Friday 30 August 2013

Hello again.

28th August
Crikey, it’s been a while. Where does the time go? Apologies for the lack of updates recently; especially as it’s been a good spell for birding since my last post. So, what have we been up to? Well, there’s been a lot of Meadow Pipit counting, some good migrants, the visit of two sailing ships with accompanying events and socialising (the ships were somewhat confusingly called ‘The Wylde Swan’ and ‘The Swan’, which are totally unrelated, but have coincidentally arrived within three days of each other) and the normal day to day life of FIBO (which at the moment also includes a seemingly permanently teething Freyja; she’s been teething for so long now I’m sure she must be a shark). The Swan has brought a crew of scientists and artists who are exploring the issues surrounding marine conservation, an especially relevant feature for Fair Isle, where the community continues to campaign for a Marine Protected Area.
The Wylde Swan in North Haven - the world's largest two mast topsail schooner no less.
Probably best if you settle down and make yourself a nice cuppa if you want to catch up on the last ten or so days (or just look at the pictures and scan through for the red and orange species!).
My last update saw us amongst a spell of blasting westerlies, which eventually eased before the wind went to the east for a few days and birds started arriving (although it took a little while for the easterlies to really weave their magic). We were then plunged into fog for four days and new arrivals became harder to come by as the double-edged sword of poor visibility saw birds unable to find Fair Isle and us struggling to locate anything that did happen to blunder into the island. As the fog started to clear, the wind went back to the southwest and new arrivals slowed down again.
Gannets on Yellow Head a fortnight ago...

... and at the weekend. I could still hear them, but conditions weren't really suitable for monitoring!
The highlight of the period was the Booted Warbler that arrived at the Chalet on 22nd before moving to the Obs, then the School, Da Water and then reappearing at Stackhoull on 28th after disappearing for a day.
Rarities on the march. Booted Warbler at Chalet. Images taken at the Obs and School later in the week seemed to suggest that the samebird was involved in all sightings.
A large arrival of Greenish Warblers to the UK saw one day when birds were seen on the nearest land to the north (Sumburgh), south (North Ronaldsay), east (Utsira) and west (Foula) of us, but they seemed incapable of finding their way through the fog to us until 26th when two appeared sat next to each other in the garden at Kenaby, where they remained until 27th. Greenish Warblers are almost exactly twice as rare as Arctic Warblers on Fair Isle and these were the first since a spring bird in 2011. Presumably the more northerly breeding range of Arctic Warbler explains why it occurs more regularly here than Greenish, but why the ratio of these two similar species is so different to Shetland (where Arctic only marginally outnumbers Greenish) isn’t immediately obvious.
Greenish Warblers at Kenaby. The top two images show the two different birds, which sadly never sat quite close enough together to get a picture that showed them both in the same image. 
Another new arrival on 26th was a Thrush Nightingale found by Deryk as it sheltered around the Good Shepherd, which was receiving maintenance in its noost at North Haven. What appeared to be the same bird was at Haa on 28th, although it quickly vanished, so it may yet appear elsewhere on the island in coming days.
Thrush Nightingale, the two images on the left are taken at the Harbour, the two on the right from the Haa. Similarities in the wing, for example, would appear to confirm that the same bird is involved in sightings. The main difference seems to be an addition of a blob of white (paint?) on the tail by the time the bird reached the Haa, presumably picked up whilst hanging around in the Good Shepherd winch house and surrounding area.
Arrivals of scarcities included our second and third Barred Warbler of the autumn (22nd and 23rd), Common Rosefinch (one until 21st then another from 25th-27th), a Wryneck in the Vaadal (23rd, although there was to be no repeat of the large fall of this species that occurred on the 24th August 2011), Icterine Warbler at Utra then Stackhoull (25th-28th), Marsh Warbler at Schoolton on 22nd and Corncrake sightings on 23rd and 28th, with two on the latter date.
The Icterine Warbler at Stackhoull proved to be a showy individual after first being found at Utra (by the Finance Director's daughter Katie).
To add to some impressive day lists, the Citrine Wagtail remained until 22nd and the Subalpine Warbler was still present until at least 28th, although for the first time in several weeks it was seen away from Schoolton, going on a wander to Shirva and Stackhoull, before returning ‘home’ on 28th.
A number of species put in their first autumn appearances including on 20th: Garden Warbler (increasing to 7 on 26th), 21st: Grasshopper Warbler, 22nd: Pied Flycatcher (rising to a peak of 10 on 23rd), 23rd: Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat (which peaked at 3), Tree Pipits (with up to 4 then recorded), 25th: Kestrel, Redstart (up to 4 were seen), Whinchat (rising to 7), 26th: Blackcap, 27th: Sparrowhawk, Merlin, (the only other raptor of the period was Peregrine, with a female seen arriving off the sea from the North on 28th), Spotted Flycatcher, Robin (which rose to 3 on 28th) and 28th: Blackbird.

