Sunday, 24 April 2011

Ring Ouzel in the hand to an Easter Dance

All Morning, myself and Lyndsay finnished off getting the guests bedrooms ready for when we get our first visitors at the start of May. It looks like we are going to have a busy month ahead but June looks alot worse which is the height of the Seabird season. Just before Lunch, David brought back a female Ring Ouzel which he caught in Double Dyke that meant everyone was late for Chris's tasty lunch. Afternoon saw me sneaking back into the kitchen to make the islands' speciality 'Fair Isle Peat', Two massive trays were made which was a big hit at the dance of where our JHMF volunteer Joe had a record 14 pieces. You need to experience Peat to find out why it tastes so good! By 7pm, just as the islanders arrive, Rory (an ex-FIBO Ranger) told me that they trapped a Mallard and they have it in the bird room, It turns out this female was a retrap and it had been ringed in 1998 or before, Making it out to be at least 13 years old! It was released back where it was caught where I saw it again the following day. The Easter Dance was a good success where young kids as young as 15 months were showing off there moves on the dance floor. A great big thanks should go to the musicans Neil (guitar/banjo?), Lisa (flute/fiddle),Stuart 'senior' (fiddle) and young Stuart (accoridian). I have put in a request to Neil to play a Jimmy Henrix song 'Little Wings' which was covered by the fantastic Irish band 'The Corrs'. Hopefully he will play it in July when the Tall ships come in!........We are lookiing forward to it!!!

Twitching a Coot - Whatever Next?

After having glorious sunshine for the last few days, it was an unwelcome change to have fog for the whole day. The day started of quite bizarre, as Jason and JHMF volunteer Joe caught a Moorhen in the Gully on there way out to do census.
They brought it back to the obs where they met Will, Seeing Will holding the Moorhen sent me back to spring 2006 where this was the last time I saw this species in the hand and to be with the same ringer was quite strange.
Will with Moorhen in April 2006

Will with Moorhen in 2011

Maybe Birdwise this could be a repeat of 2006 which involved 2 first's for Britian and a very good supporting cast such as Lanceolated warbler, two Black Throated Thrushes, Olive Backed Pipit, etc......We just have to wait and see!!

I got the afternoon off, and headed off to the SE to have a quick scout around, I had just put a different lens on my camera which I had fun experimenting with it. Then I got a phone call from Hollie to say she can see me on the Rippack and I should come and see her 4 brand new Piglets which came on the boat the day before. After a nice short walk to Burkle, I found myself being introduced to Spot, Wilbur, ?. ? .

I thought one of them should be called Chops but that idea did not go down to well.

I got a lift back to the obs only to be told there is a Coot on Da Water, It sunk in that I needed Coot for my Fair isle List so straight after Dinner, I went down to twitch it successfully bringing my Fair isle List to a whopping 237 species. This one species I never thought of twitching especially when I have seen hundreds (maybe even thousands) back on mainland Britian.

As I was on a role, I quickly Marched up to Golden Water as the light was fading to tick of the lonely Whooper Swan which has been around for a few days, and also the Male Scaup which had being keeping it company for most of the day.

Mammoth (13 hour) day in the Kitchen

The day started off well when a beautiful spring male Redstart was caught on the early trap round which then fed around the Obs plantation for the rest of the day.
The morning was spent in the kitchen making 70 yummy Banana and Sultana Scones and 4 big loafs of bread to go along with my homemade white bean & leak soup with a herby butter followed by Baked Tatties and delicous chocolate chip cookies. All this was done before lunch and was very appreciated by the rest of the Staff. 

The afternoon saw the Observatory being invaded by three starling researchers along with more staff, Assistant Cook Chris and his partner 'General Assistant' Lyndsay. A quick welcome and a nice cuppa strong coffee later, I was back in the kitchen making tonights pudding, A scummy apricot jam pud with custard, A hugh hit with the AW's and researchers. Then a quick sort out of the fridges just in time for one of the biggest food orders in history to arrive.

Just as we were about to serve dinner, The boys brought back a nice looking Tree pipit..Only the second one I have seen in the hand and my 1st (in the hand) since 2004. That was defintley a nice ending to a tiring day!

