Thursday 27 June 2013

Marsh Ado About Something.

26th June
Hopefully Puffins will do well this year; there are certainly a lot of fish being brought in recently (albeit mostly rather small sandeels). This one landed next to me as I was monitoring Kittiwakes at the Holms earlier in the week.
Late June should be the time for all the focus to be on the seabirds and dreams to start turning to what rarities may be found in the rapidly approaching autumn. However, the spring still isn’t finished and yesterday saw our fourth Subalpine Warbler of the year arrive; a female seen briefly in the Plantation in the morning before being relocated near the Museum in the afternoon (before again rapidly vanishing). The male remains at the Obs, so it would be nice if the two were to meet…
The male Subalpine Warbler continues to show well in the Obs garden.
Perhaps even more surprising was that the Subalp’s arrival was accompanied by a small flush of freshly arrived warblers. The two lingering Marsh Warblers in the garden were joined by a third, with another trapped in the Plantation and the fifth for the day seen at Schoolton, whilst the Reed Warbler count doubled to two and two Blackcaps also turned up (whilst an unstreaked and unringed acro at Setter was a different bird to those listed above, but didn’t show well enough to be positively identified).
One of the lingering Marsh Warblers seems to have taken to keeping an eye on the Subalp (visible here on the ground between the two rose stems to the left of the Marsh Warbler). Five Marsh Warblers in a day is a good count, and unusual to occur so late in the spring.
The last week has also seen occasional singles of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Whitethroat arriving. Another typical late spring migrant was a female Red-backed Shrike at Chalet on 24th-25th, the 19th of the year in a very good spring for this species.

Red-backed Shrike surveying Fair Isle towards Malcolm's Head.
Crossbills have also been seen regularly, although all the sightings may relate to the same group of 12 that have been roosting in the Obs garden (4 have now been ringed, so we may be able to confirm this if they hang around longer), whilst lingering birds from earlier in the spring included at least one Robin, Blackbird and a couple of Tree Sparrow.
The Crossbills have included a mixed bag of males, females and juveniles. This male shows relatively prominent wing bars, but not enough to be anything other than a well marked Common Crossbill.
A Carrion Crow (25th) and a couple of Swifts were also seen passing through, whilst waders included small groups of Curlew and Lapwing as their post-breeding dispersal gathers pace and the first Bar-tailed Godwit of the year (a breeding plumaged bird at Houll on 24th). The group of 22 Greylag on 23rd were also presumably failed (or non-)breeders, the Tufted Duck continued his lonely stay at Golden Water and singles of both Red-throated and Great Northern Diver were seen on 25th when 2 Storm Petrels were seen from the Good Shepherd.
A Great Black-backed Gull looks out over the sea from Greenholm, which is looking rather resplendently carpeted in Thrift at the moment.
I’ll get a seabird summary published soon, as we continue to press on with the monitoring work, but in ‘other breeding news’ the first Pied Wagtails have fledged (at the Obs), with at least two more pairs thought to be present.
So, with the wind set to be a light south-easterly by tonight (and strong southerly tomorrow), will there still be more to come? Well, it's July on Monday so surely things will stop moving soon, but the way this spring is going, I'd not bank on it.

Saturday 22 June 2013

Non-stop Spring!

21st June
Sheep Rock from the sea.
Seabird work continues apace (I’ll update on that later), with full days on the boat on 17th and 19th, although an Atlantic swell since then has slowed our progress (still plenty to do on land though!). The winds have remained largely calm, with a light south or easterly component meaning that migration has continued, with small numbers of tardy migrants still turning up.

