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!

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