Saturday 26 October 2013

Crossing the Ruby-gone

23rd-26th October
The Siberian Rubythroat was seen again on the morning of the 23rd, but with conditions deteriorating there was no sign later on so, sadly, it proved untwitchable for anyone not lucky enough to be on Fair Isle at the time. A brave effort was made by a charter plane that had got close to Fair Isle on the basis of the positive news from the morning, before low cloud over the airstrip caused their diversion to Sumburgh (where they learnt of the Cape May Warbler on Unst that was also out of bounds due to poor visibility). Although the cloud lifted for a short while in the late afternoon allowing their plane to get in, the 45 minutes or so available on Fair Isle weren't enough to turn up the Rubythroat and so they had to return home empty handed. I suppose twitching wouldn't be fun if you got the bird everytime, but it doesn't feel that way at the time (I've quit twitching several times after long-distance dips!).
The weather has also meant that we went without any transport to or from the island from last Friday until Thursday evening, although planes have now finally reached us and there is hope that the Good Shepherd will sail on Saturday. Everyone has coped remarkably well with the issues surrounding being stranded; missed international flights, missing family, delayed trips to Unst (although several people have now made it from Fair Isle to see the Cape May Warbler) or the threat of continental breakfast on Saturday instead of the usual full Scottish. No doubt being present for the stonking male Rubythroat helped matters.
Some heavy spells of rain have left the island soggy in places, whilst the Gully stream was looking impressive.
Although the last few days of October have turned up some cracking rarities in their time, there is now a distinctly ‘end of season’ feel to the island, with only a few new migrants noted in the last couple of days as the weather has started to feel more wintry and less autumnal.
A Barred Warbler was new (and rather late) on 23rd, when there were also 2 new Little Buntings (one of which lingered to 24th) and a Ruff, whilst 2 Black Redstarts appeared on 24th (in what has been a quiet autumn for them so far).
Although a bit skittish, the Little Bunting at North Shirva remained for 2 days in the same area.
Lingering birds of interest included the Olive-backed Pipit (now ensconced at Stackhoull), Red-throated Pipit (to 24th), Richard’s Pipit (to 23rd at least, although a large pipit seen briefly near Taft on 25th was presumably the same bird), 2 Bullfinch (to 23rd), Great Spotted Woodpecker (to 24th) and a Goldfinch.
The Olive-backed Pipit shows well at times.
There were also still up to 4 Crossbill, 3 Yellowhammer and a selection of Redpolls that included a good candidate for a Coue’s Arctic on 22nd-24th, although generally there were fewer migrants with a notable decrease in thrushes and warblers.
Some of the Crossbills have shown exceptionally well, allowing the details of bill structure to be studied - and all have been Common. Hopefully there could be a chance of a Parrot Crossbill yet (whilst there are also a lot of Waxwing on the move in Norway, so perhaps we could be going to get another good autumn for them).
Some typical late-autumn visitors included a few Whooper Swans, more Greylag Geese on the move and a slight increase in ducks, with up to 15 Long-tailed Ducks noted. At sea there were Little Auk (25th, with a dead bird found on 23rd), Iceland Gulls (an immature on 23rd-24th, with an adult also on 24th), Great Northern Diver (a breeding plumaged bird on 23rd-24th), blue Fulmar and Sooty Shearwater (both 24th) but a noticeable decrease in Bonxies. Probably the highlight of the seawatching though was an immature bull Killer Whale passing Buness on 24th, whilst a group of Killer Whales were seen off North Light on 25th (from the plane as it departed Fair Isle!).
The impressive seaward side of Troila Geo...

...which now contains several seal pups. After a seemingly late start, seal pups are starting to appear in slightly larger numbers in various places (perhaps the appearance of Killer Whales this week is not just a coincidence?), many of which (like Troila) are fairly precarious, with high seas likely to cause the youngsters problems.

So, one last push to try to end the season on a real high. Saturday's conditions seem to be the best bet for finding something good, with fresher westerlies taking hold after that and, with several species putting in late appearances (Paddyfield, Lanceolated and Arctic Warblers have all recorded some of their latest Fair Isle records this month), there's still the chance of one last Mega I reckon...