Migrants on the cliffs are always one of the exciting features of a Fair Isle autumn. Here a Pied Flycatcher tries to blend in to the cliffs of Gunnawark.
Although none of these species appeared in particularly large numbers, there were major arrivals of pipits and wagtails recorded throughout, making the island feel very full of birds, which is always a pleasant experience to bird through. There were over 600 Meadow Pipits on 20th-21st, with numbers then rising to 710 on 23rd August. Throughout this time, there were several flocks seen heading south, so no doubt thousands of these birds have passed through the island during the last ten days. The 21st also saw the period’s highest count of Rock Pipits (an impressive 175), alba Wagtails (126) and Wheatears (177), whilst Twite were also arriving and peaked at 240 on 27th. Other migrants recorded during this period included a peak of 32 Willow Warbler (25th), up to 3 Reed Warbler, 2 Crossbill (21st), Sedge Warbler (22nd and 24th), up to 4 Grey Heron, 2 Swallow (26th) 2 House Martin (27th) and Swift (27th).
The stormy weather at the start of the period brought in good numbers of waders, with peaks including 96 Turnstone (20th), 92 Ringed Plover (20th), 70 Oystercatcher (21st), 57 Redshank (28th), 56 Snipe (28th), 49 Dunlin (22nd), 43 Golden Plover (20th), 26 Lapwing (27th), 23 Sanderling (20th), 14 Curlew (22nd) and 4 Purple Sandpipers (27th). Having already seen the previous record highest count broken once this year, Black-tailed Godwits did it again with 37 recorded on 20th and then they got the hat trick when 39 were recorded on 26th (Shetland’s record count occurred a couple of days later when 81 were recorded in the Virkie area). Other scarcer passage waders included peaks of 4 Ruff, 3 Common Sandpiper, 3 Whimbrel and singles of Greenshank and Wood Sandpiper (28th)
August is a good month for the variety of different types of birds on the move, with other high counts including: 137 Lesser Black-backed Gull (20th), 138 Common Gull (25th), 24 Black-headed Gull (28th), 57 Teal (25th) and 16 Wigeon (27th).
Finally, the sea produced a few birds of note, including ‘blue’ Fulmar, 3 Storm Petrel and 2 Sooty Shearwater (all 27th, with another Sooty on 20th).
Other wildlife was also of interest during this period, with a Basking Shark seen off Buness being the pick of the bunch. A sighting in 2004 was the first since the 1970s and was followed by records in 2006, 2009 and 2010, but this is the first since then. The same day also saw a Minke Whale and a Porpoise and a large wreck of Jellyfish in the Havens. We’ve also enjoyed a small influx of Painted Ladies, Red Admirals and a couple of Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell to round off recent sightings.
Part of the large wreck of Jellyfish that washed up in the Havens on 28th, most individuals were rather small, although some approached saucer-size.
So, thanks for staying with me, I suspect there may not be too much to keep you updated on for the next few days as westerly winds really kick in (they should be gale force by the weekend) and migration is likely to grind to a halt. It looks pretty constantly in the west for a while, which may not be great, but as we’re almost in September and the excitement levels are being ramped up then perhaps an American wader is on the cards, how about Fair Isle’s first Wilson’s Phalarope?

