The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Standard Fair - Part 3 (Days 4 + 5)

Day 4 brought absolutely appalling conditions, with frequent rain and a wind of around 40 mph!

Despite this, I was determined to get out there, so while the rest of the group sheltered at the Obs and the museum, I walked all the way to the South Light.  I was rewarded in this area with a single Purple Sandpiper and the first Woodpigeon of the trip! 

The geos (deep coves) along the west coast were full of birds sheltering from the easterly wind, including loads of Thrushes and the first Siskin.

My walk took me up one of the moorland hills, where I was hoping to find a Dotterel, seen yesterday.  Here you can see part of the airstrip.

Just a few Golden Plover, and a soaking later, nothing of note.

After lunch the rain had eased, so we all ventured out to the south of the island once again. 

On the way to the South Light, we suddenly flushed a bird from the roadside, which flew up over a fence and out of view.  It was a Quail, my first sight of one!  The stripy plumage could be seen, as well as the dumpy shape.  It also made a quiet 'pittering' call on flushing.  It was seen by someone else the next day.

A search of the South Harbour produced an out-of-place Tufted Duck, a fly-over Grey Plover, and the only Cormorant of the week!

It was still pretty wild out there.

On our way back, a Woodcock flew across the road.

There were still a load of Geese around, including plenty of Barnacle Goose.

We were just going to have a quick look at Pund, when we learnt of an Olive-backed Pipit nearby.  Once at one of the geos on the west side of the island, we found out it had not been seen for a while. 

Nevertheless, while we stood there the Dotterel flew over calling.  A bonus!

We made another attempt at heading back to the Obs, only to be intercepted by the minibus full of people zooming along, a sure sign of a twitch occurring! 

It turned out it was for a Barn Owl, which is a Fair Isle mega (first record for 56 years)!  It's another species for the list, so myself and Dave joined them, and we headed back to the area near where the OBP had been.

No problem finding it, as it hunkered down on the cliff.

Yet another example of the desperate situation the birds often find themselves in when they reach this relatively resource-poor speck of land.  The bird was found dead the next day, unsurprisingly.

Day 5 was an amazing contrast to the day before, with the sun out, and light winds!  Surely there'd be something to find.

The day started well, with the Sparrowhawk I first saw yesterday being trapped, an oddly rufous female.

As soon as we left the Obs, it was clear there were birds everywhere, particularly Thrushes.  The first birds we saw were 3 Ring Ouzel.  We went on to see at least 9 more scattered about, with an estimated 34 seen island-wide.

As we continued south, in quick succession we had a Gadwall fly over (FI rarity), a Common Buzzard appear over a distant hill (another FI rarity), and watched the spectacle of two Merlin squabbling over a seized Wheatear.

As we got to Pund to look for a reported Little Bunting, three Geese flew over calling.  Bean Goose!  Their orange legs being the key giveaway, as well as their rather nasal call.

It wasn't long before another odd call had us looking up.  This time it was the Dotterel once again, associating with a single Golden Plover.

Our mood at missing the Little Bunting was improved slightly on the way back by a late Willow Warbler, a brief Black Redstart, and an in-hand Garden Warbler.

During lunch, a Yellow-browed Warbler again showed from the lounge window, and I watched a Redstart feeding on the short grass nearby, while I waited for the others.

After lunch, we learnt of a nice bird right in the south of the island, so headed there first.

Almost immediately on arrival, I found the Great Grey Shrike, sitting up as usual.  It was always fairly distant sadly.

We continued round along the only roads, doing a circuit.  As we did so, a Short-eared Owl flew into view.  It eventually circled up to a great height and headed off south.  Next stop, North Ronaldsay!

Soon after, a single Jackdaw was seen, yet another on the list of quality Fair Isle birds!

The main area of freshwater on the island was the tiny seasonal pool of Da Water.  At our first proper look at it today, we found the Gadwall that had flown over earlier, a pair of Whooper Swan... a very out-of-place male Long-tailed Duck.  Notice, this bird has quite a nasty wound around its throat, possibly a result of fence-strike.

We had one last look at Pund, only to discover that the Little Bunting, and a Olive-backed Pipit had both just been there!  We saw neither! 
Just another Short-eared Owl, this time sitting about on the ground.
Rather frustrating, but we must remember how good a day it'd been.  Maybe we can rectify these misses tomorrow?

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