Tuesday 19 February 2013

Glaucs a go go.

A spell of wintry weather didn’t deliver much on the bird front, with the year list growing by the addition of Knot (in the fields at Taft from 12th, a remarkably similar time and place to the first Knot last year) and the first returning Ringed Plover (14th). The best sighting of the period was four juvenile Glaucous Gulls together on Buness (11th) in what has been a quiet winter for white-winged gulls. A superb summery day on 18th saw temperatures soar to 11 degrees and Skylarks heard on the move (at least three were noted, but they were passing high overhead), with an increase in Ringed Plovers to eight and Oystercatchers to 12. ‘Old favourites’ lingering included the Greenland White-fronted Goose, Great Tit, Peregrine, Merlin, Water Rail and two Woodcock.
Two of the four young Glaucs viewable from the kitchen window as they sheltered from strong winds with around 100 Great Black-backs on the South Gavel of Buness.
Today sees easterly winds and a drizzly fog, it’s presumably too early in the year for that to produce anything of much excitement though. However, with a birding friend currently visiting (taking a break from his normal life of island life looking at birds on the Farne Islands!) we’ll be able to cover most of the island today, so watch this space…

Sunday 10 February 2013

Whatever next?

The Shetland Pine Grosbeak. Could there be anymore of these beauties lurking out there that might call into Fair Isle on their way back north? Eight points in the Prediction Competition if they do!
A beautiful day of sunshine and visibility stretching many miles out to sea yesterday (we were able to give Shetland and North Ron a wave as both were clearly visible) gave way to strong SE winds and snow today, some of which even settled enough for snowmen, snowballs and a spot of very rough sledging. Still beautiful in its own way and it’s the constant changes that help to make life here all the more interesting.

A warm welcome.

Mammal listers will no doubt be drooling with envy at the endemic feeding in our garden today: Fair Isle Field Mouse is slightly larger and darker than the Wood Mouse of the rest of the UK, of which it is usually considered a subspecies.
Not much to add to the bird news, Iceland Gull and Peregrine have been seen in recent days, but the only addition to the year list was a Puffin in South Haven today, which didn’t look entirely happy to be here.
But it’s time to start thinking of the birds that could turn up on Fair Isle this year. There’s a prize of four nights free accommodation at FIBO (for FOFI members, two nights for non-members) for the winner of the Fair Isle Prediction Competition. All you have to do is have a guess at which birds will turn up this year between 1st April and 30th November (choose 3 firsts for the UK, 5 firsts for Fair Isle, 15 spring and 15 autumn rarities) with points allocated for each species from the list of ‘predictable birds’ that are seen. The winner will be announced in December. It’s all just a bit of fun, so why not give it a go, given the ‘anything could turn up’ feeling of birding on Fair Isle, everyone stands a chance. Details on how to enter can be found here.

Saturday 9 February 2013

Latest Update

9th February
Sorry it's been a while, it's been quite busy despite the Obs being closed to guests for the winter. A couple bits of news for you before a little photo montage of the last couple of weeks:
  • Bookings for 2014 will open on 1st March for Friends of Fair Isle and 1st April for everyone else, so don't miss out on the peak birding times, get your diary out and start planning your 2014 trip now: see here for details.
  • The DirectFlight Summer Timetable is now available (it's the same as last year's summer timetable), so anyone visiting us in 2013 can now confirm their travel plans.
  • Keep your eyes open for the Fair Isle prediction competition coming to this blog soon. Get your thinking caps on for what rares could turn up on Fair Isle this year...
Now, here's those photos:

How about this for your office? Deadlines for applications for the 2013 jobs at FIBO close on 15th February.
In a 'mixed' period of weather, there have been several relatively mild days...
...and some not so mild. Lying snow is relatively unusual on Fair Isle, although the airstrip spent a couple of days with a light dusting.
One of our longest lived seabirds, Fulmars, have seen it all before and the odd blizzard doesn't worry them.
Grace and Freyja both enjoyed their first taste of haggis at the Burn's Night event in the Hall.
Birding has been relatively quiet: highlight has been the Coot (a scarce bird on Fair Isle, although it is only a good run  of sightings in the last three years that has pushed the total number of records above Lanceolated Warbler!) that arrived on 29th January and remained into early February.  Also lingering were the Great Tit, Greenland White-fronted Goose, Water Rail, Moorhen and Merlin amongst others, with a Glaucous Gull seen on 25th January.
Thrushes remain in reasonable numbers for this time of year, with small groups of Fieldfare, Redwing and Blackbird scattered across the islnd, along with a couple of Song Thrushes. A Robin is lurking at Barkland and two Snow Buntings on 23rd January were the first for the year.
Oystercatchers have increased to eight, a few Lapwing are around and a stomp through the ditches on 29th January produced the year's first Jack Snipe, 66 Snipe and a couple of Woodcock, on which day Dunlin also made it onto the year list. This Purple Sandpiper has taken up residence at Golden Water throughout the winter, making it one of the few Purps in the country resident on fresh water I suspect.
Grace has got a new Fair Isle hat (thanks Elena), which is modelled here by Freyja.
Whilst Grace models a different outfit at the Lerwick Museum.
High seas in early February saw Fair Isle battered by waves, this was the day after the big storm and things were still rather swelly on the west coast.
South Light took the brunt of the storm. The damage to the wall can be seen here, with a large section (including the 'seawatching' bench!) completely destroyed and scattered onto the football pitch (to the right of the lighthouse). Thankfully nobody was harmed and, although the engine room of the lighthouse also took a bit of a battering, none of the housing at South Light was damaged.
A trip to Lerwick (a very well timed dental appointment!) coincided with the Pine Grosbeak at Collafirth, which was nice. Grace added it to her list but was more excited by the fish and chips afterwards.
What a bird! I'd not be surprised if Fair Isle benefits from a northern woodland bird heading back north this spring. Maybe not something as dramatic as this monster, but you never know what will be trying to get back to Scandinavia via a series of short hops after lurking in a British forest somewhere for the winter...Will anyone predict Hawk Owl, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker or Nuthatch as a first for Fair Isle this year?

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