(11) Blog Posts Made in October 2012

Cyprus Weekly

Highlights for the Week Ending 28 Oct

Male Sardinian Warbler at Cape Greco Picnic Site - 28 Oct

Male Sardinian Warbler at Cape Greco Picnic Site - 28 Oct

The pace of life has definately slowed.  Not a bad thing, giving me more time to explore areas that others do not regularly visit.  Winter visitors have been slow to arrive whilst southbound migrants have certainly reduced significantly.

A Monday afternoon visit to JUMBO with the in-laws resulted in a visit to Oroklini Marsh and although not eye watering a Temminck's Stint was noteable and I managed to photograph a Water Rail* that proved to be quite an extravert.  On the return to Ay Nik, I treated the family to views of 10 Shags on the mouring platforms at Dhekelia and a roost of 51 Stone Curlews opposite Dhekelia Fire Station.

An early morning visit to the Ayia Napa area produced 4 Red-throated Pipits, 77 White Wagtails and 3 Yellow Wagtails on the football pitches and a late Black-headed Wagtail  (feldegg).  Driving the rough tracks to the east of the football pitches, I was searching for a wintering species that I had found there during my last tour.  I eventually found a Female/1st winter Male Finsch's Wheatear which looked like it was going to hold terrtitory for the winter, only time will tell.  The Sewage Works area produced a couple of Lesser Whitethroats, female Redstart, 6 Blackcaps and a female Blue Rock Thrush.  At Konnos Bay, Cape Greco I saw my first Audouin's Gull of the autumn with an adult circling the bay, a couple of Cyprus Warblers also showed well.

Prior to travelling to Troodos for a 2 night stay I visited Akhna Dam.  2 Ospreys were present and a Sparrowhawk was mobbed by a couple of Hooded Crows.  I flushed a Meadow Pipit and 2 Lesser Whitethroats were unusual for the site.  On the way home a late Whinchat was at Avgorou with the now common Stonechats.  We travelled to Troodos stopping on route at the Caledonian Falls in an attempt to record some mountain specialities.  I found a Wren, Chaffinch and a Blackbird so the attempt to see the moutain species had started well.  I also recorded my first Robin of the tour and winter.  Stopping at Troodos Village for some retail therapy - yes even here!  I walked around the park seeing and photographing an obliging Short-toed Treecreeper*, Coal Tits, another Wren, and 10 close Crossbills*.

The following day we awoke in Troodos Station and I noted another 4 Crossbills.   We travelled to a local village called Omodus, which is at a slightly lower elevation and hence although primarily a touristy day out, it did allow some birding opportunities.  Whilst the family went shopping, I stole half an hour and noted a considerable number of Blackcaps and Sardinian Warblers along with a few more Robins, a flyover Serin and several Chiffchaffs that have just arrived.  Unusually, I also heard a Cetti's Warbler at such a high elevation.

On Friday we returned to Ay Nik via Lefkara (famous for its lace and Silver).  As we descended the mountail I stopped near Trimiklini for a photo stop where a Grey Wagtail flew over me and Sardinian Warblers called from the scrub below.  I also heard another Cetti's Warbler.  After returning home and dropping off the family I visited Akhna Dam.  Since we were going for a monster protein Mezze for dinner, I had nothing to do except contemplate how much I was going to overeat.  The visit to the dam was a great decision.  After recent thunderstoms and unsettled weather there had obviously been a displacement of migrating species that resulted in some interesting sightings.  An adult male Little Crake* showed well and in the open, along with a Water Rail.  As I scoped them I saw a quick movement that caught my eye and although I had my suspicions I could not confirm what the bird was.  As I sat patiently (can you believe that?), eventually the bird moved into the open once more and began feeding, typically bobbing up and down as if on a spring - fantastic views of a difficult to see well Jack Snipe*.  I can remember seeing one this well at Willington Gravel Pits in Bedfordshire in about 2002 but in recent history they have been fleeting flight views.  2 Green Sandpipers were late as were a couple of Sedge Warblers.  A pair of juvenile Whiskered Terns made a brief visit and a Great Reed Warbler moved noisily through the reeds.  As I drove home via the cultivated fields behind Akhna Dam, I heard a singing Corn Bunting which alerted me to the presence of 18 sat on a telegraph wire.

