Saturday 20th August fresh to strong E rain AM, cloudy PM
Gavin, the wardens' birthday boy son, rushes into the observatory and soon everyone is rushing into the ringing shed.
He has trapped a juvenile red-backed shrike in one of the nearby Heligoland traps. Crowded into the small shed everyone admires the angry bird whilst I after a quick view quickly head off in the direction of the tall stone wall around the Observatory's fields. Gavin has seen a number of migrants sheltering from the rain and the gale along the sea wall and they included an icterine warbler; arguably the most important of the target birds for August. Gavin had texted me but I had stupidly not carried my mobile with me into the Obs, having left it on charge by my pillow!
I search the wall and am joined by Larissa, George and Gavin.
Together we search as willow warblers, pied flycatchers and a garden warbler flit in front of us. No icky, four of the birds end up in the Heligoland trap box and are taken to be processed.
What a wonderful start for Gavin's 19th birthday. There has obviously been a fall of migrants and who knows what else will turn up.
Larissa, the Canadian volunteer, has asked me to accompany her on census duties and together we set off for the expansive section B. We walk and chat and pass Holland House before turning right towards a large area of irises and docks.
A phone call from Sam. He has found an icky and so I head off towards the potential Green Year tick. Within a couple of hundred yards Sam is phoning again, Gavin has found a barred warbler by the Post Office.
Gavin's bird is on the way to the icterine and I meet up with him. For half an hour or so we search together but can't relocate the chunky warbler. I head off to the croft where Sam had seen the icterine. Reaching there I spend another half an hour watching a dense rectangle of willows and short sycamores but once again fail to see the special one. On returning to my bike I find that the gathered group of young bulls has chewed all of the laminated signs on the front of my bike. Gone is the RSPB – A Home for Nature, gone is the Marine Conservation Society and gone is the Stop Me and Buy One. They have eaten the lot, plastic, paper and all! At least they haven't eaten Albert the cuddly albatross of the Birdlife International Albatross Campaign.
I rush back to Section B to try to find Larissa. I phone repeatedly but only receive leave a message answers.
Eventually we do find each other. Larissa has found garden warbler and pied flycatcher whilst I was away. Larissa came to Britain with little knowledge of British birds but she has excellent field skills and sharp eyes. I can't help but be very impressed with her attitude and ability.
We spilt up again in a short while as I head off for Brides bay and Loch and she heads towards Stromness Point. This way we can cover more of Section B.
I meet two of the locals, Sheila and Ian, as they are persuading a group of black bullocks into a new pasture and spend fifteen minutes or so talking about the island. Both born and bred on the island they say they would never consider leaving.
Two whinchats are on fence posts along the road down to Brides and a pied flycatcher is the only migrant seen from a long walk along the seawall and extensive iris beds at Bridesness Point.
Five tufted ducks are on Brides Loch and I wait here for Larissa who I can see some way off searching around a ruined croft.
Together we circle the Loch, crashing through iris beds and tall grasses.
At one point Larissa disappears and I am panicked thinking she has gone down in a muddy ditch. She has but luckily she has fallen horizontally, into the mud only up to her knees.Duck are flushed out, shovelor, teal and mallard. Waders too including two green sandpipers and a ruff. A reed warbler is with a sedge warbler in the long grass, a new bird for Larissa. We find the whinchats and Larissa has yet another new bird for her growing British list.