Monday, 19 September 2016

Even More rarities and a New British Green Year List Record

Thursday 15th September continued . . .

The people one meets makes travel endlessly fascinating. Melia and Rick are from Alaska originally though now they work from Aberdeen University. Rick is an archaeologist working on recently uncovered Eskimo site in the Arctic, uncovered due to the excessive ice melt. Global warming in action.
Melia works in the Aberdeen university museum and she tells me that they have just uncovered a box covered in thick dust from under a stairway. Upon opening it she found bird skins with labels on each detailing where they were shot and by whom, John James Audubon!

Micel and Sue from Coventry have arrived on Fair Isle in a small airplane piloted by Micel. It soon becomes apparent sitting them that Mike has a very similar sense of humour to me. We love the same films; Blazing Saddles and the like. Gary Larson soon has us all laughing as we share which of the World's best ever environmental minded cartoonist cartoons we love, like and remember. How do snakes say goodbye? Smoking cows and dingo farms. (Look up Gary Larson on google images and you'll find which cartoons we referenced here.)
They also point out a spoof TV series produced in Australia for the Sydney Olympics. The 'Prime Minister's' apology to the indigenous aboriginal tribes is wonderful.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dh0MNIFezME

Mike and Sue also talk about flying and how they have flown around Europe and Australia. What a life! They show a video to capture the feeling.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mxmFCw-Dig

People. Xx

Friday 16th September Light SE Thick fog and heavy rain AM, clearing to sunny intervals with mist over hills PM.

A relaxing morning watching the rain, wander to the airport to watch Mike and Sue leave but they don't. The front wheel on the small plane has a puncture and they aren't going anywhere until that is repaired.
The short-toed lark is still by the water tanks. Otherwise there are common migrants around in small numbers; whinchat, garden and willow warblers as well as a yellow-browed, blackcap, reed warbler, lesser whitethroat and a couple of spotted flycatchers, 35 Lapland bunting and the ortolan. Still a highlight are four brent geese, a very rare bird on Fair Isle.

Saturday 17th September Fresh S Cloudy cool

Nick Riddiford thinks he has seen a bluethroat at Shirva but isn't sure. He phones the Observatory and Susannah, the warden, David's wife sees me near to the Gully and tells me the news. Shirva soon after, wait and search. No bluethroat. A couple from Wakefield arrive to search with me, Maureen and Keith are fresh in, keen birders and eager to see a good bird. Suddenly it pops up from an area I had searched. It must have been behind a pallet leaning against a dry stone wall. Anyway it hops up onto a five-bar gate and then onto the wall. Stunning bird and in no way diminished by having no blue and red breast.

BLUETHROAT . Bird number 288; only one behind the British Green Year list record.
Exploring the south of the island with an interruption at 4PM when everyone staying at the Bird Observatory tries to flush out a very hard to see great snipe, in fact no one sees it, I find a reed warbler on a barbed wire fence. To see an acro' so close and so tame is encredible.
I spend some time sitting on a high cliff at North Raeva watching as Warwickshire Cricket Club (You Bears!) thrash Surrey in the One Day final at Lords. Brilliant.
On the way to the Observatory for the evening, with the light fading, I meet a couple I remember from last year at Chalet. Karen and Ray from Nottingham have returned for another week in Paradise and are staying at the self-catering croft, Springfield. Ray climbs over the stile at the back of the superb Chalet garden and flushes a barred warbler. The bird circles the garden, a large silver warbler, before diving straight into the roses never to be seen again. My seventh barred warbler of the Autumn so far.
Harvest Moon appears over the horizon . . . 


Sunday 18th September Light to Fresh S/SE Sunny intervals with high cloud.

Morning starts with a lesser whitethroat, a willow warbler and a song thrush around my 'patch' Pund.
A barred warbler is at the Observatory in the garden.
Wanting to explore the north of the island upon reaching Wirvie Burn a text from Lee Gregory.

Possible great snipe at Da Water.

Two minutes later. . . . .

GREAT SNIPE. Confirmed with a photo.

I rush down to an area of marsh just south of the Kirk where Lee has seen the bird go down. 
Cath Mendez and Lee Gregory

After waiting for all birders from the Observatory to get there, an organised flush begins and despite extensively searching three fields there is no sign of the rare bird. Once again it has eluded everyone.
Everyone leaves for lunch at the Obs except me. I have few boiled eggs and a banana. What more do I need?
I zig zag the area just searched and have the occasional common snipe and a single jack come zig-zagging out. No great snipe.
After a couple of hours of doing this, and just after a female sparrowhawk has glided past low over the ground, Lee arrives back and tells me that he will help in the search in an hour or so, after he has finished his census.
Another hour of zig-zagging the area I left my coat and sweatshirt at Kennaby as the sun came out.
Along Kennaby's dry stone wall, along the barbed wire fence to the potato crop.
I lifted my binoculars as rock doves came out from amongst the spud.plants. A snipe, a big one, grunts and flies straight and low before turning to go in front of a group of four people on the nearby road. I scream 'The snipe' to them.
The bird disappears over a ridge and is gone.
Great snipe – bird number 289.
I phone Lee. I am practically screaming and laughing down the phone to him, "I've got the snipe!"
An hour or so later, calmer but searching for more views of the bird another text from Lee.

RED-THROATED PIPIT near .Da Haa

I receive a call . . . Phil Andrews, The Oracle....

"There's a red-throated pipit."

"I know! I'm running for it!"

A phone call from Lee . .

"Red-throated pipit."

"I'm just coming past Deryk's"

Five minutes later, standing with a group of birders, Catherine, David and Howard, the rare pipit is on the grass about thirty yards away. RED-THROATED PIPIT Bird number 290 and a new British Green Year List record.

A chat with the famous Tommy Hyndeman of Da Haa Guest House. Tommy is a friendly American and his garden list, 280, is the envy of many a birder. Indeed the dead tree in the corner of the garden has had 80 bird species in it including . .
citril finch
brown-headed cowbird
blackpoll warbler
siberian rubythroat
. . . to name a few.

http://fair-isle.blogspot.co.uk/p/b-b.html

Monday 19th September light SW One rain shower then glorious day, blue skies and warm.

A gibbous Moon is still quite high to the west as I walk towards Da Water and a group of 16 pink-footed geese fly high heading south. The aim is for another organised flush by all at the Bird Observatory in order to try and see the great snipe.
The attempt ends with all fields where the bird has been seen walked through and with rain falling. A rainbow heralded the arrival of the shower.
Clouds depart and leave just blue sky; indeed hardly a cloud is seen for the rest of the day.
Warmed by the sun at my back I explore the geos and burns to the north, rest and have lunch at the fog horn by the North Lighthouse and see a couple of puffins and a razorbill from here with countless gannets and fulmars passing and the occasional bonxie.
A woodcock is in the bracken of Wirvie Burn and my first chaffinch of the Autumn on Fair Isle passes me as I look down a high cliff.

Risso's dolphins complete a beautiful day as a group of them cavort in the tide rip off South Buness. 

So the Green Year list is now 290, a NEW RECORD. 

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