Schwarz Geo being checked for nesting Shags.
The Subalpine Warbler has remained in the Obs garden until 21st at least, two Marsh Warblers have lingered at the Obs from until 21st (although one took a trip to Haa and Lower Stoneybrek on 17th-18th) and a new bird was at Setter on 19th, the Red-backed Shrike remained at the School until 18th, with another trapped in the Vaadal the same day and a first-summer male Common Rosefinch was singing at Schoolton from 19th-21st (only the second of the spring).
Our third Subalpine Warbler of the spring is proving as cooperative as the last one (and yesterday was one of only three species I saw in the Warden's garden, the others beings Twite and Marsh Warbler!).
Common warblers included peaks of 4 Chiffchaff (20th), 3 Willow Warbler (19th), 4 Blackcap (21st), 2 Garden Warbler (19th-21st) and singles of Sedge Warbler (19th), Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat and Reed Warbler (only the third of the spring from 20th-21st).
Many of the migrants at this time of year seem so late it's hard to imagine it's worth the effort of continuing north. Some of them may have come from further east than birds earlier in the season (this greyish toned Willow Warbler presumably being one such example).
There were also up to 3 Spotted Flycatcher (20th), up to 3 Swifts, 2 Sand Martin (the first of the month on 19th), a flava Wagtail (21st), Siskin on 17th-18th (with 2 on latter date), Collared Dove (19th), Sparrowhawk (20th) and an arrival of Crossbills from 19th (peaking at 12 on 20th).
A late Sparrowhawk was presumably taking advantage of the late passage of small migrants.
A small movement of wildfowl included 2 Pintail over South Harbour on 21st (although they evaded me again, making them my most dipped bird on Fair Isle) and singles of Tufted Duck and Teal, a Great Northern Diver was seen from the boat on 17th and Red-throated Divers passed over on 19th and 20th. Waders included 2 Knot (19th), 5 southward bound Curlews on 21st (autumn’s on its way!) and at least one lingering Whimbrel.
Fledged House Sparrows are appearing in abundance, with Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Rock Pipit youngsters now also on the wing. Pied Wagtails have been seen food-carrying in Mavers Geo, although there is no sign of any Swallows settling down to nest, despite several still being present on the island.
Lingering birds included Tree Sparrow (which was joined by a second on 20th-21st), Woodpigeon, Blackbird, at least 2 Robin and two Short-eared Owl.
Other wildlife included a large number of Mauve Stinger jellyfish seen from the boat on 19th (it has been pointed out that in this picture they look like baddies from Dr Who building a spaceship, but that's just the reflection of the boat!)
Silver-y moths are present in good numbers still.
The island is blooming with colour at this time of year, with many Heath Spotted (like this one) and Northern Marsh Orchids in flower, along with a few Early Marsh Orchids.
Now that the longest day has passed (another sign that autumn is one its way!), I was going to give you a summary of the spring migration, but given the weather (quite a strong south-easterly wind today) and the continued arrival of migrants, I suspect we may be able to squeeze another bird or two out of the season yet. The 23rd June sees the anniversary of Lesser Kestrel and Sardinian Warbler on Fair Isle, whilst Alpine Accentor and Rock Thrush have previously turned up on the island late in the month. 'Classic' late spring scarcities such as Quail, Hobby, Turtle Dove and Golden Oriole could all yet appear, whilst recent late Junes have also seen Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Bee-eater, Paddyfield Warbler and Arctic Warbler amongst others and Black-headed Bunting is perhaps as likely now as any other time, or how about a Red-headed Bunting as a long overdue British first... Crikey, I'd best get out there and start looking!

Monday 17 June 2013


17th June
The weather is much better today, so the wardening team will be 'at sea' for the day counting the island's sadly dwindling Kittiwake population. However, just before we head out, here's a picture of the young male 'western' Subalpine Warbler caught on morning traps today by Richard. Always a nice way to start the day, although it will leave us wondering what else is on the island whilst we're not!

Sunday 16 June 2013

Charlie says...

... always look for birds when you're driving on Fair Isle.

16th June (pm)
Two posts in a day, I'm spoiling you! The fog never fully lifted, but whilst I was driving round the island checking the sea state and visibility in the south, it became apparent there were a few birds were new in. A cursory glance at a few gardens picked up Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Willow Warblers, Blackcap and Siskin, before a female Red-backed Shrike flew in front of the van near the School. Nice. By this point, I was almost running late for lunch (never a good idea on a Sunday) and was wondering whether I should stop for a quick check in the Field ditch, as the cover there often attracts late spring migrants. My decision was made when I saw a pale looking warbler perched in the front of Charlie's Trees (the small patch of small roadside willows between Setter and Field). Brakes hastily applied, bins grabbed and there, sat in front of me, was a Paddyfield Warbler. Very nice.
The Paddyfield Warbler showed very well a lot of the time, although would sometimes prefer skulking low in the willow. Last year, the day we stopped doing census (to do the Kittiwake count) a River Warbler was found, this year it's a Paddyfield Warbler, we should maybe schedule a Kittiwake count more often!
A brave few twitched it before lunch (but the kitchen team kindly kept us some food back for when we returned!) before the other interested guests were able to connect with it after a lovely roast dinner and peach upside down cake with chocolate sauce.
Sadly lunch wasn't pork chops (which would have invited some 'Daddy or chips/Paddy or chops'  type pun) and despite it being Father's Day, I couldn't even come up with a related Paddy/Daddy pun - feel free to add yours as a comment if you can think of anything!
Maybe there'll be more birds later today, this spring doesn't seem to want to come to an end just yet.

