Friday, 10 October 2014

I'm a Creeper, I'm a weird record, What the heck am I doing here, I don't belong here.

8th-9th October
The star bird of the 9th.
If the excitement of a Barn Owl didn’t exactly set the pages of Birdforum alight, it’s fair to say that the next couple of days would also be unlikely to see any charters winging our way, and yet the birding was some of the most enjoyable of the year so far.
With a light to fresh easterly wind (NE at first veering SE later), it felt good – and it was. Thrushes were the most obvious arrivals on 8th, with the final Log totals of 1921 Song Thrush (a particularly good count), 876 Redwing, 129 Blackbird, 126 Robin, 61 Blackcap and 46 Goldcrest giving an idea of the bulk of the birds to be found.
A decent number of birds have been ringed during the current fall, including this female Sparrowhawk. (photo: Ciaran Hatsell)
It wasn’t long before highlights started to appear amongst them, with a Buzzard first seen over the Hill Dyke then a Great Grey Shrike found behind Lower Leogh.
Buzzards are less than annual on Fair Isle, so this was a good record. (photo: Rochard Cope)

The Great Grey Shrike with prey (photo: Ciaran Hatsell)
Other species still present included an Olive-backed Pipit at Pund, with possibly the same bird later in the Gully (both sightings are taken as referring to the same bird as was seen briefly at Hjukni Geo on 7th for now), the 3 Tundra Bean Geese (seen properly today!), a Little Bunting at Pund (possibly a different individual to the one at Walli Burn on 7th), a Yellow-browed Warbler at the Obs, Slavonian Grebe in South Harbour, the two roaming male Pochard, 3 Lapland Bunting and yesterday’s Dotterel was joined by a second.
Rarer than Lancey: 2 Pochards on Easter Lother Water.
A few new species included Redstart, Stonechat, Quail and a male Gadwall (in a good current spell for wildfowl), whilst other healthy counts included 476 Pink-footed, 112 Greylag and 95 Barnacle Geese, 24 Jack Snipe, 139 Snipe, a wonderful 13 Short-eared Owl, 34 Ring Ouzel, 68 Wheatear, 144 Brambling, 25 Reed Bunting and 2 Tree Pipit (showing that they aren’t all OBPs!). The day was lacking that one big rarity until just after 1pm, when the run to School to pick Grace up resulted in a major Fair Isle rarity being found at Upper Stoneybrek. The fact that it was a Blue Tit may not have been what people were expecting (although it turned out to be part of a decent arrival in the Northern Isles), but as it’s only Fair Isle’s 13th, and just the second record since 1989 (following one in 2012) we weren’t complaining.
Much rarer than Lancey!
A calm morning on 9th gave way to an increasing westerly breeze, although the early morning rain cleared giving a cool, but pleasant day in the field. It was immediately obvious that there’d been a clear out of thrushes (with counts of 618 Song Thrush, 23 Blackbird and 7 Ring Ouzel for example showing large decreases from yesterday) and most other species also diminishing in number. The only species to show a significant increase was Brambling, with 169 Logged (thanks largely to a flock of 105 in North Naaversgill). Familiar faces included the Blue Tit (which reappeared at Midway, assuming it was the same bird…), Olive-backed Pipit (at Ditfield, with another possible not far away – I suspect it may only be a matter of time before more than one is confirmed), Little Bunting at Chalet, the Buzzard again floating about, the two Pochard still roaming, Hen Harrier, Slavonian Grebe and a good selection of geese, with 538 Pink-feet, 149 Barnacle and now 4 Tundra Beans, whilst a Shoveler added to the recent duck list.
Olive-backed Pipit at Ditfield, showing better than the photo would suggest.
Slavonian Grebe in South Harbour - presumbaly the bird seen off Hjukni Geo a couple of days ago.
The three Tundra Bean Geese at Barkland (another single was seen on Meoness and lingered with Pink-feet for a while before heading south).
New highlights were hard to come by, although Yellow-browed Warblers increased to 3 and a Long-eared Owl showed well near South Light (from where a blue Fulmar was seen offshore), that was until late in the afternoon, when a visiting group called with the news of a Treecreeper at South Light. A frantic twitch later saw most people getting views of this impressively frosty northern bird, which relocated to nearby Smirri Geo, as it scurried around seemingly quite contentedly on the lichen covered rocks.
The mystery bird from the photo at the top of the blog - 'Northern' Treecreeper, showing it's pale 'frosty' upperparts.

Very clean and white with a dazzling white supercillium, most (possibly all) of the previous Shetland records have thought to be Northern 'familiaris' birds, including the eight previous Fair Isle records (making this species even rarer than Blue Tit on the island, with previous records in 1906, 1913, 1959, 1980, 1987, 1993, 1998 and 2010).
So with the recent highlights reading: Barn Owl, Treecreeper, Blue Tit and Buzzard it’s been a strange few days, with that list looking more reminiscent of a pleasant woodland walk on the UK mainland than the peak of autumn migration on Fair Isle, although I’m sure it’s not over yet (but will the next decent bird be of locally-exciting calibre of Jay or something a bit more hoped for by our visitors…).
Geese feeding below the Shetland flag.


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