Sunday, 21 July 2013

Blog agog at fog slog

21st July
We're all looking forward to 2pm when we can enjoy some mist for a change!
If one word has dominated our thoughts and actions in the last week, it has been fog. An unusually persistent spell of Atlantic fog saw no flights make it on or off the island for five days before a slight shift in the weather brought some glorious sunshine on Friday and things returned to normal. Unfortunately, the same shift in the weather brought North Sea fog with it from Saturday which is still lingering offshore (although I can at least see Buness from the office this morning).

In a generally quiet time of the year anyway, the inability for birds to see the island for large chunks of the last week has not helped with arrivals and most of the birds of note have been lingering individuals.
The Common Rosefinch remained until 17th, the Subalpine Warbler popped up again at Schoolton (19th) and other species that have decided to spend the summer included Reed Warbler, 2 Chiffchaff, Blackbird, Robin, Tree Sparrow, Collared Dove, Swallow and House Martin (with a fine nest of the latter being built on the cliffs of Meoness). A few random wanderers included a couple of Swift, Short-eared Owl (15th), Carrion Crow and Sand Martin (both 17th) and up to four Crossbill (all 'Common' so far, but with Two-barreds on the move in Scandinavia [and East Anglia yesterday!] there's got to be a chance of our next good bird being that species). A juvenile Grey Heron that arrived earlier in the month was heavily oiled by Fulmars, but still seems to be struggling on. The reason for its oiling became apparent this week when it was seen to predate a Fulmar chick from the cliffs of Landberg (either that or it was seeking revenge).
Small numbers of waders continue to pass through, with the highlight being two Grey Phalaropes seen from the Good Shepherd (11th). The first Black-tailed Godwit of the autumn was at Field (18th) and a Knot on the same date was joined by a second on 19th.
Wandering seabirds included Great Northern Diver (15th), Red-throated Divers on 16th and 17th and a Porpoise (17th – admittedly, not really a seabird, but it passed by on an otherwise uneventful seawatch from Buness, so it counts as an honorary one). Storm Petrel catching was also affected by the weather, with strong breezes making conditions unsuitable on several nights, but the nights that have been ‘trappable’ have seen some reasonable amounts coming into the nets. Last night proved the best so far of the season with around 25 Storm Petrels and our first two Leach’s Petrels of the season to be caught – very nice.
In a very poor year for the breeding seabirds it’s become apparent that the season is now over for Guillemots, Arctic Terns, Arctic Skuas and Kittiwakes (all apparently without success). Bonxies seem to be doing OK, with the first fledged youngster seen on 18th. Shags and Razorbills may have a chance of fledging a few chicks yet and Fulmars and Gannets are still plugging away. Puffins again seem to be proving more resilient than the other auks, so we’re hoping that our next visit to Greenholm will produce a few chicks that are ready to fledge. We’ll keep you posted…
With not many bird photos taken in the fog, here's one that Grace took on Friday at the base of Malcolm's Head.

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