Thursday 30 September 2010

Quack! Quack! Oops!

The wind finally dropped be replaced with mist and drizzle! so only marginally better birding conditions! The 'Wood' Duck was flushed from the Gully by one person going ahead of the early morning trap round - much to everyones annoyance. The Buff-bellied Pipit was seen at North Light and the Little Bunting was much appreciated at the shop and the Buff-breasted Sand lingers at Barkland but once again it wasn't until the afternoon, when the mist cleared for an hour or so, that birds began to drop in. First of all, the Duck was relocated in the Gully and once everyone was gathered, (during which time a Hawfinch dropped in), a slow advancement was made towards the edge. Peering over, the duck could be seen asleep on the bank and was quickly identified as a Mandarin! Not a potential first for Britain, but a nice first for Fair Isle!!! At least one person was happy!
Everyone dispersed once again and I headed back north. There were many Songies and more Redwings than of late plus a few Blackbirds and Ring Ouzels. I saw a flock of 25 Siskin (there was over 100 on the isle, including a flock of 60!) and a handful of Yellow-browed Warblers, a Short-eared Owl and a Greenfinch. Best however was found as the light faded fast, just before I headed for home - a Great Grey Shrike at the Mast! Thankfully, Rob had also headed north. He missed the mandarin but got all the way to Dronger and Ward Hill where he was compensated with first a flock of Twite at Dronger containing an nice white Arctic Redpoll and then an Olive-backed Pipit on the back of Ward Hill. Jammy!!!
At log it was evident that birds had come in during the brief spell when the isle was visible fom the air, including alot of finches with 85 Chaffinch, 180 Brambling, 5 Greenfinch and 210 Siskin!!! A Swift was unusual so late and there were a few more common warblers and a couple of Rosefinch.

I've hardly been at Burkle lately but the kids seem well cared for and Dad seems to have accepted that he wasn't going to get off today. I've not told him yet he may not be going tomorrow either!!
I have relocated our lone missing lamb - it has somehow got in with Dave's sheep at Field. I'll need to go and fetch it back sometime. Lachlan phoned up this evening to inform me he spent the day in an abbatoir with the Vet, observing how cows are slaughtered - all part of the experience he needs to get into Vet School next year. He is already volunteering at the Lerwick Vets each Saturday and is going to Orkney in the October holidays to stay with Vet Alan Wilson (Brian & Mary's son) and shadow him for a weeks work experience. With his five 'A's already achieved at Higher, all this experience and his affable personality, I am sure he will do well at his interview at either Edinburgh or Glasgow. Hollie and I are very proud of him!

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Wood or Plastic?

A very strong SE'ly greeted us this morning making birding difficult (and planes a 'No!'), then in the afternoon this was combined with heavy rain, making birding almost impossible!
I ventured round south-west census, searching mainly the cliffs, with a (failed) detour for a Corncrake at Leogh! It seemed quieter than yesterday with a few Ring Ouzels, Redstarts and three Short-eared Owls the highlights. I was on the top of Hoini, lying on my belly peering over the cliff, scanning for migrants below when Simon rang "I've just had a Wood Duck in the Gully!!! It flew south and I've lost it!". Nice! but not worth running for - especially as its been lost. I continued to complete census, trapping a Robin in the Plantation and a nice field mushroom along Hill Dyke! Jack reported that the Buff-bellied Pipit was still frequenting North Light and Si had the other Buffy (the Buff-breasted Sand) still at Barkland. Just one Yb Warb was seen. Over lunch, the rain started and by the time I had finished doing a few post-lunch essentials - answering e-mails, phone messages, the bar totals, mending a toaster...... it was tipping it down and really not worth going - not even for a PlasticWood Duck! It was 'possibly' seen fleeing from a ditch near the airstrip towards Ward Hill by one person - obviously a very wild bird (the duck that is, not Pete - he's a little lamb!).
No planes got in but the Coastguard helicopter did and when I saw it, it crossed my mind that perhaps Hollie's Dad (who was due to depart today) had ordered it - he doesn't do being stuck very well! He hadn't, but apparently he had looked into it!!!
Following one of Hollie's magnificent Lasagnes for dinner, a lively evening in the bar was (apart from the obvious) mainly down to Carrie's excellent 'Birdie Pub Quiz' incorporating 'Birdy General Knowledge', 'Mystery(?) Bird Photos', 'Bird Logos', 'Bird Anagrams' and 'Local Knowledge'. It was highly entertaining and showed many of our guests to be total numpties. Well done Carrie!

