Tuesday 29 May 2012

Latest bird news.

A period of continued light easterly winds brought some good weather, then some thick fog and, on Sunday, our warmest day of the year so far with temperatures over 17 degrees. Monday saw the winds switch to the NE, bringer cooler conditions but the distinct feeling that there are birds to be found.

The last of the fog lingers around the base of Sheep Rock. When it cleared it revealed flat calm seas, but sadly no cetaceans, in what has been a quiet spring for them so far.
In what has been a very enjoyable spring for birding, the last few days have seen more highlights, Including our second Thrush Nightingale of the spring (trapped in the Roadside trap on 25th), the Red-rumped Swallow lingering to 25th, a female Subalpine Warbler (26th – 27th, trapped on the latter date at the Obs, with the measurements suggesting an ‘Eastern’ bird) and a Spotted Crake (expertly caught by Jason on 28th).
This Thrush Nightingale was a much more heavily marked bird than last week's individual.
The female Subalpine Warbler played hard to get in the Plantation until it appeared in the mist net late on it's second day on the island.
An impressive fall on 23rd saw 9 Red-backed Shrikes (with smaller numbers lingering after that and eight ringed so far), 10 Icterine Warblers (again, smaller numbers lingered and six have been ringed), 2 Bluethroats, 2 Dotterel (in Bull’s Park, with one until 24th), 2 Wryneck, Quail, 64 Spotted Flycatchers, 12 Chiffchaff, 15 Willow Warbler, 19 Lesser Whitethroats, 6 Whitethroats, 8 Redstarts and a Woodcock.
Last year was a poor one for Red-backed Shrikes, but this year has made up for it with some good numbers around.

A peak of ten Icterine Warblers (although one of those was found dead) was noted, with several birds adding a splash of colour to the cliffs.

And they brightened up a few trap rounds as well.
 The 24th saw a peak of 5 Common Rosefinch (including males in red, orange and brown!), Snow Bunting, Yellowhammer and Lesser Redpoll, whilst small numbers of Siskin and Mealy Redpoll were recorded throughout and Chaffinch and Brambling both lingered until 27th. A Wood Warbler was in South Harbour on 26th (one of the few highlights of a very foggy day).
The first Turtle Dove of the year was seen on 27th, when there were also 2 each of Long-eared and Short-eared Owls, Black Redstart, 2 Whinchat, Crossbill and another 17 Spotted Flycatchers.
Up to 18 Dunlin were noted, a Knot lingered from 22nd to 25th, Arctic Tern numbers have started building up, although to no more than 200 have been counted so far and Storm Petrels were back on the colonies from 25th.
Gannets are seemingly having another good breeding season, although it is too early to judge how most of the seabirds will do this year.
A Cormorant fishing in the flat calm waters of South Harbour quickly attracted attention from the local Herring Gulls hoping to steal its food.
The light easterlies have continued his morning and there remains a positive feeling around the Obs that a good spring’s birding could still be topped by a biggy in the next day or two…

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Still they come.

The light easterly breezes continue to deliver birds (along with sunshine and mild temperatures) and today's highlights included: Red-rumped Swallow (at almost exactly the same place as last year's bird at Utra, a great find by David Back), the Thrush Nightingale still at the Obs, 7 Red-backed Shrikes (including a fine male caught in the Plantation), 4 Icterine Warblers (including three trapped and ringed), 2 Wryneck, Bluethroat, 2 Common Rosefinch, Long-eared Owl, 2 Grey-headed Wagtails and Ring Ouzel, along with an increase of common migrants (eg 14 Spotted Flycatcher). Fantastic stuff and really wonderful birding, there were a lot of happy faces in the bar for Log tonight (and not just because of the hot chocolate).
Yesterday saw a good selction including: Thrush Nightingale, Nightingale, 2 Red-backed Shrike, Wryneck, Icterine Warbler, Common Rosefinch and Wood Warbler.
I don't have pictures of today's birds though, as following Sunday's late night phone call from Lerwick, arrangements were made for me to leave the island on Monday and visit Susannah and our new daughter, Freyja. Mother and daughter are both healthy and doing well and will hopefully be back on the island on Thursday. I'll not be posting lots of baby photos, but I hope you'll excuse a proud father just this once.
Born on 20th May at 9.41pm weighing in at 9lb 1.5oz, Freyja 'Hoopoe' Parnaby (don't worry, I didn't really get to add the 'bird of the day' to her name).

Monday 21 May 2012

A day to remember.

After ringing the Thrush Nightingale went on to show well in the Obs garden all day.
What a day Sunday was. Sunshine, an easterly breeze and birds. Not a huge fall, but a good variety and a real feeling that the next good bird could be anywhere nearby.