Monday 19 August 2013

Swinteresting Times

19th August
Mystery bird! Go on then, if you saw this on the far side of the Barkland fields, whilst struggling to stay upright in a howling westerly wind what would you say it was? I'm glad I'd had better views the day before! (Answer in the text below).
Things went Swiningly for Petrel twitchers last week, with the Swinhoe’s Petrel retrapped during our regular Storm Petrel ringing sessions in the early hours of the mornings of 14th, 15th and 17th, delighting those folk who had come down with Swin Fever and tried one of the more audacious British twitches. Aside from guests who were already booked into the Obs (many of whom were seeing Storm Petrel for the first time at our ever popular ringing sessions), there have been 4 birders from Shetland and 19 from elsewhere in the UK that have made the journey since the second bird was first caught on August 11th. It’s great to share such a Swinbolic sighting with so many keen and enthusiastic people (although none of them were so excited that they needed Swin-hosing down afterwards) and I’m sure they’ve gone away with the feeling that Fair Isle is Swinply the best. We had ‘Swindled’ on standby as a pun as well, just in case the bird didn’t show! Thanks for the various people who have phoned, emailed and messaged me with Swinhoe’s puns: none of the above are mine!
The Swinhoe’s Petrel was also heard calling in the small hours of the night of the 15th/16th despite there being no trapping (or tape playing), but has not been heard since as strong westerly winds have dominated the last few days.
Interestingly, the first Swinhoe’s Petrel that was trapped (the bird that turned up when I was on holiday and has not been seen again) has been shown by Dr Martin Collinson and his team at Aberdeen University to have been a female. Hopefully recordings of the call of the second bird will help to confirm its sex (we suspect it is also female).
The Swinhoe's Petrel (by Kieran Lawrence)
Although we have been carrying out our Storm Petrel ringing sessions in exactly the same way as we had been for the last three years, it’s clear that the Swinhoe’s Petrel is not acting like most petrels (which are rarely retrapped during the same season) by returning to the mistnets so regularly. The weights we have taken have shown that the bird has remained in good health (presumably feeding out at sea during the day), but, having contacted the BTO to get an opinion on the unusual behaviour of this bird, we have agreed that it would be best to carry out no more Storm Petrel ringing sessions this year at the same location and, if we try any petrel ringing elsewhere, we’ll not be using the Swinhoe’s tape. That means it's extremely unlikely that we'll catch the Swinhoe's Petrel again (this year at least), although it will be interesting to see whether it's heard again in the Havens.
Citrine Wagtail and White Wagtail outside the Obs this afternoon (where Susannah was able to add it to her kitchen window list!).
Autumn migration is starting much more slowly than in recent Augusts, with several species yet to put in an appearance. That said, the Citrine Wagtail that arrived on 12th August was proved to be two birds on 16th (both were briefly at Da Water and then photographed separately later in the day, when subtle plumage differences were noted), with both still present today. In fact, given the multiple locations of the sightings today, there have even been suspicions of a third. After spoiling it for everyone with our Olive-backed Pipits, I wonder if Citrine Wagtail will also soon be bumped off the BBRC list, these being the 11th-12th birds here in the last three years (Arctic Warbler on 8 records in the last two years may even get there first…). The Subalpine Warbler remained until 16th at least, whilst scarcities battling through the conditions have included the first Barred Warbler (at Vaila’s Trees on 16th) and Common Rosefinch (at the Obs then Lower Stoneybrek on 18th) of the autumn. Other migrants included up to 3 Reed Warblers (16th), 2 Garden Warblers (15th-17th), a couple of Willow Warblers, Carrion Crow (14th), Collared Dove (15th & 17th), Sand Martin (15th), a couple of flyover (and therefore unidentified) Redpolls and a small increase in Meadow Pipits and alba Wagtails. The Cuckoo was still present to 18th and two Chiffchaff are lurking in the Obs garden but no Crossbills have been seen since 13th. 
Citrine Wagtail, apparently karate-kicking its prey to death.
The Spotted Redshank continued to mock my frantic dash to see it on its first night, by lingering sedately, mostly on Da Water, until 18th at least, where there was also Greenshank (15th) and up to four Ruff.
The Spotted Redshank (pictured here with a Dunlin) has become more settled on Da Water.
Ruff is a classic early August passage wader. Easterly winds in the next week could see some slightly scarcer species, such as Curlew Sandpiper or Little Stint turning up. Or perhaps something rarer...
The howling westerlies brought larger than usual numbers of common waders, including up to 4 Black-tailed Godwits and noticeable increases in Sanderling, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Redshank, whilst a small arrival of Golden Plover included an unsettling leucistic bird (the 'mystery bird' pictured at the head of the blog and perhaps the same individual pictured last autumn on Shetland).
Black-tailed Godwit at Taft today.
A few Pufflings have made it into the Obs gardens recently before being released at sea, but seabirds are really dwindling away from the island now, with no Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes or Arctic Terns to be seen on most days.
With the wind set to ease (Dave Wheeler tells us that the 52mph recorded yesterday made it the first ‘gale-day’ on Fair Isle since 28th April) during the course of tomorrow, before switching to the east during the night, I suspect we may have a bit more bird news to come soon. Barred Warbler, gales and checking the weather forecast every few hours – autumn is here!