Tuesday 28 September 2010

and the come-down!

Following the euphoria of yesterday, I was eager to be out this morning, even although the freshening SE'ly wind meant that my census (SE) was likely to be less productive than the other two areas. It started off good with a Rosefinch in the garden but after that it was a hard slog with not alot to show for it - a Spot Fly in Busta Geo and a 100 strong flock of Brambling at Kenaby. Simon texted me about a RB Fly in Easter Lother and Jack about another one in Linni Geo. Another was found in Guidicum by visiting birders. My morning highlight was watching the Buff-breasted Sand feeding with a Curlew Sand at Barkland. It was a subdued lunchtime table but I reminded them all it was an afternoon island - as witnessed yesterday, so everyone headed out again with extra determination to find something. News of a Lancey on Foula only served to strengthen my resolve!! As the light faded I was resigned to not finding anything but had great views of one of the two Hen Harriers hunting around Kenaby and could have got some great photos if the light had been better! Evening log call indicated one or two birds had arrived; singles of Stock Dove, Corncrake, Moorhen, Water Rail and Long-eared Owl. Songies reached 160, Goldcrests 80, Brambling 140 and Lap Bunts195.
I received a warm welcome from all the kids when I dropped in at home for a quick cuppa late afternoon before I drove up to the Obs to help Hollie in the kitchen. Grandma and Grandad are really great (and believe me we couldn't cope without them) but I think the kids are missing their parents. Hol is cooking (for 40 hungry birders) once again, but just for two days this time to let Phil have his days off.
Anyhoo, with the lack of rares today, heres a photo of yesterday's star capture!

Monday 27 September 2010

Pitta Patter!

What a beautiful day and I'm not just talking about the wall to wall sunshine, blue sky and very light SE'ly wind!! Morning census was effectively just a very nice walk, except for Simon who found a Hornemanni Arctic Redpoll on Hoini whilst trying to relocate a Red-throated Pipit that had just flown over him. I had a few Pied Flys and Goldcrests in the north plus a Yellow-browed Warbler and the Buff-bellied Pipit still at North Light. However, it all kicked off after lunch. I'd got as far as Furse on my way back north when my phone rang. It was Hol "Rob's found a Red-flanked Bluetail in the Gully!" Awesome! Everyone assembled at the top of the Gully and watched as it flitted about, flycatching around the conifer at the entrance to the trap. After half an hour I ran the trap, caught it and briefly showed it to the admiring crowd. After ringing it was released into the Obs Plantation. An hour later news was circulated that there was another one at the Mast!! I meanwhile was at Easter Lother chasing a large pipit but it was extremely wary and flighty so I couldn't get anywhere near it. I texted the AWs who duly arrived with 'scopes, just as I had to leave for plane duty! After the plane I walked briskly up to the Mast to join the elite group who have now seen two Red-flanked Bluetails in Britain on the same day! This second bird was duller than the first - a first-winter female? Whilsty watching this I phoned Si to see if they had relocated 'my' pipit. They had and it's a Richards Pipit! With that sorted, after the 2nd Bluetail I decided to spend the last hour before tea/dark checking the ditches in Vatnagaard and Suka Mire. I turned up two Bluethroats. Birds were obviously coming in all afternoon and final totals at log of 15 Yellow-browed Warblers, 5 Bluethroats and 95 Song Thrush were beaten by the 120 Brambling - some of which ended up in the ringing room as the light faded and they came to roost at the Obs Plantation.
This evening we were treated to a colourful slide show from Chris Gooddie about his quest to see all the Pittas of the world  in a year. It was thoroughly enjoyable and those birds put our Bluetails to shame! Anyway, its been a long, tiring but exhiliarating day and I don't have the energy to sort out photos so you'll have to wait for pics of Bluetail! G'night!

