We caught the overnight ferry from Aberdeen to Lerwick and after a 14 hour crossing we disembarked at 0700 on Friday. Lack of a good night's sleep was having an effect but a few northern specialities: Hooded Crow, Black Guillemot and Eider as well as Raven and Great Northen Diver added to the Arctic and Great Skuas seen off the boat livened me up a bit. After loading our gear into the hire car we set off for Sumburgh to look for a Western Bonelli's Warbler which had been knocking about in a dog rose hedge for a few days. We found it sure enough but it was being a devil to see clearly: flitting about in deep cover and giving nanosecond views. I saw the bird five or six times and I bet that if all of the time I saw it was totalled it would come to about a second and a half!
No chance of photographs but there was an obliging Kestrel and an equally obliging Spotted Flycatcher.
|Kestrel waiting to catch a Western Bonelli's Warbler|
|Spotted Flycatcher - Sumburgh|
Our flight from Tingwall was due out around 1500 so after a fruitless visit to Quendale we clambered into the plane to cross to Fair Isle. Well, at least, some of us did!
Arriving on Fair Isle and walking down towards Pund we had great views of a juvenile Pallid Harrier. This was virtually the first bird we saw...and it was a life tick for me. Although it flew quite close I did not have my camera at the ready (let that be a lesson) so no photographs. Its gingery underparts and neck markings: the black boa, in particular, seperating it from juvenile Hen Harrier (which we also saw). The Pallid Harrier was to prove quite reliable for the next few days although I only managed a few distant record shots which are pretty rubbish as this one testifies:
|Juvenile Pallid Harrier - Record shot of a distant bird.|
|Red-breasted Flycatcher on the north haven cliff retaining wire.|
The following morning this bird had departed and there were to be no more RBFs during the week.
On the Saturday we thought we had had a good day with 3 Yellow-browed Warblers! Twite, a couple of Common Rosefinch and flocks of Snow Buntings kept us entertained as we tried hard but failed to locate a Lanceolated Warbler in any of the ditches that criss-cross the island. A few common migrants such as Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Whinchat, Spotted Flycatcher, Blackcap and Wheatear kept us on our toes.
Our first Barred Warbler cropped up the next day along with a Blyth's Reed Warbler which was duly netted and ringed by the observatory's assistant wardens. Here are a couple of in-hand photographs of this bird but for a more thorough identification discussion see an earlier posting on this blog titled: (unsurprisingly) Identification of Blyth's Reed Warbler.
|Blyth's Reed Warbler - Fair Isle Sept 20th 2015|
|Blyth's Reed Warbler - Fair Isle Sept 2015|
On the Monday we split into three teams and spent the day enjoying a 'bird race' designed to see if we could clean-up on the islands birds on one specific day, We saw 61 species, the other teams saw 60 and 61 respectively but we had a flyover Redpoll discounted because we had not nailed it down to a spcies. Between us I think we managed around 68 species and the wardens claimed around 72 species recorded during the day so we did OK. Pallid Harrier, Common Rosefinch, Yellow-browed Warbler and Blyth's Reed Warbler all figured on the day's lists.
|Monster Fair Isle Wren!|
|Great Skua...and dead rabbit|
|Jack Snipe...pretending to be invisible.|
|Lesser Whitethraot and Fair Isle ring|
|Merlin. Regular on the island.|
|Proper...real Rock Dove|
|Skylark...good numbers all week.|
|Twite...flocks reached three figures.|
|Yellow-browed Warbler.Over 50 individuals recorded in one day!|
Cetaceans were regular during the week and we logged more Minke Whales, Orcas, Risso's Dolphins, Bottle-nosed Dolphins and Harbour Porpoise.
Back on mainland Shetland we preferred to have a feast of fish and chips rather than go see a Thick-billed Warbler but more about that anon.