Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Chat's out of the bag.

12th March
The strong winds gradually subsided, culminating in a glorious clear, sunny day today with a real feeling that the winter is behind us (let’s see whether that is the case…).
The air was full of Skylark song and Oystercatcher calls today, Guillemots had returned to the cliffs (and 10 Razorbill were in Ditfield on 10th) and the wintering birds such as Blackbirds and Common Gulls are fading away. In their place, more migrants are coming through with additions to the year list comprising Mistle Thrush (9th, with another 12th), Yellowhammer (10th), Lapland Bunting (found dead on 12th) and Goldcrest (12th).  A redpoll sp? was in the Havens 12th (hopefully that might make it into the Obs garden Twite flock tomorrow). Other migrants included another Stonechat (a male on 12th), up to six Snow Buntings, two Woodpigeon (11th, with at least one still 12th), a vocal Golden Plover heading over (12th) and a few Song Thrushes (peaking at 3 on 12th).
The third Stonechat of the spring was only the 9th to be ringed on Fair Isle in the last 20 years.
As Twite numbers build up, several have been trapped at the Obs, including a few old timers. So far, these have included two birds ringed in spring 2010 and one ringed on 2nd April 2009 (which puts it fairly close to the UK Twite longevity record). Interestingly (perhaps), of the seven retrapped birds in the last couple of days, only two were last year's youngsters. Is this the older birds coming through first, or has the winter been less kind on young birds?
The traps also produced the first Fieldfare of the year to be ringed, which Grace was less than impressed with when it pooed down her leg!
The Kumlien’s Gull was still lingering (to 12th), with a few other wintering birds including Merlin, up to three each of Wigeon and Teal and a Red-breasted Merganser.
Rock Pipits are present year round on Fair Isle, but we're still learning about their movements. Colour-ringing in Grampian has shown that at least some of our birds (both adults and youngsters) move to North-east Scotland in the winter. This bird trapped at the Obs on 9th looks to be developing the greyer head and pinker underparts of the Scandinavian race littoralis. Scandinavian birds are regular in the spring and occasionally stay to breed, whilst they possibly also make up an unknown percentage of our wintering population.
As the season is rapidly approaching (less than two weeks until the first keen staff arrive!), I’ll try to get the Prediction Competition pages updated shortly for the 2014 competition, but the rules will be the same and only a few species will have changed their status, so you can start drafting your lists for that now.  Is Fair Isle ‘due’ another first for Britain, will the mild winter have helped certain species (my bet is on something quite impressive in early April as there seems to have been a lot of interesting stuff overwintering in western Europe this year; a Bluetail, or a surprising American perhaps), which species are due an irruption and will we finally get an Egret on Fair Isle (although perhaps Glossy Ibis is more likely…)? We’ll find out soon enough.

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