I visited Cape Greco and Ayia Napa early in the morning before going to Famagusta for a shave at my local Turkish barbers - it's a great day out!  Anyway, the cape produced some good migrants with a lovely male Black Redstart, 4 Song Thrushes and good numbers of Corn Buntings and Sardininan Warblers.  The ploughed fields also held a Red-throated Pipit.  Later at Ayia Napa Sewage Works a pair of ringtail Hen Harriers broke the routine and I relocated the Finsch's Wheatear at the same site as previously.  Saturday afternoon at Akhna Dam wasn't as exciting as yesterday but an Osprey remained and some other interesting birds were good finds.  A Robin eventually showed itself and above me a pair of Marsh Harriers and a Pallid Harrier.  As I walked I flushed a Hen Harrier, my third of the day and in the fields behind the dam a field full of White Wagtails and Red-throated Pipits.

On Sunday prior to taking Deb's parents to the airport I visited Cape Greco again for another early morning round.  The ploughed fields were alive with Corn Buntings and finches including 5 Serin - there appears to have been a large influx of finches.  A male Redstart showed well and eventually I found 9 Skylarks which were a year tick.  Around the corner at the Picnic Site, I managed to photograhph a cracking Male Sardinian Warbler*

There appears to have been a huge influx of these in the last 2 days and they appear to be setting up winter territories - not good news for the Cyprus Warblers.  Sardinians are more aggessive than its Cyprus cousins and are less habitat specific.  This is believed to be one of the reasons for the spread of Sardnians and the decline of Cyprus Warblers.  On leaving I photographed a nice male Blue Rock Thrush* in its usual wintering site.

After the airport run I visited the Larnaca area where the ploughed fields produced circa 50 Red-throated Pipits, a Water Pipit, 24 Skylarks, 3 Calandra Larks and a single Ringtail Hen Harrier.  The Sewage works held a Whiskered Tern, about 70 Black-headed Gulls, 5 Pintail and 2 newly arrived Shelduck, which was a good year tick.  A female Bluethroat nearly caught me out but it's characteristic tail cocking gave it away.

Photos of the following species are availble via flicker, please click on the link:

Other interesting finds:  A large number of Hummingbird Hawkmoths in Troodos - one in the Chalet*.

Highlight of the week: Finding my own Finsch's Wheater at Ayia Napa.

Look Forward:  Still missing a few Larks and Pipits to be searched for with more wintering species.


Barnes WWT

A record breaking turnout and a fine day to boot.  The site total was about 46 and, despite a fly over by a female Marsh Harrier, the bird of the day for most was the Bittern which gave good views perched in the top of a tree!

Those that stayed on for an afternoon visit into Surrey were also treated to a Ring Ouzel.


Cyprus Weekly

Highlights for the Week Ending 21 Oct

Male Spannish Sparrow at Oroklini Marsh on 16 Oct 12

The Monday evening visit to Akhna Dam was fairly productive with the reemergence of a pair of Ospreys.  A Sparrowhawk drifted over the dam and a number of waders were present with the highlight being the first Spotted Redshank for the site this autumn.  Sedge Warblers have reduced to 3 whilst Lapwings increased to 8.  A pair of Stonechats were present but it has to be said that migration has slowed significantly.

Deb and her parents visited Jumbo today.  I didn't.  I visited Oroklini Marsh where a lone Marsh Sandpiper and Redshank were present with 4 Spoonbills, a Marsh Sandpiper, 2 Snipe and a Marsh Harrier.  With there being nothing out of the ordinary being present I decided to attempt to photograph a Spannish Sparrow*.  I was successful and was very pleased with the result.  I also managed to photograph a Hooded Crow, which are normally quite skittish, due to the fact they get shot as frequently.  A Stonechat once again managed to avoid the camera.

Wednesday morning was started with a visit to the market at Ayia Thekla allowing me time to see 6 Greater Sand Plovers, 9 Kentish Plovers and a single Common Sandpiper and Little Egret.  In the afternoon Akhna Dam was very quiet, although 3 Ospreys were present and a single Beeater.

