Thursday, 2 April 2015

What a difference a year makes...

Bright skies and optimism at the end of March.
Late March in 2014 saw some glorious sunshine, south-easterly winds and falls of Robins and thrushes, that brought a Red-flanked Bluetail and had seen the year list rise to 100 before we'd even started the official 'census season' on 1st April. Things have been somewhat different in 2015, with the small fall mentioned in the last blog update giving way to westerly winds, that got colder and dumped a load of snow on us for 1st April.
Snow joke. It's not unusual to get snow showers right until early May, but lying snow is a rare occurrence. There was enough on 1st for a (admittedly small) snowman to get built at the Obs, the second of the year!
Not ideal census conditions! Frequent blizzard-like conditions and a cold wind made birding unpleasant at times, especially as it had almost entirely halted migration in its tracks.
With very few migrants, and virtually nothing that wouldn't be expected (although a Goldfinch on 27th was the earliest ever for Fair Isle), the year list stands on just 83, with a small amount of corvid passage from 26th March bringing the first Rooks, Carrion Crow and Jackdaw for the year, whilst Puffins and Bonxies returned from 29th March and 2nd April respectively. Iceland Gulls are still well represented, with four on 28th the peak, emphasising how wintry it still feels at times.
The season's first two Rooks head south over Gilsetter on 26th.
A Snipe feeding just outside the library window.
However, there is some hope... The forecast looks like the winds tomorrow will be heading our way from the northern coast of France, which sounds promising for encouraging a few more birds in our direction. Saturday also looks quite calm, hopefully enough to get a Tystie count in (we've tried one already, but the relatively low total was likely to have been influenced by the sea state and wind) and that may well see the first few Wheatears and the likes coming our way.
It certainly feels like we may have used up all our spring luck last year, but birding doesn't really work like that and I'm sure there'll be some surprises yet in the next few weeks, especially as spring migration often doesn't really kick off in earnest until late April or even May. More than one person has suggested that they think we're in line for a really good autumn as well! Whatever happens, we'll be out there looking for it and I'm sure we'll enjoy the year ahead...
Grace's new kite got a run out before the weather turned foul. I imagine that it won't get a chance to be airborne when the Bonxies return to their territories!

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