
A small arrival of birds in early March saw a female Stonechat 1st-5th, which was joined by a male on 4th-6th, Pied Wagtail at South Light on 4th (over three weeks earlier than the first last year, although that was a very late first arrival), Woodpigeon 3rd-4th and Chaffinch 3rd.
There were no Stonechats at all in 2012 despite the offer of a Mars Bar for anyone who could find one Although there was a slight return to form last year, it's still nice to get a couple of early records.
Other signs of spring included building numbers of Oystercatcher (with at least 50 now present), Skylark (40+ now around), Ringed Plovers arriving (having built up in numbers from 22nd they reached 18 by 6th), Lapwing increasing to 15 (6th), Fair Isle Wrens in song and the Twite flock in the Obs garden building up.
Other additions to the year list have been Shelduck on 22nd February and an early Red-throated Diver sheltering in Furse on 6th.
The Kumlien’s Gull has lingered throughout, with up to two juvenile Glaucous Gulls also present regularly.
The Kumlien's Gull has usually been in the fields around Leogh, but has recently been spending more time around the Meoness area and joined the gulls in South Harbour yesterday.
Other typical wintering birds included occasional records of Peregrine and Merlin, Red-breasted Merganser and Long-tailed Duck, whilst small numbers of thrushes (including a Song Thrush at the Obs, which was presumably new) and Robins are still being regularly noted (trapping at the Obs showed at least three are lingering in the garden here).
A small throng of gulls contained the Kumlien's and a Glaucous Gull yesterday as strong winds and large waves crashed what was presumably a reasonable food supply onto the beach.
One species that doesn’t often feature on the blog is House Sparrow, but a flock of 61 at the feeders at Brecks was interesting and perhaps suggests a decent overwinter survival. One species that isn’t surviving as well is Guillemot, with small numbers washing up dead in the Havens most days (it’s certainly been the worst winter for auk wrecks whilst I’ve been here), we’ll have to wait and see what impact that may have on the breeding season, following the disastrous year for that species in 2013.
Tysties are around in good numbers now, with most in breeding plumage (although with a sleety storm just starting and the surface of the sea being blown in the air, this one looks like breeding is the last thing on its mind). On of the first species to be surveyed, we should conduct our first count in about two weeks; a reminder that the new season is almost upon us.


  1. Will there be a prediction competition this year?

    1. Yes there will - I'd best get on with organising that. The rules will be essentially the same as last time though so, give or take a couple of species, last year's instructions will still be valid.


My Blog List