Early on Thursday I visited the Ayia Napa and Cape Greco area.  Migration has certainly almost finished with only 3 Red-throated Pipits, a Hobby and many Stonechats being present.  A resident Peregrine was also noted being mobbed by a Kestrel at Cape Greco.  A female Sparrowhawk with a bird in its tallons was an interesting observation.  A late Wryneck at Ayia Napa Football Pitches was noteworthy.  In the evening at Akhna Dam which has had a large amount of water pumped into it, making it less attractive to many birds.  A single juvenile Red-backed Shrike was present along with 2 Ospreys and a Marsh Harrier.  Only a single Sedge Warbler was seen and Willow Warbler numbers have reduced significantly.

Friday was a family day, although 39 Wood Pigeon at the back of Ay Nik was exceptional, given the amount of "hunting" in the last month. Friday was nearly a disaster, but we'd planned a family BBQ, and given the weather - SCORCHIO - you can always count on the BBQ in Cyprus without fear!  Anyway, as the night drew on, the bird luring tapes grew louder.  I had been winging and complaining without response for the last week.  My in-laws had noticed, and being in their late 70s and deaf - enough was enough. I went to the SBA Police who acted immediately and seized 3, 50 foot mist nets, a couple of car batteries, an MP3  player and 4 dics.  Should anyone want 4 disks named "Gold -  Ambeloupoulia Mixed",  please let me know - should there be anyone else in the world that wishes to  eat Blackcaps in a barbaric, medieval type way.  Sorry, I forgot, it's a cultural, traditional activity - come on, wake up Cyprus, you take European money you must obey European laws!

Saturday evening and Akhna Dam produced a couple of Ospreys, 3 Common Cranes, a single Sedge Warbler and Lapwing and 3 Marsh Harriers.  Other than that, it was very quiet.  The same was true on Sunday although a visit to Ayia Napa Football Pitches held 3 Northern Wheatears and circa 30 Stonechats.  A visit to the North of the island for a hair cut and shave allowed me to visit the ruins at Salamis where there was a Cyprus Warbler.

Photos of the following species are availble via Flickr, please click on the link:

Other interesting finds:  A couple of Gecko species that were new for me.

Highlight of the week:  A difficult task, as there were few highlights to speak of but a late Wryneck at Ayia Napa was still nice to see.

Look Forward:  Migration has definately stalled, probably due to the storms over Europe.  Next week must see the arrival of Black Redstarts, Robins and Water Pipits - we shall see.


Cyprus Weekly

Birding Highlights for Week Ending 14 Oct

Male Bluethroat of the sub species svecica (Red Spotted) at Akhna Dam on 12 Oct

* indicates that a photo of the species is included please visit Flickr site to view

It’s Monday again and the weekly inaugural visit to Akhna Dam to see what’s new.  I found a very wet Akhna Dam with a scrambling bike and several youths causing considerable disturbance.  I did however see a Wryneck which was the highlight along with a Marsh Harrier and a male Bluethroat of the Sub-species svecica, (Red-spotted).

The afternoon thunderstorms continued into Tuesday, making access to some of the areas of Akhna Dam tricky, so I decided to visit the Ayia Napa area.  At the football pitches, singles of Northern Wheatear, Red-backed Shrike and Masked Shrike were unremarkable.  As I continued to the sewage works, I found 5 Stonechats that had newly arrived and the first for the autumn, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, a male Redstart and a Red-backed Shrike but little else.  At the Cape Greco Picnic Site Area, a juvenile Masked Shrike, 2 more Stonechats and a good record with a juvenile Barred Warbler.  As it had dried out a little we continued to Akhna Dam for the days finale.  A Purple Heron was flushed and I noted 4 Bluethroats* – 1 male.  As we were departing, 8 Red-footed Falcons flew into the site and began to hunt so we watched them for about 10 minutes.  They were a new bird for the site taking the Akhna sightings to 183 species.

An appointment at the orthopaedic specialist in Dhekelia gave me the opportunity to have a look around the area.  Dhekelia Power Station produced a single Shag of the Sub-species desmaresti (Mediterranean race) and a single female Northern Wheatear whilst Dhekelia Fire Station held 21 Stone Curlews.  Later in the day, I visited Akhna Dam where 5 Bluethroats, a Wood and Green Sandpiper, 2 Little Stints, 3 Dunlins, a Purple Heron and 6 Sedge Warblers were present.