Sunday 26 September 2010

Sylvia Clive!

A cracking day for weather and okay for birds! The rarest bird wasn't nailed - a pre-breakfast report of the PG Tips couldn't be confirmed.........or was it the Nightingale at the Mast, which I didn't get up to see and now wish I had as the lone photograph seems to show an obvious grey supercilium!
The Buff-bellied Pipit at North Light seems to be getting tamer, meaning the boys with the big lenses have managed to get some absolute pin-sharp frame fillers! The Buff-breasted Sand still dances between the bull's feet at Barkland. A first-winter Glaucous Gull yesterday was the first of the autumn and was the rarest new arrival of the day. Today however, a scattering of new-in Garden Warblers gave us hope that something rarer may arrive but it wasn't until the evening that I came across a nice Subalpine Warbler in the Leogh roses and at the same time Simon reported a Hen Harrier past Pund, then another half an hour later at Gilsetter.
Most of my day yesterday was spent chasing and man-handling sheep! It was the big hill caa, to remove the lambs and count the ewes. By the end of the day I had fifteen lambs - eight for the pot and seven for replacements next year, half of which had escaped by the evening as we hadn't got round to mending the fence! Ooops! This morning we (myself, Hollie, Mum, Dad, Fyn, Raven, Ythan & Lubo) set out to recapture the escapees, an operation that was very successful except that there was still one missing! I heard a lamb with a purple spot on its rump (our mark) had been seen near Setter so we motored up there to retrieve it but all we found was one with a big orange splodge on its back - a breakout from Schoolton, so we caught it, tied it up, bundled it into the boot of the car and returned it to its croft. It had escaped again by the afternoon! We patched up our fence, so hopefully ours will stay put and the other one will turn up somewhere! Our hill ewe quota was very low but hopefully will increase on the next gather in a fortnight!

Thursday 23 September 2010


The wind switched from a nice, gentle SW'ly to a cool, brisk N'ly today. One benefit of which was that it blew away the low cloud that was lingering on the hill yesterday which meant that planes got in, bringing many anxious birders desperate to see PG Tips and/or Buff-bellied Pipit. The former was indeed still frequenting Upper Leogh garden and all the new arrivals were driven straight there when they landed and were absolutely delighted to get excellent views. Their thoughts then turned immediately to the Buff-bellied Pipit, but alas Jack reported 'No sign!' at North Light - hardly surprising given the strength and direction of the wind! It'll no doubt still be here somewhere! The Pipit searchers were however compensated by finding a cracking Hornemanni Arctic Redpoll near Easter Lother. The Buff-breasted Sandpiper remains at Barkland, Citrine Wagtail was at South Harbour pre-breakfast, Yellow-browed Warbler at Vaila's Trees and Rosefinch at Taft. Jack stumbled upon a Corncrake near Bullock Holes which, after walking along the road a few yards allowing him to get "amazing views" then promptly flew and disappeared into Furse!

The most important event of the day however was the arrival of Phil the Chef!!!! Yippee! Not because we are sick of Hollie's cooking - far from it, she is an excellent cook - it means she can at long last get a well-deserved break from it! Becki is looking forward to having Phil in the kitchen again too!!!

Wednesday 22 September 2010

The Best Cuppa!?

A great day!! Its close to midnight so don't have the energy to think/write but suffice to say that Fair Isle came of age with her 21st Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler!!!! I had heard there was a (probable) Grasshopper Warbler near Leogh at 7.30am, then whilst on SE census got another text from its finder saying it was still on show and "Worth a look". I was nearby so ventured over where the consensus seemed to be it was indeed just a Gropper, the bird duly hopped up on the wall and I declared that it "looks like a PG to me!" (I had already seen four on the isle over the years, so had an advantage). And so it was! Nobody could have wished it to perform better than it did over the next two hours - frequently sitting out in the open and hopping onto walls! Awesome!! And Jack has since become a 'loco' fan!

