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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

PRODUCT REVIEW: Fair Isle Bird Report for 2008

The 61st Fair Isle Report - that for 2008 - has just arrived at my desk. Like those for Shetland and Orkney, I always look forward to these as the Northern Isles archipelago's harbour some of the rarest vagrants recorded in Britain during the year. Richard Richardson's standard cover always rekindling my memories of that like-minded, brilliant, all-rounder ornithologist, artist and sorely-missed friend.

2008 was no exception and of the 212 species recorded that year, no less than FIVE were Firsts for the Island - Black-crowned Night Heron, Caspain Plover, Black Kite, Citril Finch and Siberian Thrush.

This latest report is 130 pages long and has a very nice feel to it - printed on top quality paper. Once again, and for the tenth successive year, warden Deryk Shaw has been at the helm and produced much of the paperwork. Although it was another disastrous year in terms of breeding seabirds (due to Sandeel shortages), the autumn period was outstanding for rarities and passage migrants with an influx of 17 Two-barred Crossbills, Sabine's Gull, Western Bonelli's Warbler, 2 Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers, 2 Lanceolated Warblers and no less than THREE White's Thrushes. However, these paled into insignificance compared to Britain's 3rd and Fair Isle's 2nd Asiatic Brown Flycatcher.

Following the six pages of introduction, pages 7-13 go into finite detail of those five firsts for the island - that of the Citril Finch being particularly galling as I was away in southern China throughout the entire duration of its week-long stay. These pages are then followed by further write-ups - Calandra Lark, the Brown Flycatcher and the Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers.

Page 20 has the very useful map which marks out clearly all of the locations on the isle. Dave Wheeler of course provides his annual report of the weather conditions experienced on Fair Isle in 2008 and following an ornithological monthly summary of events, we then have the all-important meat of the report - the Systematic List. Fully detailed as ever, this gives clear and concise details of all 212 species recorded - none more weird than the first European Nightjar since 2004. W.T. Miles provides the illustrations that adorn the text and in the centre pages, we have a sumptuous array of colour photographs. Many of these are taken by assistant warden Mark Breaks and not published before, whilst outstanding are Paul Baxter's Caspian Plover shots, Rebecca Nason's White's Thrush and the selection of rare locustella warblers. My personal favourite is Deryk's Siberian Thrush image - what a stunning bird they are. Mark's Two-barred Crossbill shots too are on another level.

The annual ringing report appears on pages 82-95, followed by that on the Seabirds and that of butterflies, Moths and other invertebrates recorded. There are also a couple of very interesting papers - one on juvenile Starlings by Suzanne Hogg and another on Northern Wheatears by Adam Seward. Last but not least is the Systematic Checklist detailing all of the 380 species recorded on the island up to the end of the year.

An excellent report as usual, very readable and full of tantalising rares. Available now from the Observatory, Fair Isle, Shetland, ZE2 9JU - email fibo@btconnect.com for orders. Fair Isle Bird Observatory - www.fairislebirdobs.co.uk