Sunday, 30 September 2012

Turtur Sauce

The fallout continues. Minds re-assemble, balls re-attach and birds depart. We are now back to westerly dominated airflow but a few waifs from the monster fall last week remian. Most notably a lovely Turtle Dove, Streptopelia turtur which has frequented our meadows, sometimes showing very well:

And what a saucy bird our turtur is! Having lived on Scilly for over a decade my experience with this once widespread species has wained. Gone are the days where as a lad my dad and I would be out in local conifer plantations feeling their arresting purr reverberate between the still trunks, creeping around corners to watch them feed on the pathways. Summer ornitholigified.

Anyway, what Im getting at is I'm quite rusty at aging etc so this bird was educational as well as beautiful and entertaining. Judging by it's heavily fringed coverts and primaries (recalling orientalis/meena which flashed through my mind once or twice) and blotchy moult of fresh rufous scalloped feathers interspersed with duller (presumably juv feathers) I'd say this was a 1st winter, but feel free to disagree! Its a ball rocking sprite either way!

What a beautiful bird, and a real icon for bird conservation; being hit by habitat destruction as intensive agriculture and urbanisation takes over as well as poaching on its migratory routes.
This will probably be one of our last vestiges of summer as the seasons are changing and these guys and their parents will soon be dominating the islands:

Thursday, 27 September 2012

White's Aftermath

Wow. So I have just about composed myself after that day, that bird, that experience. I have run through the memories time and time again. They will stay with me forever. A bird that is so enigmatic, seen in such a unique way, being one of maybe 30 people who have ever held a White's Thrush in the UK, and hearing the bird emit its Peregrine like alarm call too, a sound that has maybe never been heard. Who Knows. I am just bowled over.

Song Thrush resting on the shoreline, viva la Farnes..

Anyway life goes one, birds keep arriving and the lingering feeling of 'will I ever do better' will fade. The day after Monday 'White's Day' was awesome. Still on a high the dawn brought torrential rain and 60mph+ winds meaning birding was hard, and no surprise the White's had moved on, or more likely, succumbed to the harsh conditions on top of its 2,000-3,000 mile journey. However the wind dropped for an hour or so mid-morning and my dreams came true. One of the main reasons I wanted to work on the Farnes (besides the breeding birds) was to witness a 'fall' where birds do just that, fall from the sky. Between 9 and 10am hundreds of bird arrived including 600+ Song Thrush, 30 Redstart, 50 Robin, the first Redwing this autumn, Tree Pipits, Meadow Pipits, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warblers, Reed Warbler, 40 Brambling, Siskins, Reed Bunting etc etc with birds literally everywhere on our 16 acres of heaven. Highlights include Little Stint, Snow Bunting and Turtle Dove. These bird hadn't seen land since Scandanavia, and here they were alive and well, feeding in the most unlikely of places, a sparsely vegetated island in the North Sea. And I was there. The Pictures tell a tale:

Turtle Dove with a maritime background. Still remember how excited I was hearing them purring as a lad.
4 of the 9 feeding party of Redstarts.
An initially skulky Reed Warbler in the low morning light had me questioning myself.
Look at this little cracker! It doesn't have to from Siberia to be mega, but it helps!
A lovely Snow Bunting brought a distinctly autumnal feel to the latter end of our fall.
Pied Fly a la Farnes
Having a 'chat' haha, Redstart and Wheater (members of the chat amalgamation).
Redstart looking bonny.
Chiffchaff in the hand...brings back memories..
Redstart watching our first boats in 3 days arrive.
Today brought the first decent Barnacle Goose movement with 251 WSW
Garden Warbler on show after being ringed, an 'in the hand tick' of this plain but charming sylvia.
Right so it's all going westerly again so the birds will probably ease in terms of quality and quantity, but you never know! I'd say the mega comes after the fall but ours came before so time to sit back and enjoy birding for what it is...the birds.

Monday, 24 September 2012

White Magic

My face says it all. (Andy Denton)

To think yesterday I was as depressed as an Atlantic low about the Magnolia Warbler on Fair Isle. Before I go on to tell the story of my (and our) greatest find ever I’ve gotta give those guys massive respect for their tireless rare bird finding. Well done boys, find of the century. But for me, today was the find of the century. Just look at it:

It was only the other day I remember saying a zoothera thrush on the Farnes would amazing...dreaming of this underwing...(Graeme Duncan)
So regular readers of this blog will appreciate how much I’ve bigged this storm up, partly out of blind optimism/desperation, but partly out of the belief that this year IS the year of the Farnes. We are on fire, and no 70pmh ENE winds and torrential rain is going to put us out! So with that in mind I will take a relatively sober and normal look at the circumstances and fall-out of the bird that changed everything.

Just look at those scales...a fish with wings!
More! More astute of you will note the reduced tertail spots, one of the features that help age this bird as 1st winter. (Graeme Duncan)
Its like a super-massive Barred Warbler tail being eaten by a reverse tuna (Graeme Duncan).
The whole beast,
So today has arrived, a day that will live in infamy and one that will be embellished and retold many times. The wind was certainly mega-easterly this morning as I rose before dawn to see if anything had arrived overnight, the Farnes is weird as we generally wake up with nothing and get major falls from 10am onwards, a phenomenon that inspired the phraee 10 o’clock fall, 2 o’clock rare’. Well today was different.