Simon had already reported that the Buff-bellied Pipit was still at North Light, whilst the other Buffy (the dainty wader) remained at Barkland. Throughout the day a few Yellow-browed Warblers (well three) turned up, a Barred Warbler, three Rosefinch and Simon found a Citrine Wagtail briefly frequenting the Havens, the new Obs pools before I clocked it flying over Dutfield on the way home to lunch. - the last time it was seen!
Anyway, aside from birds.....the cloud base was up and down all day which eventually meant that no planes got in leaving some frustrated birders at Tingwall and some frustrated Obs workmen on Fair Isle!!!
Right, must sleep........roll on tomorrow. Lancie? Pech? Grays?

Tuesday 21 September 2010


A quieter day than yesterday, despite seemingly great conditions with a growing easterly breeze and showers. Thankfully the Buff-bellied Pipit was still present to brighten up my morning north census, although a few minutes previously I'd also been watching a spritely Yellow-browed Warbler in the Kirn o' Scroo. Simon had another YBW in the Gully and the Buff-breasted Sand was still at Barkland. Still lots of Lap Bunts around and also Meadow Pipits and Twite.

Ann Smith's party left us on the Good Shepherd today and were replaced with a few familiar faces. I hope they (especially those poor kids) survived the crossing - they should have as it was a smooth sea first thing.

At Burkle, our sheep flock has grown with Iain Stout selling us three nice Texel lambs, which promptly escaped from the field - twice in one morning!!!

Monday 20 September 2010

Jack Scores!

Just a couple of photos for now....

Saturday 18 September 2010


Todays highlight was the two fine Buff-breasted Sandpipers at Barkland..... although the arrival of three of 'the Essex Boys' was also a delight!! Jack was ecstatic to have finally caught up with one of his most wanted birds and if he'd got out into the field sooner, he'd have found them himself! Curlew Sandpiper, Slav Grebe, Black Redstart and four Snow Buntings were also all new in.

The wind has finally eased, though what there is is pretty cold for the time of year! This did mean however that, after several days of 'No Hope!' the planes got in. The boat didn't go though as there was still too much swell, so the plane did two extra runs to get everyone where they needed to be. So, as well as Pete, Clive and Gary (the Essex Boys) we are also host to Ann Smith's entourage of family and friends, some very, very young and others not so! Therefore the Obs is now almost full to bursting with hungry mouths - a challenge to poor Hollie's portion control!!! Hang in there Hol, just a few more days until Phil returns!!

We just have two workmen here now (not counting islanders Brian, John, Darren and Ian) working to get the project finished. Ray is desperately painting the Warden's house as fast as he can before the carpet fitters arrive on Monday. Stevie has downed his joinery tools to help him out!

At Burkle, Fyntan turned eleven yesterday, so he has now caught up with Lowri again! Hol's Mum, Dad and the kids all came up to the Obs for tea, where we sang the obligatory 'Happy Birthday' as Hollie paraded the cake in. However, Fyn only managed to blow out ten of the candles in one breath so I told him that was the 'age test' and he'd failed and would have to stay ten for another year before he can try again. I don't think he believed me!

Monday 13 September 2010

On the List!

Keep forgetting to mention that the BOURC have recently announced that the 2008 Citril Finch has been accepted onto Category A of the British List.


Autumn birding is picking up with increased numbers of common migrants now. However we are just lacking the rarities with best birds of recent days being an elusive Short-toed Lark and a Common Buzzard that went straight through. Yesterday (12th) a few nice waders dropped in....... a Curlew Sandpiper on Buness was joined an hour later by a Little Stint, then a Pectoral Sandpiper with the Golden Plover at Barkland flew down to Da Water, where it remained for the rest of the day - and was very approachable.

