Friday, 15 August 2014

Fair Isle At The Second Attempt!!

After a particularly unsuccessful trip to Fair Isle for the Siberian Rubythroat, several years back, I vowed to never return. That was all set to change back in July 2013, with the trapping of not one but two Swinhoe's Petrels, the second bird was retrapped several times, allowing 20-30 birders to twitch it, with the final trapping occurring in early September. At the time, it hadn't really occurred to me to actually consider going for it, but after a successful twitch for the American Herring Gull in Campbeltown earlier this year, it seemed that there were several other people who may also be interested in giving it a go.

Fast forward to 7.30am on 9th July 2014, I was just getting the kids up and ready for school, when my phone started going crazy:

Shetland - Swinhoe's Petrel again Fair Isle re-trapped at 1.45am, individual first trapped in 2013

Aaaarrrrggghhhhh! That threw a spanner in the works, panic mode, that was nearly two weeks earlier than last year and not what we were expecting just yet. With the kids finally sorted, Amy off to school and Toby out with mummy for the day, plans were hatched. With the new BTO regulations in place, making the birds welfare the priority, we knew that things weren't going to be as straight forward as last year. After several telephone conversations with FIBO, it seemed that it was do-able but would require a lot of luck.

Things came together and with a couple of retraps, we decided that it was now or never, we had to do this before the entire petrel ringing season was cancelled for the year.

We all met up at an airfield in Nottinghamshire on Tuesday 15th July and flew up to Fair Isle, arriving just a couple of hours later, where we were met by David the warden of FIBO, who kindly transported us to the observatory. We still weren't sure that there would even be any actual petrel ringing that night as the weather wasn't perfect. At 11.30pm, it was decided that the weather had improved sufficiently and the conditions were now looking ideal, game on!!!

The Havens - the large stones on the grass are used to weigh down the nets

We all assembled in the generator hut and waited for the petrel ringing to start, several European Storm Petrels, were trapped in quick succession, but as the time passed, the tension grew. As a part of the sessions, members of the public are allowed to release the birds once they've been rung, so I volunteered to have a go. While letting the stormie rest on the palm of my hand, before flying off into the night, David announced that the Swinhoe's was calling and by using your bins, you could make out it's larger shape, flying around the nets, it was here and we just needed it in the nets. I ran back into the hut and just minutes later it was caught and  processed.

Swinhoe's Storm Petrel (Photos by Mark Rayment)

Swinhoe's doing it's thing!!

What a truly amazing trip it had been and couldn't believe we had pulled it off. Massive thanks have to go to all at the observatory for all of their fabulous work and patience with the daily phone calls. Hope to be back soon, perhaps to lay the ghost of that Rubythroat!!!!