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Ooby Dooby Ruby

22nd October
So far, all of Fair Isle's Rubythroats have lingered for at least three days. A few folk are hoping to come over tomorrow, so will be hoping this one does the same...
Another good day, with a lot of migrants around (especially thrushes, with counts of 1494 Fieldfare, 1144 Redwing and 598 Blackbird) and increases in Chiffchaff (11), Goldcrest (11) and Robin (27).
No doubting the star bird though: the SIBERIAN RUBYTHROAT which was still present and showed rather well at Upper Stoneybrek before moving to Chalet. About half way between its two favoured haunts a Paddyfield Warbler was found (at the Barkland tattie rig). It's the latest Paddyfield Warbler to be recorded on Fair Isle by 6 days (and that bird in 2003 was 10 days later than the second latest) and becomes Fair Isle's 22nd record of this species following the bird in the spring. It also makes it the third BB rarity to be found in the last 3 days, and with a reasonable forecast for tomorrow, maybe there's a chance we can go for four in a row... (of course the 23rd October has seen the arrival of Rufous-tailed Robin and 2 previous Rubythroats, so it's got form!).
Other highlights were mostly lingering birds, with Red-throated Pipit, Olive-backed Pipit, Richard's Pipit, 2 Bullfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Waxwing amongst the pick of the bunch.

Good Sibrations.

17th-21st October
It's a boy! After 4 female Rubythroats on Fair Isle (included the first for Britain in 1975), this stunner is the first male for the island. (image by Richard Cope)
The easterlies really did deliver this week, with the birding gradually building up to an amazing finish (although maybe it isn’t all over yet…).
The 17th was relatively quiet, with Red-breasted Flycatcher at the Plantation, Lesser Whitethroat and Crossbill the few new migrants and the Dotterel and Dusky Warbler putting in their final appearances.
Freshening winds on 18th saw a few more birds coming in, with Bluethroat (at Haa then Quoy), Red-breasted Flycatcher (on Dronger), 2 Crossbill (one of which was found as a casualty having flown into a window and was clearly a Common Crossbill, thereby preventing any ‘dead parrot’ jokes) and an increase in Redpolls (with around 60 Mealys and 5 Lessers recorded) and Snow Buntings (a total of 220 were noted). A ‘Lesser’ Golden Plover over Ward Hill was probably an American but carried on North and was never confirmed.
The 19th saw a day of near gale force easterlies and constant heavy rain, with birds clearly arriving but almost impossible to see; a Hawfinch (at the Haa), 4 Bullfinch (the lingering pair added to by two more males at Gunnawark) and the autumn’s first Black Redstart being the only highlights picked out.
The 20th saw a slight improvement, with the rain easing briefly but then being replaced by fog, whilst the winds remained very strong from the east. Star turn was taken by a typical mouse-like Lanceolated Warbler at Shirva, one of the latest Fair Isle records. There were also 2 Waxwings, 2 Yellowhammers and a Goldfinch (all the first records of the autumn), along with Lesser Whitethroat, 4 Mistle Thrush, 4 Crossbill, 9 Jack Snipe and an increase in thrushes and Blackcaps (to 58). The lingering Richard’s and Olive-backed Pipits were both also still present.
Mystery bird! The Lanceolated Warbler at least manages to show the key identification feature of its well-defined, thinly fringed tertials as it proves remarkably elusive for the camera.
The Olive-backed Pipit remains around the Stackhoull area. How many have been involved in the sightings this autumn is a matter of conjecture.
Finally, the 21st saw and end to the rain (just about) and the wind eased to a still fresh, but much more manageable, easterly. There were clearly lots of thrushes in and a good spread of other migrants, but they all had to take a back seat to the stunning male SIBERIAN RUBYTHROAT found shortly after lunch at Upper Stoneybrek.
The initial view of a chat with a cocked tail perched on the fence that was almost enough to make Graham fall off his bike! (image by Richard Cope)
Wow. Just wow. Previous Rubythroats on Fair Isle have been found on 9th Oct 1975, 17th Oct 2003, 23rd Oct 2005 and 23rd Oct (again) 2012, so this record falls well into the recent pattern. Although late September is the classic time to visit Fair Isle, perhaps the best chance of totally stunning megas in recent years has been around the third week of October. (image by Richard Cope).
Other highlights included the reappearance of the Red-throated Pipit, the lingering Olive-backed Pipit, a Red-breasted Flycatcher at Hesswalls, 3 Bullfinch (a male on Dronger adding to the regular pair) and 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers (including a bird on Dronger that was presumably a newly arrived migrant).
The Dronger Bullfinch.
With thrushes everywhere, the final counts were 1393 Fieldfare, 1133 Redwing, 606 Blackbird, 38 Song Thrush, 5 Ring Ouzel and a Mistle Thrush. Other increases in numbers included 68 Blackcap, 125 Brambling, 23 Woodpigeon, 7 Goldcrest, 12 Robin, 3 Water Rail, 3 Crossbill, 85 Barnacle Geese and singles of Long-eared Owl, Black Redstart and Redstart.
Rubythroat twitch. With fog in Tingwall preventing flights today, a few lucky folk managed to get stuck on the island so were still present for the bird. Logan has to be the most thankful for the weather delay - last year he left on the morning of the day the Rubythroat was found and this year was scheduled to do the same thing!

