Fair Isle: August 2014
Of course as many of you will know I am a “regular” to Fair Isle, this holidays was for the wedding of Karen and Inness, with me doing a bit of birding while I was there.
4th of August 2014
We headed into Fair Isle on the first flight and after getting down to Quoy, I spent my first while there before going birding.
I first cycled north to the Obs and spotted a Red Admiral on the way.
Red Admiral doing a bit of sunbathing by the Vaadal (Voi-del)
The first birds I had in the Havens were Rock Pipits, eleven at least and also a dried dead Octopus on the South Haven beach.
While out on the beaches I got a text from David telling me to meet him at the Obs, I started walking up and David soon rolled up in one of the Obs’ vans.
We headed inside and into the ringing room where he brought out a young Puffin! for me to ring! we took a few measurements and etc and then we let it go.
The Puffin, turns out, was found by a garage, David said he thinks it was at Houll.
Afterwards David and I went separate ways with me going north to the Lighthouse, I had a few birds but the only ones of note were two Swift flying south.
Arctic Skuas have had a better year on Fair Isle with about 12 chicks fledged
It was getting close to denner so I shot off south and had six Golden Plover flying south over Barkland.
Just before two I headed out again to cover the south of the Island but I was stopped by some strange moth in the window of the Schoolton Garage, I went for a closer look and my attention was drawn to a Peacock Butterfly trapped inside with this moth fluttering around!
I went to Schoolton and told Nick and we caught the beauty before releasing it. I carried on south and I stopped off at Meoness.
First thing I saw was what looked like a lecustic Rock Dove, this actually got me excited but I saw green rings on its legs and at a closer inspection its colours were wrong.
A close up of its colour rings
After the Racing Pigeon flew off I decided to do Meoness once over, heading around all I got of note was an Alba Wagtail.
Maalie (Fulmar) chick on Meoness
A very obliging Wheatear (Steynshakker) that sat on a fence post for me
5th of August 2014
One thing I can’t not do on Fair Isle is go on the morning traps! the excitement of what you might catch pulls me in everytime so I headed up to the Obs at 6:30 to find some birds on my way North.
Well this morning I didn’t see anything but I did get to ring two Meadow Pipits and work with a “re-trapped” Wheatear.
Nick Riddiford had said to me the day before that he does Moths at 9 so after the traps I was straight to Schoolton for a bit of Mothing (the right name for it?).
Nick’s Moth Trap brought up a respectable bunch with two Smokey Wainscoat, two Udea infealis (Micro Moth), four Antler Moths, twelve Ingrail Clay, three Large Yellow Underwings, twenty Dark Arches, two Eccna Ossenna (Micro Moth), one While-shouldered House Moth (Micro), one Stenophylax permistum, nine Northern Rustics, two beetles and one Sexton Beetle.
Afterwards I got a few shots and we released them all back into the wild before I headed back to Quoy,
Large Yellow Underwing
Dark Arches and moth sp
A Dark Arches
Northern Rustic (?)
The list for today
The two beetles
The Sexton Beetle
Most of my day wasn’t spent birding but the large majority was spent painting Quoy, myself, Dad, Stewart and a couple others spent the day (a sunny one it was) painting Quoy, it did have its upsides though which resulted in me hearing a Red-throated Diver somewhere on the Island (flying over), a Swallow and a moth with reddy-orange underwings!
After we’d done the entire house, Stewart & Dad decided to head out fishing so I went off with them.
We headed up to North Haven and got the boat ready before heading north to the sea north of the Island.
The rods went down a couple of times but we just couldn’t catch anything, Steven & Tom were out as well but they only got one “fair sized” fish (the same as us).
Though us fishing did attract a couple of Gulls, Herrings and a Lesser Black Back which was even ringed.
Our loyal “ringed” Lesser Black-backed Gull which stayed with us till we got past North Light
Heading back to North Haven we had one more try but nothing came up, we put the boat back and headed down the Isle.
Just before five I was able to head out birding again, I headed to the South, managing to pick up a couple of Waders. Redshank, Oystercatcher and Turnstones but the real surprise came from Utra when I found a female Tufted Duck and an Island tick of Ruff! (Year tick as well).
