Sunday, 23 November 2014

Fair Isle - October 2014

Its that time of year again! the big rarities should be around and the birders going crazy, its been a bit slow at the moment but I decided to head into Fair Isle in the hope of seeing some!

The 13th, a Monday, was the day I decided to head in and I'd be out on the 17th, well depending on how the birds looked but anyways!

Monday the 13th of October 2014

The plan was I'd be on the 11 o'clock flight, and so it was, I was dropped off by my Granny in Tingwall and everything went smoothly, arriving in Fair Isle at coming to 12.
Familiar and friendly faces greeted me off the plane and Stewart was waiting to pick me up, but instead of the usual he said we were going to the "Hostel" (The Hostel is what the native islanders call the Bird Obs, back in its day it was more of a Hostel, but I think there's more to the name than that), I guessed why, I'd got a text from Phil (Charleton) saying that one had been trapped!! in the Obs Mist nets! the bird was still present so we were off for that.
We arrived at the Obs and went round to the Garden, we stood and watched for a minute and then I saw something with a bit of orangy-red fly up, we'd already seen a "few" Robins so I assumed it was one of them, I got my bins on it and...... it was the bluetail!!
I told Stewart that I had it on the end strainer and we both saw it before it shot off!
We followed it and it was on a piece of fence along the outer side of the garden, up went the camera and I got a few shots of this eastern beauty.

Red-flanked Bluetail (sadly you can't see the tail), a Lifer and also one of the first birds I saw off the plane!

As we were watching it, of all people, Phil came strolling down the hill! We pointed it out and then he got out a photo of it on his phone, a in-the-hand shot, cracking view.
The Bluetail suddenly took off and shot off up to a rock a piece up the hill, we watched it for a couple of seconds and that was the last we saw of it.
We kept on hunting but only turned out a few Song Thrushes, we were heading back when I saw a funny pipit dip down below the fence line at the garden.
I waited a sec and it popped back up, I got the bins on it and it was an Olive-backed Pipit!! year tick! 
I told Stewart & Phil and they got their eyes on it, Bluetail & OBP within a couple of minutes not bad!

OBP, this is probably my best shot, they all kept focusing on the grass

It was time to go so we were off south, I spotted a couple of birds though in the sea off Dittfield and I told Stewart to stop the car and I got the bins on them, they were six Long-tailed Ducks! (Calloo).

The sun wasn't in the best direction so here's the result

We had a stop by the Sheep Cru on the way south and a Little Bunting flew along the dykes! (year Tick).

Down at Quoy I sat in for denner before heading out and then a quick trip over to Midway where Henry had shouted at us to see the Blue Tit (rarest bird on the isle!).

A welcome Island Tick and who knows when the next time one of them will show up here!

Soon I left and headed down to Haa, arriving at 1530 and getting Lapland Bunting in the Skerryholm Rig! another year tick!

It showed well up and wasn't scared of me, allowing some good photos

It was nice to watch it for 10 minutes before it flew off

Up on Meoness I got 2 Jack Snipe, 4 Woodpigeon and a sneaky Dunnock before seeing a Swallow, 1 Snow Bunting and a few Blackcaps on South Harbour.

A sneaky Dunnock which tried to hide

There was two guys birding with a scope around the cemetery so I headed over to them to see if they'd had anything.
They were just having a look to see if they could spot anything, the oldest of the two quickly raised his "bins" to a duck that was flying in, I watched it go into South Harbour and the guy said it was a Scaup! an island tick!! I got the bins on it and truth behold it was a Scaup! a nice female which I even managed a pic of.

It was a bit distant but behold! my Island tick

So that was it, they were already a few folk doing the Skaadan so I decided I'd pop in and say hello to Tommy and Henry at Haa.
A few hello's and that before we all went out for a look, there was a Mealy Redpoll in the garden which was very photogenic.