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Purple (in the) Rain.

14th-16th October
With the weather retaining an easterly theme, birds continued to arrive, although there was no deluge of Siberian rarities. The first rain for a few days on the morning of 16th did, however, bring a major local rarity when Richard spotted a juvenile Purple Heron circling near Hjukni geo. It was apparently considering landing, but was being pursued by gulls and, after heading west briefly (but presumably being put off by the very poor visibility, as the driving drizzle made conditions somewhat unpleasant), appeared to head for Steensi geo. Sadly it could not be relocated either in Steensi or elsewhere around the island during the rest of the day. It’s the fourth Fair Isle record (with the first three all occurring between 1965 and 1970), which seems a large number considering their rarity in the rest of Shetland (and indeed Scotland) and the fact that Fair Isle is generally shunned by the other rarer herons, with no egrets recorded at all on the island (there can’t be many sites in the UK yet to record an egret or Spoonbill?). With the previous three birds all lingering for several days (admittedly all were in the spring), there’s still a hope it’s lurking out there somewhere.
Generally there were very few other new migrants on the 16th, with a Pied Flycatcher probably the pick of the new stuff (although there were still plenty of good birds lingering).
The 14th had seen the start of an increase in migrants, with a redpoll arrival bringing a Coue’s Arctic Redpoll that was seen briefly by just a couple of people during the morning whilst Mealys increased to 44 and at least 5 Lessers were also present.
A nice pale Mealy Redpoll - not all birds fall so neatly into species categories though...
Other highlights of the 14th included an Arctic Warbler trapped at the Obs in the evening (which was relocated near Shirva the following day). Interestingly, this is probably only the fourth October record for Fair Isle (and the second latest). A Little Bunting was caught in the same net round, with another still present at Lower Leogh (from 13th-15th), a Red-breasted Flycatcher appeared in the North (with possibly a new bird at Stackhoull the following day), there were two Olive-backed Pipits at Midway (with one at Springfield on 15th) and other migrants included a Turtle Dove (which was well grilled for other rarer possibilities of course), Redstart, Tree Pipit, Crossbill (a flyover bird only, although the call was probably enough to rule out Parrot Crossbill), Grey Wagtail, Sedge Warbler, Swallow, Jackdaw and Glaucous Gull (the latter two both the first records of the autumn) and a peak of 51 Brambling.
Reasonable numbers of wildfowl have remained, including up to 25 Barnacle Geese, along with peaks of 14 Goldeneye, 9 Long-tailed Ducks, 6 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Pintail (on 15th).
The 15th saw a surge in warbler numbers, with good counts of 61 Blackcap and 41 Chiffchaff (almost all distinctly pale eastern-type birds) and two Dusky Warblers. The first was found at Setter and roamed from there to Barkland, whilst the second was seen at the same time at Lower Leogh (and was still in the south of the island on 16th). This is the first multiple arrival of the species on Fair Isle and 2013 is now the best year on record for the species (assuming the bird earlier in the week on the North cliffs is accepted as a third individual). The 15th also saw the arrival of 8 Woodcock, 24 Woodpigeon and a Garden Warbler.
Very few collybita Chiffchaffs were seen amongst the migrants, with most birds resembling this browner abietinus/tristis type.

