Saturday, January 01, 2011

First of the Year Bird List

Happy New Year!


This is the forth New Years Day that my son Henry and I have made a list of as many bird species we can find on Fair Isle in the 7 hours of daylight. Yes I rang in the new year with Black grouse & Famous Grouse (whisky) til 4am. but still managed to get up at 8:30am. to start the search. I had to because...

My friend Jon Dunn challenged Henry and I to the inaugural New Year's Day Inter-island Challenge.
Fair Isle vs Whalsay, 60 degrees north. It's going to be the smallest, shortest bird race in the world!
The prize? A nice bottle of wine and birdwatching glory!

I had put out plenty of bird seed and scraps from the party the night before. From the windows we quickly spotted the first birds of the new year. (birds listed as we saw them)
  1. Starling
  2. House Sparrow
  3. Turnstone
  4. Fieldfare
  5. Blackbird
  6. Golden Plover
  7. Hooded Crow
  8. Greylag Goose
  9. Curlew
  10. Redshank
  11. Chaffinch
  12. Rock Dove
  13. Robin
  14. Greenfinch
  15. Common Gull                                                                                                                                    Leaving the house we crossed the Walli Burn and searched the South Harbor finding...                                                                                                                                             
  16. Rock Pipit
  17. Eider Duck
  18. Shag
  19. Teal
  20. Purple Sandpiper
  21. Mallard
  22. Snipe
  23. Black Headed Gull
  24. Herring Gull                                                                                                                                  Then down and about the South Lighthouse, Skaden and Muckle Uri Geo we found...                                                                                                                                                    
  25. Wigeon
  26. Black Guillimot
  27. Gannet
  28. Heron
  29. Razorbill - Strangely I flushed the Razorbill from the near by rocks while looking at the Heron and then it flew out to Sea and out of sight? Twite took flight from the field below Nedder Taft and Snow Bunting feeding at Shirva. 1 Pink Foot with the Greylags in the field between the shop and the Houll called Boini Mire.
  30. Twite
  31. Snow Buntings
  32. Pink Footed  Goose
  33. Short Eared Owl - the boy just loves Owls! seen in the Plantation and we wished Jack was here!
  34. Woodcock 3 or 4 seen in various places most memorable was the one that flew out of the Obs trees an into the second story window... LOL!  Then seen from the North Lighthouse cliffs tops..
  35. Raven
  36. Black Headed Gull
  37. Fulmar - today only 1? off the north fog horn... no Little Auks, bummer. 
  38. Kittiwake - flying near the Chapel
  39. Lapwing - Meoness
  40. Jacksnipe - Walli Burn & Lower Stonebrek ditch
  41. Merlin - seen from my garden sitting on a fence post and flying into the South Harbor just before dark. Curlew underwing...
I couldn't find a Wren, Skylark or Iceland Gull anywhere! I know 41 birds is not much... but not bad for Winter on Fair Isle. It beats our old record of 32 birds quite nicely. I think my better understanding of Gulls & Snipe helps. It is a great way to spend the day with my son and the little bit of compition keeps him motivated. I keep on thinking this is going to be won by one bird, maybe 2 and I had a head start with unchariteristic chaffinch and Greenfinch over wintering that I knew he wouldn't have. Then again I also new Whalsay is bigger has more trees and ponds and some species I wouldn't see here on Fair Isle. The fact the Jon is a much better and more knowageable birder wasn't going to help me at all!  But then again I'm "lucky with birds" and I can sleep happy knowing that 41 birds are just a few more than Jon Dunn saw on Whalsay today! making Henry and I the winners.  Cheers and I need a nap now.
 Jon's Birds (in the order seen on Whalsay): Greylag Goose, Herring Gull, Starling, Shag, Rock Dove, House Sparrow, Hooded Crow, Raven, Goldeneye, Gannet, Cormorant, Great Black-backed Gull, Curlew, Redshank, Teal, Whooper Swan, Lapwing, Wigeon, Kittiwake, Fieldfare, Golden Plover, Turnstone, Common Gull, Rock Pipit, Wren, Blackbird, Red-breasted Merganser, Ringed Plover, Mallard, Black-headed Gull, Eider, Black Guillemot, Tufted Duck, Great Northern Diver, Iceland Gull, Carrion Crow, Snipe.
In total 37 species - 9 that I hadn't seen on Fair Isle, Iceland Gull is a good bird anytime of the year! making our combined total for Shetland on New Years Day. 50
*robin, snipe and snowbunting photos taken recently but not today


  1. amazing for a boy who grew up on the East Coast with robins, cardinals and bluebirds! Enjoy 2011! Linda Walters

  2. Well done Tommy and Henry beating Jon!

    37 v 41 pretty close run thing!
    I bet Jon was wondering where some of his bankers were! lol!
    My Goldfinches disappeared from my garden on the 1st...they should have been my first bird nope it was
    Wood Pigeon!
    (they are back on the 3rd, Goldfinches.

  3. Hi Tommy...Hello from the state of Maine USA.
    I found you Blog from one Blog to another. : }

    I have viewed many of your recent post and they as wonderful photos and stories!!

    I'll will be back to visit!!