|Storm 10 at times: the view from the Obs this morning (photo: Ciaran Hatsell).|
A very strong SE wind on 6th made birding difficult, with severe gale force winds later in the day being accompanied by rain, but it was obvious that birds were coming in and the day finished with high counts including 570 Song Thrush, 293 Redwing, 36 Goldcrest and 25 Robin, whilst highlights included 2 Little Buntings, a Dotterel (with the Golden Plover flock on Lerness) and some decent wildfowl movement that included 2 Pochard (a rare bird on Fair Isle, with less than 60 records) and the first Scaup of the year (a smart male in the Havens, that then appeared on the cliffs of Easter Lother).
The 7th opened with the promise of birds to come, but it was clear that it would have to wait as the driving rain continued and the SE winds were absolutely lashing the island, reaching Storm 10 and making walking pretty difficult, let alone birding. We did manage to get a bit of goose scanning in and picked out 4 Barnacle Geese darvic rings (which are likely to be birds ringed in Svalbard, but we’ll update you on those later), amongst the 139 Barnacle Geese, with 490 Pink-feet and 94 Greylag also present, along with 22 Whooper Swans.
|The Barnacle Geese have remained relatively settled below Shirva for a couple of days, allowing good opportunities for scoping them.|
The rain eventually cleared at about 3pm, the wind eased slightly (30mph+ still wasn’t exactly calm) and a frantic dash around the census areas as the light began to fade saw the slightly more sheltered west cliffs heaving with birds, although viewing was still difficult. An Olive-backed Pipit put in a brief appearance at Hjukni Geo, a Little Bunting roamed south east and other highlights included a late Quail, a Yellow-browed Warbler at the Obs, the Dotterel (which flew south down the island), Hen Harrier, Lapland Bunting, Long-eared Owl and both Pochard still present on Da Water. It was the number of birds that was most notable though as, even allowing for the conditions, Log totals included 864 Song Thrush, 346 Redwing, 72 Brambling, 32 Robin, 22 Blackbird, 15 Siskin, 25 Woodpigeon, 19 Jack Snipe, 59 Snipe, 10 Woodcock (the first of the autumn), 9 Reed Bunting, 5 Dunnock, 3 ‘North-western’ Common Redpolls and single Jackdaw (the first of the autumn) and Fieldfare. Not bad!
|Good numbers of Jack Snipe were seen today, but getting good views was another matter altogether, so well done to Ciaran for this picture.|
Having warned at the previous evening’s Log that we could expect almost anything to turn up with the current weather, it was still a surprise to receive a call from John Day (a friend from my days working at the Lodge back when it were all nowt but trees) late in the afternoon saying he’d just seen a Barn Owl. What’s more his description (‘in the field with the Barnacle Geese and the two cows’) meant it was right behind me as I had just started to walk up Malcolm’s Head. I turned round and started getting the news out and, as I was doing so, it flew from the burn and headed towards me, flopping regularly into the grass. It spent some time out in the open before dropping into Steensi Geo, where it appeared to roost on the cliffs. An amazing record and well worth the pint I owed John for adding a species to my Fair Isle list.
So, storm force winds, a Fair Isle mega and a major thrush fall, and yet I think the main excitement could still be to come from this week yet…