Sunday 12 July 2015

Colour-rings in Spring 2015

With over 378,000 birds ringed by FIBO, there have been some remarkable movements logged, with ringed birds recovered as far away as Brazil, Canada, Russia and South Africa amongst others. In recent years, an increase in colour-ringing projects has enabled us to find out details of movements of individual birds without having to catch them, improving our knowledge of which birds are passing through Fair Isle.
This spring has seen a remarkable run of colour-ring sightings on Fair Isle, with birds arriving on the island from far and wide. Below is a summary of these sightings:

Snow Bunting

On 19th April a Snow Bunting was seen with colour rings up at South Naarversgill. The bird was flighty and took a little tracking down but the ring combination was eventually clinched. It was first ringed as a young female at Glenshee Ski Centre, Braemar on 2nd January 2013. The bird was seen in subsequent winters back at the site, last sighted there on 29th March 2015. It was last seen on Fair Isle on 21st April. The bird was assigned to the nominate race nivalis and it is likely it was on its way to more northerly breeding grounds in Scandinavia or Greenland.

Pied Wagtail
 A Pied Wagtail first sighted at the Obs on the morning of 22nd April and was very flighty and elusive, eventually relocating to South Light (2 miles down the island!) where the combination was clinched. The bird was ringed at Radipole Lake, Dorset on 31st October 2014 and was the second Pied Wagtail to have been colour-ringed in Dorset seen on spring passage through Fair Isle (the first was in 2011).
Black-headed Gull
Sighted several times before the ring was fully read, this bird was around the Shop area on 21st and 22nd May. The bird was ringed on Vassoy, Rogaland, Norway on 18th June 2014 and seen on the Ugie Estuary in the Grampian Region on 29th July 2014.


Acolour-ringed Turnstone was seen briefly near Mid-Geo on 17th May but the details weren’t obtained until the following day, when it was feeding around South Light in a small group of Turnstone. The bird was ringed on 17th August 2013 at Leihoek, Petten in The Netherlands.

Purple Sandpiper
The first colour ringed Purple Sandpiper to be sighted on Fair Isle, this bird was ringed on the Swedish island of Nidingen on 16th November 2013. It was seen feeding around the seaweed in Mid Geo near the Puffinn on 19th May and was also seen in South Harbour.

Saturday 4 July 2015

Spring summary

You may well have spotted that I haven't been that good at keeping the blog up to date (and that's perhaps a bit of an understatement), but hopefully you have all been keeping an eye on Fair Isle news via our latest sightings page (updated daily), our facebook page or our Twitter account.
Below is a bit of a random collection of images from the spring since my last update. We'll also publish an update soon on some of the more interesting piece of ringing news from the spring and then there should be seabird news to report.  
Arriving almost exactly a year after the first Fair Isle record, this male Moltoni's Warbler was the rarest bird in national terms recorded during the spring. The distinctive underpart coloration was surprisingly variable in the field, but the rattling call and DNA analysis confirmed the identification beyond any doubt. (photo: Lee Gregory)
Having been newly 'promoted' to BBRC status, Tawny Pipit chose to make its first arrival on Fair Isle for 10 years. (photo: Lee Gregory)
Another species that has just gone back on the BBRC list is Rustic Bunting; this bird at Utra was our first since 2013. There have been no autumn records since 2009. (photo: Lee Gregory)
We all knew we'd had to get an Egret eventually, the main debate was whether it would be Great White or Little that would find us first; in the end it was the larger of the two that became Fair Isle's 385th species.
The first non-BBRC Blyth's Reed Warbler for Fair Isle. The species has been annual on Fair Isle since 2009, during which time there have been 15 records, equalling the number seen during the rest of FIBO's history. (photo: Lee Gregory)
Two Greenish Warblers arrived on the same day in spring, both were typically mobile. (photo: Lee Gregory)
Greenish Warbler meets Fulmar.
The first 'pink' Rose-coloured Starling on Fair Isle since 2007. This is a lovely retro 'record shot', although the initial views were much better as the bird landed on a net pole in the garden as the team were ringing a Crossbill. (photo: Chris Dodd)
The first Nightingale since 2012 was trapped at the end of June. Susannah missed the last one as she was in Lerwick having just given birth to Freyja and was in Lerwick for this one as well, although just for a meeting this time rather than a baby. (photo: Ciaran Hatsell)
Three Hobby sightings were all far enough part in dates to suggest they involved different birds, all sadly proved untwitchable. (photo: Lee Gregory)
Two Cranes put on a great show as they flew down the island, fed on Malcolm's Head for a while, circled out to sea a couple of times then ended up near Hoini. (photo: Lee Gregory)
The regular site of Bull's Park again attracted Dotterel, with a trip of four present for a couple of days. (photo: Lee Gregory)
One of the most memorable days of the year was Fair Isle's best ever seawatch on 13th May, when 40 Long-tailed (including the group in the photo above) and 13 Pomarine Skuas passed South Light, eclipsing all previous records for both species. (photo: Lee Gregory)
A very confiding adult Long-tailed Skua spent most of the day around Gilsetter and the Parks a few days later. Nice.
The 'epic' seawatch had started quiet quietly, with a blue Fulmar (above), an Arctic Tern and a Black-headed Gull the only 'notable' birds from the first 45 minutes! (photo: Lee Gregory)
Although the westerly winds restricted migration somewhat, most of the expected scarcities put in appearances (only Wood Warbler and Corncrake were missing from the usual annually occurring species. Totals included: 3 Short-toed Larks, 6 Red-backed Shrikes, 3 Bluethroats, 3 Common Rosefinch, 5 Icterine Warblers, 2 Wrynecks, 7 Marsh Warblers, 5 Hawfinch and an Osprey.  This male Red-backed Shrike was at Taft, where it posed atmospherically! (photo: Ciaran Hatsell)
One of the 5 Hawfinch from the spring. (photo: Lee Gregory)
Despite the westerly winds, there were very few Lapland Buntings, although this very smart male graced the Obs feeders for a couple of days .(photo: Lee Gregory)
Common migrants were generally only present in small numbers, so the traps have been quieter this year than 2014, although a few surprises still appeared including this Long-eared Owl. (photo: Lee Gregory)
littoralis Rock Pipits passed through in small numbers in the spring and also included three birds in late June, at least one of which was breeding on the island (photo: Lee Gregory)
With more time on our hands due to spells where migrants were thin on the ground, we were able to concentrate on other things. The Obs garden has been significantly extended, sightings of birds with colour-rings and darvics increased and even Redpolls got a lot more attention! This interesting bird was present in mid-June and in the field looked rather large and pale, although measurements when it was trapped suggested 'Mealy Redpoll' was the  most likely identification - most Mealys at this time of year aren't as pale as this one though. (photo: Lee Gregory)
No doubting this beast, it's a 'Greenland Redpoll' - dark, stripy and dwarfing the Twite. During its stay it reached a weight of 24.6g, more than double the smallest Lesser Redpoll caught this spring (11.1g). If the Redpolls end up being lumped, they'll surely be one of the most variable passerines we see in Britain (photo: Lee Gregory)
This one was another intruiging beast, large (much bigger than the Mealy on the left) and pale. It was already ringed but, annoyingly, it resisted all attempts to catch it.
Whatever they all are (this one was dark enough to suggest Lesser, but measurements were closer to Mealy), they can be really bonny birds and they certainly provide plenty of opportunities for conversation!





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