Female Tuftie on what I like to call “the Utra Pond”
Record shotted Ruff, year and Island tick
I called it a day after heading to Da Water and headed back to Quoy hoping to enjoy the end of the day but a Barred Warbler had other plans.
I got a text from David saying that there was one at Schoolton! I grabbed my stuff and I was off! I had just arrived and the Obs Van pulled up a mere 20 seconds later!
There was maybe six of us looking for the warbler which fluttered once and then flew 60 metres away onto a style, I took a few record shots and headed back happy with adding a new bird to my Fair Isle list! (And year).
Record Shot! Barred Warbler
But I couldn’t resist having one last check up North so by 7:30 I was crawling round Easter Lother Water hunting for Waders, managed to get a Redshank, Dunlin and Ringed Plover before going to Golden Water and finding a second female Tufted Duck!
This time though I did head in as the sun was setting and the birds were going with it.
My second female Tufted Duck of the day at Golden Water, note: the white/cream patch around the base of the bill which was not present in the bird from Utra
North Cliffs and Gannet Colony
David told me that tonight would be good for “Stormies” so hoping to ring a few (and hopefully get Swinhoe’s Petrel) I went up after 11.
The traps were quickly set up and the moon was out as well, within a couple of minutes I got two different photos: featured below.
The traps got pretty full of Stormies, throughout the night over 200! came in and were ringed, a couple of re-traps as well and I did a few.
But there was no Swinhoe’s and he wasn’t seen again.
I got home with Glen who was up on the session as well, saved me walking back!
6th of August 2014
I woke up late this morning for traps, nine to be exact but I had no texts so nothing rare had been caught.
I got ready to head out and I had another ten minutes before I got a text from David saying that they’d just caught a Greenish Warbler in the Plantation!!
I grabbed everything and I was up there like mental, not wanting to miss it. My legs were burning by the time I’d got there and Ciaran and David were just leaving.
I cycled up to them and David asked me if I could go up to the Obs to spread the news, so off I was again.
I dashed north telling anybody I found along the way, I got into the Obs and I went round spreading the word and soon we had a gathering of people by the ringing room.
David and Ciaran arrived and the ringing started, the bird was then taken outside for photos and it was released.
Greenish Warbler, a nice start to the day
I headed north after coming from the Obs and then I headed south again to Utra…..
The day is continued on…
7th of August 2014
This morning I was up for traps and out for 6:30 again with birds being seen at Barkland. 7 Oystercatchers, 2 Common Gulls, 2 Lesser Black-backs, 2 Black-headed Gulls and 2 Curlew but nothing else along the way.
On the traps we caught a few things with my first Green Sandpiper of the Year flying out of the Finniquoy Gully (or just the Gully).
I got to ring a Wheatear and then I headed north where I found nothing of note bar a Painted Lady.
After my normal morning routine I headed out to the south and got 19 Turnstones and a Sanderling (A Fair Isle Tick for me!) on Sample, South Harbour.
Sanderling, Island tick
Glen and a kite
Next came South Light and Muckle Uri Geo, the areas in and around both pulled up a few waders and gulls, c30 Redshank, 3 Dunlin, c40 Common Gulls, 4 Black-headed Gulls and 6 Turnstones.
While I was looking at these I got a text from David, they’d just caught a Wryneck in the Vaadal (Pronounced Voi-del)! I told him I was on my way.
I don’t think I’ve ever cycled that fast, I was up there in five minutes and they were sat waiting, I plunked myself down and watched as it was pulled out of its bag and the ringing started.
This was my first Wryneck on Fair Isle and a Year Tick, my first was last year and roughly the same time at Sumburgh Farm when twitching a Short-toed Lark in the mist.
So after it had all been done, David got me to take a few shots of it for ageing purposes and then I watched in marvel as the Wryneck did some funny head movements, twisting its head around to look at David.
Everyone split up after that and I did a bit of birding before heading back to Quoy.
I decided that today would be the day I headed up Ward Hill for a look (always hoping to head up each trip but I never quite get around to it…), I asked Dad if he wanted to come and so we set off North after denner for a look.
It was an amazingly sunny day and it was hot but there was a good breeze going so we were fine, on the way up the Hill road we had twenty Skylarks, a couple of Shalders and two Ravens. We had a walk around, to the top and then to look at the Gannet Colony.