A real beauty of a bird I have to say, an excellent bird to photograph

The day still had daylight, the car still had fuel so we were off birding!
First stop was just past Barkland where Phil and Marilyn from the Obs were standing looking at something, I popped my head out the window and Phil said he'd had Hen Harrier in the scope!!
I jumped out and Phil got me onto the "ringtail", a very nice year tick.
Tommy and Henry came out for a look and then we ran the two North to the Obs, also a quick look in the Havens produced a White Wag and a Blackcap.

Shetland was also quite visible tonight with great views of the South End

Where one goes, they all go

We decided on a trip north to North Light where better views of Shetland were obtained.

Fitful Head, Sumburgh, Sumburgh Head and all the others in between

Compass and Sumburgh Head

The light started to go as we headed south, the sun was setting and it looked really good over to the south so we went to South Light for some photos.

The camera did make the photos darken ever so slightly but this is pretty close to the real thing

South Light

Tuesday the 14th of October 2014

Once again, the famous trap rounds called me.
I was up out early this time, 6.15, to try and get a few species.
Plenty could be heard and very, very few I saw but it was nice to head out being guided by moonlight.
A very poor photo of Orion's Belt

So the traps! we got a couple of birds Chiffchaff, Wren, Robin and two Redwings plus a flyover Peregrine also I got to ring the Robin.
The way back south was more productive for birds with the Little Bunting still at Sheep Cru, 1 Yellow-browed Warbler at the Chalet and 13 Hooded Crows at the Back o da Houll!

Little Bunt

I was just heading out again when Stewart told me to come down to the "byre", so I came with him and he showed me a very fresh and dead male Pochard! I did find a male also dead at Da Water today! It was a beauty of a bird and was only a few hours gone.

A shame it died but it would of been a great bird to see living! now I have seen Pochard on Fair Isle..... though they've all been dead

A quick check in Schoolton produced 1 "Sib" Chiffchaff and a Merlin going North, next down to Meoness which had more in the way of Blackcap, Goldcrest, Woodpigeon, Swallow, Woodcock, Skylark and a few Pink-feet.

This Snipe sat quietly in the rig at the back of Haa, never even moved

Goldcrest on South Harbour

I worked my way around the Skaadan and then north along the roads to Shriva, bringing in a total of 118+ Pink-feet, 5 Barnacle Geese, 19 Wigeon and about 4 Greylags, it was virtually denner time so I headed in.

My records state that I was out again at 2:30 to twitch a Red-breasted Flycatcher that had been spotted down by Schoolton, I joined in the twitch of several people and I managed to get the bird (an island tick) before it flew off, something ended up catching my eye as it flew towards Midway so I gave chase.

I had walked past Houll and my bird had gone by, it perched on the wall at Midway and I raised my bins to see a Red-breasted Flycatcher, I thought presumably the same one but then something flitted up a couple of metres to the left of the RB Fly but it flew off before I got the bins on it.
That bird did look a bit odd, similar to the Flycatcher, but there couldn't be two? I watched the first bird for a second and then I went after the second.

A nice peerie bird, nice Island tick as well

Cute birds

I relocated my bird and it was a Red-breasted Fly! but I couldn't see the other bird and by the time I looked back the second was gone! so I came to a conclusion there was two Red-breasted Flys.
I started heading back to Schoolton to see if I could get one of the birders onto the birds.
Luckily Andy (who was staying at the Bird Obs) was already walking my way so I told him about the Red-breasted Flycatchers and he came to look (we also flushed 2 Jack Snipe).
One Flycatcher flew onto the wall at Houll and then Andy spotted the second on the wall at Midway (anyways it was around 120 degree angle view)!
Andy put out the call and soon some more birders came and we sat all scoping out one of the Red-breasted Flycatchers, 1 Dunnock, 2 Siberian Chiffchaffs and a Lesser Whitethroat.

One of the Siberian Chiffchaffs (Eastern Race)

And the Lesser Whitethroat, which is believed to be an Eastern bird and it makes the sound of a Blue Tit (so I've heard).

