31 Oct 2016

Fair Isle 2016. Part 3.

One of the features of Fair Isle is how remarkably tame some of the migrant birds are - most of them will probably never have seen humans before. We were lucky that our trip coincided with the arrival of good numbers of geese and at one stage we were able to compare Pinkfeet, Tundra bean and Eurasian Whitefronts in the same field from less than 100 m away.

 Tundra Bean Goose.
 Tundra Beans with Pinkfeet.
Eurasian Whitefronted Goose.

Another feature is the number of Starlings and House Sparrows still present on the island. The resident Starlings are a distinct race (zetlandicus) but numbers are boosted by continental migrants in the winter. House Sparrows are really common - unlike near where we live. The crofting agricultural techniques and grazing land suit there requirements.

The scenery is fabulous and on a sunny day there is probably no more beautiful place in the British Isles. Towering cliffs and geos, moorland, pasture land and small crofts......

As well as rare birds it was nice to catch up with a few scarcer birds we don't often see in Cheshire. Whilst we were on Fair Isle at least one and possibly two Great-grey Shrikes were present with one being ringed whilst we were there and a second one the day after we left.

During our stay there was also a small influx of Shorelarks - a scarce bird on Fair Isle but even scarcer on Fair Isle as AW, Lee Gregory, needed it for his Fair Isle list!

26 Oct 2016

Fair Isle 2016. Part 2

Where to begin? With so much good habitat to search on foot we were at a quandry as to where to start. Mornings saw me getting up early to join the early trap rounds and spend time in the ringing room before joining the others for breakfast in the Obs. Wit ha good cooked breakfast inside us and a rucksack packed with lunch we spent the whole day in the field searching geo's, ditches and abandoned crofts! Although not spectacularly successful we did pretty well with a new Olive-backed Pipit and a Siberian Stonechat (Chris - and a different bird to the possible stejgeners found by Kieran a few days later).  The long staying Pechora Pipit eventually gave good views with a bit of patience as did the Olive-backed Pipit in Shirva thistles. This last site constantly turned up good birds and along with the OBP there were always  1-2 Little Buntings and Lapland Buntings.

 Above: Lapland Bunting

 Above: Little Bunting

Above: Olive-backed skulking Pipit

Above: Pechora Pipit.

Birding the geo's is always fun and not for those afraid of heights!

 Fred birding a geo.
 Fred missed Strictly Come Dancing so decided to improvise with South Light in the background.
 Mark & Fred peering into  a geo

The scenery is stunning and with good numbers of commoner migrants as well as a sprinkling or rarities / scarcities there was enough to keep us entertained even though the weather was occasionally 'challenging'. Everyone is very friendly towards birders and even the local rams like to be made a fuss of and come running up to the fences to have their heads scratched.
A feature of the bird life on this trip was the number of Common Redpolls that turned up with some really big white looking birds and some very smart males with pink on the breast.

24 Oct 2016

Fair Isle 2016. Part 1

After an enjoyable change from our usual autumn trip to Shetland in 2015, when we went to Fair Isle, we decided to do the same this year! Consequently Mark P, Chris G F Fearn and myself found ourselves at Tingwall airport for the short flight to Fair Isle on the 13th October.

Being met by the Obs warden, David Parnaby, the first priority was to go down the island to Deryck Shaw's place where a Pine Bunting had been hanging out feeding with House Sparrows, Yellowhammers and Brambling. This was a lifer for Chris and Mark and neither Fred or I had seen one for quite awhile. David kindly dropped us off and took our bags back to the Obs.

Sure enough it wasn't long before the female Pine Bunting shoed itself on Derycks drive.

A couple of days later we were lucky enough to be close to Derycks when he caught and ringed it so we had the opportunity to see it in the hand. I also had the chance of ringing a couple of Bramblings that Deryck had caught at the same time.

Unbelievably a few days later a 2nd Pine Bunting was found and then a 3rd.

Although not really a ringing trip I was able to do some ringing at the Obs - most of the birds were the more common migrants expected at this time of year and included Blackcaps, Bramblings, Redpools, thrushes, Robins, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests but I was fortunate enough to ring a few new species! Including this beautiful female Hawfinch and a Woodcock!

Above: Water Rail caught and ringed.

 Above: Waxwing caught and ringed.
Above: Long-tailed Duck caught and ringed.