Roller over and other recent sightings

16th June
It’s been a busy week as we finished the Directors’ meetings, have had a plethora of visiting cruiseships, got stuck into seabird monitoring with gusto and carried on with ringing and census. Today should have seen us at sea all day counting the island’s Kittiwakes, but fog has put paid to that (for the morning at least), so it gives me a chance to finally catch up with the blog.

The Collared Flycatcher wsan't seen again after 9th, but here's a nice comparison shot that Will has put together of it (on left) and a female Pied Flycatcher caught later that day.
And a picture of it in the field after ringing, by Roger Riddington. You can read a full account of this bird and find loads more pictures on the Birding Frontiers website here .
On the seabird front, there are a few glimmers of hope: Razorbills and Bonxies now have chicks, Gannets are doing OK and several pairs of Arctic Skuas are still incubating eggs. It’s still looking very poor for Guillemots, Kittiwakes and Shags though. Other passing seabirds have included 3 Red-throated and 2 Great Northern Divers (10th), ‘blue’ Fulmar 13th and Cormorant (14th), whilst 5 Storm Petrels were seen from the Good Shepherd (11th).
No doubting the biggest bird news on the migrant front, with Nick Riddiford getting a very brief view of a Roller near North Light on 11th. There is one previous record for Fair Isle (in 1981, which Nick also saw!), but sadly this one was not cooperative and, despite a good percentage of the island’s population being mobilised, it was not seen again. Whether it headed straight to Shetland, hid on the island somewhere or the Bonxie that was in hot pursuit of it managed to catch up with it, we’ll never know (unless it appears in a Bonxie pellet later in the summer).
There was also a continued small arrival of migrants, although in very small numbers. Highlights included an Ortolan (10th and 14th, which arrived in prime Cretzschmar’s time and on the same day as a Grey-necked Bunting on Helgoland, but was definitely an Ortolan!), Icterine Warbler (13th-15th with a second on 14th), Osprey (which went south on 10th), Sandwich Tern (13th, the first of the year of this scarce migrant) and a run of Marsh Warblers (2 on 10th at Schoolton, with presumably one of these singing at Lower Stoneybrek on 11th,a new bird at the Obs from 13th-16th, one at Schoolton on 15th and another new bird at the Obs from 15th-16th), whilst the Subalpine Warbler remained until 14th.

The Icterine Warbler at Schoolton (14th), with presumably the same bird at Haa, Skerryholm and Burkle on 13th then Utra on 15th. Another was in the Kirn o'Skroo on 14th.
Marsh Warbler at the Obs this morning, one of a good run of sightings of this typical late migrant.
 Most common migrants gradually headed off, although there were Crossbill (12th), Black Redstart (11th-14th), Tree Sparrow (11th-14th), Spotted Flycatcher, Tree Pipit and Whinchat (14th, when there was also a Painted Lady, the only butterfly sighting of the period), Redstart (10th), Sanderling (10th-11th) up to 3 Chiffchaff lingering, with the last Blackcaps and Willow Warblers on 10th and Garden Warblers on 11th (although a later one arrived on 15th). No Snow Buntings were seen after 9th, the last Redwing lingered until 10th (when it was singing at Barkland), when the last Song Thrush was also seen. An unseasonable arrival of Greylags saw 36 pass through on 14th when there were also 3 Swift (the peak count so far for the year)
Amongst the breeding birds, the Lapwings chicks in Da Water are doing well, Curlews also now have youngsters, there are fledged House Sparrows and Starlings all over the place and one of the Peregrine chicks has made it out of the nest (which is now the most dangerous time for them as they have to learn to survive on the wing, but also avoid the threat of Fulmar oiling). Two Short-eared Owls are also still present, although presumably these are late migrants, rather than a first island breeding attempt.
Interestingly, this picture of one of the breeding pair of Peregrines appears to show that the bird is ringed on its left leg. Sadly, FIBO technology isn't up to the standards of CSI and we can't make out any more details.
The sun now seems to have burnt through the fog,so it looks like we'll be forsaking Sunday lunch in order to get on with the seabird monitoring. Last year a River Warbler was found during the Kittiwake count (on Steensi beach whilst the team were having their picnic!), so who knows what we'll have to report tonight!
Although the number of predators on Fair Isle is relatively small, juvenile Starlings still have to run the gauntlet of cats, Peregrine, skuas and gulls. Visits to the gull colonies regularly provide evidence that Herrings (like this one) and Lesser Black-backed Gulls take Starlings, with rings found in their pellets.

