Thursday 3 November 2011

Sightings update.

As the south-east winds batter the island (the Met Office is forecasting gale force again) and the rain scuppers any chance of birding productively, it seems like a good day to have a bit of an office catch up. I’ll start with an update on bird sightings from the last week or so, where we never managed the final ‘big rare’ of the season, but had some very enjoyable birding.

Red-necked Grebe – one was swimming in the sheltered water of Gunnawark on 26th, a rare visitor to Fair Isle waters, with just over 20 records but only a couple in the last 15 years.
Spotted Crake – one found in Da Water on 29th where it was mostly very elusive but occasionally showed very well.
Red-breasted Flycatcher – one in Easter Lother on 28th, only our second record of the year.
Great Grey Shrike – one in Hjukni on 25th, which was presumably the bird trapped in the plantation the following day that lingered into November. Another was at the Mast on 28th, with possibly the same bird at Utra on 30th.
The 2nd Great Grey Shrike of the year to be ringed at the Obs.
Little Gull – an adult in South Harbour from 25th, with presumably the same bird also wandering to South Haven on occasions. What was possibly the same adult was found exhausted at North Light on 30th when a juvenile was also in South Harbour.
Dancing on the waves in South Harbour, this adult Little Gull seemed unconcerned by the ferocious winds.
Nathusius’ Pipistrelle – One found in a weak state on 26th was taken into care where it quickly recovered and was released later that evening.
Probably not the natural habitat of a Nathusius' Pipistrelle, this bat appeared to be an exhausted migrant. Bats occur rarely on Fair  Isle, with sightings occuring at an average of one every four or five years. Very few are identified to species, although most confirmed sightings on Shetland are of Nathusius' Pipistrelle.
Grey Phalarope – One was seen from South Light on 1st, another record on a good year for this species.

Other migrants:
The weather conditions were perfect for thrush arrivals, with peaks of 1053 Fieldfare (29th), 766 Blackbirds (27th), 623 Redwing (27th) and 87 Song Thrush (26th). A Ring Ouzel (28th) and a couple of Mistle Thrushes were also picked out amongst the swirling masses. Smaller migrants were in shorter supply, with up to 32 Blackcap (26th), an arrival of Robins from 25th that peaked at just 27, 4 Chiffchaff, only small numbers of Goldcrest, a maximum of 3 Black Redstarts, single Stonechats on 25th and from 30th and a couple of Wheatear lingering into November. Finches were poorly represented and included two Goldfinch (from 28th), a couple of Siskins, up to 6 Mealy Redpoll but generally very low numbers of Chaffinch and Brambling. Up to 7 Yellowhammers were around the island along with 8 Reed Buntings, small numbers of Lapland Buntings lingered and Snow Bunting numbers rose to 99.
This young male Yellowhammer lingered at the Obs, others around the island took advantage of the Obs crop strips.
Long-eared Owls were seen daily from 27th, with two birds trapped and ringed, whilst Short-eared Owls were numerous at the end of October with at least 15 seen. The couple of Jackdaws that had been present for at least a week turned out to be the vanguard of an arrival that saw numbers rise to 77 on 30th with a couple or Rooks accompanying them (and 3 moving south on the 1st).
Although variable in appearance, many of the Jackdaws sported the more extensive white collar markings typical of Scandinavian birds.
At least 3 Sparrowhawks were enjoying the thrush passage with other accompanying species including up to 28 Woodcock and 9 Woodpigeon. More unusual was a very late House Martin at Dronger on 2nd.
Spot the Woodcock! Most sightings of this cryptic species are of flushed birds, although nine have also been trapped and occasionally birds are found out in the open like this one at Guidicum.
Wildfowl passage included five Whooper Swan on 1st and 26 Barnacle Geese on 31st and a Grey Plover was circling the island on 26th. At least one first-winter Glaucous Gull lingered in the North of the island. Finally, although seawatching was quiet as would be expected there were a couple of sightings of Little Auks and a Minke Whale was seen just north of the island from the Good Shepherd on 1st.

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