Tuesday 13 August 2013


13th August
Aside from petrel ringing, it’s been a quiet spell for birds on the island, so it was a surprise when a light North-west wind yesterday produced a brief Citrine Wagtail on Landberg, which quickly flew south and couldn’t be relocated before dark. There was also a Spotted Redshank, which toured the island and remained one step ahead of me for several hours until a call from Deryk just before Log saw me dashing down to Da Water at dusk and finally adding this elegant wader to my Fair Isle list. A Cuckoo that turned up on Sunday was trapped yesterday, a Reed Warbler (11th-12th), Sedge Warbler (10th) and Ruff (11th) were amongst the few other new migrants, whilst the Subalpine Warbler was still present to 11th at least and a small number of Crossbills were also still around the island.

The main point of interest though is still the presence of Swinhoe’s Petrel, which has been singing regularly in the Havens for the last three nights and has been retrapped on each occasion, delighting a plane load of twitchers who arrived last night. We’ll be ringing again tonight (provided the weather stays suitable), and possibly on Wednesday (we’re deciding on a daily basis, based on the welfare of the bird, weather and visitors), but definitely not on Thursday night (due to a forecast of heavy rain), whilst the weekend currently looks poor due to strong wind. The behaviour of the Swinhoe’s has been rather interesting, with regular loud calling from the Havens (Becki heard it from the Obs tonight!). We turned the Swinhoe’s tape off tonight after it was caught, but it continued calling for at least two more hours, adding to the enjoyment of the twitch (as did the 97 Storm Petrels that were caught and the regularly calling Leach’s Petrel).
Today has dawned bright and sunny, with little wind and the feeling of perhaps the chance of a few more migrants.

Please note: I've run out of Swinhoe's puns, today's 'Swinsational' was provided by Paul Harvey, so do feel free to send in your own suggestions!

Sunday 11 August 2013

Got to be Swin it to Win it!

Over 900 Storm Petrels have now been ringed on Fair Isle this year.
Well, we did say that the Swinhoe’s Petrel was almost twitchable, and so it proved. The second person to attempt a speculative twitch for this amazing seabird vagrant was rewarded in the small hours of this morning when, after singing from the Havens from 1am, the Swinhoe’s eventually made it into the nets at around half past three. Well done to Dougie Preston for taking the punt and I suspect we may see one or two more people following in his and Dennis Coutts’ footsteps during the next few days!
It was the same bird as has been caught on the previous two nights Stormying (we haven’t been trapping for the last two nights) and actually seems settled in the area… We’ll attempt to have Storm Petrel ringing sessions run as normal, so if there are people wanting to visit who would like to see the bird then get in touch to find out when the next sessions are planned (although they will all be weather dependent of course and also rely on other work commitments). Give us a ring or drop me an email if you’re wanting to visit – we have a couple of rooms during the week and plenty of space at the weekend (rooms available from a very reasonable £45 per night, full board, see here for details).
The Swinhoe’s was the highlight of a very good night’s ringing, with a superb total of 134 Storm Petrels ringed (plus another 12 retraps/controls) and 3 Leach’s Petrels caught (two ‘new’ birds and the same retrap from last year that was caught earlier this summer).
Storm Petrel ringing sessions are always a highlight for guests who come along to them, but it has to be said that this year is proving even more special than usual.

Thursday 8 August 2013

You Swin Again.

8th August (early morning update)