The lingering highlights included Red-throated Pipit, Richard’s Pipit, Dotterel, 2 Bullfinch (all 14th-16th), Blyth’s Reed Warbler (to 15th), 4 Yellow-browed Warblers (14th-15th with 1 on 16th), Great Spotted Woodpecker and peaks of 206 Snow Bunting and 8 Lapland Bunting.
The Red-throated Pipit roamed from Haa to Utra but did show well at times.
'Who you looking at pal?'. A beast of a 'Northern' Bullfinch at Houll. All the records during this period were thought to refer to a widely wandering pair, although more could perhaps be expected this week.
It seems like the easterlies may have almost blown themselves out, but with a day of northerlies before the winds end up back in the SE, that might be enough of a shake up to bring us some more goodies. We’ll be out there looking anyway, so let’s see…
This blue Fulmar was off South Light on 15thm when an impressive 20+ were seen from the Good Shepherd. Other seabirds of note included a lingering Red-throated Diver and a Slavonian Grebe (16th).

Sunday 13 October 2013

Time for a cheeky catch up.

10th-13th October
A final day of strong northerlies finally eased to a beautiful calm day on 11th, then increasing NE winds on 12th and 13th – perfect timing and it certainly seems to be delivering.
It has to be said though, that a Grey-cheeked Thrush at the School on 11th was not what we were expecting. The fourth for the island (following the first for Britain in 1953 and further records in 1958 and 2007), it showed well (usually in a field amongst Golden Plover), which was just as well as it chose the slightly inconvenient time of the Sheep Hill (the round up of the sheep from the north of the island) to appear. Thankfully, everyone connected with this diddy thrush, although it had gone by the time the afternoon plane arrived. 
Initially found near the school, the Grey-cheeked Thrush moved further away during break time! It spent most of its time feeding in an open field after that though.
This distant shot at least gives an idea of the size of the bird, which was more reminiscent of Wheatear in its behaviour as it foraged, rather than one of the European thrushes.

In order to fulfil the classic ‘Fair Isle East meets West’ obligation, a Blyth’s Reed Warbler was found at Springfield the same day, with what may have been a different bird at Schoolton on 12th-13th (the Springfield bird apparently missing a tertial that was present on the Schoolton individual). 
The Blyth's Reed at Springfield spent its time moving between two small rose bushes, although it could be surprisingly elusive.
Other rarities from the east included the first Fair Isle Red-throated Pipit since 2010, which was initially flushed from near Field Ditch before eventually showing well at Utra (12th-13th). A Dusky Warbler was an even better find on 13th on the precipitous cliffs at North Felsigeo, only the 14th Fair Isle record and the first since 2007.
I eventually caught up with the Red-throated Pipit at Utra scrape just before dusk, where it showed quite well in the fading light, it was located initially by its distinctive call.
Also high up in the good bird stakes were Olive-backed Pipits at Chalet on 12th (probably present since the 11th, when a birder running for the Grey-cheeked Thrush flushed one of either this species or Tree Pipit from the same spot!) and possibly the same bird near Burkle on 13th. It is possible that all these sightings refer to the bird that was seen at Hesswalls on 8th, especially as all the sightings have been of birds seen only briefly. Completing a good run of pipits, a Richard’s Pipit was at Taft again on 12th and 13th (presumably the lingering bird), with a second bird at Guidicum on 13th. 
A Richard's Pipit powers away from Meoness heading back to its regular haunt in the long grass near Taft and the Museum.

