Thursday, 4 September 2014

Dazzling Pectacular

31st August – 3rd September
You're barred.
The pleasant conditions on Sunday did indeed bring a good selection of good migrants and, whilst there was no headline-grabbing rarity (although let’s face it, we’ve not done badly for that sort of thing so far this year, so we’re not complaining), the birding was very enjoyable indeed. The highlight was probably the remarkable 10 (ten) Barred Warblers, with three ringed during the day, (10 Barred Warblers as a day count has been bettered or equalled only by 12 on 10th and 14 on 14th September 1969 and 10 on 24th August 1983) with other notable migrants including 4 Wryneck, a smart male Red-backed Shrike, 2 Wood Warbler and the Short-toed Lark still present (until 4th).
Barred Warbler is a distinctive beast, even in flight.
The good autumn for Wrynecks continues.
Counts of commoner species included 59 Willow and 23 Garden Warbler, giving the island a good ‘fall’ feeling. A similar spread of species was noted over the next few days, with the odd Common Rosefinch thrown in for good measure (four were ringed at the Obs over 2nd-3rd) and a light turnover of other migrants including the first autumn records of Lapland Bunting (1st) and Goldcrest (2nd).
Garden Warblers registered a good count and, whilst some lurked suspiciously in thick vegetation, others were more showy.
Wheatear numbers have been unremarkable, but what has been noticeable is that most (or possibly all) of the half a dozen or so trapped in the last few days have been Greenland birds (subspecies leucorhoa). This monstrous male had a wing of 110mm, around 2cm longer than the smallest European birds.
A few Sooty Shearwaters have been noted from the Good Shepherd and wader passage continues to be reasonable, with the highlight found in bizarre circumstances on the night of 3rd. Having wandered down to the Havens but found it was too breezy for trying to catch Storm Petrels, we decided to try our hand at dazzling some waders or wildfowl. Despite the cloud, it was still quite a bright night and we weren’t having much luck, though when we got to Muckle Uri Geo at 10.30pm a few birds looked they might be catchable. One in particular was noticeable for its bright mantle stripes, a Snipe maybe? Nope: it turned its head and the bill was mid length and slightly decurved, ‘that looks rather Pec Sandy’ was the quote at the time and as we approached closer, everything seemed to fit, although we couldn’t really believe we may have found Fair Isle’s 33rd (not 32nd as I think I put on Facebook earlier, sorry) Pectoral Sandpiper by torchlight! Although we managed to get within two metres of the bird, we didn’t get to catch it, but the distinctive little ‘prüt’ call it gave was further confirmation. Thankfully, we didn’t have to rely on a description form with such entries as ‘Optics used: torch’ as the Pec Sand was present again at South Light this morning.
The Pectoral Sandpiper (feeding on the South Light football pitches this morning between a Dunlin and a Ringed Plover) is the first of the year.
The rise in occurences of Pectoral Sandpiper in the UK has been mirrored on Fair Isle, where the species has now been recorded for five consecutive years.
So far today, conditions have been potentially better for migrants than we’d been expecting and there are a few new bits in, but more updates on that later, both here and at the somewhat less waffley and more fact-packed:

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