Carved into one of the huts on Ward Hill
Another one beside it
View from the top
Black & White Seals
Black & White Ram
We spent maybe twenty minutes watching and photographing the Colony and some Seals before I got a text from David saying that North Ronaldsay just had a Honey Buzzard flying north and they’d lost it.
That started to get me excited, seeing as I’ve never seen one yet! we headed back up the northern face of Ward Hill and begun our ascent to the top to spy for this avain hunter.
On the way we found a dead Bonxie, Dad got me to check the leg for a ring and there was one! so the procedure began of getting it off and after ten minutes we got it (I presume its a Fair Isle bird seeing as it’s ring number is about 100 off one bird I ringed last year).
At the top we scanned and scanned for a while hoping to pick out this Buzzard but nothing so we set off back down the Hill road, we had the car and the plane was coming in so we had to wait.
I got a few shots in the process.
While waiting David dropped me a text saying that North Ron’s Honey Buzzard had flown back over so it didn’t come this way!
“G-SICA is a go”
We continued down the isle and I popped into Shirva, I headed out again and I got one Willow Warbler.
I walked down to Midway not expecting much but maybe a warbler, I had gotten a few metres into the Angelica and something flew up onto a wire in front of me, my eyes wandered and it was a Black Redstart!! I dipped the one a few days ago (maybe the same) and this one just flew straight towards me! I didn’t even get a chance to pull out my camera before it flew to the back of Midway.
I ripped out my camera and ran after it, it was perched on a piece of pipping and I didn’t even have a chance to photograph it before it shot off!
I chased it but it was gone and I didn’t see it again but it was a British tick so I was very pleased!
I continued south, seeing the female Tufted Duck who was present for her third day running.
A quick run around the South Light/Skaadan area pulled up a couple of Alba Wagtails, Turnstones, Rock Pipits, Oystercatchers and a Snipe.
I walked back up the road to Quoy and that nearly ended my day but I went off to twitch a Reed Warbler by Midway (Year Tick).
Sunset from Quoy
8th of August 2014
I managed to sleep in this morning and also miss Nick’s Moth Trap in the process but he didn’t catch anything big so I popped over and had a look in the garden.
I managed to get the Barred Warbler, also there was a few Oystercatchers in the parks.
I headed down to Meoness, managing to pick out 65 Common Gulls and a Great Black-backed Gull.
Next came South Harbour which brought up a Sanderling and fifteen Turnstones and a Puffin, which I caught!
There must of been something wrong with the thing if it let me catch it without running away, I took a few shots and let it go (later I was told the bird was sick).
Puffin, cracking bird
Down by Mid Geo I spotted four Sanderlings (my own Island record flock) and then I was off to the pools around South Light which brought up 6 Hooded Crows, 12 Turnstones and 9 Purple Sandpipers.
Utra still had its faithful Tufted Duck (She is still present for her fifth day).
On the way to Midway, the Reed Warbler was still in its patch of trees and next was the Chalet which got me a Garden Warbler.
I carried on North to the Havens, they had a few birds in the shape of 5 Rock Pipits, 5 Dunlin, a Turnstone and a Alba Wagtail.
South I went for denner and after that the South Harbour was next but it didn’t bring much but on Meoness I found 70 Common Gulls and 5 Golden Plovers.
My day started to slow down from here and I headed to the South Light with Tommy to watch some golf, we did find a Common Sexton Beetle which wasn’t half bad!
When I got back to Quoy, Stewart and I were debating about Red Rattle, we found the latin name the same as another plant and it was Lousewort, Triona told me where to look so I headed up to Chatham’s Land for a look.
It didn’t take me long to find it!
Also Common Ragwort
And Bird’s Foot Trefoil
Lousewort in comparison with a one pound
9th of August 2014
Today was the day of Inness and Karen’s Wedding and it was a complete downpour throughout the day (breaking the most rainfall in twenty four hours for the Island by about 13mm) but that didn’t stop anybody (or the birds).
I saw the Obs Van at the Kirk about ten minutes before ten so I decided to go and see if they’d got anything, in the weather you would of thought I was mad but they’d had a Wood Sandpiper so there is just somethings you got to do.
The bird was gone so I cycled in the rain to Utra to get a few Waders, the scrape was flooded and my camera bag was nearly as well (I actually brought it with me).