A Little Bunting in the Taft area on 11th-13th may have been a new bird, with a second in the Havens on 12th. The Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Short-toed Lark completed the list of ex-BBRC species (well, not including Yellow-browed Warbler, which thankfully hasn’t bothered the rarities committee for a good while now) and both remained until 10th.
Other scarcities included 2 ‘Northern’ Bullfinch (the first Bullfinches on the island since 2011) on 13th, the Great Grey Shrike (which remained to 11th), the lingering Dotterel (to 13th, which has got a while to go before it beats the latest date for this species on the island, 6th November), Great Spotted Woodpeckers (which increased to 6 on 12th) and a small surge in Yellow-browed Warblers with 7 on 11th and 9 on 12th, although just 4 on 13th. The size of the influx of the latter two species is shown by the highest annual ringing totals for them being recorded this year, with 5 and 16 ringed respectively. Also of note from the ringing recently was a Czech-ringed Blackcap trapped on 12th.
A Great Spotted Woodpecker on Tor o da Ward Hill was presumably one of the new wave of arrivals.
The north-easterly winds brought the expected increase in thrush numbers, with peaks of 600 Redwing, 326 Fieldfare and 65 Blackbird (all 13th). Associated with this was an increase in Goldcrest (to 71 on 12th), Chiffchaff (to 27 on 12th, most of which were eastern birds), Brambling (47 on 12th), Woodcock (with 4 flushed on Sheep Hill on 11th), Lesser Redpoll (3 on 12th-13th), ‘Mealy’ Common Redpolls (with 18 on 13th), Siskin (up to 11), Chaffinch (up to 13) and Snow Buntings (134 on 12th).
This ringed Goldcrest was at the back of Dronger, but appears not to be from Fair Isle, sadly not enough detail was discernible to enable us to find out further information.
Birding Fair Isle's west cliffs is a great experience. This is part of a small flock at North Gunnawark that contained 3 Yellow-browed Warblers, 3 Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest. I remember searching through hundreds of the latter looking for Yellow-broweds over many years birding the Durham coast, how times have changed.
Other migrants of interest included a Reed Warbler (to 13th, just a few hundred yards from the Blyth’s Reed, giving a nice comparison), Lesser Whitethroat 11th-12th, Spotted Flycatcher 11th, Redstart 11th-12th, the first Grey Wagtail of the autumn (12th), a flava Wagtail (12th), 2 Linnets and up to 5 Lapland Buntings.
There have also been smaller numbers of Greylag and Pink-footed Geese, along with a peak of 45 Barnacle Geese (13th), a lingering Whooper Swan and a scattering of ducks including Pintail, Shoveler and a peak of 11 Long-tailed Ducks (11th). 
Barnacle Geese over Meoness.
Pintail and Shoveler are both fairly scarce migrants on Fair Isle, so these two together (ignoring the flock of 60 Wigeon just a hundred yards or so away) were unusual. I'm hoping for a Gadwall next...
Phew, that’s us up to date now – as you can see, it’s been busy! With easterly winds forecast to continue into the start of next week, there could well be more birds on the way. How about a Pallas’s Warbler (after a run of multiple records from 2003-2005 there have been none since), or maybe something even better (to be honest, there’s been talk about a few of the possibilities in the bar in recent nights, but I’m not going to jinx any of the predictions by naming them here!).

Thursday 10 October 2013

800 Shades of Greylag

8th-9th October
The increasing NW wind brought the expected influx of geese, although getting accurate counts as flocks come in, headed out to sea, turned round again, split up and circled the island was not easy. However, the 8th saw at least 870 Greylag, 194 Pink-feet and 6 Barnacles, whilst 480 Greylag and 20 Barnacles passed through on 9th.
Honk. Another skein of Greylags pass over.
The winds increased to gale force northerlies on the afternoon of 9th, but before they did, a few good birds were found. A Buff-breasted Sandpiper seen briefly on the west cliffs near North Naaversgill was probably the highlight (with presumably the same bird having been seen distantly in flight near Busta the day before) and also new for the year list was a Short-toed Lark at North Haven. The latter continues the fine run of annual occurrences for this scarcity on Fair Isle, with the last blank year way back in 1962. With a light southerly passage of Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Starlings noted during the morning, it’s interesting to speculate whether the Short-toed Lark may have been the recent bird from Sumburgh caught up in the movement. 
The Short-toed Lark showed well in the Havens at times, although staying steady enough to get a decent photo in the increasing winds proved tricky.
A Little Bunting at Chalet was also new in and, combined with the lingering Great Grey Shrike (which has become a bit more cooperative now that it has moved to Bull’s Park, where it was seen eating a Twite), a Richard’s Pipit near the Chapel (which may be the lingering bird reappearing), the Dotterel at Barkland and a single remaining Yellow-browed Warbler (following 6 still present on 8th), it was a good haul of birds all in all. The tally of good recent records (certainly better than the weather forecast may have suggested we were going to get) was added to by a brief Olive-backed Pipit at Hesswalls on 8th.
Other signs of new birds in on 9th included the first Goldfinch of the autumn, the first 2 Fieldfare for a few days, 2 Lapland Buntings and an increase of Redwings (with a total of 53 including a flock of 31 in the Obs garden), whilst the Hen Harrier and a single Great Spotted Woodpecker both also remain.
We have one more very windy day to get through and then the winds are set to drop away before picking up from the east again, and we’re entering a very interesting time for potentially very rare visitors…

