Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Birds and Bees

17th-18th May
Still present and showing well at Midway.
Despite the weather not being particularly favourable for migration there were still new arrivals (as is generally the case at this time of year). The 17th saw a light spread of new birds including two each of Cuckoo and Yellow Wagtail, a Garden Warbler and a second-winter Iceland Gull, which joined the virtually resident Kumlien’s Gull.
One of the two Cuckoos was caught in the Gully, providing a first sighting for several of our guests.
The wind was more or less southerly on 18th, with just a hint of SE starting to appear, which was enough to bring a large arrival of Wheatear (310 were counted, almost double the recent daily counts) along with 2 Dotterel on top of Ward Hill, Spotted Flycatcher, Yellowhammer (just the second of the year), and a small arrival of warblers that included a Grasshopper Warbler and six Whitethroat (the highest count of the year so far).
The only Wheatear trapped during the current arrival was this female with a wing length of 104mm, so it could be confidently identified as a 'Greenland' bird of the subspecies leucorhoa.
There was also a Sparrowhawk, Tufted Duck, Knot (amongst a small increase in the commoner waders), 4 each of Woodpigeon and Collared Dove and then a fantastic low-flying Osprey, which passed south over the Obs in the evening, then did the same again about half an hour later. The two Cuckoos were still present, and the female Western Subalpine Warbler and a Redwing were seen on both days, whilst the Caspian Stonechat remained faithful to its favoured patch at Midway.

The female Subalp in the Obs garden has been showing very well.
Also of interest has been the presence of ‘stripy’ bees in recent days. Usually the only Bumblebee found on Fair Isle is the ‘Shetland BeeBombus muscorum agricolae, although in 2012 the Buff-tailed Bumblebee Bombus terrestris appeared in reasonable numbers as part of an apparent invasion into Shetland. With no Buff-tails reported in 2013, it appeared that the invasion had petered out, but this year there have been several bee sightings which are either this species or Northern White-tailed Bumblebee Bombus magnus, a species whose presence on Fair Isle has never been confirmed. Although the light easterly winds forecast for the week are hopefully going to see the focus on migrant birds, we’ll be trying to solve this little mystery as well.
The best I could manage as a record shot of one of the bees - not enough to clinch the ID!

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