Afterwards people started to leave and I walked up north will Phil and Mark Peck, we got a good haul of birds on the way north- 8 Siberian Chiffchaffs and looking in the Chalet pond we flushed a Moorhen which Mark only saw as Phil and I were wading after it.
As we were doing this Phil just shouted out Waxwing! Mark and I just looked up and it was sitting on a fence post! Both our reactions were just "What?? Waxwing??"
It quickly took flight before I could get a picture and it went down by the School, I sent out a call and we went after it.
We never did see it again, though by Barkland we did get a Siskin, Dunnock, Robin and another "Sib" Chiffchaff.

My final spot for the north was the Field Ditch for the Grasshopper Warbler which had been lurking there.
The three of us started walking the north side of the ditch and then a small brown job flew up and went down again.
We focused on getting that bird, we stalked it and it flew around us getting ok views of what was my first Grasshopper Warbler!!!
It dropped down again and I went in for a photo, then this Jack Snipe went down with the Grasshopper, almost like they were fighting!
Anyways I got the bird and this was roughly 4:37 so I made my way south to Quoy.

On my journeys south I met a couple from London, the man (who's name I can't remember) and the woman Amanda, I spent 20 minutes just speaking to them about birds and alot of the wonders and rarities, it was really nice to be able to speak to them for so long without them having to go off and continue birding.
Though one good thing was the "ringtail" Hen Harrier flew over twice, but anyways time was catching up on us and it was already twenty past five so we went our ways and I headed in.

The final bit of Sun for the day

Wednesday the 15th of October 2014

Traps again......
On the way north I managed to pick up the Whooper Swan by Da Water and a couple of Greylags, on Homisdale itself a Whooper was just walking around.

Some of the first light

Traps started, in total we caught a Meadow Pipit, Blackbird, Redwing, Redpoll and a Black Redstart! which I got to ring!!

Its only my third in Shetland and a ringing tick! it was nice to get to handle this bird

Anyways that was traps so I headed back south to Quoy picking up Siskin, Little Bunting, Chaffinches, Bramblings, Robins, Blackcap and a Yellow-browed Warbler along the way.
By 10 it was down to Schoolton ot twitch a first for Shetland...... a Mosquito

Yesterday Nick had caught a Two-banded Mosquito which had been present for two days, this was the first for Shetland.

The Mosquito was a nice tick and a surprising one, another to My List

As usual I did my rounds of the South, picking up Red-breasted Fly (Quoy), Wigeon, Lapwing, Dunnock, "Sib" Chiffchaff, Redshank, Woodpigeon (8),Scaup, Common Gull, Goldcrest, Wigeon, 12 Snow Buntings, Turnstone, Jack Snipe, Curlew and a few thrushes.

A Wigeon down in South Harbour

And the female Scaup who was still present

I ended up walking north with Henry, we got little, only a Merlin and an Oystercatcher, though a run-over Yellow-browed Warbler was something out of the ordinary.

Odd to see it squished on the road

Henry and I trudged north, round and back to Quoy, our hopes of seeing much very low, I was walking in the Quoy road when Stewart rolled up and said a Firecrest was at South Reeva!!!!
I shouted at Henry to get in the car, I was jumping (twitching you might say) the entire way.
Stewart pulled into Shirva and we shot out, Ciaran was already on South Reeva and looking into Saatwater Reeva where the bird was.
The Firecrest was still there when we arrived and Ciaran got us onto it!! a Lifer and an unexpected addition to my Fair Isle list! 

With the striking facial pattern and the bright greeny-yellow back they are nice birds

The fiery crest is easily seen in this photo, still a great lifer and not a bad find by Ciaran

Soon birders starting showing up and the first person after us was David!! straight off the plane and onto the bird.

The Twitch of the Firecrest (excluding myself)

It was denner time just after we'd arrived so Stewart and I headed off to leave everybody to twitch this marvelous mainland beauty.

After denner I decided to head back out to the Reeva's to try and spot the Firecrest again, along the way I picked up Red-breasted Fly at Quoy, a couple of Goldcrests, a Chiffchaff, Lesser Whitethroat and a couple of Pink-feet.

