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A Report from


Mark Prestwood

This was to be my seventh year in a row on Fair Isle, but this time I arrived as a postman, delivering the Lancaster and District Bird Report 1998 issue, with my photo of a Dotterel from Ward's Stone on the cover.

Steve and I were supposed to arrive by air, but due to bad weather we took the Good Shepherd on Sunday 12th September, instead of waiting until Monday to fly on. As we arrived, the new warden was there to meet us on the quay side. After Sunday lunch Steve and I walked down to the south of the island, only to find on our return that there had been a Pectoral Sandpiper on Buness.

After tea (which was a very nice vegetable bake), we  looked for it, but with no luck. Early the next morning we re-found the Pec, and then had breakfast, (porridge, bacon, egg, tomato, black pudding, fruit juice, toast, marmalade and as much tea and coffee as we could drink.)

You can walk anywhere on Fair Isle and on my first full day in the field, a Buzzard seen over Ward Hill, became my second Isle tick of the day, with Lapland Bunting, two Barred Warblers, and a Grasshopper warbler also seen. Not a bad first day. But that night, news of a Short-billed Dowitcher, near Aberdeen (and us still on Fair Isle for two weeks), dampened the spirits.

Storm Petrel ringing this evening produced 31 birds. I did not do any ringing this year, but did release two Stormies. Still nothing new, with best things today being three White Beaked Dolphins off South Light and chicken and ham pie for tea.

Thursday, and our first BB rarity, a Great Snipe, seen by all the people at the Obs. Best birds of the day were Crossbill and Hawfinch. The latter trapped and photographed.

Friday, new people on today, all having seen the Short-billed Dowitcher.  All we have are Barred Warbler, Yellow Browed Warbler and Wryneck.

Saturday, the wind is now from the S.E. and we have two locustella Warblers, but both are Grasshoppers. But still nothing else, with best evening meal so far being meatloaf and extra meatloaf. The next day, the only thing of note is five helpings of pudding, a record!!

Monday and nine days into my holiday and the 100th species clocked up, Dotterel on Burrashield, but I missed Blackbird and Dunnock. Life's not fair!!

Wednesday and wind still from the East, best trap round so far, 20+ birds trapped, one was a Paddyfield Warbler, my fifth in seven years. The only other bird of note was a Red-breasted Flycatcher.

Thursday, Paddy re-trapped today and our fourth BB rarity, a Rose Coloured Starling. Also on the trap round, an Ortolan Bunting was the last good bird seen.

Things other than birds seen in the last two weeks, White Beaked and Risso's Dolphins, Harbour Porpoise, Frog, Herald and Red Sword Grass, both moths first for Fair Isle, also the second Pearly Underwing, which Steve released.

Most important of all lots of food, a record six helpings of pudding were eaten by Steve and Chaz, the two assistant wardens. Thankfully they will not be back next year, but I will!!

P.S. No Short-billed Dowitcher at Rosehearty, but I am not downhearted. I finally got it at Greatham Creek, Teeside.

Mark Prestwood

Recommended Books:

Where to Watch Birds in Scotland
Mike Madders: Buy from

  • Scotland has my favourite birding in the whole of the UK. This book, now updated, contains more than 140 key sites and numerous additional sites accompanied by maps and line drawings. It concludes with an up-to-date list of local birds Recorders and reports, useful addresses and a code of conduct for birdwatchers. The guide has become indispensable for anyone birdwatching in Scotland.


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