Monday, 16 September 2013

Lights, camera, American!

11th-15th September
Well, we’re half way through September already – where has the time gone?! We’re experiencing a run of westerlies that are making things tough going at times (not least on 15th, when a south-westerly gale combined with a lot of rain to produce miserable conditions), although there are a still birds to be picked out.
It has been a busy time at the Obs, with a film crew staying on the island, which has proved an interesting experience. The film crew also got to see a bit of Obs life, when a scene at North Light was interrupted by an American Golden Plover circling loudly overhead before landing behind the camera (12th). I assume they’ll cut the bit where I scurried into shot to get my telescope back to get a better look at it! That has been it so far in terms of Transatlantic vagrants, although the spell of weather we’re enjoying/enduring at the moment keeps us hoping for more.
The 11th AGP for Fair Isle and the first since 2005.
A calmer day on 13th saw the westerly winds drop away and a selection of birds from the opposite direction make it through. Leading the way was an Arctic Warbler, initially seen at Taft before roaming several of the crofts.
The fourth Arctic Warbler of the autumn showed well at times (here it's at the classic location of Schoolton), but was rather mobile. [EDIT: I've just realised that adding up the number of Arctic Warblers seen this year on Fair Isle was a quadarctic equation. That's a pun on quadratic equation. Not really worth the edit was it? Sorry, but that's what happens when Susannah isn't here to keep my excess punning in check].
The same day also produced a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Easter Lother then Roskillie (a less than annual migrant on Fair Isle, but well predicted by Richard the previous evening who reckoned an unusually large movement on the Norwegian coast would see us getting one soon – we’ll certainly be listening to his next prediction!), along with a Marsh Warbler (at Schoolton), 18 Willow Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, 2 Reed Warbler, Tree Pipit and Carrion Crow. There were also peaks of Common Rosefinch (5), Red-backed Shrike (3), and Lapland Bunting (10) on 13th, all of which were present throughout. Otherwise it was pretty slow for passerine migration, although the first Snow Bunting of the autumn arrived on 11th (when the first Jack Snipe of the season was also seen), there were 10 Whinchat on 14th (when 70 Wheatears was the highest count since 5th) and Skylarks increased, with 116 on 13th. A Woodpigeon was present throughout and the Subalpine Warbler showed no sign of moving on, roaming the middle of the island until 14th at least.
The gales of 15th did bring the first 15 Pink-footed Geese with them, with other wildfowl during the week including peaks of 38 Wigeon and 26 Teal.
Touchdown. After arriving from Iceland in a SW gale, these Pink-feet were presumably in need of a rest.
At sea there were Sooty Shearwaters on 12th, 14th and 15th, blue Fulmar on 11th and Red-throated Diver on 13th, whilst the big blow of the 15th brought 5 Arctic Terns, a handful of Kittiwakes and the month’s first Common Tern within sight. The calmer days provided several cetacean sightings, with up to 15 White-beaked Dolphins, 15 Porpoise, Minke Whale on 3 dates and a Risso’s Dolphin on 13th. Sadly, none of the cetaceans were seen from the Swan when it provided a sailing trip for the schoolchildren on 14th, although it was still a great experience (Grace managed about 15 minutes before being sick then sleeping through the rest of the trip, although she still enjoyed it apparently ‘yes, it was great!’ ).
The Swan in North Haven.
Susannah is away for a few days and (other than breaking my computer within a few hours of being left by myself and preparing ‘pasta l’orange’ last night when I spilt Grace’s juice on dinner) I seem to be coping. Please bear with me though if it takes a little longer to respond to emails/messages etc than would normally be the case. I’m sure I’ll survive until Wednesday though and then everything will be back to normal!

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