Sunday 13 November 2011

Beans Means Geese.

After hefty SE winds overnight, the morning gradually became calmer, the sun shone and there were still clearly loads of birds about, with Blackbirds the most numerous. What a great day to be on Fair Isle! Early signs were that one or two common migrants (Chiffchaff, Reed Bunting etc) were new in but there wasn’t anything to worry the Birdline hotline with.
It's been a good autumn for Short-eared Owls, with several birds still lingering on the island (although some of today's birds may well have been new arrivals).
Things started picking up when four Short-eared Owls showed well at Pund, what I assumed to be yesterday’s Bean Goose flew over and one of the Olive-backed Pipits reappeared in the Gillie Burn.
The OBP coming rather close shortly before my camera battery went flat. Sadly, I was carrying the wrong spare (as it was also flat). Still, what a bird to be enjoying in the sunshine in mid-November!
As my camera battery had run out, I decided to jump in the Obs people carrier (which was dropping Grace off at North Shirva where she had a great time baking cakes, playing the piano and watching Lion King!) to get my spare and set off to check North. We decided to take the long way round the loop back to the Obs to check out some Scaup Tommy had found in South Harbour (in the end, eight were seen around the south of the island) but were halted in our tracks by the goose flock at Houll. Although we’d been told there were two Tundra Bean Geese heading towards us from Sumburgh, we weren’t expected at least a dozen to be hiding amongst the long grass and pools, especially when the supporting cast appeared to be mostly White-fronts.
Bean Geese and lots of 'em! Sorry about the colours on these pictures, I'd managed to get my camera on the wrong setting and I'm very much a photoshop novice.
Lots of White-fronts as well, beautiful birds.
A quick change of plans then saw me spend the afternoon literally on a wild goose chase checking all the likely spots around the island that could hold flocks. In the end, flocks at Lower Stonybrek, Houll and Kennaby saw an unbelievable total of 59 Bean Geese and 63 White-fronts (along with 20 Pinks and 64 Greylags)! Not only are both of these record counts for Fair Isle, but they may well both be records for Shetland. In the case of Bean Goose the previous Fair Isle record count is 16, so that’s been well and truly smashed. I’m hoping that the Shetland Records Committee will be a bit lenient and I’ll not have to write 59 individual descriptions!
Part of the goose flock at Kennaby.
As if that wasn’t enough, whilst checking the North of the island for any more lurking geese a Rough-legged Buzzard appeared near the mast and gave great views! It’s not a common bird on Fair Isle, so this was a great way to round off the day (although the Great Grey Shrike going into roost in the plantation turned out to be a nice extra bonus!).
What a fantastic bird! Having missed the Rough-leg in Mainland Shetland when bringing our furniture up to Fair Isle in February, this was an even more welcome sight!
More reasonable weather forecast for tomorrow, maybe more birds?

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