Tuesday, 26 August 2014


21st-25th August
It's that time of year when the Storm Petrel ringing season coincides with autumn migration and sleep is at a premium. We know it would make sense to finish the petrelling sessions early, but it's been such a good season it's hard to drag yourself away from the nets! Catches in three figures seem to have become the norm now, and we're onto over 2000 birds ringed so far this season, whilst the last three sessions have also seen us ring a Leach's Petrel and catch Storm Petrels with Norwegian (2), Portuguese (2) and Danish rings. With the calm weather proceeding oncoming easterlies, there are also migrants on the move, so census, nets and trap rounds are in full flow as well, in fact by my reckoning, the 46 hour period between 7am Sunday and 5am this morning will have seen about 90 minutes without the Wardening team either catching or counting birds ('FIBO never sleeps' seems to have become our motto, although I dare say the next day of rainy westerlies might test that!).
Interestingly, there has been no sight nor sound of the Swinhoe's Petrel for the last four ringing sessions.
Elsewhere, wader migration has slowed down a bit, but the passerine migration is picking up. After a new Wryneck and lingering Barred Warbler and Common Rosefinch on 21st, hopes weren't that high for the 22nd when a freshening northerly breeze with a hint of west in it seemed set to curtail arrivals for a while. However, it quickly became apparent from the number of Willow Warblers around (45 were logged by the end of the day) that a reaonable fall had unexpectedly taken place and 5 Barred Warblers, Common Rosefinch, 4 Pied Flycatchers and 5 Garden Warblers were amongst the species noted before the day's highlight was located at Chalet, with a smart Arctic Warbler showing well in the garden for the afternoon. 
Arctic Warbler at Chalet, the 7th consecutive year of occurence on Fair Isle for the species (photo: Alex Penn).
A few lingering birds over the next few days were joined by the first Kestrel and Tree Pipit of the autumn (24th), whilst a Wood Warbler, a new Barred Warbler (to join 2 lingering birds) and a new Common Rosefinch on 25th had taken advantage of the rather lovely conditions to arrive.
Barred Warbler at Barkland  (photo by Ciaran Hatsell).
The same weather (sunshine and no wind) also provided perfect conditions for cetacean watching on 25th, with the first dolphins of the year noted off North Light in some style: 5 White-beaked, 4 White-beaked and a Risso's were all noted, along with 18 Porpoise around the island.
Dolphin watching off North Light this evening (photo by Ciaran Hatsell).
It looks like Tuesday is set to be another calm and pleasant day, but will it be migrants, cetaceans or more petrels that are the highlight? Or maybe all three...
The time really flies by in the autumn, with September nearly upon us already. Nothing emphasises the passage of time like your child's first day at school though - Grace is enjoying being one of the 5 pupils at Fair Isle Primary, after starting last week.

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