Friday 22 March 2013

Snow, sun and some migrants.

22nd March

Looking south down the magnificent west cliffs.
As the easterlies continue there are still birds coming in, although looking for them in the occasional blizzards and biting cold isn't always easy.
The stacks in the background are teeming with Gannets, whilst the calm, blue sea also looks quite summery - the ice on the clifftops show it's not quite spring-like just yet though.
Still, it's great to be out and about with new birds virtually every day and the building feeling of anticipation for the forthcoming season. One of the advantages of having a comparatively restricted number of species over the winter is that migrants are much easier to detect as they come through, so the additions of Dunnock (19th) and Reed Bunting (21st) to the year list obviously involved new migrants.
One bird that overwinters in good numbers is the Turnstone. This was one of three caught in the spiral trap in the Obs garden on Thursday and had been ringed here in the autumn.
Skylarks on the other hand largely abandon the island in the winter. They are back in good numbers now, although most are still in large flocks in the south of the island. A couple (including this one) have been regularly feeding in the Obs garden.
Razorbills also returned in numbers for the first time on 20th, with at least 50 around some of the North Cliff's colonies. Other migrants increasing in numbers included two Grey Heron (19th with one still on 20th), two Chaffinch (19th, with one at the Obs from 20th), 12 Woodpigeon (19th), three Robin (21st), 60 Fieldfare (21st), 19 Redwing and six Dunlin (21st).
This male Chaffinch in the Obs garden was a real sign of spring.
Birds still present in similar numbers included around 100 Blackbird, 95 Lapwings, two Water Rail, three Mistle Thrush, four Woodcock, Rook, Merlin and the ever faithful Great Tit.
A few Blackbirds have been trapped in the recent arrival, mostly adult males (including this bird with a very deep-orange bill).

A comparison of a more typically coloured bill (although admittedly my poor photography skills don't help the comparison between the two birds).
Another sign that the new season is rapidly approaching was the arrival of the first food and drink order (two pallets of booze, so there's no worries about the Obs bar running dry!), whilst Susannah and I have spent a good part of today getting the new beds for the seasonal staff (who start returning from next week) into the Obs. There's still plenty to be done (there always is!), but we're looking forward to meeting our first guests in a few weeks. In the meantime, it should be an enjoyable weekend as the wind is set to start easing and there'll hopefully be a few more birds to be found (can we break last year's inexplicable Stonechat duck*? I think there's still a Mars Bar behind the bar from last autumn for the first person to add it to the year list!). Also, there's no league football, so no chance of Sunderland getting beaten this week.
A few Twite spend the winter on the island, but more are now present and one has been regularly singing in the Obs garden in recent days (although not in today's biting cold wind).
Moonscape. The back of Ward Hill.
* 'Stonechat duck' refers to the fact we didn't see any on the island last year, not some bizarre hybrid

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