Bluethroat - but what race

The day started of  just like any other day, The boys did there morning traps and caught the usual supects (Wheatears, Chiffchaffs, etc). Susannah sorted breakfast out for all of us while I got the Homemade bread on the go and worked out what we needed doing for lunch. By 9am, the Wardens headed out on their daily census (a bird survey covering every part of the island). By mid morning David, had 4 Barnacle geese heading south over the island which was a year tick, At this point they were the highlight of the day as their was nothing else to report. But before lunch  Will checked the traps on the way back from census an caught a nice suprise.....a female Bluethroat!
Bluethroats are no strangers to the island, As several (of the Red spotted race) pass through every year usally from the May onwards. It was quite interesting to catch a female in mid -april most certainly of the white spot race,  which is the much rarer of the two. With it being a female, it is impossible to identify the race and the biometrics fell in the range of the two. When it comes to spring migration, we expect males to make there journey first so they can get the best territory on there breeding grounds. If this was a Red Spot, it would of been a male but because its s female, we believe it to be a White spotted as they migrate about a month earlier then its Red spotted. But has always, Bluethroats are always nice to see.

Other News

After Lunch, I got dropped off down at south harbour and headed around the south west cliffs on a lovely warm sunny day. Caught up with the Iceland Gull at the base of Malcoms head and spotted a male Red Breasted Merganser on the sea. I continued up the west side and accidently flushed an entire cliff full of Fulmars (100+ birds) which was quite a sight in its self.

As the afternoon progressed, with newly born lambs skipping up and down the fields, It felt like I never been away.

I had a walk around Sukka Mire just as the Great Skua's were staking out there Territories & flashing there white wing patches as others fly pass. It was a just a lovely day!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Island Catch up - Shaw Style

After being whisked away from the pier (because of the Traumatic boat experience), I did not time to have a proper catch up with people. So I managed to be released from the observatory for the day to catch up with folk and to see the island for the 1st time this season. The boys had just gone on there census checking the heligoland traps on there way out, I managed to catch up with them as they were just coming out of the plantation with quite a few birds. Wheatears, Dunnocks and Chiffchaffs provided interesting discussions about there moult. Trapping  quite a few birds gave us false hope that there could be birds in as I got as far as the Upper Stoney Breck and had only a Wood Pigeon to add to my notebook. I knew I would not have time to call in at every croft  so I headed to the Stackhoull Shop/Post office as this is usally the place to see several crofters at once. After 10 minutes or so, I headed over to Burkle to have a good old catch up the with Hollie and Deryk Shaw (My ex- FIBO bosses - now Crofters & Friends). On approaching there driveway, I got greeted by their lovely Collie (Lubo) and Deryk who was just keeping and eye on a ewe that had just given birth to a very big lamb.
I Just about to start a nice cuppa tea before I got kicked out of  the house to help Del make a small fence at Quoy, I soon relised there is always loads of work to do when running a croft so any help is always appreciated. No doubt they will have be shearing sheep at some point (hint).
After doing a little bit of helping out, A new cuppa was in order followed by lunch, Burkles' egg and cheese toasty. Always a big hit with observatory staff, then I sampled one off her home made cookies of which no doubt the recipe will make its way to the FIBO kitchen.

I then got a quick tour of the garden and croft to see Munter (Texel Ram and proud dad of many Burkle lambs), A coup full of chickens and the little lamb that was born earlier. Before long it was home time, I met Will and headed to the plantation and vadaal only to catch the interesting Chiffchaff from the morning.
By evening, Several of us went for a walk up to Roskillie to watch Puffins coming in to check out there potential nest Burrows. We were not the only ones to watch as a few Great Skuas were eying up their potental meal. Before long we were surrounded by 50 or so Puffins, watching the comical antics including the Bill Tapping, Once a pair starts, every one close by wants to join in. This was certainly  a Brilliant ending to a lovely day.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Adventure begins!