I awoke to an impressive thunderstorm and judging from my previous experiences, it will be worth getting out to the Cape Greco area this afternoon to see what has been downed in the night.  In any event the visit was a waste of time, very little was seen, although a single Beeater, Whinchat and Long-legged Buzzard were at Ayia Napa Football Pitches.

On Friday afternoon I returned to my local patch at Akhna Dam where several species of commoner wader were present.  White Wagtails have increased to approximately 50 whilst Yellow Wagtail numbers are reducing, a Blue-headed adult male was noteworthy.  At least 4 Kingfishers were actively feeding and I finally managed to get a pretty good shot of a male Bluethroat.  The final highlight were the first 3 Common Cranes of the season which appeared to roost at the dam.

I attended the Birdlife Cyprus field trip at Akrotiri on Saturday.  Meeting at Phasouri Reed Beds at 0930 was a bit pedestrian but when in Rome............  Anyway, we were soon viewing Black Kites, Marsh Harriers and Red-footed Falcons, whilst a couple of Sparrowhawks were also seen along with 2 Eleonora's Falcons.  Passerines were in short supply with White and Yellow Wagtails, a single Whinchat and a single Red-throated Pipit.  On leaving the area a pair of Beeaters were seen and a late Roller.

Later on the salt lake and after a long treck out, I found 5 Pintails, a White Stork, 29 Spoonbills, 2 Great White Egret and 16 Whiskered Tern.  I returned to the environmental centre where one of the raptor counters mentioned 2 dark birds on the other side of the salt lake.  The heat haze was terrible but clearly they were not Grey Herons.  I drove some of the way onto the salt lake but fearing getting bogged in and with it currently costing 800 Euros to get recovered, I decided to walk.  I walked to the water's edge, which was about a mile away.  When there I scanned the far side of the salt lake for the birds.  I eventually found them and although not the best views one of the birds obligingly flew revealling its white underside and shoulders - my 275th Cyprus bird; a pair of Black Storks.  At Ay Nik at Little Owl called close to the house atop a telegraph pole - a good end to the day.

An early morning visit to Akhna Dam was necessary as I had to pick Deb’s parents up from the airport on Sunday afternoon; we left early for the airport run to ensure I was able to visit the Larnaca area prior to their arrival.  I managed to photograph a Red-throated Pipit* at Spiros Beach and at Larnaca Sewage Works a White Pelican*, although distant.  It also held 3 Ruff, 2 Dunlin, a Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, 3 Whiskered Terns and a Black-necked Grebe.

For pictures of birds with * please click on the following Flickr links:

Highlight of the Week:  The week ended with the Cyprus year list on 183 with the highlight being a pair of Black Storks at Akrotiri Salt Lake on the 13th.

Look Forward:  The pace of migration has definitely slowed and has been replaced by the steady trickle of winter visitors arriving.  Hen Harriers, Finsch’s Wheatears and Black Redstarts are the next arrivals to look out for.

If you are planning a visit or require more info please feel free to contact me at:   birder639@yahoo.com

Mark Easterbrook


Cyprus Weekly

Birding Highlights for Week Ending 7 Oct

Tawny Pipit at Cape Pyla on 6 Oct 12.

* A photo of the species is included please visit the Flickr site.

Although we had friends staying I managed a couple of hours at Akhna Dam in the evening.  White Wagtail numbers have increased to 8 although for the first time in a long time no Whiskered Terns were present.  Good numbers of Willow Warblers were present as were Sedge Warblers, numbering 11.  I saw the female Bluethroat in the same place as last month and also found a Spotted Crake in the vegetation.  A single Great White Egret continued its stay as did a Little Crake.  European Beeaters are passing through, however the main passage of Whinchats and Spotted Flycatchers appears to be over.  A couple of Red-backed Shrikes and a juvenile Masked Shrike performed and 3 Little Stints fed actively on the floating vegetation.  Water levels are reducing dramatically but I did experience the first rain since I’ve been here yesterday as it was extremely humid.

On Tuesday, I visited Oroklini Marsh and although nothing outstanding was found, a Water Rail showed itself briefly and the 3 Marsh Sandpipers continued their stopover.  Returning via Dhekelia I spotted a Stone Curlew in a boulder field and upon closer inspection found 91.  This was obviously a post-breeding roost, which I was not previously aware of.

