Friday, 12 June 2015

Fair Isle and Shetland - 1st June

I awoke at 04:00 to head out but it was pouring with rain and blowing a gale so I went back to sleep until 05:00 but it was still raining heavily, I eventually got up at 05:40 and headed out into the field in a now stiff south-west wind with occasional heavy, squally showers. Heading down to the south of the island this was my last morning to find a mega. I decided to mainly bird the road as after a nights rain the fields and ditches were very wet, I walked as far south as Shirva. At the shop a pallid looking bird flicked over the wall from the garden and circled around me to land back in the garden, a Common Rosefinch. One had been heard yesterday and seen briefly this morning at Haa, I presumed this was the same bird. A summer plumaged Black-tailed Godwit was mixed with the non-breeding flock of 61 Oystercatcher present in the field opposite the shop. I headed back to breakfast seeing very little on the way.

After breakfast I pretty much repeated my earlier walk with a diversion to Pund. When I reached the shop I had another look for the Rosefinch, I heard it singing and then eventually obtained good views of it perched on the boundary fence of the shop garden and on the road. It was flushed and flew to Lower Stoney Breck so I followed it to try and obtain some better photographs. It was showing fairly well feeding on Dandelion seeds so I rattled some shots off, some more birders appeared over the ridge and I waved them down and they joined me. The Rosefinch sang some more, quite a beautiful song for a bit of a heap bird. I then glimpsed an Acrocephalus warbler in the Rose beds in the garden, on my brief view I thought it to be a Reed Warbler but the next view when it was more in the open I was struck by its general palor and lack of rufous tones – it had to be a Marsh Warbler or Blyth’s Reed. Over the next hour or so we got brief in flight views and a brief view of it perched on a gate. As I was leaving for my 11:50 flight the bird flew and became 'trapped' against a fruit cage, I instinctively raised my camera and rattled off as many shots as I could while the bird flapped against the fruitcage. The wing formula in the shot below helped to nail the identification - the beauty of a digital-SLR.

Common Rosefinch - At the shop

Common Rosefinch - Feeding on Dandelion at Lower Stoney Breck

Common Rosefinch - Lower Stoney Breck

Marsh Warbler - Lower Stoney Breck. Note the cold yellowish tones, long primaries with pale tips and long bill

Marsh Warbler - Lower Stoney Breck

Marsh Warbler - Lower Stoney Breck. The lack of an margination on P4 
eliminates Blyth's Reed Warbler

My flight left more or less on time at 11:50 and I was joined by Keith Pellow who had come off early after seeing a poor forecast tomorrow which looked as if it would ground all off-island transportation. We picked up my hire car at Tingwall and headed down to Boddam towards the south of the island where a Corncrake had been present. Within 10 minutes or so the bird began calling and over the next 45 minutes we had great views of the bird which has been reported as being very showy although it wasn't as showy when we were there as others had reported.  We then headed further south to Loch of Hilliwell where up to two Ring-necked Duck had been present recently we scanned through the Shoveler (1), Pintail (2) Tufted Duck (8), Whooper Swan (6) and Wigeon (2) and eventually located the male Ring-necked Duck preening on the near (but still rather distant) shoreline. I picked up a Quail calling in the fields below but it was distant and difficult to pinpoint and despite trying to get closer we had to call it a day. I dropped Keith at the Sumburgh Hotel and headed for my flight to Aberdeen at 16:35, my onward flight from Aberdeen to London was delayed and I departed at 19:05 rather than 18:35, I was home by 21:30. While my list of birds lacked the mega I had hoped for I had a great trip and I have to say the Arctic Skua's on Fair Isle stole it as my birds of the trip - hands down!

Corncrake - In full 'crex'

Corncrake - In typical lurking pose

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