Autumn with a Bang!

Top: Red-flanked Bluetail

Second row: Eastern Stonechat (Ian Livingstone)

Third row: Collared Flycatcher (Duncan and Jessie Bell)

Bottom row: Great grey Shrike and Raddes Warbler

Thursday 19th December comments: The Isle of May had produced a good spring for passage migrant birds and an even better late flourish to summer with the arrival of both an Aquatic and Melodious Warblers in late July. However the real autumn show was only just beginning…

The month of August produced the usual flurry of south bound waders but it wasn’t until early September that migration picked up what a way to pick up. On the afternoon of 8th September an adult moulting male Collared Flycatcher was caught and ringed at the Top trap, the first ever record of the species for the island. Thereafter more typical arrivals included Common Rosefinch on 9th and 21st September whilst a male Eastern Stonechat (Siberian) on 22nd-23rd September was only the fourth island record and the first since 1980 (the Isle of May claims the first ever British record).

The first whiff of easterly winds produced an arrival of Yellow-browed Warblers with 10 on 22nd September followed by a good number over the following few weeks. Once a noteworthy bird of the autumn, numbers have increased considerably in recent years demonstrated by the fact that between 24th September-18th October a total of 33 individuals were recorded with 23 of these caught and ringed.

Another species which has increased nationally in the last decade are Red-flanked Bluetails but the arrival of a first-winter on the afternoon of 4th October sent the island into a spin. Despite nearby mainland Fife claiming five records the only previous Isle of May record concerned an individual in October 1975 (only the 12th for the UK at the time). Therefore the arrival of this individual (the islands second ever) was most welcome by the fourteen people who witnessed it. It was caught and ringed the same day as its arrival and remained for a further two days and was last seen on 6th October. During this spell between 4th-9th October other highlights included a Richard’s Pipit (on 6th and first since 2015), Shorelark (5th-8th), Red Kite (on 6th and only eighth island record), Great Grey Shrike (7th-9th), and Common Rosefinch (4th-5th) amongst many common migrants. The pulse of birds continued throughout October with more Yellow-browed Warblers arriving whilst the autumns second Richards Pipit was seen on 17th with the islands fifth ever Blyth’s Reed Warbler caught and ringed on 18th October. An approachable fist-winter Great Grey Shrike (the autumns second) on 19th-20th October enjoyed the taste of the islands mice whilst a Radde’s Warbler on 22nd-24th October was the islands ninth ever. However the season wasn’t quite finished as we headed into November and one final good bird was on the horizon….

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