Monday, 17 October 2011
Fair Isle mini blog: rain, rare ducks and a mystery warbler
Early this morning we received news that the east coast was experiencing a huge finch movement, with Goldfinch being the most numerous, flocks of 2-300 birds were being recorded, with smaller numbers of Siskin, redpoll and Brambling, also on the move.
The news came just after breakfast and before we had ventured out into the field; would there be an arrival of finches here too. It seemed unlikely, the small trees in the observatory garden were almost horizontal and the rain was definitely horizontal. Whilst most us headed out into what felt like an epic storm, two of the group had risen before dawn and headed out to the south light for a seawatch (John Marchant and Nick Moran). They must have been feeling pretty miserable by the time we had seen our first bird, a male Gadwall (a very rare bird on Fair Isle), actually they had been invited into the lighthouse for tea and cake whilst the rest of us had the biggest soaking of our lives.
The rare duck theme continued throughout the morning with the arrival of a Pintail, a female Scaup and two Velvet Scoter, joining the Shoveler from yesterday on this auspicious list.
Rare birds are what most birders come to Fair Isle hoping to find, but for most of us today didn't quite feel like a day when one might be found (Andy Clements excepted, he predicted the finding of a good bird just after lunch). Just after lunch Andy's prediction was realised when an Olive-backed Pipit was found in the garden of a croft in the middle of the island. This beautiful pipit breeds no closer to Britain that central Siberia, spending the winter in India; a very special bird indeed.
The excitement didn't stop there. Mid-afternoon saw Paul Stancliffe on the trail of a very skulking warbler that had been seen briefly amongst some cabbages. It was seen twice in flight and once running on the ground beneath the cabbages, and even though it was seen by the five observers present, it defied identification. Something to look forward to tomorrow.