Monday 7 October 2013

Easter Present

3rd-7th October
It’s been a very mixed bag of weather in the last few days: one day of howling SE gales and prolonged heavy rain; one calm day with rain and fog; one calm, mild and pleasant day; one day of freshening SW winds and occasional showers and then finally, a calm day with a fairly bright start but heavy rain in the afternoon.
The south-easterlies had largely blown their course and brought us very little new, although the calmer conditions following the storm saw the year’s first Great Grey Shrike found on Dronger on 5th, with the autumn’s first Moorhen and Long-eared Owl also discovered around the island, a Richard’s Pipit (at Bull’s Park), a Redstart and increased counts of Robin (31) and Song Thrush (72).
Most of the birds remained to 6th, when things took a surprising up-turn, with Fair Isle’s first RED-EYED VIREO found on the cliffs of Easter Lother. 
It never came particularly close, but the scope views of Fair Isle's 381st species were good. It spent most of its time halfway up the cliff face, although it could go missing for long periods (including for about 40 minutes after I initially saw it from the cliff top, when brief views and distance meant it just looked like a slightly odd phyllosc - thankfully Susannah said she'd keep me a Sunday lunch, so I was able to wait for it to reappear without misisng my roast dinner!). Passing up on this beauty would have been a real vireo nasty.
All the birders on the island were able to enjoy views of this American vagrant, which follows hot on the heels of Shetland’s first record on Unst last year and, in true Fair Isle fashion, Graham discovered a Lanceolated Warbler in the Wirvie Burn on his way back from the Vireo twitch!
This Lanceolated Warbler could be very showy (although also spent some time hiding in tussocks of grass along the Wirvie Burn). Lancies have also been found on the day of the Upland Sandpiper this year and Magnolia Warbler in 2012, providing the classic 'east meets west' cliche! Photo by David Parkin.
The 7th was a lot quieter, with a Barred Warbler in the Gully the only real new bird of note. Other migrants in recent days included a Grasshopper Warbler and Reed Warbler (both discovered on 4th and a useful reminder that we get common migrants on Fair Isle as well!), 2 Ring Ouzel (4th), Mistle Thrush (6th), 6 Crossbill (4th) and a scattering of common migrants, Goldcrests, thrushes, redpolls (with both Lesser and Common recorded), Water Rail (6th), up to 2 Short-eared Owls, up to 5 Jack Snipe and up to 16 Reed Bunting.
Lingering birds included the Dotterel at Barkland (to 7th), Hen Harrier, Stonechat, up to 37 Snow and 5 Lapland Buntings, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, whilst Yellow-browed Warbler numbers declined to 4 on 4th but increased to 6 on 5th and 10 on 6th as an apparent small, fresh wave of arrivals appeared.
A Yellow-browed Warbler on the cliffs of Dronger.
As is typical for this time of year, there has been some wildfowl passage (with more likely in the north-west winds forecast during the forthcoming week). Small numbers of Pink-footed Geese on the move peaked at 132 on 6th, whilst Greylags moved in larger numbers on 7th (when 342 were counted), 15 Barnacle Goose were seen on 3rd, the first 7 Whooper Swans bugled over on 6th and there were up to 60 Wigeon, and single Tufted Duck and Scaup.
The Wigeon flock has spent most of its time on Meoness.
The Good Shepherd is now on its winter timetable (and we’ve seen the last of the Saturday flights) as the autumn grinds inexorably on, although the sailing on 5th delivered Sooty Shearwater, Storm Petrel and 2 blue Fulmars.
There’s only 3 weeks left of the season and, whilst things might be slow in the next couple of westerly-based wind days (although redpolls, Lapland Buntings, geese, swans and maybe even another American bird could be on the cards), an easterly airflow forecast from the weekend looks distinctly more promising. We’re fully booked until the 17th October, but still have a few rooms left at our reduced rate after that if you want to take a punt on ‘Rubythroat Wednesday’ (ok, it would sound better if it was Rubythroat Tuesday, but that’s just the way the calendar crumbles), the 23rd October (when 2 Rubythroats and a Rufous-tailed Robin have been found on Fair Isle in the last decade).
Finally, FIBO has been asked to pass on thanks to the birders who used the Stackhoull charity tea stand and raised £56 through last week for the Goodwill Foundation. Many thanks for Robert and Fiona as well for providing us with shelter down the island and a welcome brew.

Sunday 6 October 2013

First for Fair Isle!