There was one guy sitting on South Reeva looking down into the Reeva, so I went over and sat by him.
I had a talk with the birder, he asked me where I was from and I replied and somehow he knew my name!
I was a bit confused at this point because older birders are more likely to be recognized by strangers but its a bit odd when some knows who you are. Anyways! this birder was Paul French (ex-AW on the Island) who was friends with Brydon in Unst and knew who I was from him.
So the two of us shook hands, speaking about birds and occasionally looking at the Firecrest which we eventually lost after a while.
My phone went off and it was Chris, there was a Pomarine Skua over Gilsetter!!! I told Paul and I leapt into action, running up the parks and running up the nearest hill (which was just above Houll), I scanned the skies and parks looking for this potential lifer.

So I scanned, scanned and ever more scanned but I saw no sign of the Pomarine Skua, though I did see a bird moving up a ditch which turned out to be a Moorhen!

Not a bad bird to see when hunting for Skuas

I started walking up north in hope of seeing the Skua and I met Paul again at Stoneybrek, he'd had something in the bushes so I went in to get it out.
One bird flew onto the corner of the shed and I got my bins on a Stonechat! island tick! Paul mentioned he'd had one but we never did get his bird out.

A nice island tick

Moving further north to Barkland, I joined a group of birders, one of which picked up a Grey Heron flying over Sheep Rock and then a two Hen Harriers (male/female) going south over Burrashield!

A case of ID the bird

I worked south, seeing the Firecrest again at the Roond Reeva and then a Whinchat at Aesterhoull before ending the day on Log.

Thursday the 16th of October 2014

Traps this morning and I got to ring a Blackcap, when I got back to Quoy at just about 9:30 Stewart told me he'd seen a large grey whale going east past the south of the Island.
So I put out a call to David and Chris, it would be nice to see if it could be relocated but anyways I went for a shower and came back out to see a Woodcock land in the Quoy rig, I was trying to get Stewart onto it when he spotted something odd out at sea, he raised his bins to see whales!!!!
I got my bins up and you could see them sprouting (right word?)!! they were massive and we thought Humpbacks!! 

Not a bad edition to the Quoy house list!!

I quickly got onto the Obs and left them a few messages before putting out a few more calls, we headed off and down to South Light to see if we could get them.
We picked up a birder along the way and then we all stood to watch these marvels with the seabirds of all species above them.

Soon Tommy & Henry turned up and we got Dave Brackenbury as well, these were true marvels to watch come up and down (but no breaching).
But soon the whales got too far out, providing poor views so we headed off. Henry, myself and the birder we picked up along the way headed for the Firecrest.

We got down to South Reeva and Phil was standing watching, we got onto the bird and then I got a call from David saying they were getting great views of the Humpbacks from the foot of Malcolm's Head, I shouted to Phil and the three of us ran off, Henry was the fattest due to not being weighed down by gear.

By the time we'd got half way across the bottom of Malcolm's Head, Henry had already run over and come back to say everybody was on its top!! so we trudged up the head.
Ann Prior, Chris and Molly were all sitting with scopes and bins watching the whales! We got in and joined them and the Humpbacks were so close in it was amazing!!

Close in!

Amazing is all I can say about these, you can see the second ones' fin underwater

They were so close in it was amazing

Both submerged

And in sequence

Also with a Maalie Photobombing

My favoured one though as it appeared in a minimum of 3 National Newspapers!!!

My final shot and fully zoomed (unlike the others)

The Whale Watchers, all happy with there views

From left: Henry, Phil, Molly, Ann & Chris

The Warden also "appeared" (he seems to come from no where) to see the whales as the swam north

It was a truly magical experience watching these majestic animals of the deep, they swam north and the last sighting was from Ward Hill by the birder we picked up along the way to see them who I now know as Martin McCallum.

Though the day had only started! afterwards I headed down to South Harbour and arrived there at 11:30 to see Mark Peck (a ringer & birder staying at the Obs).
I went up to Mark to see if he'd had anything, Yellow & Grey Wag he'd had a few minutes ago and some Blackcaps and Goldcrests plus Starlings and the Swallow.

