Wednesday 6 June 2012

West delivers, now is it the turn of the East?

A big crowd, with FIBO staff, researchers, guests and islanders all enjoying a major Fair Isle rarity.
After a feeling that the spring was up and that the westerly wind that was coming all the way from Greenland might not do us much good, we were somewhat surprised by a couple of rather good birds this week. First up was a 1st-summer Ring-billed Gull found on Monday in South Harbour, only the third for the island. It remained until Tuesday at least and seems fairly settled, so perhaps it will hang around for a while.
A nice comparison between the 1st-summer Ring-billed Gull (left) and a Common Gull of the same age. Note the longer, deeper, more brightly coloured bill (with thick black band and small pale tip), larger size and build, paler mantle and worn coverts of the Ring-billed Gull.
The bird is favouring the South Harbour area and also feeds in Kirki and Mid Geos.
Note the distinctive tail pattern just about visible in this shot.
Not the most beautiful of birds perhaps, but a very good record.
Next up was a Redpoll trapped in the Plantation a few hours after the Ring-billed Gull was found. As it went into the trap it looked large and white, in the hand it was a bit more puzzling. A pale islandica Common Redpoll was considered a possibility, but the measurements seemed to rule this out. It seemed too pale for rostrata Common Redpoll and the measurements were perhaps too large for this subspecies, but is this within the range of a what a young hornemanni Arctic Redpoll would look like in the spring?
A big brute, with a wing of 85mm. The eyes looked tiny, the bill was fairly small looking and the plumage was constantly held in a loose and fluffed-up manner.
The rump was fairly well marked, although looked large and white in the field.
The undertail coverts.
In such a complicated group of birds as the Redpolls it may be risky to put a definitive name to this bird, but it is a safe bet that it is from the North-west. How far from and what the birds parents looked like would be another matter. If anyone has experience of the North-western Redpolls in early summer, or has an opinion on this intriguing bird, I'd love to hear from you.

After the excitement of birds from the North-west, the winds have now switched to the east. Straight away a Marsh Warbler has turned up (singing in the Springfield garden) and a few common migrants appeared this evening. The forecast is for the wind to stay in the east for a few days at least, perhaps time for one last hurrah in what has already been an enjoyable spring...

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