Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Not Only A New Bird for the Year but a LIFER.... Paddyfield Warbler

Tuesday 27th September Very strong SW-W Heavy rain

Rain falls and the wind doth blow! A male siskin and a couple of yellow-browed warblers are seen from the Fair Isle Bird Observatory windows.
Just occasionally the rain stops and there are even quick glimpses of clearing skies. During one of these I brave the gale and collect the plastic from the nearest beach. Once again the bottles on the beach include water bottles, one use only, from Pembrokeshire. Now in my imagination I cannot see how over a dozen of the same small water bottles, from the same company can get to Fair Isle by any other means than by having been dumped from a passing ship. The labels are too fresh. A cruise liner that sells this product? Maybe.
A redstart is on the chain mail wall of the harbour.
Rain . . back to the Obs'.
Another clearing moment . . I search the nearby geos and try to get further than the gully. The wind is brutal though and rain starts again.

By late afternoon I have decided to go home early; going back in the dark in this weather would be dangerous. Even so the rain stings my cheeks and hands and my waterproof trousers don't quite live up to their name.

Wednesday 28th September Wind fades to nought then returns with a vengeance! W to Se and back to SW Dry to heavy rain from 3:00PM

The night had been noisy, sleep intermittent but Lee is doing the morning Heligoland trap run and therefore I am out early to catch up with Lee and the others. Sunrise, a day full of promise.

Wheatears are more prominent today as I walk along the road north. Wheatears are already prominent in various ringing bags too.
At the Plantation trap there are a good number of starlings caught. Now many already have a combination of a Natural History metal ring and a variety of colour rings on their legs. Lee and Nina, another trained ringer, log down the details from each starling so adorned and let each go. Starlings with naked legs are bagged up.
I spot a barred warbler that wasn't playing the game when Lee went through the bushes to persuade the birds to go into the collecting box. Lee soon has it though.

Back to the Bird Observatory and down to the harbour. Yesterday's little bunting, a bird I missed, is very tame and I sit on the grass and let it approach me.
The redstart is still on the harbour wall and a couple of yellow-browed warblers are still in the Bird Observatory garden. What a great start to a day.
Things get better. Sitting opposite Andrew at breakfast he asks me for a prediction, a bird that will turn up today. “Paddyfield warbler,” I say.
Panic in the observatory . . .
Paddyfield warbler . . Walli Burn!
All are taken in the minibus. I cycle there to find two are walking the irises there, the rest lined up on the nearby bank waiting for the pale acro to show itself.
It does and dives into another iris bed. Eventually the bird decides to try a wire fence. It sits on the lowest wire, I kiss it, lick it, tick it . . metaphorically. A LIFER and a Green Year tick, the very pale warbler doesn't want to be seen and dives once more into the irises.

Leaving it to it's seclusion I head towards the South Lighthouse and seawatch for an hour or so. Three kittwakes head north, a purple sandpiper and a grey plover are closer.

Sad to see a seal with plastic fishing netting around it's neck. Another bag full of plastic yet hardly a dent on how much is on the beaches here. PLEASE don't buy one-use plastic bottles.
Privilege to meet Horace replete with bird badges. We chatted for awhile about his travels to the Faroes and Iceland. His real name is Wilfred Horace Smith. I didn't tell him he looks like Gromit to me. He thinks he is a bear!

Crofts and dykes, ditches and fields; yellow-broweds, willow warblers, a common rosefinch and some lapland buntings.

The best thing today though has been watching scane after scane of pink-footed geese flying overhead. Some went straight on south whilst others circled the island.
A good bird in Fair Isle context was a pintail. Overall a really enjoyable day.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

A Fair Day on the Fair Isle, Quiet and Beautiful then . . . !!!!

Monday 26th September Fresh S Sunny with occasional hazy cloud cover

Up to the radio mast, snow bunting and a devil's coach horse beetle, and onward up to the summit of Ward Hill. Ward Hill is covered with the blown up remnants of a World War 2 radar station; twisted metal, concrete and an old rusting oven. How did it ever be thought that the area would be better served by blowing up all of the buildings?

Anyway the sun is shining and the views are fabulous; some of the best scenery anywhere in Britain is at my disposal. Very few birders come this way and I have it all to myself.

The views are magnificent but the birds are missing. There are a few meadow pipits and the occasional wheatear but gone are the numbers of migrants that adorned each geo last week. A single redstart in the immense Grey Geo is the only migrant within them.
Naaversgill's water spout is active again but with nowhere near the intensity displayed before. There are a number of heavily pregnant seals on the rocks here looking ready to pop.

News of a crake species in Meadow Burn I head that way, call in the shop for some food and see yet another yellow-browed warbler in the Burn. Twite are on a fence reminding me of a superb and very funny Pixar animation called For The Birds. 

More news, a great snipe has been found by Deryk Shaw, the ex-warden for the Observatory. Everyone gathers and in a case of deja vu, the next hour is spent with lines of birders marching through fields and marshes but no sign of the rare bird.

A different rare bird shows itself briefly in flight in front of Chris Dodds, the Fair Isle ranger, before disappearing just as fast into thick vegetation. He called it right, a lanceolated warbler. After another hour it is caught in a mist net and everyone who wants to gets an eyeful of this wonderful rare Sibe. This is the third lanceolated in the last two weeks!

