Sunday 28 March 2010

Tommy's Early Bird!

The weekend started with a brisk mild SW'ly and ended with a cold gale force NNE'ly!
A Grey Wagtail was the only new species found on Saturday, with a couple of Wheatears and a few Chiffchaffs the best of the rest. A struggle around the north this morning with Lubo bounding ahead turned up very little - singles of Stonechat and Black Redstart, with a Bonxie my highlight.
The AWs meanwhile canvassed the south but other than a few more Stonechats and a couple of Wheatears and Black Redstarts it too was quiet. So, it was left to our friendly American at Auld Haa to score the highlights......Tommy phoned late afternoon to tell me there was a Brambling in his garden and then less than a minute later, he called to say there was now a Blackcap too!!! This is, by a week, our earliest spring record!

If wind drops, myself and Hollie are going out to Lerwick tomorrow for a couple of days to buy some last bits of furniture and equipment for the new Obs. Lachlan will be back to look after the animals. The younger kids are now in Norway! Ski-ing starts tomorrow!!!

Friday 26 March 2010

Greed Bunting!

A damp start with cloud down to the ground meant census had to be held off for a few hours, but by 10.30 it was clear enough to make it worth heading out. At least 6 Stonechats, including some corking males, brightened up the dour day. A good scattering of Chiffchaffs, Robins, Meadow Pipits plus a few thrushes and Pied Wagtails (and one White) made up the bulk of noteworthy passerines. A Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser and a Short-eared Owl were the non-passerine prize-winners!

The Chalet boys meanwhile resurrected their garden trap and within minutes of attaching the catching box and baiting it with seed, the first bird had made a bee-line straight to it - a REED BUNTING! We didn't even know there was one on the island!

The Burkle house is strangely quiet at the moment. Its kid-free!! Schools have broken up for Easter and Lachlan has gone to Aberdeen with Ruth, Daniel and Amy from Setter to do some shopping for the weekend whilst the three young ones have gone to Kent with Grandma......and then on to Norway for a week-long ski-ing holiday from Sunday!
Its not overly quiet though - Hollie still shouts alot ;-)

Thursday 25 March 2010

Hello Jack! Hello spring!!

My second AW Jack Ashton-Booth returned on Wednesday, just in the nick of time. An overcast day with a light SE'ly wind brought in Jack (with help from a plane) and some long-awaited firsts of the year: a Stonechat, a Goldcrest, Common Redpoll and at least 4 each of Black Redstart and Chiffchaff plus a noticeable increase in Meadow Pipits (30+). Today, there was barely any wind until well into the afternoon and the sun even tried to come out. Consequently. it was great to be out and about and full island coverage was achieved. Highlight of the day was our first Wheatears (2) of the year, but the first Bonxie came a close second, or possibly it could have been the first Puffin back on dry land. But there was early Willow Warbler in Raeva, Stock Dove at Leogh and 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls on Goorn were also firsts of the year!! Other arrivals included a good March count of 17 Chiffchaff, 3 Stonechat, 7 Pied Wagtail, White Wagtail, 23 Robin, 2 Dunnock and 13 Chaffinch.
Long may it continue......

Sunday 21 March 2010

Simon says....

......."Hello again!" Yes, Simon Davies is back for his fourth season as AW. Its good to see him and it took him almost an hour to find his first addition to the yearlist - a Dunnock skulking in the Chalet garden!
I went out to Lerwick for a bar licence course on Wednesday and was supposed to be back in on Friday morning but the first gale we've had for weeks decided that was the day it was coming, so I (with Simon) had a civilised night on the toon and and came back to Fair Isle on Saturday afternoon.
In my absence what sounds like a female Siskin arrived at Kenaby and there was a male today at Auld Haa (which has apparently been there since Thursday). There seems to be little else new around although a Wood Pigeon was also a year tick, a handful of extra Robins were noted and a Dunnock at Schoolton. Simon was pleased to get the Bean Goose for his Fair Isle list.
Today has been the warmest day of the year so far - hardly a breath of wind and plenty of sunshine! After census, I (with Hollie's help) took the opportunity of the calm conditions to thoroughly clean out the hen house, remove the roofing felt and liberally dust with mite powder. I caught the hens one by one and dusted them too. Hopefully, that'll keep the mites down to an insignificant level!! Whilst carrying out this delightful task, I received a call from Simon reporting two Orcas past Buness - nice! and easy to spot with such a calm sea today. He also saw a Puffin fly past. Later in the afternoon a few things dropped in from the north - a few Meadow Pipits and a Pied Wagtail. Hopefully things will start to kick off now!

Monday 15 March 2010

A slow spring!

Mid-way through March now and still just glimmers of spring - a few Daffodil and Crocus flowers popping up and the first frogspawn appeared on 9th. Birdlife has been relatively absent. Ringed Plovers first arrived on 3rd but numbers of common waders have been quite poor - maximums of 25 Oystercatcher, 44 Lapwing and 17 Ringed Plover. Geese are beginning to dwindle with c150 left now. Tufted Duck and Common Scoter have both made it on to the yearlist. There has been little of note on the passerine front though with a peak of just c40 Skylarks and now two Chaffinches of note - usually by now we have had Stonechats and Pied Wagtail at least!!
The Obs is coming on with a team of 18 up there plasterboarding, taping, filling and painting the downstairs. I can see a noticeable difference every time I visit now. Outside is looking much smarter with tonnes of stone chips laid down, a smart new cattle grid and fencing all in place. There is still an awful lot to do however and with opening rapidly drawing nearer, finger nails at Burkle are beginning to be nibbled!!!

Monday 1 March 2010

A Winters Tale!

So much for hoping we'd seen the back of winter! This past week has been dominated by more snow. I bet the Skylarks and waders that have ventured back north must have felt their urge was somewhat premature! There has been little new to report but some goose movement means we now have a Pinkfoot with the Barnacle, Bean, Brents and Greylags!
I received news from the BTO of a nice Long-Eared Owl recovery, which you can read about at
The snow has meant that the kids have been able to try out their new sledges and all received a thumbs up! Lachlan has also at last come home for a very long weekend to recuperate after his higher prelims, in which he did exceedingy well.
The lads up at the Obs have found it very cold going this week and I have the greatest admiration for them for ploughing on regardless. With the Good Shepherd away on its annual re-fit, the Snolda is due in tomorrow with a load more supplies, including (I think) at least one of the staircases!
And finally a plea - does anyone know of any good 'spinners' websites where we could advertise our Fair Isle spinning wheel auction?

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