On Wednesday the 3rd I visited the Ayia Napa area early in the morning before the guests had risen.  The football pitch complex held a single Red-backed Shrike, 2 Tree Pipits, a few White and Yellow Wagtails and a late juvenile Lesser Grey Shrike.  At The sewage works the highlight as predicted last week was the first Blue Rock Thrush* of the autumn in the form of a female.  A Quail was noteworthy as were 3 Redstarts (1 male), a late(ish) Isabelline Wheatear and another Tree Pipit.  As I proceeded to Cape Greco picnic site I saw a Northern Wheatear and Tawny Pipit in a ploughed field and whilst at the picnic site, a male Cyprus Warbler and Black Francolin.  Another Quail that I flushed was a surprise.  I returned home to have breakfast and to decide a plan of action for the day.

It had been decided by Deb that we would go for a picnic lunch at Ayia Thekla, visit the market and then do some snorkelling at Cape Greco (not of the butt variety).  The picnic went down well and as we were departing for Cape Greco via an unorthodox route (the Greater Sand Plover site), I noted a Little Egret and 8 Greater Sand Plovers – a good month tick.

We arrived at Cape Greco and I noted c40 migrating Beeaters, another Blue Rock Thrush and a late Hoopoe.  The snorkelling was great, the water warm and we saw at least a dozen fish species – does anyone know of a field guide for Mediterranean fish, it’s a pity not to identify them.  In any event there were several Pipe Fish, Rainbow Wrass and a single large Garfish.

In the evening I visited Akhna Dam but the highlight was along the corridor road over the Turkish lookout posts, where a Short-toed Eagle was mobbed by a Kestrel.  Short-toed Eagle is a scarce autumn migrant in single figures and sometimes not noted annually, so another good Cyprus “tick” for me.  Akhna Dam held another new bird for the year with 5 Lapwings being present – the first for the winter.  A Long-legged Buzzard drifter overhead and 2 Spotted Crakes and 2 Little Crakes were seen along with a female Bluethroat.  It’s been present for about 2 weeks but I had struggled to locate it previously.  A surprise and quite an early adult Red-throated Pipit alerted me to its presence when it called and I eventually found it feeding on floating vegetation amongst the very common Willow Warblers.

Following the success of the previous day we took another picnic lunch to the Cape Greco Picnic Site and did some more snorkelling.  What a good decision!  The humidity had caused the weather to alter and this was obviously having an effect on migration.  Numerous hirundines passed overhead as we ate lunch and this included 3 Red-rumped Swallows.  My first Sparrowhawk of the year came in off the sea and mobbed an outgoing Marsh Harrier.  As we snorkelled more Swallows migrated along with a Whiskered Tern and when we finished I went to check the Blue Rock Thrush site below Cape Greco Greek Army Camp.  A Honey Buzzard struggled against the increasing wind along with another 6 Marsh Harriers.  I then noted a large dark bird and thought it was another Buzzard species. 

As I looked at it through the bins, I realised it was a very large Falcon.  I became very animated and excited (Deb described it as manic).  A very large Falcon with lightish head, indistinct moustacial markings and very heavily streaked underside, being mobbed by a Kestrel that was about a third of its size.  SAKER!!!!!! I shouted, not that our guests or Deb was particularly interested.  It’s always a pity when there’s not another birder present to share in the moment.  As it banked around the escarpment still being harassed by the Kestrel the brown inner secondaries contrasted with the darker primaries and flight feathers – typical and a great ID feature if size wasn’t enough.  And that was it gone, a juvenile Saker.  The only lifer I was expecting for the whole tour was in the bag, taking my Cyprus list to 274 and my year list to 179.  I want to return home now – job done.  I thought about the 3 UK “ticks” I was missing on the AOS’, hugely successful trip to Fair Isle but wouldn’t have swapped this moment for anything, I’d been after a Saker for many years without success – a fantastic moment.