Utra was promising with three Ruff, a Snipe, a Greenshank and two female Teal.
Common Gulls, hundreds were around today
Greenshank in the rain
and a female Teal
I went off the find the Obs Van and I met them at the Puffinn, as soaked as me and not enjoying the weather at all.
We exchanged sightings and we headed off quickly, it wasn’t worth being out.
I didn’t brave the outdoors again after that, my boots were soaked through, so was my clothes and my camera bag as well (though its contents were safe).
The rest of the day was spent getting ready for the wedding, while we got all ready and nice, the rain flooded everywhere, all burns were overflowing and roads were submerged, it really was like the weather was against everybody.
But that stopped no-one, everyone met in the Chapel and the ceremony started. It was a great occasion being there and it was excellent.
We had an hour before the Hall so we waited and headed up, there was a great meal with speeches and then the band started which went on into the early hours.
It was an amazing day and congratulations to Inness and Karen of course!
10th of August 2014
So it was maybe about 8;45 in the morning and I’d just gotten up from the wedding the night before, I heard people speaking in the porch so I went to have a look and it was Glen.
He’d just come in asking if I wanted to go out birdwatching, I had actually just gotten up but I couldn’t decline so off we went.
First we headed to Utra, there was a couple of Waders, three Ruff, one Black-tailed Godwit (Year Tick and Island Tick), 8 Teal and 22 Redshank.
Juvenile Black-tailed Godwit, nice bird for the day
We worked our way north from here getting a Greenshank at Da Water and a Willow Warbler with four Ruff at Barkland.
We passed the Obs and went straight for Easter Lother Water, taking the walk up we flushed three Ruff and on Easther Lother itself there was three Greenshank!
We’d been out a while so we headed to one last stop at the Obs, checking the board there wasn’t
much news but there was a Pied Flycatcher in the Garden which we saw.
Female Pied Flycatcher
Glen put me back to Quoy and I took the day a bit slowly, I headed back out again at 11 to South Light.
There was good numbers of waders with 30 Turnstones, 15 Purple Sandpipers, One Whimbrel and over 20 Redshanks.
I headed over to Utra next which had a quite a few good waders with three Greenshank, two Common Sandpipers, two Ruff and two Wood Sandpipers!! (Lifers!!).
One of the Common Sandpipers
Wood Sand & Redshank!
Two Common Sandpipers
I ended up heading back after doing Utra but in the afternoon Harry & I decided to have a cycle up to the “Heinkel” wreckage, as it had been washed away slightly.
We arrived and had a walk out to see that the tail of the Heinkel had been washed to the fork in the burn.
After a look around we headed back for the Football Game by South Light which went well and there was a good turnout, a crowd even gathered!
(And in fairness that was my day, I had a good rest afterwards)
11th of August 2014
The Ruff were really close
I only got out 12:00 today but it was worth it, Rob Hughes from the Obs had, had a Wood Warbler at South Reeva so that was my first stop.
Almost straight away I got it on the Angelica and it was a beauty! an Island tick and a year tick as well!
I worked my way to Midway managing to pick up five Willow Warblers and a Garden Warbler before heading back to Quoy.
The Garden Warbler again
Henry and I headed out birding at 3:30 and after a Lesser Whitethroat at Haa we headed to Utra.
A great Lesser Whitethroat
The Black-tailed Godwit was still there along with five Ruff and one Green Sandpiper.
South Light came next and it was bucketing it down but we managed to get one Green Sandpiper, eight Dunlin, one Redshank, three Ringed Plovers and a single summer plumage Knot.
Green Sandpiper and its not flying away!
We ran back to Haa and everything pretty much stopped there for the day.
12th of August 2014
This morning I was out by 9, in the first few minutes I had a Black-headed Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull.
At 5 past I was down at Haa and had a Peregrine flyover, Tommy pointed out two Greylags on Meoness which were the first of the Autumn (they took off north shortly afterwards),
Greylag Geese, first of the Autumn
I did a quick tour of Meoness, bringing up 3 Sanderling, 4 Common Sands, 14 Rock Pipits, 1 Golden Plover, 1 Green Sand and a flock of 50 Twite of Meadow Pipits but they disappeared before I could ID them.
Next was Utra and it still had the odd wader in the shape of two Green Sands and a female Teal.
