Sunday 19 August 2012

Ed of the Arctic

A scorcher of a day (described by one of the harder to please staff as ‘muggy yuck’!) saw the Wardening team out a bit earlier than usual to combine a whole-island Eider count with the daily census, and what a pleasant experience it was, although we got the rare experience of being savaged by midges in a couple of areas as the usual sea breeze deserted us and let the little blighters feast on anyone standing still.
Many of the seabirds have left us now, although a flock of around 60 Arctic Terns remains around the South Light area where they are joined by the occasional Common Tern (2nd from right).
A total of 124 Eiders were logged and, although numbers have fluctuated wildly in the recent autumn counts undertaken, this does seem to be on the lower side, which seems to tally with early indications from the survey from the rest of Shetland.
An earlier start than usual was needed to cover all twenty odd miles of Fair Isle's coast to count all the Eiders. This female was accompanied by two juveniles, but only 20 of the 124 birds counted were this year's youngsters.
There was a general feeling that there had been a bit of a clear out of migrants, but as every optimistic birder on Fair Isle knows, that just means there are fewer birds to sort through to find the good bird! A pleasant sunny day with a light SW wind may not seem like ideal rarity-hunting conditions, but (as mentioned in yesterday’s blog), a shift in the wind can often bring a good bird – and it did! Ed (our current JHMF volunteer featured previously in the picture quiz on this blog a few days back) did the business when he found a fine Arctic Warbler in the Kirn o’Skroo. Initially showing only briefly, Ed relocated the bird in the afternoon where it eventually showed well and started calling, to the happiness of the assembled masses.
The fifth year in a row that Arctic Warbler has been seen on Fair Isle, with this being about the 80th to be recorded here.

The assembled masses.
There were a few other migrants new in, with 3 juvenile Crossbills noted, but counts of most species were generally lower, with 34 Willow Warblers, 5 Chiffchaff, 5 Garden Warbler, 3 Reed Warbler, 3 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Whitethroat, 4 Whinchat, 4 Pied Flycatcher, 2 Tree Pipit and a Siskin. The ringed Barred Warbler remained in the Obs garden, but was generally elusive.
This rather fed up looking young Crossbill was making do with the closest it could find to a pine tree in the south of the island.
Three Greylags were newly arrived and visible migration of birds heading south included 20 Whimbrel, 4 Swallows and a Raven. Two Green Sandpipers and 2 Greenshank were the most notable of the rest of the waders.
As I type this, the wind is now a light SE and it's drizzling. Surely we couldn't have more birds arrive tomorrow could we...?

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