We visited Akhna Dam the following day and Spiros Beach and the most noteworthy bird was a Sanderling on the beach, other than that a fairly quiet day.  On Saturday I attended the Birdlife Cyprus ringing demonstration at Cape Pyla – stronghold of the poachers.  Numerous Blackcaps were ringed along with many Willow Warblers, a few Lesser Whitethroats and a single moulting male Redstart.  About 40 birds were ringed throughout the morning so it gives you a flavour of what is being destroyed by the poachers on a daily basis and the numbers involved – absolutely sickening!  As I left the site I saw a Tawny Pipit (above) and an Isabelline Wheatear.  Returning home in time to drop our guests at the airport  the weather changed dramatically, a very heavy thunderstorm ensued (the first for the year and first rain since April).  Also a very large funnel cloud formed that was very impressive and was confirmed as a tornado*.  The trip to the airport was uneventful and returning via Oroklini Marsh produced a Water Rail the same 3 Marsh Sandpipers and 5 Redshanks.  The adult Spoonbill continued its stay but there was little else of interest.

Sunday the 7th was the European Birdwatch day and I was asked to do a count at Akhna Dam and anywhere else I could fit it.  As Oroklini Marsh was being covered, I decided to look at Akhna Dam, the Ayia Napa area and Cape Greco.  Many common birds were noted along with a few that were probably not seen elsewhere on the island including an Osprey, Lapwings and Little Crake at Akhna.  Ayia Napa Football Pitches held a Northern Wheatear whilst Cape Greco added a Blue Rock Thrush and Cyprus Wheatear.  Finally, Sotira Pond added a Green Sandpiper which is at the end of their migration period, so getting scarce.

For pictures of birds with * please click on the following Flickr links:

Other interesting finds:  Not so much of a find as an event.  On Saturday a large funnel cloud – Tornado formed over the Ayia Napa area that I photographed from Ay Nik*.  This was followed by a huge down poor and thunderstorm, the first heavy rains of the autumn.

Highlight of the Week:  Without doubt the only lifer that I was expecting during the tour.  A juvenile Saker at Cape Greco.  A monster falcon.  I wondered if I’d be able to ID one at height, but I needn’t have worried.  At 20 foot over my head it was very obvious.

Look Forward:  Red-throated Pipits, Stonechats and Black Redstarts should start to arrive in the next week or two and the Common Crane passage which has not yet occurred should be a spectacle.

If you are planning a visit or require more info please feel free to contact me at:   birder639@yahoo.com

Mark Easterbrook


Fair Isle - Shetland Mainland

Fri 5 Oct 12

A 0545 reveille for the 2 team members scheduled to depart on an early flight from Shetland back to Inverness and thence to the Cairngorms in search of Ptarmigan.  Reveille for the rest of the team followed 15 minutes later.

The team members scheduled to depart Shetland in the evening spent the day hunting Shetland South Mainland for rarities.  A change in the weather, sunshine and reduced wind strength, made the whole process much more pleasant and much more successful.  Three of the five species sought were tracked down: Isabelline Shrike, American Golden Plover and Eastern Stonechat (commonly referred to as Siberian Stonechat).

Early reports from the Cairngorm team suggest they tracked down a 16 strong flock of Ptarmigan during the day.

And so, effectively, the expedition ends with one team sailing off into the sunset (oh ok, into the dusk towards Krikwall and Aberdeen!) and the other driving south to England.

The expedition has been a great success with team members being lucky enough to encounter a selection of much sought after rarities.


Fair Isle - Day 6 & Extraction

Thu 4 Oct 12

The team’s final day on Fair Isle although only partial, being scheduled to fly out mid-afternoon.  Most team members, instead of heading out on any recces, opted to use the pre-breakfast period for a little bit of a lie in and to pack before having to vacate rooms.

Just before heading out for the final morning patrol, the FIBO Administrator relayed a request from the Shetland Inter-Island Air Service that the team be split over the two flights scheduled for the day with the first stick to depart on the morning flight.  The request was based on weather conditions, ie strong westerly/south-westerly winds, and the load carrying capacity of the aircraft or, rather, lack of it.  Various options were considered but, in the end, the two team members with the more pressing travel deadlines were dispatched on the morning flight, there being no guarantee that the afternoon flight would depart.

After the first stick departed the morning patrol commenced returning to FIBO in time for lunch and final preparation for the flight out.  The patrol report reads, ‘Nothing Significant to Report’.  The second stick left Fair Isle at 1540 and was on the ground in Lerwick by 1600.