Just a record shot of today's star bird for now, more details to follow later...
Red-eyed Vireo on the cliffs of Easter Lother

And Lanceolated Warbler in the Wirvie Burn (about 5 minutes walk from the REV).

Wednesday 2 October 2013

You wind some, you lose some.

2nd October 2013
A wild and windy day saw no planes or boat (so therefore no restock for the bar) and difficult birding conditions.
The Olive-backed Pipit found near the Sheep Cru this morning was a good start, but it took off and disappeared towards the airstrip never to be seen again. That was pretty much it in terms of new highlights, with the wind proving too much of a barrier to birding. A Greenfinch was the first of the autumn, a Whitethroat was the first for over a week and, amongst the lingering migrants, there were a few that increased in number (15 Blackcap, 63 Redwing, 56 Song Thrush, 24 Robin, 7 Dunnock and 6 Blackbird).
The west cliffs again held a good scattering of common migrants, although extreme caution was needed to bird them in very strong winds.
There were also still Dotterel, 7 Yellow-browed Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl, Stonechat and Lesser Redpoll present amongst a variety of lingering birds. Seven Barnacle Geese passed over (although were struggling to make progress in the wind) amongst a scatter of wildfowl records.
The Dotterel remained faithful to the Golden Plover flock and spent most of its time on Chatham's Land (at Barkland)
After no sightings in 2012, Stonechats have had a better year, with this one present at Chalet for the last two days. 
Tomorrow seems unlikely to be much different from today (although probably wetter), so it will be tough going again. However, there are still birds coming through, so there’s still the chance of something really good being discovered given the wind direction (although Friday looks more promising, with calmer conditions hopefully encouraging birds out).
Redpolls of various sizes and species have been around in small numbers for a while now. This 'Mealy' Common (left) and Lesser were near the Chapel yesterday.
This Lesser Redpoll was trapped today, with biometrics matching the plumage features to confirm it as this species (which is much scarcer than Common Redpoll on Fair Isle).

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Wind, birds and beer.

30th September – 1st October
The south-easterly winds continued at a hefty speed and, although it remained largely sunny, the birds were mostly to be found on the sheltered north and west cliffs. The year list benefitted from two Richard’s Pipits and 2 Lesser Redpoll (both 1st), whilst other interesting arrivals included two Little Buntings (30th, with one on 1st), Bluethroat at Setter (30th), a Dotterel (30th-1st) and a Corncrake at Wester Lother (1st).
You wait three years for one... The Dotterel at Barkland is the second one I've seen this year after being my biggest Fair Isle bogey bird up until this spring. It has been lingering at Barkland in the Golden Plover flock.
The Syke’s Warbler remained until 30th only and, whilst there were no new rarities found, the birding was still good as various species increased in numbers. Counts on 30th included 12 Yellow-browed Warbler (with 9 still on 1st), 24 Goldcrest, 6 Chiffchaff (increasing to 8 on 1st), 3 Lesser Whitethroat, 14 Whinchat and 3 Reed Buntings (with numbers rising to 16 on 1st). Thrushes started to appear in slightly larger numbers with the first 2 Ring Ouzel of the autumn on 30th (with 3 on 1st), the first Mistle Thrush of the autumn (1st) and peaks of 5 Blackbird (29th) and 54 Redwing (1st).
The north cliffs have the shelter and therefore most of the birds, making for some interesting birding.
Other counts of note included up to 3 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 or 3 Stonechat, up to 13 Crossbill (still a chance of another Two-barred surely?), 65 Brambling (1st) and 6 each of Dunnock and Redstart (1st). A lingering Hen Harrier was joined by a second (1st), whilst there were also at least 3 Merlin and 4 Kestrel.
An increase in waders saw 69 Golden Plover, the first Woodcock of the autumn and Ruff (all 1st), whilst a few more wildfowl included 3 Tufted Duck (29th) and a Barnacle Goose that spent part of the afternoon of 29th on Buness in a gull flock (with a flock of 15 on 28th the first of the autumn that I forgot to mention in the last blog post).
Although most of the talk about the weather is related to whether it will bring further birds (I suspect the strengthening SE winds, that are likely to touch gale force in the next couple of days, will bring more things in yet) thoughts are starting to turn to the fact that the bar order hasn’t made it in yet. If we do get a mega before the Good Shepherd is able to sail again we may have to celebrate with gin and Tennent’s cocktails.

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