Tag Archives: redpolls

Shetland – days 7 & 8

The is the half-time tea interval during Martin’s two-week trip to Shetland, so he is back staying with us for a couple of nights before setting off with Shetland Nature group no. 2 first thing tomorrow, Sunday. The first week went well, the group saw a truckload of birds and I guess you can expect updates and photos from himself at some point. Lerwick hospital is reporting no emergency admissions with eardrum damage so I am guessing that the first batch of clients either had good earplugs or were deaf. Martin was surprisingly subdued on Friday, when we had a day birding some of the northern bits of Shetland, so maybe he had tired himself out with all that bouncing around. The birding was pretty subdued as well, highlights of a full day out being a couple of Yellow-broweds, a few Northwestern Redpolls and a BOOMpieper (Tree Pipit) at Kergord – sadly not a Siberian Boompieper (thanks to Mark W for reminding us of the Dutch names). See, the streets of Shetland aren’t always paved with rares.

Today, Martin was back on full volume, it was as if he has a ‘loud’ button that had been knocked off accidentally. The birds were better too. An initially elusive Red-backed Shrike at Grutness was an instructive bird as we riffled through the features confirming that it wasn’t a Brown or a phenicuroides Isabelline…

The long-staying and confiding 1WM Siberian Stonechat at Hoswick…

And, bird of the moment, Northwestern Redpoll, this one on the drive at our house…

And finally, the answer to the mystery wings quiz set last week is… A first-year Common Guillemot. The mottley underwings rule out Razorbill, which is also ruled out by the pale shafts to the outer primaries. What’s more – and this is the neat bit – those pale outer primary shafts on the upperwing also rule out Brunnich’s, which has dark shafts like a Razorbill! Here’s one I found earlier…

The clear white tips to the grey underwing greater coverts are what marks it as one of this year’s birds. So, next time you find a pair of auk wings on a beach in northern Britain, remember to have a proper look. Booomm!

Garden birding

‘Gangmaster’ Garner has been pestering me to write another post. Having been in the office for most of the summer, or at least in Shetland – and not racing around the globe looking at some fancy new spotting scope and some groovy birds – I have been struggling to come up with something. But here’s a quick story of everyday garden birding in the best birding garden in Britain (unless you know better).

Fair Isle Bird Observatory garden – as viewed from room about 2 weeks ago. OK, so I’m biased… At the beginning of March 1996 this was just a piece of close-cropped maritime grassland. Mark Newell, Steve Votier and I got the sheep- and rabbit-proof fencing up that month, and then we started planting. First, we planted pallets – lots of ‘em (for shelter – shelter is the key). And then the shrubs (I hesitate to say trees). Anything tolerant of the salt. You can’t be choosy up here. It’s been a long slog, but at last it looks like a piece of decent cover, one that’s been nurtured by all the staff at the obs since then. It’s a tribute to everyone that’s worked in it, and Dave Okill who first suggested it.

And boy does it work! It’s now the largest patch of cover anywhere on Fair Isle and one of  the best birding spots on the isle. Since the beginning of June this year, the resident garden-watchers have seen:

River Warbler…

Paddyfield Warbler…

This…

Oooooh yes. You didn’t think this was a post sans Carduelis did you? This bird is a cracker, an enormous (wing of 85 mm, tail of 69 mm), ghostly thing and surely most likely a young female hornemannibased on the overall size, ‘perfect’ undertail coverts, the rump and the fine mid/rear flank streaking.

And then this…

Another worn, summertime bird, this one much smaller, with a wing of 73 mm and a diddy bill, it seems to ‘best fit’ an exilipes. The undertail-coverts in particular are more heavily marked than many though still within range I think. Biometrics suggest it’s too small for hornemanni and islandica, while the UTCs alone surely rule out flammea and rostrata – ?

Any comments on the redpolls welcome. And, if you’re fired by birding a garden like this, there are still spaces available at the Obs this October – and what’s more there’s a special cheap rate for visitors arriving after 14th. Call Susannah on 01595 760258 or e-mail fibo@btconnect.com But don’t leave it too long…

Thanks to David and Will for the pics and for sharing the exciting birds.