A beautiful calm sea allowed us to get out in the boat for seabird monitoring. We also managed a bit of cetacean watching, making it a useful multi-porpoise trip.
What a crazy day. After the Swinhoe’s excitement of last night it was about 7am before I was able to get to sleep and was then up again for a trap round at 9am (two Wheatears caught). After a quick lunchtime nap, we spent the rest of the day finishing off some of our seabird work, with a boat trip to Greenholm to check the Puffin colony there and ring some Fulmar chicks. 
Puffin monitoring on Greenholm; it appears they have done resonably well this year, with a reasonable number of chicks fledged (in contrast to Guillemots and Razorbills).
Having come home for dinner sporting the distinctive odour of Fulmars (even after a shower, Grace told me ‘Daddy you smell quite nice, but still a bit of maalie sick’), we were considering a relaxed evening and early night, but with such calm, dark conditions it seemed crazy not to try another Storm Petrel ringing session…
Although a Leach’s Petrel was singing from South Haven as we set up the nets, the first hour was surprisingly quiet, with just a dozen Storm Petrels caught. It was therefore somewhat of a surprise when a larger petrel flew into the net and immediately gave the distinctive chatter of Swinhoe’s Petrel! It was quickly established that it was the same bird that we had ringed yesterday and, after processing, it was released. It is quite unusual to recatch any Petrels in subsequent nights (none of the 17 or so Leach’s Petrels ringed this year have been retrapped for example), so we weren’t expecting to see the Swinhoe’s again so soon, if at all. Whether either of the birds we’ve caught become regular fixtures in subsequent years (as one of the Swinhoe’s trapped at Tynemouth did) remains to be seen, but I suspect we may have a few people take advantage of the August discount next year on the off-chance! 
Look who's back. It's almost twitchable... (photo by Kieran Lawrence, who, along with Daniel McGibbon has to rate as one of the luckiest JHMF volunteers of all time!)
In the end, we caught a very reasonable total of 56 Storm Petrels and one Leach’s Petrel by the time we called it a night at 3am (we finished a bit earlier as Will is due to catch the ferry off Fair Isle at 6am!).
Other birds are in relatively short supply at the moment, with a few Common Crossbills still passing through, a small flock of Swifts roaming the north of the island and a Carrion Crow (6th) and a selection of common waders the only migrants. A Minke Whale was seen from North Light in the evening and a Beautiful Golden-Y was trapped at the Obs (the 7th island record), as other wildlife also featured in the daily sightings.
The wind is set to be in the east again later today and, as we enter the second week of August, that brings the possibility of the first autumn arrivals of several species, so perhaps we’ll get some highlights in the daylight soon.

Wednesday 7 August 2013


As you all know, I’m a purist when it comes to my list and the fact that I’d only heard a Swinhoe’s Petrel last month meant I couldn’t count it (even though what was presumed to be the same bird was trapped a few days later, by which time I’d left the island to visit my family in Sunderland). I’m pretty sure that’s what I wrote last time anyway.
However, the fact that I’m writing a blog update at 5am may give you a clue to where this story is going…
Since the bird was caught on 27th July, Seabird Officer Will Miles and the rest of the team have kept up an almost constant effort on Storm Petrel ringing in the hope of a ‘Tynemouth style’ repeat visit. As the days ticked on, hopes were perhaps fading slightly, although with catches of up to 100 Stormies in a night and a record annual total of 16 Leach’s Petrels ringed it was still a very enjoyable way to spend our time. Not everyone had given up hope though; top Shetland birder Dennis Coutts decided to pop in for a couple of nights this week, on the off chance the Swinhoe’s put in a repeat appearance…
Conditions in the early hours of this morning seemed pretty good, with thick cloud cover and virtually no wind (although a minor technical glitch that saw the generators chuntering away and then a sheep stampede threatened to derail events somewhat). The fact that the first Storm Petrel hit the nets before the tape was switched on backed up our suspicions that we were in for a good night and by 2 o’clock we’d caught around 70 Storm Petrels (including two ringed in Portugal and one in Denmark) and heard two Leach’s Petrels.
A Portoguese (left) and Danish Storm Petrel meet each other. The second Portoguese bird was trapped a short while later and was wearing a ring very close in sequence to the first bird.
Logan Johnson, visiting from Yell had just taken a couple of Storm Petrels out to be released when he wandered back into where I was ringing and said ‘Swinhoe’s Petrel’, before repeating it three times. By this point I could hear Will yelling from the net and things started to sink in. I dashed out to the net, where Will had just extracted a dark-rumped petrel. A quick check in the light revealed all the relevant features and also confirmed what Will had said at the nets, ‘it’s a Swinhoe’s, but it’s an unringed one!’. The Obs machine went into full effect again and there was quickly a small crowd gathered in the ringing room for the remarkable sight of our second Swinhoe’s Petrel of the year. 
Grace also missed the first Swinhoe's Petrel, so no doubt she was as pleased as me to see this one (she'll thank me one day!).

We’d suggested that Swinhoe’s Petrels in the North Atlantic seemed to arrive in ‘waves’ associated with warmer summers, but I’d thought that the surge of Stormy ringing around the UK coast that the first Swinhoe’s caused would mean another site may cash in on this amazing vagrant – not that we’d get a second!
Cor. Stunning, just stunning. Photo by Will Miles.
Fair Isle certainly delivers all sorts of exciting birding, but this is more than I could have hoped for. Whether it is the end of the Swinhoe’s story for Fair Isle remains to be seen (remember those returning Tynemouth birds), but for tonight, I’m extremely happy with my lot.
A larger bird than the first Swinhoe's, it is possible that this is a female and the first was a male. Calls recorded whilst this bird was in the hand may help to provide a definitive sex.
Not a bad run!