Sunday 9 June 2013

Richard nails his Collared at the Mast.

9th June
The early hints of promise (Spotted Flycatcher in the Gully and Redstart at the Obs, along with a 'new' Robin trapped in the Plantation) seemed to have petered out during the morning as very few other new birds were noted (although the Puffins on Buness put on a good show for the cruise ship visitors!). Just as I was finishing off my cup of tea at the Hall after the guided walk, Richard phoned with the news that there was a female flycatcher at the Mast that we'd want a look at...
Roger (the Directors have timed their meeting rather well for birds this year!), Will and myself were soon on the scene and were greeted with a bird exactly as described by Richard: greyer than a Pied, with a very large white primary patch virtually reaching the edge of the wing. It looked good for Collared and the decision was made to trap the bird to confirm the identification. After a short wait (during which it made its way to the top of the Mast and our hearts were in our mouths as we worried it was off to somewhere new), it dropped into the net and we quickly went to work processing the bird. Measurements were taken, feather detail was checked and the bird was confirmed: female Collared Flycatcher. The happy crowd that was gathered were informed before the bird was released back at the Mast, where it continued feeding happily for the rest of the day.
The Subalpine Warbler was still at the Obs, the Red-backed Shrike was still around Schoolton, with another at Pund, and other migrants (several of which were lingering from early in the week) included 11 Whimbrel, Short-eared Owl, Swift, Wood Warbler, Redwing, 3 Willow Warbler and Snow Bunting, whilst a Pied Flycatcher was trapped in the afternoon, providing a nice comparison with the day's star bird.
Whilst we were releasing the Collared Flycatcher, Teresa phoned from Lerness to let us know she was watching a large pod of dolphins. Off we went and had distant views of at least 100 dolphins to the north-west of the island. Although initially suspected of being Common Dolphins, it seems most likely they were White-sided, they provided quite a spectacle anyway and another highlight to an already brilliant week! 
Notice the size of shape of the white primary patch.
The overall grey tone of the upperparts were also a clue to the identification, although the female ficedula flycatchers are a notoriously difficult group to identify. If accepted, this will be the 5th record of Collared Flycatcher for Fair Isle, with the others comprising three spring males and a first-winter bird.
Very distant dolphins!
The wind had only just got round to providing a breath of easterly this morning (although the day was by and large very calm), so the easterlies that are forecasted for the next three days may well still deliver more good birds yet...

Thrills, spills and kills.

8th June
The birding was fairly quiet today as we await the forecasted easterly wind with keen anticipation.
The Temminck's Stint belied  the species short-staying reputation and remained on Da Water for a second day.
A singing Chiffchaff was at Schoolton, othr notable migrants were restricted to lingerers (Subalpine Warbler, Red-backed Shrike, 2 Snow Bunting and 2 Short-eared Owl) and a few new arrivals (2 Wood Warbler, 2 Spotted Flycatcher and Grey Wagtail).
But the 'other wildlife' section of the Log scored highly. Not only was there a Minke Whale (from the Good Shepherd) and a Porpoise (off Meoness), but, thanks to a text from Iain, we were able to enjoy superb views of a group of Killer Whales that spent around four hours completing a circuit of the island, before turning round at Sheep Rock and heading close in north and eventually away towards Foula. Magical.
The group was thought to be around 15 strong, with at least two calves.

A successful hunt off Da Burrian, they seemed to spend a lot of time chasing prey (particularly seals, but also Eiders), although on occasion they also swam straight past seals in the water and ignored them.

A large bull heading close in past Skadan.
This distinctive male is thought to be the animal first recorded in 1980, with Peter Evans (a FIBOT Director) having seen him elsewhere in the UK.
A tail fluke is shown as the group close in on prey in the South Harbour.
The distinctive nick in the fin may mean that we are able to trace the origins of this animal as well.
A seal tries to flee the whales in South Harbour.
Part of the group together.

A Puffin watches an Orca approaching from Sheep Rock.

Friday 7 June 2013

No Stinting on the Good Birds.

7th June
Slightly fresher north-westerly winds have made things a bit cooler in the last couple of days, but haven’t stopped the birds. The 6th saw the River Warbler still at Schoolton, whilst new migrants included Marsh Warbler and Common Redpoll. A calm crossing also saw the crew of the Good Shepherd pick up the year’s first Manx Shearwater and a dozen Storm Petrels.

