Tuesday 18 October 2011

Ahoy me Hearties!

So we finally got some easterlies after my last blog post, just the one day but that was enough! A large thrush fall occurred on the 13th, which was immediately obvious from the morning trap round, and suddenly the mood of the Obs lifted. In fairness, the mood had not been that bad before, but the long discussion at Log the previous evening about whether the three Blackbirds included the one found dead later on did kind of sum things up for what was a quiet day! Paul (our Assistant Cook) made the most of his day off by heading straight out into the field after trap rounds and finding a LANCEOLATED WARBLER in the Field ditch! Although a bit flighty it did occasionally give good (albeit brief) views.
Lanceolated Warbler at Field, so hard to pick out that my camera focussed on the grass instead of the bird.
A sadder find was a dead Lancey the next day, not far away at Pund. Most observers consider the dead bird to be less streaked than the bird at Field, suggesting a remarkable (but not unprecedented on Fair Isle) simultaneous arrival of this streaky skulker.
The 14th also saw a great call from Jason who identified a Blyth’s Reed Warbler on the beach at Easter Lother, which was later confirmed when the bird was trapped.
Will showing off the Blyth's Reed to an appreciative audience. Whilst watching it, an Olive-backed Pipit flew over calling, although sadly it couldn't be relocated on the ground so it had to be 'one that got away' (although possibly only for a couple of days...).
Other scarcities in this spell included a Little Bunting on Dronger (14th), Bluethroat (14th-16th), Barred Warbler (16th), a couple of Common Rosefinch (including an adult female trapped) and up to 5 Yellow-browed Warblers. Although there were not huge numbers of migrants, some high counts included 50 Blackcaps (15th), 51 Brambling (16th), 36 Goldcrest (14th), whilst a few other notable records included up to 11 Crossbill, Black Redstart, up to 7 Woodcock (including 3 trapped), the first Yellowhammer of the year (on 15th and trapped the following day) and a scattering of Lesser and Mealy Redpolls.
This Yellow Wagtail is lingering around South Harbour.
With so many migrants around, predators followed, including at least 3 ringtail Hen Harriers, 4 Short-eared Owls and a Long-eared Owl at North Light (16th). A Sparrowhawk that spent the day around the feeders and perching on the furled nets then rubbed things in by bouncing out the mistnet when we opened them later on. Maybe we’ll get it tomorrow!
Hen Harriers have been putting on good performances across the island.
With plenty of visitors around, a few people turned to seawatching (always a good way to guarantee a few chances to shout out at Log!) and sightings included a Sooty Shearwater (16th), a few Little Auks, 3 Grey Phalaropes, Iceland Gull (16th) and two Velvet Scoters (17th) which passed behind me as I searched a crop strip at Skadan and completed my day of duck-doom as I had also missed Gadwall and Pintail, all three would have been Fair Isle ticks! I did see the male Shoveler in South Harbour (looking a bit odd bobbing around in a rough sea) and a young Scaup nearby.
This Little Auk was twitchable in North Haven on 16th.

A lingering Grey Phalarope in South Haven was joined by a second bird on 17th. Despite sheltering in the Havens, they picked the rougher South Haven to keep up their reputation as hardy pelagic species!
Just as things seemed to be quietening down again as the winds returned to the west on the morning of 17th, Mark Breaks (visiting ex-Assistant Warden) found a confiding Olive-backed Pipit at Setter. This could be a sign that, despite the unpromising forecast, there could be a few more good birds this week.
Although it did give good views, they were mostly brief as the OBP found plenty of things to hide under.
Aside from the birds, we had a rather fun pirate party on Saturday (the occasional ‘Arrr’ can still be heard around the corridors!) as a way of saying goodbye to Rob (he left on Monday). Best of luck over the winter Rob and thanks again for all your work this year.
'Randy Morgan' (aka Marilyn) proves to be a convincing bucaneer.

Carrie and Jason (and Archie) also get into the spirit of things.
Most of the pictures of Rob I have are at the bar, which isn't a fair reflection of his time here. So here's one of him taking part in the Sheep Hill. Bye for now Rob, see you next year!

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