Whilst searching for this bird a crake flew behind most people. I saw it but only really in silhouette against the sun. A crake most definitely, I couldn't put my hand on my heart and say that I have now seen a spotted crake, though those who had better views than I say it was one.

I stay almost until dark trying to see or hear it to no avail. A year tick eludes me. Another year tick eluded me today as well; a long-tailed skua was photographed earlier on.

Monday, 26 September 2016

More Fair Isle Days and Some Green Birding Links and a Song to Sing Along to.

Thursday 22nd September fresh to light SE Rain – AM, sunny - PM

A morning of heavy rain gives way to an afternoon of sunshine and calm. Before the sunshine arrives though a common rosefinch shows well in the Fair Isle Bird Observatory garden.
South Haven beach has plastic bottles large and small on it as well as dead adult and 1st year gannets. I remove the former and place it all in a skip.
Back at the Observatory garden a couple of yellow-browed warblers are on view, as well as blackcap and lesser whitethroats.
More warblers are at the plantation; yellow-browed, willow and a chiff chaff.

Even more are at the small enclosed reedbed of Meadow Burn; 4 yellow-browed, a reed, a willow and a lesser whitethroat. A nice selection.
With bin liner in hand I make my way down a precipitous slope, down to the beach of Steensi Geo. A full bin liner hardly makes a dent in the mass of plastic found here.

Along the coast north, Lee Gregory has found a red-breasted flycatcher. I find it and point it out to the Ribble Bird Tour group. It's flashing white tail patches show up well at distance.

Back on the road I take the road towards Shirva and have a bluethroat with a blue necklace for company. It walks just in front of me and flies to a nearby fence.

Friday 23rd September Fresh to Strong SW Very sunny

A yellow-browed warbler is still in the plantation and the short-toed lark is still by the water tanks. The little bunting at Field though is a new bird. It hasn't got a bird louse attached to it's right eye!

A stomp through the Da Water marsh gave me a flying moorhen but no crake.
Then a dash. Humpback whale off the west coast. I can see people climbing one of the Raevas and Tommy Hyndeman is already up there with a telescope. Unfortunately the whale doesn't come around Malcolm's Head and the group of hopefuls dwindles until eventually I am alone on the edge of the cliff. A very small baby rabbit comes out almost at my feet. He keeps looking around at me and quickly disappearing down a hole only to reappear at another hole not too far away. Eventually I manage to stroke it! Cute little thing.

Back on the road there is a whinchat that lacks a tail. I call him Winny. My first linnet since arriving on Fair Isle is at Chalet as I pass.

Saturday 24th September Strong SE Heavy rain nearly all day.

Soaked on the way to the Obs', soaked on the way back home. I spend the day preparing to give a talk about Green Birding and rehearsing a new version of Morecambe & Wise's Bring Me Sunshine song with Sarah.
A break in the rain but not in the gale gives me an opportunity to collect the plastic from the South Haven beach and also get up Buness.
One can never tell how a talk goes down with an audience but some seem to have really enjoyed it. Each member of the audience receives a songsheet on the back of which are a number of links for further information. Both I add here for your perusal.

Bring Me Sunshine – Fair Isle style :-

Bring us Sunshine
Eastern winds
Bring us birdies
Wing bar wings

In this world where we live
there should be more happiness
so much joy birds they give
there'll be Yankee birds tomorrow

We'll be happy
Full of tears
lots of beers!

Let our arms be as warm
as the Sun from up above
Bring us birds
Bring us sunshine
Bring us Love...

and those all important links to things to do with Green Birding :-

Birds People Climate Change Health Adventure/Challenge

Walk, cycle, canoe . . . . Big Sit..... Big Foot. . . Big Day...... BIGBY


Green Birding Book by Richard Gregson - Amazon from 60p used!

An Unforgettable Challenge by Gordon Barnes (£5 in the Fair Isle Observatory shop!)


Dorian Anderson 2014 - 616 species WORLD GREEN YEAR RECORD

Ponc Feliu Latorre 2013 - 304 species EUROPEAN RECORD

Gary Biking Birder Prescott - 292 species (3 months 6 days still to go)

Ponc, Juan, Gimiso and Aleix – 182 species in a day in May 2015

Chris Mills & Nick Moran 2011 - 144 species in a day
( Gross Big Green Day – Birdguides article )

Youtube videos :

Scott Robinson recounts his and Ted Parker's world record 1982 Birding Big Day In Peru

Biking For Birds – Dorian Anderson

Positive Thinking Morecambe and Wise sung by the Leighton Moss RSPB Choral Group

Bring Me Sunshine Leighton Moss RSPB Choral Group

Relevent Blogs: (find using Google)

World of Green Birding, Records, Articles and photos

Birdgirl, Mya,Rose Craig

Biking Birder Blogs for 2010, 2015 and 2016

Chaskawasi- Manu – link on my blog page. PLEASE HELP


The book mentioned, An Unforgettable Challenge by Gordon Barnes is available from the Fair Isle Bird Observatory shop and details Gordon's life as a crofter and birder on Fair Isle from 1960 to 1975. A fabulous read for £5; if anyone would like me to post them a copy then please message me and I will see how much postage and packing would be to add to the £5. All proceeds go the Bird Observatory.