There’s too much to do to be on the computer, but here’s the highlights from yesterday’s Log: Hoopoe, Thrush Nightingale, 5 Wryneck, 2 Bluethroat, Icterine Warbler, Red-backed Shrike, Shorelark, 2 Grey-headed Wagtails and numbers of commoner species included: 2 Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Whimbrel, 2 Common Sandpiper, 2 Common Tern (first of the year), 4 Woodpigeon, 2 Collared Dove, Short-eared Owl, Swift (first of the year), Jackdaw, 9 Carrion Crow, 71 Swallow, 5 House Martin, 6 Chiffchaff, 13 Willow Warbler, 10 Blackcap, 4 Garden Warbler, 3 Lesser Whitethroat, 4 Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, 2 Ring Ouzel, 6 Blackbird, 2 Song Thrush, 3 Redwing, 16 Robin, 3 Spotted Flycatcher, 12 Redstart, 195 Wheatear (a clear out compared to recent counts of around 300), 5 Pied Flycatcher, 3 Tree Sparrow (first of the year), 2 other Flava wagtails, 36 Tree Pipit, 2 Chaffinch, Brambling, Goldfinch, 18 Siskin, 3 Mealy Redpoll, 6 Snow Bunting, 2 Yellowhammer and 17 Reed Bunting.
I didn't know it at the time, but the bell ringing at 9.40pm didn't just signal the start of Log, it also marked the exact time of an even more important event in Lerwick, but more on that later...

After years of near misses, Sunday finally saw me find my most obvious British 'bogey bird' on my favourite part of the island.
What a stunner this Hoopoe was, and it even turned out to be twitchable for a couple of lucky folk.
STOP PRESS: Monday has begun well, with this Common Nightingale trapped in the Vaadal and a Short-toed Lark found at Guidicum. The Thrush Nightingale also remains at the Obs, so I managed to see the two Nightingale species within about two minutes of each other, a very 'Fair Isle' experience!

Sunday 20 May 2012

BB before Breakfast

I seem to recall a post last year linking a 'night in ale' with a nightingale as the Haa played host to a few FIBO staff watching the Champions League Final and a Thrush Nightingale on the same day. History didn't quite repeat itself this year, but after being invited round last night again by Tommy to watch the football (an exciting match as well, even if extra time and penalties did result in a late Log) this morning saw a Thrush Nightingale trapped in the Gully.
Yesterday the wind started swinging to the North-east and a Shorelark turned up as a hopeful indicator of things to come. This morning the excitment was too much for me and I was up at 4am to open the nets before morning traps. A male Pied Fly in the nets was worth the early start and the trap round also produced Sparrowhawk and male Redstart as well as the aforementioned star bird. Spotted Flycatcher, 3 Redwing and Lesser Whitethroat were all also seen, showing that there are birds in. With census still to come, we're hoping that there'll be a few more things found, although I'm pretty happy with the day so far!
It's a boy! Good start to the day.

Last year's Sprosser was a skulker in the Haa garden, this is the first I've seen the hand.
Little beauty. What else is lurking out there today...

Friday 11 May 2012

Busy times (with more to come...).

Sorry for the recent lack of updates – it’s been busy!

Susannah went off the island on Monday and is currently residing in Lerwick awaiting the arrival of the latest addition to the Parnaby family (due date is the 15th). Thanks to all the visitors to the Obs who have been asking after her – no news yet, other than she's quite bored now! No sooner had she left the island than one of her most wanted birds, male red-spotted Bluethroat, turned up just outside the window that she had been keeping a ‘kitchen window year list’ from, it's just as well she’s got other things on her mind!
Who's a pretty boy? This dazzling Bluethroat has been regularly visible from the lounge.
The Bluethroat was one of the stars of a pleasant fall of spring migrants that took place in very unpleasant weather on Tuesday (8th), with the next two days producing sunny and calm conditions, and a host of good birds around. The fall was rather sudden and occurred when the winds finally switched to the north east and it left all the sheltered geos supporting migrants, with a variety of species flicking, shuffling and feeding in every patch of vegetation – really exciting birding. A computer screen is no way to get the enjoyment of the day across, but if I present the list of some of the days species and numbers it should give a flavour of what it was like here:
Bluethroat, Wryneck 5, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Hawfinch 2, Willow Warbler 41, Chiffchaff 10, Blackcap 23, Lesser Whitethroat 2, Whitethroat 9, Sedge Warbler 3, Ring Ouzel 21, Fieldfare 212, Song Thrush 21, Redwing 16, Spotted Flycatcher, Robin 24 (a small new arrival after numbers had declined after the last fall), Pied Flycatcher 3, Redstart 15, Whinchat 6, Tree Pipit 58, Brambling 118, Siskin 39, Reed Bunting 21, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl 2, Sand Martin, Whimbrel 20, Black -tailed Godwit and Wood Sandpiper.
Hawfinches are impressive beasts and the couple that have been caught certainly left a lasting impression on the ringers!
A 'twitchable' Long-eared Owl spent two days roosting in the same spot, viewable from the Chapel
The 9th saw a few more birds arrive (or be found at least) with Ortolan (Jason’s good run continued with one found at Stoney Brek), 3 Wryneck (with 3 still on 10th), 2 Long-eared Owl, 2 Wood Sandpiper, 11 Common Sandpiper, 9 Pied Flycatcher, 325 Wheatear, 16 White Wagtail, 3 ‘Yellow’ Wagtails, 2 Scandinavian Rock Pipits and the first Arctic Terns amongst the many birds lingering from the fall.

