Sunday, 18 January 2015

You aint seen nothing like the harlequin.

10th-17th January
So, not only did my attempt to conjure up a Harlequin on Fair Isle fail miserably, I also managed to curse my attempts to see the Aberdeen bird – a total lack of planes during the week meant I was stranded on the island and had to Skype into the FIBOT Directors’ meeting. In fact, there hasn’t been a plane since 8th January (and there was only one managed to make it in that day, which was fully booked, so the last chance to leave Fair Isle if you weren’t scheduled on that one was on 6th January!), but the Good Shepherd made its first voyage since the first week of the month yesterday, so the island is now stocked up on perishable foods. We’re always grateful to the ferry crew who endure some rough crossings at this time of year to make sure the island is still capable of functioning (whilst we could have managed without salad for a while, the delivery of all the island’s fuel, animal feed etc also relies on the Good Shepherd running) and thanks to Robert and Fiona for the late-night opening at Stackhoull last night to make sure everyone can have a boiled egg for Sunday breakfast (Freyja was so excited by the greenery that came back from the shop that she's been wearing a cucumber as a hat!).
The weather has continued with the strong (sometimes ridiculously so) westerly wind, which has shifted slightly more NW in the last couple of days, making it cooler, so the accompanying showers have become increasingly sleety. It looks like next week could well be more settled, with the wind coming more from the east, which may encourage a bit of bird movement.
If I had been able to get off the island, I'd have had 36 hours on the Northlink in return for 5 hours in Aberdeen. I'd then have got stuck for a night in Shetland before having to come home on the Good Shepherd. With seas like these, it was probably the first time I've ever been glad the plane didn't come in.
Things have been very quiet for new arrivals, although Susannah turned up a Shoveler on 15th (which was still present on 16th). A very rare bird at this time of year (only the second January record for the island in fact), I wonder what the odds are that it was actually from across the Atlantic (the weather would certainly have helped and there have been Blue-winged and Green-winged Teals arriving on Orkney)?!
A rather old-school record shot of the Shoveler.
A Long-tailed Duck (in Ditfield on 16th) was the only other addition to the year list, with 3 Tundra Bean Geese, Sparrowhawk, Merlin, Peregrine, a Mealy Redpoll (a small, darkish individual that was probably the same one seen earlier in the month), a small handful of Water Rails and Woodcock amongst the lingerers.
The Tundra Bean Geese teamed up with the two lingering Barnacle Geese for a short while.
The main interest remained in the gulls though, with 7 Glaucous Gulls on 10th (one of which was an adult, so a different bird to the 9 seen the previous day) and 2 Iceland Gulls on the same day, with one or two juveniles of each species remaining throughout the period. The 10th and 11th also saw further sightings of the 2nd-winter Kumlien’s Gull, which seems to be using Fair Isle as shelter when the weather gets too bad for its presumably largely pelagic lifestyle.
Another ropey record shot, this time of the Kumlien's Gull (left) with a rather manky Glaucous Gull. There has to be a chance this is last year's bird returning.
So, much of a muchness here so far, but it’s been a good week for getting on with the office work and hopefully there’ll be more time in the field next week and more to report.
Boy oh buoy. The oddest catch of the week, this fender must have taken an interesting journey to get to the top of the Gully trap in westerly winds. It may have come from somewhere down the island, otherwise it's had to make its way up the cliffs somehow. 

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