I walked over to South Light and in Muckle Uri Geo I spotted 16 Redshanks, 1 Green Sand, 30 Turnstones, 12 Purple Sands, 3 Knot, 7 Ringed Plovers, a flyover Greenshank, 6 Dunlin and a male Pied Wagtail.
I headed over to Mid Geo by “The Puffinn” and an Alba Wag was feeding on the beach and a Common Sand flew off towards Sample.
North was next, Leogh had a Willow Warbler and 19 Common Gulls with a flyover Merlin between the School and Lower Stoneybrek.
Finally I checked Barkland which had just under twenty Oystercatchers before I headed back south to Quoy.
I seem to have no notes on the afternoon, and I can’t remember what happened, all I have is this Arctic Skua
Nice birds, pretty cracking as well
13th of August 2014
I was up for traps once again this morning! 6:30 to be exact, I was out just after this and hunting for birds before traps.
At Da Water, it seemed lifeless but I spotted a dark duck, I got my eyes on it and it was a Wigeon! the first of the Autumn I think and I took a bad record shot before moving on.
First of the Autumn!
The Obs and Buness
Up North on the traps we had a Common Sand fly out of the Gully and a Chiffchaff in the Vaadal (Voi-del).
I took me a while to get back as the rain was so bad! I was only back at Quoy by 9:50 and a couple of minutes before I’d had my first Grey Heron of the trip at Da Water!
Finally! took me days but I got it!!
I stayed in at Quoy for the morning and I managed to get Black-tailed Godwit and Green Sand from the kitchen window.
I headed out after denner and my first good bird was a Sand Martin over the Meadow Burn! this might of even been an Island tick for me! there was also a different Green Sand.
Sand Martin, first of the Autumn as well!
Down by Haa I was getting to the edge of the Skerryholm Garage when I saw what I thought was a Merlin land and disappear 30 metres infront of me! I got my camera out and a Cuckoo flew up onto a strainer post! I got some shots and then it flew off, I went in and told Tommy and Henry.
Year tick, not bad
A second racing pigeon
South Harbour was my destination after that and there was 3 Common Sands, 7 Turnstones and 2 Sanderlings on the beach.
On my usually course I was off to Utra, a Willow Warbler was by the house and a Green Sand, Greenshank and 16 Turnstones were by the Scrape.
I decided to take a different course and I headed to the cliffs by Gunglesund, I never head out this way so it was a nice change.
The birds too were also nice! there was 3 Ruff, 1 Green Sand and a Grey Heron (Haegrie), I also met a man who was staying at the South Light.
He’d come for the Island itself, just to have a look at it.
While we were talking I saw a Fieldfare (the bird which had been round the area for the past two days and it was also a trip tick).
I went by Midway and that only pulled up a Willow Warbler, I decided to head north along the west cliffs and then to Pund and thats what I did.
I did get one bird and that was an oiled Grey Heron by Pund which took off and disappered in the parks.
Barkland pulled up four Ruff and a jaunt down to Haa at 8:10 got me a Common Whitethroat and two Green Sands!
It took me many days but I finally caught up with a Common Whitethroat this trip!
14th of August 2014
I was up for traps as usual, round Barkland there was 8 Oystercatchers, 14 Twite, an Alba Wag and a Cuckoo! I’m not sure if it was roosting in the Angelica behind Chalet or if it just happened to be sitting there but anyways from here I was off on the traps.
The Cuckoo, these things are amazing!
I got to work with a couple of Wheatears which we’d trapped one was a re-trap and the other an un-ringed bird so I got to ring that.
I had a quick look in the Havens before heading south again and getting the Cuckoo, a Willow Warbler and two Ruff.
On quick look in at Schoolton produced a Lesser Whitethroat (different from the Haa bird?) and then I was up to Quoy for breakfast.
Lesser Whitethroat at Schoolton
I was back out again at 10:30 and my first bird was a Sand Martin by South Harbour.
Henry joined me on this one and by Utra we picked up a Green Sand a couple of Alba Wags.
We headed down to Mid Geo and Henry spotted a small warbler on the beach, I got my bins on it and it was a Wood Warbler!! I got some pics and texted David with the news of it.
An older couple were sitting 20 metres away so we told them and showed them the bird which was a first for them.
