I'd just come back from the Observatory after seeing my first Greenish Warbler of the year which had been trapped at the Plantation and I thought I'd have a quick check of the Utra Scrape for any Waders.
I cycled down the road until I got to Utra and then I walked out to the Scrape, arriving at 11:40.
I had a few glimpses of the area before I started to crawl (I'm cautious) to a spot where I could see the whole Scrape.
I saw a bird swimming around and my camera was quickly raised, I took a few distant shots and I had a look, it looked like a Phalarope.... but it couldn't be a Phalarope. Could it?
The first shot of my Phalarope rarity (in Fair Isle terms).
Zoomed fully but easy to see
I took a few more shots and I started to half crawl/half crouch my way forward to get a closer look.
Us birders can be called strange or a few anyway but some people go to lengths to see their birds.
I stopped and I rattled off a few more photos of the bird and I was certain that it was a Phalarope, now time to eliminate the three species.
1st of all, Wilson's Phalarope.. seen the bird in the book and the colours were all wrong, so that one was out.
2nd. Grey Phalarope, not the right colours and pattern... that's gone as well.
3rd and final Phalarope, the Red-necked, breeds on Fetlar (Shetland) and they have just left their breeding grounds... the pattern and colour fitted that of a juvenile (from the Collins Guide as I remember, but I didn't have it on me!).
So finally I decided that this was a Red-necked Phalarope.... year tick and an island tick. I wasn't sure how rare it was but it had to be good right? I put out the call and Ciaran came (on census) over a style on the opposite side of the the Scrape about 40 metres off. I thought to myself... Wait.... he won't see the bird from that side, he might flush it!!
So first thought in mind without shouting, waving my arms frantically to get his attention, it worked and he gave the Scrape a wide berth.
I got up and half ran to meet him, straight away I told him that I had a Red-necked Phalarope on the Scrape, we both turned and we could just see the bird bobbing around.
Ciaran got it and said that it was a juvenile! and even a British tick for him! he got straight on the phone to David and I got on to Quoy.
Triona picked up and I told her that I had a Red-necked Phalarope at the Utra Scrape and she went off to tell Stewart and Dad.
The Phalarope, its actually sitting still for once!
So now we just waited, David came running and we put him into the bird.
Within ten minutes the Obs van had showed up, partially full and a few people came out to see the bird, Stewart and Dad from Quoy came as well with Brian and his son Alan (Houll), Nick and Elizabeth (Schoolton) and that was it (for now).
Everybody got good looks at the bird as it fed on flies and swam about, people came and went and a few from the Obs (four at least with another one coming later.
I wasn't the last to leave but I was hungry so I headed back to Quoy for denner and afterwards I headed straight out to go video the Phalarope and maybe get some better shots.
When I arrived I saw that three people were watching the Phalarope, Glen Tyler and a couple who'd come in on a yacht.
I went up to them and I joined in with the mini-twitch, everyone was having great views and I went and got some video and pics with Glen joining me afterwards.
Still for a split second before it starts off again
As you can see food is in no short supply
The Utra Scrape, Waders Love it, Phalaropes Love it, Birders Love it
One of the few times it was out of water
A video of the Phalarope
My final photo of the Red-necked Phalarope, maybe even the last anybody took of it on Fair Isle
I watched this Phalarope for long enough to see some of its behaviour, it would frantically go about catching flies (I presume) for over 15 minutes and then it would find a hidden spot and it would sit, resting, preening itself for five minutes before starting the cycle again and it did this about three times.
I did have some video but due to problems with uploading it, it's not going to be with the post at the moment.
At least a total of 16 people had a look at the Phalarope during its short stay of roughly 4 hours but Tommy and Henry missed it by a mere hour as they were just coming back from America!
My last sighting of the bird was at 14:40 and I haven't heard of anyone else seeing it but under an hour later Ciaran went and there was no sign.
This Red-necked Phalarope consisted of the 23rd record of the species on Fair Isle, with a total of only 25 birds and the first sighting since 2005 seeing them here can be a bit tricky.
In terms of rare-ness, this bird was the rarest of the Autumn on Fair Isle (and it still is by early September!), well if you exclude the Swinhoe's Petrel which made its last appearance on the 1st.