We’ve had a turnover of staff at the Obs as well, with Angela ending her stint as Cook (all at FIBO wish her and her family well now they’ve moved on from Fair Isle), Kharis coming to the end of her contract as Domestic Assistant (and hopefully coming back to visit so she can finish my knitting lessons) and Alice finishing her spell as Childminder (and we send her good luck with her studies and thanks for being a good friend to the kids). They’ve been replaced by the familiar faces of Ann (returning as Cook) and Marilyn (our Childminder in 2011), whilst Terri has arrived for her first season as Domestic Assistant. We’ve also had Langdon come and go as a JHMF volunteer and currently have Alex and Raeannon filling similar roles.
Bird wise, it’s continued to be a really good season for many seabirds, I’ll do another update on them at some stage (hopefully!), but whatever else this season brings, one of the standout memories will be the enjoyment of seeing, hearing and smelling a healthy seabird colony in full swing.
|A Puffling, one of several that were reared this year.|
|And a comparison of typical beak-fulls in 2014 (left, by Richard Cope) and 2013 (right) being brought in to the young Puffins.|
As July came to an end, migration was predictably slow, although a good series of Manx Shearwater records included 15 on 30th, the second highest Fair Isle count. Storm Petrel ringing showed that there were really impressive numbers present, with three-figure catches the norm. Leach’s Petrels were heard during most sessions and the Swinhoe’s Petrel was also present on several nights (it was last recorded on 1st August, with a busy session on 5th/6th producing no record of it and 75 minutes on 15th/16th August also drawing a blank). The weather in August hasn’t allowed for many sessions, although we may enjoy a slightly calmer spell later this week, which could allow us to try again.
|Storm Petrel ringing has again proved very popular with lots of our guests (photo by Glen Tyler).|
Although August opened with south-easterly winds, things were generally quiet until 5th, when new migrants were headlined by a Barred Warbler (with 3 more arriving on 15th). The 6th produced the best bird of the autumn so far in Fair Isle terms, with a Red-necked Phalarope at Utra, whilst there was also a Greenish Warbler trapped in the Gully and the next day saw a Wryneck appear in the Plantation.
|Logan Johnson found this juvenile Red-necked Phalarope, the 25th for Fair Isle and the first since 2005.|
Further scarcities amongst the small numbers of common warblers and other migrants included Common Rosefinch and Marsh Warbler on 15th and a couple of Wood Warblers, whilst the biggest surprise has been the occurrence of Blyth’s Reed Warblers on 14th and 16th, the first August records for Fair Isle. Also unexpected was the return of the Kumlien’s Gull, which has lingered on the island from January to June (and was probably the Iceland Gull present on a couple of dates in July).
The somewhat extreme weather from 9th (more on that later) produced some good numbers of waders, with highlights including a Fair Isle record 4 Wood Sandpipers and up to 19 Ruff, 22 Common Sandpipers (the second highest autumn count), 10 Green Sandpipers and 9 Greenshank. All the sightings are listed in full at: http://www.fairislebirdobs.co.uk/latest_sightings.html
|The wader scrape has been looking rather impressive after some good repair work by the team on the sluices earlier in the year.|
|Other wildlife has included a twitchable Basking Shark off Skadan.|
|This Sitochroa palealis (also known as Sulphur Pearl) was found by Susannah in the Obs garden and was a first for Scotland, having never been recorded further north in the UK than East Yorkshire.|
|A good spell of butterfly records included a few Small Tortoiseshell (like this one at the Obs) and Peacock, with reasonable |
numbers of Red Admiral and Painted Lady.
|Congratulations to Mr and Mrs Veitch-Thomson after a wonderful wedding, during which the whole island was filled with their friends and relatives. The day started with a wonderful sunrise, although the weather did deteriorate somewhat...|
The biggest island news has been the wedding of Inness Thomson (eldest son of Pat and Neil Thomson of Lower Stoneybrek) and Karen Veitch on 9th August, which coincided with a record-breaking rainfall for Fair Isle, when a week of sunshine was brought to an abrupt end by 5.5inches of rain! The rain really was a rather dramatic event, with roads (and the Obs car park and garage) flooded and a bit of movement around the island as a huge amount of water rushed to the sea, taking large chunks of the island with it.
|Gilsetter became a lake for a while.|
|The Vaadal stream became the Vaadal river (as did the road north).|
|Water rushing down the Gully provided some dramatic rapids.|
|A large land-slip at Wester Lother will have destroyed a few late Shag nests and also seems to have done for our anchor points used for accessing the colony here.|
|Smaller land slips have occurred in several areas of the island, this one is at Wirvie. Fair Isle is not a big island, and I do worry that if bits keep falling off, there'll be none left eventually!|
So that’s an update on life on Fair Isle in the last month, but what will the next month bring? The AW’s are back from their holidays refreshed and ready for the autumn, the forecast suggests we may get easterly winds from the end of the weekend (still time to book a late room at our special August rate, if you fancy taking a chance…) and I’ll try to keep the blog more up to date from now on!