Ortolan has become scarcer on Fair Isle in recent times and wasn't seen at all last year.
A real 'Fair Isle moment' came on Thursday when some newly arrived visitors had their welcome talk interrupted first to see the Hawfinch under the feeder and then by the Bluethroat showing on the grass. Whilst watching the Bluethroat, the visitors also found a Wryneck in the garden!
The seaweed in South Harbour provided an amazing concentration of birds on 9th, with White Wagtails in double figures there.
Two flava wagtails also in the South Harbour included this 'Blue-headed' type bird (although as with an earlier bird this year, it shows some similarities to more southern races) and a female Grey-headed Wagtail.
Other highlights from the early May period included:, two more Bluethroats (one on 2nd and a second bird on 10th), two more Hawfinch (1st – 4th), Buzzard (one north on 7th), Osprey (one north on 10th), Wood Warbler (2 on 3rd), 3 Snow Buntings and 2 Lapland Buntings. The Green-winged Teal remained until 6th and the other wildfowl highlight was two Pintail found by Will in South Harbour on 2nd which I went racing down the island for but missed, continuing my general poor run of adding ducks to my Fair Isle list (Goosander, Gadwall and Velvet Scoter have all also provided near misses!).
Some poorer weather forecast for over the weekend may well see an end to the migration, but that wind had got to the north-east by this evening, so maybe there could be another surprise out there tomorrow…

Hopefully we've seen the last of this now, although this was the view from the kitchen only a week ago!

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Sunshine and a few summer migrants.

A couple of glorious days of weather have been very pleasant and a few migrants have started to creep in. Sedge Warbler was new for the year, following the first Garden Warbler and two Common Sandpipers on Sunday. Sunday’s big bird though was a White-tailed Eagle found by our first visitors of the year on Ward Hill (when it flew in from the north-west below eye level!). Thanks to a prompt phone call, it was enjoyed by everyone at the Obs before drifting north and making good time to cross to Shetland, where it was tracked up to Wester Quarff at least. The other rarity of the period was Green-winged Teal on Da Water (30th). It’s hard to know where it could have been hiding for seven days, so it’s tempting to suggest it could be a new bird, but that seems unlikely given that there was only one previous record before this year.

What a beast!
A Hawfinch trapped in the Obs garden on Monday may have been a different bird to the one at Haa on Friday, a Wryneck was near the Obs on 30th (with one in the south on 27th) and the Great Grey Shrike lingered from 27th – 28th. The Corn Bunting was seen again on 27th and single Lapland Buntings were seen daily from 27th – 30th.
The Great Grey Shrike seems to have left now, so the remaining Robins can rest a bit easier (at least three have been killed by shrikes this spring).
Some increases in migrants included 24 Ring Ouzels, 160 Wheatears and 476 Meadow Pipits on 30th (all the highest counts of the year) whilst the same day also saw a rise in warblers with 20 Chiffchaff and 11 Blackcap. Up to 3 Black Redstarts, 4 Siskins, 2 Woodcock, 3 Jackdaws, 9 Carrion Crows (and 2 hybrids, along with a small movement of Hoodies), 16 Woodpigeon , 2 Collared Dove, Goldfinch (28th), a Long-eared Owl (28th) and Short-eared Owl (29th-30th) were all noted and Robins continued to decline. Arctic Skuas finally started to build up, although only to six by 30th.
As hoped for in the last post, a Ring Ouzel made it into the Vaadal trap.
A Goldeneye arrived in North Haven (from 28th), five Black-tailed Godwits wandered the island (30th), a Dunlin (28th) and a first-winter Iceland Gull were the first records for a while.
Sunday’s good weather saw a catch up in surveys and (following a 6am start to census Fair Isle Wrens on 28th, when 33 were counted singing) a 19 hour day saw the Tysties and Puffins of the island counted! Tystie numbers are about average compared to recent years and, although the counts have not yet been fully added up, there were around 10,000 Puffins present, a slight increase on the last count in 2009.
Also of interest today were three sightings from planes, a Minke Whale was between Sumburgh Head and Fair Isle and a large Basking Shark and a Sunfish were seen just south of the island by an incoming passenger. Hopefully the calm weather, which seems set to continue for a couple of days at least, will see us get the chance to see something similar from the island.

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