Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Fair Isle Days 7 & 8 (Monday and Tuesday)


The Northern Isles are renown for being windswept but the last two days have seen the Shetlands well and truly battered with very high winds and heavy rain. This has made birding very difficult, but interestingly much of this weather is generally coming from the east. This means that it should be bringing birds with it!

Yesterday (Monday) and the gales in the morning were without rain and mostly from the south-east. Early afternoon saw the direction change more to the east and the rain arrived. Storm-force winds and heavy rain continued over-night and this morning. The first band of rain petered out at lunch-time today and with the winds veering to the north-east and becoming slightly less strong, there is a sense of expectancy tomorrow (Wednesday) about what we may find on the island.

Yesterday was interesting as a fall of thrushes from early morning continued right through the day with more birds arriving all the time. By dusk there were well in excess of five hundred Song Thrushes on the island, supported by over three hundred Redwing and the first major fall of Robins of the autumn. Goldcrests fell from the skies like wind-driven leaves, one even landing on my head! We disturbed a Water Rail sheltering behind a building half way up Ward Hill and many of the thrushes were taking refuge behind any structure of significance including disused buildings, walls etc. With the heavy pulses of rain we frequently joined them! The raptors on the island picked off birds at their leisure.

Other birds present included at least five Snow Buntings, three Whooper Swans, hundreds of wild geese of the Pink-footed, Greylag and Barnacle variety and a strong influx of Common Gulls. Other birders located a couple of Little Buntings and a rather late Dotterel. We notched up several Jack Snipe and a Ring Ouzel and a drake Scaup was sheltering in the Havens. The boot room at the obs contained many pairs of soaking walking boots and dripping coats, thus creating an interesting aroma!

Today (Tuesday) and the morning was quite frankly unbirdable! A few stalwarts strayed out for a few brief excursions and reported an arrival of Woodpigeons plus a Purple Sandpiper in the sheep-pens! During the afternoon we scooted around the south-end of the island and encountered a very obliging Little Bunting near to South Harbour. Snipe and Jack Snipe were everywhere and a couple of Woodcock too. The thrush numbers had multiplied again, the Song Thrush being the most numerous. Up to five Ring Ouzels were present. Snow Bunting, Lapland Bunting, Brambling, Siskin, Twite and Skylark flew around in mixed flocks and tired Meadow Pipits littered the fields. An Olive-backed Pipit was seen briefly by the warden before it was blown away along the cliffs. The geese remained and plenty of ducks were visible around the island. Waders were in all sorts of strange places trying to shelter from the gales and three Purple Sandpipers showed well. The rarest bird for Fair Isle was a Barn Owl flushed from a road-side ditch, last seen perched on the cliffs (only about the sixth ever record and the first since 1958)!


Neil M

The ever-present Fulmar

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