Monday, 25 October 2010

Arctic Trill

Today saw the arrival of more superb Waxwings which trilled over the Island & many filtered down to the Obs plantation in still, cool conditions this morning. With various trapping devices set up (thanks to Phil) & the shop cleaned out of apples, it was not long before the ringers amongst us were enjoying a good number of these birds in the hand - the days ringing total reached a very respectable 23! There must have been around 40+ Waxwing overall with a dozen or so at the Haa in the south. All these birds have been extremely confiding & have even been coming down to apples in the hand!

I went South after breakfast & reconnected with the Arctic Redpoll which was at the shop & then the School briefly where I obtained a few more pleasing pics. Alan Bull & Mark Newell left on the afternoon plane after their Autumn visit :-( & Simon returned from his day trip to the hospital following his fall during 'rough dancing' at the end of season/H&D retirement party. He has broken his foot in 3 places! Nasty! & is now sporting a very clean white cast which is crying out for graffiti - tomorrow if the Waxwings are about we will place Simon outside with an apple skewered on his big toe for the Waxwings to devour, I'm sure we'll have a Jackson Pollock masterpiece in no time! Talking of masterpieces I am now the proud owner of a Jack Ashton-Booth after he kindly drew me a cracking ittle Radde's Warbler following my find earlier this month - to see some of this talented, up & coming artists work please click on Jack Ashton-Booth's blog title from my list of blogs! I think Jack will have a busy Winter with various commissions he has recently taken on!

The other event of the day was that my 200-400mm VR Nikon which has rarely leaves my side these days has broken whilst photographing the Waxwings. The AF motor drive has bust meaning I can now only manually focus! Not good! But at least it's happened in the last third of the trip & not at the beginning!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Mealy Magic - & that Horny Man!
Today (24th) started very slowly as it was the day after the night before - Hollie & Deryk's leaving/retirement party which went on until the early hours. It was a very enjoyable event with a lot of Islanders joining the Obs crowd for alcohol, alcohol, alcohol, dancing & merriment, coupled with a deep underlying sadness & much musing of the many good times had over the past 10 years with H&D at the helm. AW Simon managed to dance so hard he broke his foot - so it's not looking like a great end of the season for him! However we wheeled him into the ringing room for a smart adult Waxwing after breakfast & he is getting a good dose of pampering before going off for an Xray tomorrow (poor Simon!). Waxwings were shrilling outside the Obs at first light today & Phil mananged to trap 10 of them during the morning with walk in traps & apples (it was too windy for the nets). Several Northern Bullfinch were also seen & a smart male ringed. The Black-throated Thrush was present now in the company of a Ring Ouzel (pictured). Mealy Redpolls are still in residence in the south & this afternoon I finally managed to catch up with the snowball of an Arctic Redpoll at Shirva & then the shop - at last!! - though photographing it in strengthening NW winds was not the easiest!

A Touch of Thrush
Yesterday seemed a quiet day with very few migrants on the Island. I headed south ahead of 'Sheep Hill' (rounding up all the hill sheep) to try & relocate the Arctic Redpoll (which I failed to do!). Mid-morning however, news filtered through that Deryk had just scored with a fine Black-throated Thrush near the Obs which was seen briefly but had flown off! This was greeted with much enthusiasm & hope of what else might have come in on the light Northerly winds, but more searching before lunch didn't bare more eastern fruit. I was just heading back to the Obs for lunch when I got a call from Phil to say he had relocated the Thrush near Double Dyke. After more searching, as it again was only seen briefly, the bird eventually gave itself up near finniquoy for the remaining Obs staff & guests to enjoy - a cracking 1st Winter male Black-throated Thrush (see record shots below). After lunch it was found in the Gully & was trapped, being brought back to the Obs for ringing & processing,. It was a lot smaller in the hand than in the field where it looks & holds itself more like a Fieldfare, it took a 'CC' ring, the same as a Redwing as the 'C' was too big! This handsome individual was seen again feeding alongside Meadow Pipits on the cliff-top grazing area around duckfield late afternoon & was still around today (24th).

Friday, 22 October 2010

Arctic Dip . . .

I have managed to dip the Arctic Redpoll which has been showing on & off at the Haa & Utra on several occasions including this afternoon. In the face of defeat I concentrated on other key Fair Isle species including a perky Fair Isle Wren & more Mealy & Lesser Redpolls . Today saw the departure of our quiz master extraordinaire friend Martin & the Obs is now housing but a handful of birders, mainly staff & past ex-staff clinging onto a hopeful repeat of 2004 . . . . ;-) the autumn is surely not yet over . . . .

A Perfect Storm . .
Birding has been quiet the last few days with daily reductions in common migrants & only a couple of elusive Arctic Redpolls giving a rarer flare to the mixed flocks of Common (Mealy) & Lesser Redpolls. Increasing northerly winds produced a scattering of northern Redwing & a few Waxwing but surely the highlight came on the 20th with the most incredible weather conditions I have ever experienced on Fair Isle! The day started very cold with purple-grey clouds building up out to sea, followed with a prolonged heavy burst of pea-sized hail & the odd bolt of lightning & thunder. In the afternoon, the Island still covered in hail stones, was shrowded in darkness as high winds & a full-on blizzard
arrived! Not very productive birding & photography weather! This extreme weather continued with a spectacular highlight in the form of 3-4 tornado style huge 'Water Spouts' seen out to sea from the South! These monster formations lasted for some minutes & you could see the water being whipped up & rotated a few hundred feet through binoculars. . . . .

Monday, 18 October 2010

Sunday, 17 October 2010

A Rough Day in Paradise .
Friday saw intermittent showers & a cooler feel to the Island. Numbers of birds were down but the Little Bunting still frequented the Iris-filled ditches around the Haa & the Blyth's Reed Warbler was still enjoying the feeding frenzy with Chiffchaffs on South harbour beach. Friday also saw the arrival of friend's Lois, Martin Culshaw & Alan Bull :-)
Saturday was a superb day. It started with Phil tape luring in a whopping 67 Redpolls, the majority of which were Mealy but there were 8 Lessers amongst them. After ringing these fabulous birds the day progressed with a probable flyover OBP at double dyke just before news & then views of a harassed Rough-legged Buzzard which at one point hovered 15 ft above Phil at Setter! After lunch & photographing my first Waxwing of the Autumn along with a Yellow-browed Warbler in the Obs plantation, I walked to the back of Buness where I caught up with the King Eider ( a Fair Isle tick) before getting a lift to the south for the 2nd Rough-legged Buzzard of the day! I photographed a small flock of Siskin late afternoon which were very approachable & in beautiful light before heading to Busta for a smart Black Redstart. The highlight of the day however came with Simon's find of a stunning Red-flanked Bluetail between the airstrip & the mast! A knackering hike up the hill soon saw the assembled crowd enjoying great scope views as it sat looking back at us with the odd tail quiver & yawn on the hillside. A great way to the end day!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Blyth's on the Beach
A fairly quiet & often overcast day but the highlight was spending time sat in South Harbour beach watching & photographing this smart Blyth's Reed Warbler as it fed up on insects on the seaweed with numerous Chiffchaffs (including at least 2 Tristis types). After the crowds had dispersed, I also had a brief moment with the Radde's, this time in much better light showing the apricot undertail coverts off nicely & the general warm plumage tones. Other notable birds today included 2 Slav Grebes in South Harbour, lots of Lap Bunts & a Little bunting. The Barred Warbler is still tucking into apples at the Haa.