Sunday 4 August 2013

4th August

4th August
Passerine migrant is yet to get going, but Census has been kept interesting by passage waders and the continued presence of Two-barred Crossbills.
The male Two-barred Crossbill at Hoini.
The flock at Hoini is still at least six strong today (with a similar number of Common Crossbills) with another bird found on Buness (also with a Common Crossbill).
Come in number nine. Assuming this is a new arrival, it's our ninth Two-barred Crossbill of the year (and our 58th ever).
The Subalpine Warbler, 2 Tree Sparrows and Chiffchaff are all still present.

Waders were represented today by 20 Black-tailed Godwits, 3 Ruff, 4 Green Sandpiper, 2 Knot, 10 Dunlin and 2 Golden Plover (with Greenshank and Common Sandpiper yesterday).

A flock of 17 Black-tailed Godwits dropped into Quoy this afternoon, then another 3 arrived at Barkland, producing a record count for Fair Isle.
Wildfowl included 3 Shelduck, 4 Common Scoter and 3 Teal.
Shelduck on Easter Lother Water
An addition to the year list came on 3rd in the form of Sooty Shearwater (which was seen from the Good Shepherd along with 3 Storm Petrels), whilst 2 Manx Shearwaters were off North Light on 2nd.
Common Gulls are also passing in large numbers, with 344 noted today on census. Very few are juveniles, suggesting a poor breeding season.
After two days of quite strong southerly winds, the conditions are calming off now and it's starting to look very promising for petrel ringing tonight (we're still hoping for one more Leach's Petrel to break the record Fair Isle annual total, and I'm still hoping for something else...). With light easterly winds forecast tomorrow, it could also be good for a few early migrants as well.

Thursday 1 August 2013

Autumn underway.

1st August

Well, I’m back – did I miss anything?...
OK, so the Swinhoe’s was a bit of a blow, but maybe there’s still hope for a reappearance (probably not tonight though as the wind has picked up and it’s raining). On the plus side, a Pochard that arrived on 26th was still present on 30th when I got back and provided me with a welcome Fair Isle tick!
Well worth dashing straight out the house for as soon as I got back.

I also managed to catch up on one of the other birds I missed, with the start of census today seeing the reappearance of seven of the Two-barred Crossbills on Hoini, the undoubted highlight of my South-west census.
A flock of 16 'crossbills' feeding on the sheer cliff faces of Hoini contained at least 7 Two-barred Crossbills and 5 Common Crossbills, but as the flock split up and groups were often out of sight, the remaining birds went unidentified (for now). When first found last week, the Two-barred Crossbills were not mixing with Common Crossbills, although up to 18 of the latter had been noted around the island.

Although their location made seeing the whole flock difficult, the birds weren't shy, with some showing very well (including this juvenile).

Although the flock of 8 were only seen from 26th-28th, the photo of one of the original birds (right, by Daniel McGibbon) shows it to be the same as one of the birds seen today (left). Although the bird in the photo taken today is hiding its wing bars, the similarities in the visible wing feathers and pattern of the emerging adult yellow feathers show it to be the same bird.

The Stormie sessions have been going well, with up to 100 trapped in a night and Leach’s Petrels have put in daily (or nightly at least) appearances, with 15 trapped (14 ‘new’ birds and one returning bird from last year). A quick session at the mistnets in the Obs garden on the evening of 31st also saw a pleasant selection of birds caught, including a Marsh Warbler (the juvenile that has been at the Obs since 27th July and is still present today) and two Mealy Redpolls.
Only two weeks passed between the last of the spring Marsh Warblers departing Fair Isle and the first of the autumn migrants turning up!
Other birds around recently include the Subalpine Warbler (until 31st July at least), Icterine Warbler at Schoolton (26th-30th at least) and the two summering Tree Sparrows.
A small amount of wader passage has included our first Ruff of the year (30th July at Barkland), 2 Greenshank (30th), up to 2 Green Sandpiper (from 25th), Bar-tailed Godwit (30th) and Common Sandpiper (26th and 30th).
The Pectoral Sandpiper that turned up for a couple of days just before I went away. August can be a good month for other scarce waders to come through.
So this is it, the autumn is well and truly here now, we’ve got easterly winds and the growing feeling of anticipation that anything could happen. August is usually a slow burner (for the first couple of weeks at least), but the way this year is going, who knows what could turn up…

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