The incredible skulk. An hour's watch of the Schoolton garden yesterday produced about ten seconds of views of the River Warbler - even then the bird didn't show particularly well, although it shows off its throat streaking here...
...and a quick glimpse of its distinctive undertail coverts as well.
The Marsh Warbler was also very skulking, this being about the closest I got to seeing the whole bird.
Today has seen fewer new arrivals, but no doubting the star bird, Fair Isle’s 18th Temminck’s Stint (although remarkably the first for the island since 1987). After first being found at Da Water, it commuted between here and Utra for the rest of the day. A male Red-backed Shrike at Schoolton was also new, although other new arrivals were limited to Song Thrush and Sanderling (apart from several of the FIBOT Directors, in for the AGM this weekend). There was no sign of the River Warbler today, although the Subalpine Warbler remained at the Obs and a Short-eared Owl was still around Da Water.
Surely the most overdue bird on the Fair Isle list, it was well appreciated by many folk and was a Fair Isle tick for no less than four FIBO Wardens past and present!
Although it showed well at times, it also flitted about quite a bit, often giving its distinctive call (like a slightly cross Waxwing).
The Subalpine Warbler still lingering in the Obs garden, although it still has some way to go to beat the long-staying bird of 2011, which arrived at the end of April and finally departed in early June.
With easterly winds set to return from Saturday night, there’s still the chance of something even better this week. Although something good is possible at any time on Fair Isle, the second week of June feels like the real make or break time for a major spring rarity, who knows what it could be this year…

Wednesday 5 June 2013

June River

5th June
Spot the Gannet chick!
It’s full pelt with seabird work at the moment, although it is still panning out to be a poor year for productivity for several species. All the regular species are still present and the Puffins are still delighting visitors with regular evening close encounters on Buness whilst Kittiwake eggs were seen for the first time today. Census was largely quiet, with new migrants apparently restricted to a Pied Flycatcher and a Common Sandpiper, although the Subalpine Warbler lingered in the Obs garden, the male Hen Harrier and a Short-eared Owl were seen again and there were still 8 each of Snow Bunting and Whimbrel, whilst 2 Redwings included a singing bird at Barkland.
The Hen Harrier wasn't seen after 8.30am, when it was circling North over Gilsetter, so it may have left the island.
However, whilst the Wardens were out looking at Gannets, Fulmars and Kittiwakes in the afternoon, ‘Team Bird’ struck again. Following Graham (currently our Domestic Volunteer) finding the Pallid Harrier two days ago, it was the turn of Bar Volunteer Tim to turn up the goody, when he saw a large looking warbler fly into the Schoolton garden. Will and I were the two drifters off to see the world, and were quickly after the same rainbow’s end, waiting (we hoped) round the bend. It was clearly not going to show in the dense undergrowth, but a quick pish from Tim saw it fly across the garden. A large looking unstreaked locustella, oh dream maker! But it dived straight into cover and out of sight without showing any of the diagnostic features. You heart breaker. However, we thought ‘wherever you’re going , I’m going your way’ and a couple of very brief views followed. Watching a small open area (definitely not wider than a mile), we were hoping it would be crossing you in style some day. And eventually it did, and Will was able to get a view of the diagnostic undertail covert pattern. Well done my huckleberry friend, a June River.
The red flag was soon flying, various people arrived and, as I was explaining it was virtually impossible to see, it flew out of the dense roses, into the open chicken run, where it was momentarily confused by the fence and spent a few seconds showing off to everyone, before diving back into cover and vanishing again. River Warbler is becoming a real Fair Isle speciality, with this bringing the Fair Isle total to 17, with 7 of these occurring in the last 8 years.

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Fog On.

4th June
Grace prefers to let the vegetation in her section of the garden grow, which is probably because she likes the flowers, but might be because she likes creating habitat for rares.
A fog bound day, with little new movement detected, although a Swift was only about our 4th of the spring. The Subalpine Warbler remained in the garden, showing well at times, the Iceland Gull was still in the South, a Short-eared Owl remained at Da Water and the Snow Bunting flock (of 8) twittered away in the fog on Ward Hill.