It took a minute but the Yellow Wagtail came back! I got my eyes on this Lifer!!

I've dipped these a few times but its great to get my first! (thought to be a juvenile Blue-headed)

The Grey Wagtail also showed as well providing a Fair Isle tick

But other than those there was a Yellow-browed Warbler, Swallow, Merlin, Goldcrests and some Blackcaps.
Soon after Mark and I headed off and there was this Skylark trying to get away but with very little energy.

I picked it up and Mark tried it for fat which was empty, the poor thing was dieing of starvation

Friday the 17th of October 2014

Traps this morning were productive with me getting to ring a Redwing and a Water Rail being trapped!!

Water Rail!

Down in the south I picked up 14 Woodpigeon, Curlew, the Grey Wag and a Goldeneye (Fair Isle tick).

I decided to cut my morning short and head into Quoy, I went online and I saw that I'd got a message from Promote Shetland saying that they'd been contacted by Deadline News in Edinburgh who were wanting to use my photo of the Humpback Whales (which I'd posted on Facebook and it got shared around alot), a few seconds later I got a call from Hugh Harrop asking about the same thing! Hugh passed on my details after the phone call and then a reporter phoned me up! from Deadline News! the reporter asked firstly for permission in the use of my photo and then she gave me an interview about it!! it's the first time I'd ever gotten my photos anywhere!
I'd had to send in a photo of myself so after a quick photography session with Triona in the wind that was dealt with! and all before denner!

Birding was a bit slower with me walking north only picking up Wigeon, Thrushes, and a Woodcock.
Stewart was going into the hill and asked if I wanted to come, he took me up and I headed off to Trolla Geo which Stewart said was meant to be good with the winds we were having.

I have to say though the geo was really productive with 1 Kittiwake, 1 "ringtail" Hen Harrier, 12 Redwings, a Carrion Crow with a Hoody, Dunters, Maalies, a Shag, Tystie, Gannets and Starlings.
In the next geo I picked up 2 Robins and a few Blackbirds before going back to Quoy.

Saturday the 18th of October 2014

I wasn't on traps this morning but I ended up heading out at 1015, going south and picking up some good birds.
Going by Haa, South Habrour and Meoness pulled up tons, Peregrine, 4 Woodpigeons, Wigeon, Redwings, a Swallow, Common Gulls, 2 Goldeneyes, a Golden Plover, Snow Bunting, Blackcap, Song Thrush, Blackbirds and some Twite.
I ended up doing the Skaadan which was pretty good for Waders with 1 Jack Snipe, 1 Woodcock, 2 Ringed Plovers, 6 Snipe and 4 Curlews.
Utra was next and as I came over the hill to the scrape a Short-eared Owl flew over!! carrying my way along the south cliffs and then up to Leogh pulled up some ducks and geese but not much else, going north and then west again I did the Reeva's and then I headed back to Quoy at 1300.
Stewart dropped me up the north again and I did the geo's, 100's of thrushes flew over and a couple of Woodcock were flushed from Burrashield.
Phil dropped me a text saying a Great Grey Shrike was by the road between Setter and the Plantation, I ended up taking my time going there and in doing so I pulled up a flock of 10 Snow Buntings with another 8 going by and another 1 south of Gunnawark.
I ended up going to the Shrike but I didn't get it, instead me and some others got a Yellowhammer at the Chalet (a year tick).
I headed to Stackhoull and a Short-eared Owl flew over and 133 Pink-feet were in the parks, after a quick look in I went north again to Barkland and 16 Woodpigeon were on the ground.
Something attracted me to doing the Field Ditch and I spotted the elusive Grasshopper Warbler which hadn't been seen for a few days.

It proved with me not to be elusive at all and actually showed out in the open in the field!

