BTO migration blog

Spring and autumn are exciting times for anyone who watches birds. Here on this blog we will make predictions about when to expect migrant arrivals and departures, so that you know when and where to see these well-travelled birds.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Fair Isle mini blog: gale force winds, snow showers and a birdrace

We awoke this morning to epic weather. The wind was blowing gale force 8-9 from the northwest, as if this wasn't bad enough there were frequent snow showers. We needed something to motivate us to get out in the field and do some birding; what we needed was a birdrace. So it was decided that the six of us would make up three teams of two. Andy Clements teamed up with Rick Goater, Nick Moran teamed up with John Marchant and Paul Stancliffe with Andy Mason. With the gauntlet cast and the rules decided (each member of the team had to see or hear every bird) we all headed off into the teeth of the storm.
It became immediately clear that despite the incredibly strong wind, Greylag Geese were on the move. Flocks of these garrulous birds were to become a feature of the day, with small skeins still going over at dusk. Flocks could be seen coming in over the sea, some stopping to rest on the island, whilst others continued on their way; all of them presumably fresh from Iceland.

Over the last few days, Redshank has been quite a scarce bird, however, this was not the case today. Redshank seemed to be everywhere around the crofts, with a single flock of seven birds in one small tatty-rig.

Beyond this, the conditions made finding birds very difficult and all three teams had a tough time. So how did it all finish. Andy Clement's team came first with 62 species, Nick Moran's team came second with 57 species and Paul Stancliffe's team came third with 54 species. All three teams had a great time in some of the wildest of weathers on one of the most remote of the british islands. Between us we managed 66 species - the wardens were impressed.
We also had a flavour of what might be, with the news of a male Siberian Rubythroat on Shetland, some thirty miles north of where we are. With the wind dropping overnight, we will be out in the field with renewed enthusiasm. There is a saying here; "If there's a rare bird on the mainland, there's something even better on Fair Isle." Tomorrow could be a very big day indeed".

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