Look at that eye! Nice and big...Only from the east!
At dawn birds were immediately evident, mainly Song Thrush and the odd Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and finch aroused suspicion that a special event was underway. And after an adjournment for more coffee and food we went out to bird as a team (as is customary on fall days). So, we approached the Lighthouse and birded the compound, nowt. Oh. Should be birds by now. So we wandered towards the exposed cliff viewpoint, easterly force 7 blasting our faces and optics. Working the periphery of the wall we made our way towards the edge when Graeme pretty much stood on a large thrush, as he began to form a ‘m’ of Mistle I started screaming White’s Thrush, Whites Thrush, White’s Thrush in an autistically touretted fashion as said ultra-zoothera lazily flew past us showing its mega-underwing, zebra meets fish with wings!

My god....
The bird flew down the island, dispappearing in the process. A few stunned radio transmissions between us and the mighty Brownsman later and we were standing in the middle of Inner Farne thinking shit the bed. What just happened. So we worked the island systematically and managed to flush the bird again, pushing it towards more suitable habitat at the NE end of Inner Farne (also the furthest point from the blatently obvious mainland!). I did well to elude us even in the non-vegetation and after getting more brief view the onset of torrential rain meant we wanted to leave this multi-continental crippler alone.

Chicken legs. The bird was fairly thin but very fiesty!
However ahaha. This is the Farnes, and good views is what we do. Having already had views any birder would have happily severed many appendages for we thought…time for a photo attempt, this bird deserves recognition! (Of its shear unrelenting, all-encompassing beauty). So we stalked the area it has last dropped into near our gas cages but nothing…suddenly there it was! Right there! In the gas cage. This is a regular roosting spot for many thrush so it was really not surprising this exhausted bird, having travelled over all of Siberia, then Scandanavia, then the North Sea wanted some rest. Quick like a ninja I was at one of the entrances to the cage, while Andy ran to the other, and some enough my hands tasted the sweet textures of a bird that should be in Thailand. A White’s Thrush, it has everything: Beauty, Rarity, Emotional Value and shear ball rotting majesty.

That moment...(Bex Outram)
Getting arty..(Graeme Duncan)
DISCLAIMER! None of us are qualified ringers so no measurements etc were taken and all photographs were taken during a 2 minute period before the bird was released, healthy and well onto a food source of tutned ground, seed and fruit. Fingers crossed it stickes around, I'd love to share this!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Mopping the Brow

Rare is in the air! Well rare birds anyway. So as the storm that will be inihilating all our cavities with multiple common, scarce and rare birds in one days time hits Cornwall, our winds ease. Now as any avid bird migration observer or 'vismig-er' will tell you, a drop in or change of wind can be a very good thing! And we weren't dissapointed as this little six-striped sprike all the way from Siberia was discovered...a Yellow-browed Warbler:

Classic Farnes views of this classic autumn beauty, in dock at 15ft. Despite this it was surprisingly elusive as the light faded...fingers crossed it and some friends are here tomorrow!
A brilliant supporting cast, mainly consisting of our first decent wildfowl passage of the day only added fuel to the ever-increasing fire of bird related anxiety growing inside me. I can literally feel this strom coming! But am pretty sure I am also totally over-hyping it! Anyway back to the birds. Teal came in at 296N, Wigeon 325N, Common Scoter 70N, Red-throated Diver 8N, 4S, Pale-bellied Brent 105N. Check the lovely goose shot:

Pale-bellied Brent geese from Arctic Canada passing our fair shores.
Seabird passage, much like the wildfowl was also pretty good, though far less voluminous with 5 Bonxie and a long overdue (considering how many the east coast has been getting) Long-tailed Skua north past us at various points.
A Bonxie looking big.
But for me you see, I love seawatching, but experiencing falls or even the shear presence of one of two migrant landbirds makes me weak at the knees! The rush of storming round an island or your patch not knowing what is in the next patch of dock or over the next wall is so so so good. And on the Farnes this is as extreme it gets, even common species here are so utterly out of their element, and have travelled so far to get hee it just boggles the mind. I get out of breath running up stairs! Doubt I'd be a very good migrant. I look forward to jamming some serious land hours over the next few days. C'mon!
Our posts are ready, but are the birds?!?
Until then here's the passerine (or small flitty birds to those less birdy) highlights of recent days:
Meadow Pipit getting totally posted.
Whitethroat being unusually showy in our minimal vegetation.
Wheatears posing, or should I say posting ha ha ha....oh dear.
The machine. At 5g this Goldcrest has just flown from Scandanvia to the UK. Legend.

And a recent highlights sections wouldn't be complete without some more random shots:

Great Black-backed Gull being a general brute.
Purple Sandpiper pretending its invisable.
Peregrine resting between Pigeon kills.
And finally it wouldn't be the Farnes without a stunning sunset. No more of these please. Rain and easterlies forever.
Goodbye Brownsman, hellow Inner Farne, lets have it!!