Thursday, 18 September 2014

Falling Into Place

17th September
Well, the sun didn’t exactly come out, but the rain eased from around 6am and the cloud starting lifting (although it lingered around the higher ground, causing the cancellation of flights for the second day) resulting in birds being able to find the island and being able to be found by a dried off Wardening team.
Perhaps surprisingly, there was no real new rarity amongst the many birds that had arrived, although the Pallid Harrier remained (and the Gadwall was relocated!). Several scarcities including a Richard’s Pipit (heard in the fog over Ward Hill; the first of the autumn), Little Bunting (unringed, so not yesterday’s bird), 5 Yellow-browed Warbler, 4 Barred Warbler, 3 Red-breasted Flycatcher, Common Rosefinch and a Lapland Bunting. The real highlight though was the variety and increased number of migrants, with highest counts of the autumn so far being posted by several species, including: 68 Song Thrush, 26 Chaffinch, 29 Blackcap (including 10 ringed at the Obs, suggesting that even more were probably lurking around the island),  17 Grey Heron, 13 Goldcrest, 13 Chiffchaff, 11 Whinchat, 9 Robin, 9 Redstart, 6 Tree Pipit, 6 Lesser Whitethroat, 5 Brambling, 5 Jack Snipe and 4 Redwing whilst 4 Dunnocks and a Mealy Redpoll were the first records since the spring. Kestrel numbers were impressive, with one of the highest ever counts seeing 13 recorded, with a Sparrowhawk also newly arrived (and 2 Hen Harriers and a Peregrine lingering and adding to the raptor haul). Also adding to the variety were the first Woodpigeon since early August, the first Sand Martin of the month and the second Spotted Flycatcher of the autumn.
In common with the rest of the UK, we're enjoying a good spell of Red-breasted Flycatchers, with one of today's birds trapped and going on to show well at the Obs. The pale wing-bar shows that this is a first-year bird.
Wader numbers were generally down, but there was an increase in Golden Plover to 94, whilst a cracking breeding-plumaged Grey Plover on Meoness was the first record of this species since 2012 (so was technically our ‘bird of the day’, although that accolade may have gone to the Citrine Wagtail heard in flight over Pund had it been relocated, hopefully that’s one for tomorrow…).
The conditions look set to be fairly similar tomorrow and, although prolonged easterly winds often see falls ‘blow themselves out’, I suspect that we haven’t seen the last of the new birds associated with this weather yet. Will it be more common migrants, more new species for the year list, or maybe that mega that this weather system has been threatening? It seems to be a feature of Fair Isle falls that they often produce the bigger numbers of commoner birds first, with the rarities maybe following a day or two later, in which case, the next couple of days could prove quite interesting...

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