The team was reunited at Toab, on Shetland South Mainland, where a search for an Isabelline Shrike was conducted until the light failed and all members were tired, cold, wet and grumpy, especially cold and wet!  There followed the move back to Lerwick and taking over of accommodation at the Islesburgh House Hostel and, once changed and warmed up, headed out for a celebratory meal before dispersal.  The team opted for a traditional Scottish venue, namely the Ghurkha Kitchen!


Fair Isle - Day 5

Wed 3 Oct 12

A pre-breakfast recce of the Havens and Bu Ness was conducted but failed to reveal anything unusual, although most team members seemed keen to view the Snow Bunting flock at one stage or other.

The morning patrols were concentrated on the southern croft areas of the island and South Harbour.  All was quiet until late morning when one of the civvy teams identified a probable Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler near the cemetery.  A full FIBO ‘crash out’ ensued culminating in the bird being bagged and tagged by the FIBO staff, ie netted, weighed, measured and ringed.  Consequently, the bird was formally confirmed as a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler and was shown to all before being returned to the ditch from which it was captured.  Lunch was quite an excited affair!

The afternoon patrols returned to the south of the island.  The forecast showers turned up as persistent heavy rain instead!  Eventually, rain stopped play, and the teams tabbed back north to FIBO.  Inevitably, once back, the rain ceased.  Some additional sorties were made to search for a reported Corncrake but without success.

So, another day ends on a high with the capture of another three star rarity even though all team members are now a bit soggy round the edges!


Fair Isle - Day 4 Supplement

Little Bunting or No?  Tue 2 Oct 12

A significant amount of time was taken analysing the photographs of the Little Bunting taken at the school, along with reference to a number of works including the ringers’ bible Identification Guide to European Passerines (Lars Svensson).  When observed in the field the bird was seen with a Twite and was of a comparable size.

The result of the analysis was that the bird seen was in fact a Reed Bunting.  So, unfortunately, the visiting Little Buntings have escaped detection by the team!


Fair Isle - Day 4

Tue 2 Oct 12

Two recce patrols set out at dawn to relocate two of the rarities seen the previous day whilst the rear party opted for another leisurely breakfast, albeit after a patrol of the Havens and Bu Ness.  One patrol relocated its quarry, Pechora Pipit, and had it under close observation for a good period of time.  The second patrol was unable to find the target species, Little Bunting, despite significant efforts to find it.

Morning operations were disrupted by the discovery of a Locustella warbler.  Early reports were confused but the identity of the target was soon confirmed as Lanceolated Warbler.  After excellent uncommon views the team dispersed to different searches.

Having re-grouped at FIBO at lunchtime the team went back to observe the Pechora Pipit before conducting an extensive search for the Little Bunting.  The rear guard eventually found the Little Bunting at the school, not long after the remainder of the team had recovered back to base, at approximately the same time of the evening it had been found the previous day.  There is still some debate amongst the team as to whether or not it is a Little Bunting.

The winds have been predominantly south-westerly since the team’s arrival but some north/north-westerly’s are forecast so hopes are high for an influx of new birds.  Tomorrow is another day…


Fair Isle - Day 3

Mon 1 Oct 12

A ‘quiet’ sort of day.  Whilst operations were not hampered by any rain the strong south-westerly winds still had their impact.  A pre-breakfast recce of the Havens and Bu Ness failed to reveal anything unusual.

The morning patrol concentrated on the south-western side of the island; the report reads, ‘Nothing Significant to Report’.  In true military fashion the transport failed to show at the RV and the team had to tab most of the way back to FIBO for lunch.  However, whilst waiting for the transport, some of the team re-located the Bluethroat at the Stackhoull Store.

The afternoon patrol headed north to North Lighthouse and a period of sea watching before splitting into teams and heading back via multiple routes including the old radar station on top of Ward Hill.  The afternoon report reads, ‘Nothing Significant to Report’. 

The team was settling into harbour routine and preparing for dinner when a FIBO ‘crash out’ was called - Pechora Pipit!  The FIBO staff organised a swift response and all troops were quickly moved to the south of the island around Shirva to see the Pipit.  With the light beginning to fail everyone saw the Pechora Pipit, which clearly hadn’t read the manual, and was frequently out in full view!  All of the team made the crash out bar one who was reluctant to leave the shower they were taking when the crash out was called!

So, the ‘quiet’ day ends less than quietly with another three star rarity captured.