Friday, 9 January 2015

Gull Force

9th January
A Rock Pipit; just because this little fella has been faithful to our garden all winter (with only House Sparrows, Starlings, Rock Doves, a Robin and the occasional Blackbird for company), so I thought he (or possibly she) should get headline billing in a blog post.
The gull nests on Greenholm will have been nicely cleaned off for the start of the next breeding season, with some high seas in recent days.
With the Shipping Forecast for sea area Fair Isle warning of a Force 12 westerly last night (in the end, it was very windy, but the worst of the conditions passed to the south of us), we knew we were in for a blowy time, and hopefully the sort of conditions that would see large numbers of gulls sheltering around the island.
Gull flock on Ditfield, how many white-wingers can you find?
In the end, numbers weren't actually that impressive this afternoon, probably only around 300 or so gulls were present, but amongst them were an impressive 9 (nine) Glaucous Gulls, with 5 in a loafing flock at Ditfield, another flying around in the bay there and 3 together in South Harbour (alongside an Iceland Gull) amongst a group of gulls feeding around the tideline. That's the highest Glaucous Gull count on Fair Isle since 1996 (although somewhat short of the record count of 300 on 24th November 1969!). Interestingly (well, sort of) 1996 was also the year I saw two Harlequins at Girvan (the first of three mentions of that species in this blog post...).
Iceland Gull riding the waves in South Harbour (and doing so a lot more successfully than the Great Black-back to its left!).
The 3 Tundra Bean Geese reappeared for the first time since 1st January and other typical winter fodder included Merlin, Snow Bunting and Peregrine (the latter being the first of the year).
Peek-a-boo. The three Tundra Bean Geese that have presumably been lurking in a ditch or back of a field somewhere for the last week or so. 
Merlin at Upper Stoneybrek shortly before it went off chasing a Snow Bunting.
Field views of the first Peregrine of the year.
So, we've survived the first big blow (thanks to everyone who got in touch to check we were ok), and the forecast tonight is 'only' a violent storm 11. We've got some strong westerly winds forecast for the next wee while, but hopefully enough of a calming in the weather mid-week to let me get down to a meeting in Aberdeen (just ten minutes or so walk from the Harlequin that turned up a few days ago...). Perhaps there could be more white-wingers turning up soon, I'm not sure that westerly gales in January will bring much else, but who knows, after all 11th January is the 50th anniversary of a pair of Harlequin (I'm working on the Beetlejuice theory that because I've mentioned it three times, a Harlequin should turn up here now) and the 45th anniversary of Great Bustard on Fair Isle...
Not really relevant to this blog post, but here's a picture of a Woodcock in the Obs garden in December. Very small numbers of this species probably winter on the isle.
The light and sea at this time of the year provide a constantly changing display that is just one of the reasons that Fair Isle is a special place to live in the winter (picture: S.Parnaby).

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