Looking North to Puffinn, Mid Geo, South Harbour and the croft houses
We were all going around the Skaadan so we just helped each other out, Henry and I spotted a couple of birds and got the couple on it in no time.
In the Obs sacrificial crop by the Puffinn we plucked out some Twite and twenty House Sparrows, the Skaadan Pool contained a few Dunlin and a Alba Wagtail, Muckle Uri Geo produced a Redshank, 4 Ringed Plovers, 13 Turnstone, 1 Sanderling, 4 Dunlin, 5 Oystercatchers, and 4 Groliks (Purple Sandpipers), down below South Light we got 3 summer plumage Knot (which quickly disappeared into the cracks and crevices), one Greenshank and a Green Sand.
We met Chris from the Obs and he told us about the odd bird that was around and after that the couple, Henry and I, and Chris all headed off in separate directions.
A dried fish in a fish box would you believe
Two of the three Knot and a Greenshank on the left hand side
Henry and I worked our way north, heading to Midway and getting a Willow Warbler and by this time it was 1 so I was back into Quoy for denner.
Afterwards I got a text from David, there was a warbler in the Gully that he thought it would be worth checking out, I replied to him and after a few jobs with Stewart we headed up.
The first thing I saw was a few guys around the Gully trying to flush the bird into the trap but to no avail.
David went off to do the plane and the other Ob’s guys went back for a mist net with Alex staying in case the bird came out.
And me? well I stayed in case it came out, I sat myself on the top of the Gully and Stewart stayed for a while but headed back after twenty minutes.
The Obs guys came back and an older couple came as well, the man was called John and I talked to him as the Obs boys were setting up the net.
John has been here a few times, first when Ken Williamson was the warden and in his time he told me about a Red-necked Phalarope he’d seen and a Greenish Warbler on the isle.
It took a while for the mist net to be put up but after two tries the bird was caught and taken back to the Obs, I walked back and when I got to the Obs the bird was being identified in the ringing room but we had to wait out side.
The guys came out and said it was a Blyth’s Reed, a couple of people came and a few taken before it was taken back to the Gully.
Blyth’s Reed! Nice peerie birdy
I went up to the Plantation with the Obs to do a run of the traps, we got a Garden Warbler.
Tommy and Henry arrived (I’d given them a call about the bird) and so I headed off with them.
We didn’t get much but I headed down to Schoolton afterwards and got a Common Whitethroat.
Tonight was my last night of Log so I didn’t want to miss it, as usual I said my sightings, had a drink and headed back to Quoy.
15th of August 2014
After the exciting time I’ve had over the past couple of days it was finally time to leave.
I had enough time to get up for the traps and see a couple of birds before I left.
The highlights outside Quoy were a Black-headed Gull.
I had a run south on my bike to get as much coverage as possible, in South Harbour there was a flock of 34 Redshanks and two Green Sands.
I had a Grey Heron at Utra, a Willow Warbler at Midway, 2 Sand Martin at North Shirva, 2 Teal on Da Water and 3 Ruff at Chatham’s Land.
Oiled Grey Heron on Da Water
A ship on the horizon
I was checking the pond at Chalet when I saw large movement, a Grey Heron! I don’t know why but I tried to catch it, the bird had been “fulmared” by Fulmars.
It couldn’t escape quickly so I moved and I grabbed on to some large grass but the ground was hollow beneath me and half of me fell into the pond (my camera side) luckily all was ok, I was a little bit wet but that was it.
Still I continued onto the traps, they caught a wren, wheatear and a twite and there was also a Common Sand flying out of the Gully.
I shot straight back after this, picked up my wet clothes from the Chalet and headed back to Quoy.
My bag was soon packed and everything was ready, we said our goodbyes and soon headed off on the plane after a great 11 days.
Our time on Fair Isle this trip was amazing, the weather was great (for most of it) and everything had a great time at the wedding.
I met a couple of new people and even found a (Fair Isle) rarity, the birds were great and so was the people.
Also I would like to thank anybody who helped me in anyway during my stay.
If its an Island you want to visit, this is the one.
New species= Wood Sandpiper
Shetland List additions= Wood Sandpiper and Black Redstart
Fair Isle List additions= 10
Year List additions = 13
Total species= 74 (same as my May trip total last year)
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Blyth’s Reed Warbler