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!


  1. Chuffed to bits for you, you lucky so-an-so!

  2. You lot are having a laugh!!!

  3. Brilliant! So glad you didn't dip in the end!!


  4. Many thanks for the comments. I still keep having to check the pictures to make sure it was all real!


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