As I walked into the main room at the obs on day 7, the excitement was palpable! It was clear that the light easterly winds overnight had brought in new birds, as the early morning net rounds had produced a good number of new in Yellow-Browed Warblers and a Rosefinch. After breakfast everyone headed straight out, and it wasn’t long before some good birds were found…
I headed south, and was just behind another group of birders at Chalet when they located a Bluethroat, a new bird and this one a 1st-year male with a little bit of blue on the throat!
It was a slightly more elusive bird, but still an excellent start! A quick scan of the chalet garden produced a ‘tristis’ Siberian Chiffchaff (my first of this subspecies) as well as a Garden Warbler and several nominate Chiffchaffs.
As I continued south, news came through of an Arctic Warbler and a Radde’s Warbler. I opted for the latter and joined the crowd around Midway for a short while but there was no sign. Seeing that good birds were being found all the time, I decided to try and locate some of my own. I trudged around Da Water and the ditches at Gilsetter but produced only a few Jack Snipe. Continuing back to the north I could see a crowd had gathered at the shop. On arrival I could see a large group heading up towards the junction, and joining them I found out that the Radde’s Warbler had been showing again. This time I did manage to see it, initially in flight only, then briefly in the school playground before it settled in the garden of Lower Stoneybrek. I spent about half an hour there but the bird was very skulking, though reasonable views were eventually had. A 1st-year Red-Breasted Flycatcher was also showing well in the area!
I wandered over to Shop to catch a lift back to the obs, and was pleased to learn that a Red-Flanked Bluetail and a Blyth’s Reed Warbler had been found. However, the Bluetail was in the south, and the Warbler was close to the obs. Deciding that the Bluetail could wait, I boarded the taxi and was soon enjoying good views of my first Blyth’s Reed Warbler from a bedroom window in the obs! It showed well in good light and the plain, greyish plumage was seen well.
Lunch followed and was made all the sweeter by the news that the Red-Flanked Bluetail was still present. Another taxi run from Susannah meant that I was soon enjoying the bird feeding actively in Dog Geo. The blue tail and orange-red flanks were seen on this 1st-winter bird. Unfortunately I couldn’t spend long enjoying this bird, as while I watched news came through of a PECHORA PIPIT at Shirva!! A mad dash up the island followed and I joined the crowd gathering next to a grassy field. Kieran (the assistant warden) who had originally found the bird, went in to see if it was still there, but unfortunately there was no sign. However, it was quickly relocated in a nearby field but took flight before anyone could get there. Thankfully it landed in the garden itself and was seen on the deck by a lucky few before it again took flight and flew in front of me calling loudly. Following this, most of the crowd moved off, but several of us stayed in the area hoping for better views of the bird. Unfortunately there was no sign.
Whilst we waited, however, another pipit flew overhead and gave a single high pitched note which I recognised to be the call of a Red-Throated Pipit!!! I called it out to the others and followed it in the bins as it descended and landed some way off in a field. Fortunately I had my scope to hand, and managed to find it quickly. The white mantle stripes were visible, and as it turned I could see a red flush to the face and upper throat, aging it as an adult bird! My first self-found BBRC description species! Several others present had heard it and one other had seen it through my scope, and all were in agreement. Unfortunately, a number of birders had decided to try and get better views, and as we watched they walked straight towards the bird and flushed it. Sadly it wasn’t seen again!
As evening drew in things seemed to quieten down a little. However, there was one last surprise in store. As evening drew in, news came through that another mega had been found, a LANCEOLATED WARBLER! I headed down to midway and joined several others at the site were it had been seen. We waited for a short time while everyone arrived, and once everyone was present, Steve Arlow (the finder) approached the tussock where the bird had last been seen. Sure enough, out it flew and did a close flyby before pitching back into the dense grass. This happened several times before I managed a brief close range glimpse of the bird on the ground! It was then seen again briefly on the ground an was somewhat mouse-like in behaviour. It flew again and this time the decision was made to leave it alone, as all present had had satisfactory views of the small locustella warbler. I had seen the small size, streaky plumage and stubby bill well (though had not been able to photograph it). Thankfully, Steve had nailed it with the camera along with several other of the days highlights and these pictures can be seen on his website (follow the link below):
The sun set and everyone headed back to the obs for tea. It was a lively log, after one of the best days birding on the Isle in recent times!! It had been a privilege to be there on such a brilliant day, and I was sad to be leaving the following morning. Fair Isle really does have the best birding in Britain!