Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Fair Isle - 28th May

I was up at an antisocial 03:00 and headed to Heathrow for a 07:05 flight to Edinburgh landing at  08:20 and then onwards to Sumburgh at 09:35 landing at 11:00. I picked up a car from Bolts Car Hire and then headed to Sunburgh Head for my first birding on Shetland since October 2014. Guillemot and Puffin were in abundance on the cliffs and Bonxie were overhead and my first Wheatear since my only spring bird at Pennington Marsh were on territory and in full song. I spent a little bit of time around the lighthouse before birding the area around the start of the road to the lighthouse at Grutness and enjoyed a small Arctic Tern colony and a fantastic summer plumaged Sanderling which showed well. After a quick stop to grab some lunch I headed to Levenwick where I spent a short while birding the crofts and beach seeing little but for Common Tern and a a showy Grey Seal. I slowly made my way north to Tingwall Airport for a 14:45 flight to Fair Isle landing at 15:10.

I last came to Fair Isle in October 2014 and previously in October 2013 and this was my first spring trip since my very first trip to the island in May/June 1986. Highlights during that spring trip were Black-headed Bunting, three Thrush Nightingale, Snowy Owl, Long-tailed Skua and Subalpine Warbler and during the current trip I was eager to see some drift migrants such as Bluethroat, Red-backed Shrike, Icterine Warbler or something a bit rarer - I quite fancied a River Warbler.

After landing and dumbing the bags at the observatory, I spent the rest of the afternoon walking from the observatory south as far as Lower Leogh. While there was not a great deal to be see in terms of migrants (two Willow Warbler and a single Tree Pipit) I enjoyed great views of Arctic Skua, both light and dark phase and of Bonxie, Wheatear and breeding waders. Arctic Skua, in my opinion, are one of the ultimate birds - uber cool, beautiful and menacing in equal measures. And that call, evocative of the northern tundra zone.

Guillemot on cliffs at Sumburgh Head

Guillemot on cliffs at Sumburgh Head including some bridled birds

Spring Squill - Sumburgh head

Arctic Tern - Grutness, Sumburgh

Arctic Tern - Grutness, Sumburgh

Oystercatcher - Grutness, Sumburgh

Sanderling - Grutness, Sumburgh

Sanderling - Grutness, Sumburgh

Common Tern - Levenwick

Grey Seal - Levenwick

Dark Phase Arctic Skua - Fair Isle

Light Phase Arctic Skua - Fair Isle

Light Phase Arctic Skua - Fair Isle

Arctic Skua call recorded on iPhone

Bonxie - Fair Isle

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