The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Monday, 13 October 2014

Standard Fair - Part 1 (Journey + Day 1)

On the 2nd October, I travelled the 5 hours (with a few closed roads and satnav malfunctions not making it easy) up towards Spurn Head, overnighting near Goole.  I then drove the final hour or so for dawn at the famous point.
I was there to see the Masked Shrike that had been there for the previous 13 days.  A good search of the fields and hedgerows between the triangle and the listening dish revealed the bird to have left!  This is where it was!

There wasn't a great deal in the way of consolations either, with just a load of Tree Sparrow flying around, and a lot of ducks passing on the sea.

I then did the rest of the 8 hour journey up to Aberdeen.

I got an early flight over to Sumburgh, only to hear of a Siberian Rubythroat just up the road.  I had 5 hours till my flight to Fair Isle, so this was rather convenient!  I got a lift with some birders who were twitching it, and I was soon on site near Levenwick.  The twitch (with typical Shetland scenery in the background):

The weather was pretty bad, and 3 hours and a soaking later (good thing I had a case full of dry clothes!), I had not seen the bird.  It was present, but being very elusive and was only seen briefly a couple of times whilst I was there.

The only distractions were my first Shetland Wren (seemingly, the only other bird in the tiny garden) and some Black Guillemot offshore.

I was able to take a (very expensive) taxi back to Sumburgh, and meet up with the group from Heatherlea and leader, Dave Pullan ( ), before our flight.

I chose to do the trip to Fair Isle with a company in order to take the travel organisation out of my hands, as it seemed so complicated.  It was also nice to be with someone who knew where to go on the island.  I know exactly what to do next time!

The flight to Fair Isle was in a tiny eight-seater plane, and was a very novel experience.  I was disappointed I didn't get to ride in the co-pilots seat, as one of the guests got to!

After checking in at the very well-equipped new Bird Observatory, we immediately headed out for some afternoon birding.  Typical Fair Isle scenery:

It was amazing to discover that the commonest birds flying overhead were Great Skua, and one of the commonest passerines on the ground were Twite.

It was great to see a large amount of Geese about, mostly Pink-footed Goose.  But also, there were a few flocks of Barnacle Goose, which were my first proper wild ones!

We were attempting, and failing, to see a Bluethroat that was around some derelict buildings, when we learnt of a 'red-flag bird' on the island.

We got lifts with various people, and ended up at the top of a moorland hill in the north of the island, setting our eyes on a White's Thrush!

The bird barely moved whilst we were watching it, as it sheltered under an overhang.

It was a fantastic bird, and what an introduction to birding on Fair Isle!  The twitch (basically everyone staying at the Obs):

The sun even poked through the clouds towards dusk, shining on the North Light.

On the walk back to the Obs, I marvelled at the massed Fungi on the verges.  Loads of Scarlet Waxcap...

...Golden Waxcap...

...and Meadow Coral.

Back at the Obs, I managed another tick, or be it a lepidopteran one, as a Red Sword-grass had been attracted to outside lights overnight.

After a substantial meal (as they all were) we reflected on our first day, and particularly, the star bird.  It was in rather better condition than this one from the early 1900s, on display in the shop!

With easterlies now dominating, tomorrow could bring anything....

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