Sunday, 18 September 2011
From the east this time
I spoke a bit too soon in the last posting as an unforecasted blow appeared on Friday and Friday night. The only difference is that it was from the east which gives us a different view of waves crashing onto the island. The good thing about an easterly is that there is more of a chance of more interesting migrant birds appearing. So yesterday with some excitement Jeremy and I headed out to see what we could find. Initially the island seemed very quiet and there were few birds about but with a bit of searching, birds that had been blown off course while going about their normal migration on the other side of the North Sea started to appear. Some of them are species that we also find here in Scotland such a a song thrush, 2 common redstarts, a garden warbler, a whinchat, 2 crossbills and a common whitethroat. But there were a few others that are birds that don't breed here so we know that they had be blown across the sea. 2 Lapland buntings cheeped as the north end of the island, a beautiful bluethroat appeared briefly at the Lowlight bushes and today a delicate yellow-browed warbler was caught and rung before quickly being released.
All of this adds a bit of spice to our day though of course we are still getting on with our everyday work of cleaning toilets, meeting visitors and report writing. But it lead me to look up a booklet that I have on my book shelf published 100 years ago about 2 people also experiencing autumn migration on the Isle of May. Back in autumn 1910 2 ladies, Evelynn Baxter and Leonora Rintoul were busy breaking the mould by studying bird migration as independent lady researchers on the Isle of May in a scientific way. These 2 ladies spent each autumn staying with the lighthouse keepers for 6 weeks and noting the birds using the island during that time. They then published their records and used the information to inform their theories on aspects of bird migration. It is interesting to note in the booklet that in that year they recorded a Lapland bunting that proved to be the first record for the Forth and also 1 bluethroat that turned up only a few days earlier in the year than our one this year. Perhaps the biggest contrast with today is that they regulary refer to procuring birds for identification and this means blasting them with a shotgun, something we don't do today. Rintoul and Baxter went on to be in the forefront of Scotttish ornithology for many years but it was their interest and studies in the Isle of May 100 years ago that has lead to the forming of the bird observatory here and the study of migrating birds that we contribute to today. It gives me a real feeling that the work here is part of greater project that has made big steps in increasing our understanding of birds in Scotland.