I set of from the busy town of Doncaster at seven in the morning to catch the train. This was the start of a very long journey up north. Arrving in Edinburgh just before lunch, I just had twenty minutes to catch my connection trying to manouver myself through hundreds of people waiting to go on their easter holidays. By This time next week, I will be away from the hustle and bustle of town life relaxing on a remote scottish island amongst thousands of seabirds. Escaping from the scottish capital, I continued my journey with ScotRail heading up the east coast of scotland, Which has one of the more scenic train routes with plenty of Common Buzzards soaring above forests. Arriving in The busy city of Aberdeen mid afternoon, I had only a few hours to do any last minute shopping and to explore the mazes of the big shopping centres as for the next half year I have only one small shop which is no bigger then the average living room. I did have time to have my last Costa 'fortune' coffee with a fellow friend which she said there were a alot dolphins outside the harbour today so I should stay out on deck when the Northlink ferry leaves. My hopes of seeing them were raised as I have seen leaping Bottle nosed dolphins there before.
When the Northlink finally left, I took my binoculars out only to spy young  family watching the harbour entrance pointing to the sea, The suspence was getting bigger as I was almost certain they were watching the dolphins, but I had to wait a few minutes until the ferry went around the corner, and as we got there my joy turned to disbelief as it turned out the family was watching a lifeboat speeding around the entrance. I did not want to watch boats, so I scanned the harbour wall ticking of coastal birds.......Shag, Herring Gull, Cormorant, Eider, Pheasant........What? .....Who would of thought it, a gamebird sat amongst the seabirds, At least that provided some entertainment, The Dolphins would of been better those!! After a nice sunset over the scottish mainland, I tried to bunk down for the night with little success as only four hours in to the crossing, The swell decided to get alittle bit too bumpy to a point you did not need alcohol not to walk straight. Finally at 7.30am, the ferry finally docked in lerwick of which I was very eager to get on to dry land. At that time, I could only think about how worse the next and final leg of the journey was going to be but I had a couple of hours wait at the viking bus station before I headed 25 miles down south on the bus. During that time, I was a getting text messages from Deryk Shaw (A new 'Good Shepherd' crewman) saying  we are on our way to pick you up  and its very very roly.......By this time I were taking an extra travel calm tablet which means the small boat crossing is going to be very unpleaseant!. Finally I arrived at Grutness to be greeted by the GS and her very nice crew members and a good cuppa tea......just what I needed to try a prepare myself for what is to come.

 After all of the island weeks food and supplies were loaded up, we headed out in to the noost - one of the roughest seas in the uk as this is where the north sea and atlantic ocean meets. The GS was an ex lifeboat and was disigned to bob around like a cork in those sort of of waters. On this particular day, the sea was in a really bad state (this is an understatement) so we had to stay below deck as the risks was too high of getting thrown over board if we was up on top. The crew was amazing, and recommended to lie down and get to sleep - it has worked in the past. I had it all planned out, I was listening to good choice of music (The Corrs) just about to nod off then bang, The swell has just got bigger, Trying to keep down flat and  anchoring your self to stop sliding from one end of the boat to another and its just impossible to try and sleep, At one point, when I dared to look up out of the small round window, The boat was virtually on its side with the top of the waves touching the glass. I would like to say a big thankyou to the crew Neil, Ian, Darren and Deryk as they really looked after us during a rough crossing, I dont know how they can do that several times a week so My hats go off for them. After three hours of what I call hell, I finally arrived at my desination........FAIR ISLE!!..... I was greeted by some of the lovely islanders along with Hollie, Raven  & Ythan and was met by the new warden and administrator 'David and Susannah Parnaby' along with Will and Gary who I will be working with this season. At present, I feel like its just a big dream and  has not really sunk in that Im on the island but when It does, its going to be just MAGICAL!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Rocky Day Out

On Mother's Day, the whole family decided to go to Brimham Rocks, a National Trust Reserve in North Yorkshire. The day brought back alot of memories as I was last there when I was a kid over 15 years ago, It seemed so surreal taking my young niece and nephews to such a wonderful and exciting place seeing them climbing and enjoying themselves like I did when I was that age.

The site its self has unique collection of strange and incredible rock formations which makes a great day out for all the family whether you are big or small, old or young, novice climber to the expert. 

 If you just want to enjoy the the fresh air and the wonderful views over Nidderdale.
The rocks come in all shapes and sizes in a manner of all montrosities. 
Could this be T-Rex?
You just need to let your imagination run wild!
Some rocks are said to have associations with Druids,
Mother Shipton and even the devil himself.
A rock sprouting out a tree or two!
A leap of Joy!
Well worth a visit