Further north I headed for the Great Grey Shrike and I flushed it from the Plantation!! year tick!! but soon it was time to head south.
When I was coming back I got a text from Dave Okill saying he'd seen my photo of the Humpbacks in "The Times", I was straight on the phone to him and he said he was holding the very newspaper! to think my photo is in a national newspaper!!

That night I headed up to the Obs for Log but while I was there I went and got some sponsership money for the Bird Race next week, which was raising money for a Storm Petrel satellite tagging project on Mousa.

Sunday the 19th of October 2014

Traps had quite a few birds! I did a few (Meadow Pipit, Redwing and House Sparrow) and a ringing tick (Reed Bunting).
Strangely enough 7 House Sparrows have been caught in recent days, you never catch them after the young have gotten used to the traps (which was ages ago!) so are these migrants?

House Sparrows, great birds but overlooked all the time

The Reed Bunting

The Whooper Swan on the Field Pond, it never flies when you go near it and it ended up dying in the end

I did the Skaadan at 1250 with Henry & Tommy getting 4 Turnstone, 2 Snipe, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Jack Snipe, 6 Redshank, 6 Dunlin, 1 Ringed Plover, 2 Oystercatchers, 5 Rock Pipits, 6 Skylarks, 7 Redwing and 12 Brambling!

Tonight was my last log of the year, so I spent it well, saying goodbye to everyone, new and olds friends and gathering the last of the money for the Bird Race Sponsership.

Records over the last few days have been quite low due to very little birds around and my photography was very little as time went on.

Monday the 20th of October 2014

Today was my final day, I did my final trap round of the year with Ciaran and Phil, it was good though with Ring Ouzel being spotted along the road (year tick) and me being able to work with a re-trapped Brambling.

Going south birds were quite thin on the ground with Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Redshank, 69 Turnstone, 2 Purple Sandpiper, Rock Pipits, a "tailess" Meadow Pipit, Brambling and some Skylarks.
I visited a few houses before I was off on the plane and I left the isle for the last time this year.

Sheep after one too many on a night out


This was the last time I'd be on the island till the following spring, it was amazing though, there wasn't hosts of rarities but tons of great people.
I saw old and new faces and made a few more friends, my list was also bumped up by a few birds and my year list as well.
In fairness I have a lot of people to thank for my great stay, the people who accommodated me, the ones who found the birds, the ones who put out the call and everyone in between, Islanders & Visitors alike.
The Obs staff as usual were a great help and all the people who stayed in the building as well, a big shout out though would go to everyone in the Obs for giving money to the Storm Petrel tags which we sponsored during our Bird Race.

Many of the ringers who were around helped out alot with birds I got to ring, telling me key features for different parts and generally being so helpful.

New Birds = Red-flanked Bluetail, Grasshopper Warbler, Firecrest, Yellow Wagtail
Shetland Additions = 4
Fair Isle adds = 10
Year List by the end of the trip = 172

Total trip List = 84 (a record?)

Yellow-browed Warbler
Song Thrush
House Sparrow
Skylark (Levverik)
Shag (Scarf)
Wheatear (Steynshakker, Chak)
Rock Dove
Twite (Lintie)
Wren (Sisti Mus)
Olive-backed Pipit (OBP)
Red-flanked Bluetail
Long-tailed Duck (Calloo)
Little Bunting
Greylag Goose
Pink-footed Goose
Lapland Bunting
Jack Snipe
Snow Bunting (Snaa Ful)
Hen Harrier
White Wagtail
Hooded Crow
Whooper Swan 
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Meadow Pipit (Tietick)
Rock Pipit (Teetick
Snipe (Snippick)
Eider (Dunter)
Raven (Corbie)
Barnacle Goose
Red-breasted Merganser (Herald Deuk)
Lesser Whitethroat
Red-breasted Flycatcher
Grasshopper Warbler
Common Redpoll
Common Gull
Oystercatcher (Shalder)
Grey Heron (Haegrie)
Blue Tit
Grey Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail
Water Rail
Carrion Crow
Short-eared Owl
Great Grey Shrike
Reed Bunting
Purple Sandpiper
Lesser Redpoll
Ring Ouzel

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