Although presumably just late passage migrants, the flock of Snow Buntings do seem rather at home on Ward Hill (where a pair were strongly suspected of breeding in the early 1900s)
After all of the excitement of yesterday, perhaps a calmer day was helpful and will have helped the team be fully recharged for a rather promising forecast next week (alongside about visiting 5 cruiseships, a meeting of the FIBOT Directors and the peak for our seabird work!). Mid-June doesn't usually bring lots of migrants, but the ones that could make it through might be rather tasty, especially with a few days of south-easterly winds forecast. There seems to be a feeling going round that we may be due a spring mega this year, which would be nice!
Waa waa waa. The first fledged Fair  Isle Wrens appeared in Roskillie today (only three days later than the earliest ever fledging), where they gave away their presence with their strident begging squeaks for food. Note the typical Fair Isle Wren habitat: no gardens, hedges or sheds for these hardy little beasts.
You've got to be tough to survive on Fair Isle all year round if you're a small bird (even a good proportion of our Rock Pipits appear to head to the balmy climes of Aberdeenshire for the winter), which is presumably why this adult is not making things easy for this youngster, making it scale down a cliff face and lean into an overhang to get its food.
We're pretty full for the next few weeks (although there are a couple of spaces early next week if you're feeling confident for that Bimaculated Lark!), but if you're thinking of visiting FIBO in 2013 you can find a rough guide to what is still available here .

Monday 3 June 2013


3rd June
There are some days that you know are going to be good, some that you hope are going to be good and others that just somewhat sneak up on you but end up blowing you away with their superb birding. Today saw a cloudy start and light south-west winds, not ideal for migrants, but in late spring they are the sort of conditions that could always result in a good bird dropping in. So when an early start for trap rounds (and Guillemot population monitoring) saw a smart male ‘western’ Subalpine Warbler trapped in the Plantation, we were pretty happy with our lot.
What a great start to the day! Our seventh Subalpine Warbler of the last three years, but only the second to be positively identified as a 'western' bird.
Census seemed to be living up to the expectations that we had peaked with our early morning southern highlight, until a Rustic Bunting was found at South Reeva, before going on to show fairly well to all comers around Utra scrape then Hesti Geo.

A much scarcer species in recent years in the UK (and potential replacement for Olive-backed Pipit on the British Birds rarity list), this was our second Rustic Bunting of the spring after a blank year in 2012.
There were few other migrants noted and, as the weather closed in with a miserable drizzly fog in the afternoon, the wardening team got on with a few of the other less than glamorous Obs jobs (getting the boat in the water for seabird work, taking the empty gas canisters to the boat, pumping diesel for the generators etc). Having completed our tasks, our attempts for a nice cup of tea before dinner were interrupted by the shout of ‘Graham has had a Pallid or Monty’s over Da Water’ and we were off! Thankfully the conditions had improved and, after a couple of glimpses elsewhere during which time it looked like it was going to give us the slip, the bird put on a reasonable (albeit brief) show in the same area, enabling the identification to be confirmed as Pallid Harrier. After confidently predicting the sea fog would cause the bird to linger on the island, it then gained height over Utra and headed off in a southerly direction high out to sea. Despite messages to North Ron, it wasn't picked up there, perhaps it headed straight to the Orkney mainland, or it may even have turned round and still be lurking on the island somewhere.
The UK's first Pallid Harrier was found (and shot) on Fair Isle in May 1931, this bird represents the second spring record for the island following two autumn birds in 2011. It's a second-calendar year bird (i.e. a first-summer), possibly a female although it best left unsexed on the views we had.
The Pallid made up a cracking hat-trick of excellent headline birds from far-flung locations, with the day’s supporting cast getting a boost from potential harrier twitchers who turned up an Osprey, a male Hen Harrier and a Quail, what a fantastic end to an already glorious day (with toad in the hole for a delayed dinner rounding things off nicely!).
Despite heading out to sea (where it was seen circling amongst Fulmars!), this Hen Harrier returned to the island and lingered in the harrier hot-spot of Da Water. Remarkably, there may have been two male Hen Harriers on the island this evening, whilst three species of large raptor in a day on Fair Isle is pretty impressive in itself.
Further sightings included lingering Marsh Warbler, Red-backed Shrike, 2 Short-eared Owls and an Iceland Gull (with 6 Snow Buntings and a Redwing also adding to an oddly mixed bag of birds), whilst new migrants included 4 Collared Dove, 26 Swallow, 11 Carrion Crow and 3 Spotted Flycatcher.
This immature Iceland Gull toured the island today.
As the forecast suggests a day of fog (not good for migrants), followed by some north-east winds then calm days (which can be good for migrants) and we enter the period that has produced Bimaculated Lark, Citril Finch and a couple of Cretzschmars’s Buntings (amongst others) on Fair Isle perhaps there could still be some more surprises left for us this spring.

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