Work on the Obs building is creeping along, the garage has now been completely re-clad and the roof finished. The joinery work in the Warden's accommodation has been completed and the painter is in now, doing his thing before the carpet fitter comes to finish up. However we have heard that he cannot come until November, so it looks like we shall never live in it!! There is still a leak in the roof (between pods) to sort out and a fair few facings etc to go on the outside. The main guesthouse internally is however pretty much finished - even the troublesome showers!!!

The highlight at Burkle in the past few days has been Ythan's seventh birthday on 11th! It was a bit of let-down really as we (his parents) have been so busy/disorganised that we ended up having to buy almost all his presents from Stackhoull Stores which, whilst being a great place for more than all your everyday essentials, is hardly the place to go birthday shopping for a seven year old - or anybody for that matter!! He did have a joint birthday party with Oisin Bracken in the hall the day before though which everyone seemed to enjoy immensely, especially Grandma!!

In preparation for becoming crofters we are now proud owners of ten Cheviot ewes!!

Thursday 9 September 2010

Just say "I do!"

How the time flies!! I've been so busy that am now well behind with blog updates so I'll give a brief update of September so far, starting with a bird that actually arrived on the last day of August.......the second Arctic Warbler of the autumn already. This was actually discovered and trapped by one of the four couples who were here for 'the interview weekend' to find a suitable pair to take over running the Obs next season after Hollie and I leave. Nice one Ian & Sally - a great find and capture! After finding one himself two weeks earlier, Jack was delighted to be allowed to ring this - his dream bird - himself. Following release, it showed well intermittently in the Obs Plantation that afternoon and the first two days of September. The first Slavonian Grebe of the autumn, Icterine warbler, 3 Barred Warbler, 7 Rosefinch and a scattering of common warblers were also seen on 1st but the real highlight of the day was the Lapland Bunting invasion. A flock of 50+ was seen on Ward Hill and many smaller parties were also seen giving a total of at least 185 for the log - over twice the previous record!! A Wryneck the following day eluded most people but most caught up with at least one of the three Barred Warblers present and the five Rosefinch whilst they couldn't avoid seeing and hearing Lapland Buntings, of which there were (just) 140! Apart from the continuing presence of large numbers of these buntings, other highlights of the first week or so of the month have been the passage of common migrants with all the common warblers, flycatchers, Redstart, Whinchat and Pipits passing through in varying numbers. For a full rundown of daily numbers, please look at the Latest Sightings page on the FIBO website. A reminder that autumn really is progressing fast has been the arrival of the first few (winter) thrushes and finches with a handful of Song Thrushes, Fieldfares, Chaffinch and Brambling all dropping in on the past few days. Following these migrants have been raptors with peak day counts of 11 Kestrels and a record seven Sparrowhawks.

Aside from the good numbers of migrants the main news has been the appointment of the new FIBO Warden & Administrator. The press seems to have been full of the news however for those that don't read the papers.........following a very stressful few days on the isle (as much for myself, Hollie and the Directors present as for the prospective candidates), David & Susannah (and baby Grace) Parnaby were chosen to be our successors. It will inevitably be a sad day when I hand over the reins, but I do wish them every success in their new venture and hope they approach the role with the commitment and energy it demands (and FIBO deserves) and that they also sample the immense enjoyment that we have had during our 12 seasons of running FIBO and living on Fair Isle. Thankfully, we are still doing the latter!!!
The new building is an excellent place to stay and all our guests have been very impressed with it and we have now even held our first Wedding Reception!!!! The marriage of Jimmy Stout's cousin Marilyn to Gordon took place in the Chapel and later (because the Village Hall is out of action due to having its roof replaced) the whole island were invited to a buffet meal, with music and dancing at the Obs. It was hard work for all the staff but we pulled it off and everyone agreed it was an excellent venue and a truly great evening!

Okay, thats enough words for one posting.....

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