Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pallid Harrier! Fair Isle's Bird of the Week - Sept. 4th - 11th 2011

We just saw Pallid Harrier!!!!!
Why are we so Excited? We didn't see it the first time, so second time around was the charm for us!

Will was on Summer Holiday and Henry & I were stuck in Shetland when the Pallid Harrier was first seen on Fair Isle - August 13th - 14th. a 2nd record for Fair Isle. It was seen the morning of the 15th but not after I came back on the plane that day. Since then most likely the same bird has been seen all over Shetland mostly in Unst. To quote Will, "I can't beleave we got this one back!" and we work for it! as I was out looking for it all morning and early afternoon. Thank goodness for Will's keen eyes he made it out high above the cliffs of Hoini being attacked by Bonxies (Great Skua) and at least one Peregrine and 5 Kestrel plus plenty of Gulls and Fulmars. Finally climbing up top of Hoini is were we stuck Pallid gold. We had great views, but most were brief or distant with no real photo opportunities... as you can see below. 

Pallid Harrier mobbed by Twite.
Huge mobs of Twite overwhelmed all the birds of prey today, it was totally outrageous.

I really have been secretly channeling and psychically willing it's return to Fair Isle. Because this species of bird is one of Fair Isle legend. I have been beside myself for having missed it....
Pallid Harrier - A first for Britain in 1931 found by Fair Islander James (Jimmy Midway) Stout.

The young James A. Stout - North Haven Beach, Fair Isle - Good Shepherd #1
Fair Isle’s Living Legend
100 1/2 years old

In 1931 Jimmy shot what was believed in flight to be the first Pallid Harrier ever seen in Britain. In hand Jimmy & Fieldy confirmed the identification, the bird skin was sent to Edinburgh. In Edinburgh the identification was discredited as not a Pallid Harrier but that of a Montagu’s or Common Hen Harrier. Fieldy was furious and wrote a letter insisting the bird be sent on to London for further review. Many weeks later they received confirmation of what they already knew. The bird was an immature male Pallid Harrier, an understandably tricky identification. The two other Fair Isle visual records from 1942 &1949 were both subsequently rejected and they also were never shot! This was due to the new emphasis on birdwatching rather than shooting.
to read more about Jimmy's amazing adventures with birds...

The most gripping an amazing photos of this Pallid Harrier that I have seen have been taken up in Unst by:
Robbie's Northern Exposures - Blog Check it out... links below...
Pallid Harrier Perched:

Pallid Harrier in Flight:

Pallid Harrier is definitely "Fair Isle's Bird of the Week" even though the Island saw a Pectoral Sandpiper and FIBO ringed a Citrine Wagtail. With an unprecedented 3 or more? Pallid Harrier in Britain from Unst to the Scillies... I see no reason it shouldn't be "Bird of the Week" for all the Birders in Britain?

Sept. 12th 2011 - I did get slightly better photos today of the Pallid Harrier plus a Melodious Warbler
see next blog post or here is the link...


  1. Hope one of these holds on until I get to Shetland! I saw one in 2006 during my big year.Not seen one in the uk since!

    Glad you got it back Tommy!

  2. Wow! You did a big year? That is way cool! Tell us all about it Corinna! How many birds did you see? Was it the record for that year? How old was the Pallid Harrier you saw?