alt1st–15th September

Improving weather systems during the first few days of the month gave a welcome variety of birds on the island, not least raptors. Utsira is far from the comfort zone for these specialists; the isolated nature of Utsira makes it a hotspot for many types of birds and migrations but raptors is certainly not among them. On the 2nd a young Gyrfalcon toured the island, later being seen to prey on a Hooded Crow.

It was the 4th, however, that turned out to be the day of the raptors. A pressing northerly wind changed to south, and it stayed there and in the southwesterlies, quite fresh and with clear skies as the morning dawned. The total of 52 Common Kestrels is more than three times the previous record, and also 23 Eurasian Sparrowhawks, single Northern Goshawk, Gyrfalcon, Peregrine Falcon and a Short-eared Owl were logged this day.

Pride of place goes to a young Pallid Harrier (Martin Eggen, Egil Ween) that crossed the island diagonally from the northwestern plantations. This second for Utsira curiously came on the same date as the first (4th September 2002).

altHowever, this should be eclipsed by something smaller and more cryptic, and one that was already present. A small pallid warbler seen by Geir Mobakken in one of the northern gardens on the 2nd showed so briefly that a positive identification was impossible. Next day it was heard only but it was still without identity.

Finally, on the 4th it gave itself up and showed well to ME, GM and EW et al.; anyway it was not identified correctly until a couple of days later, after a bit of trying and failing and consultation with everyone´s Lars Svensson, as Sykes´s Warbler. In all this drama an Icterine Warbler was given a much more exclusive name but I won´t bore you with the details.

The Sykes´s Warbler stayed put until the 6th, and even though the species was not totally unexpected on Utsira with records at other hotspots like Helgoland, North Ronaldsay and Fair Isle, it is nevertheless very rare in Norway.

To date there are only two accepted Norwegian records:

1983 Rogaland: found trapped, doc., Forus, Stavanger, 11th September (Jostein Tonstad, Olav Runde)

1997 Vest-Agder: found trapped, doc., Mønstremyr, Flekkefjord, 20th September (Geir Sverre Grimsby et al.)

Photo: Atle GrimsbyA rare Curlew Sandpiper flew over the isle on the 5th. Northern Harrier came as a year-tick on the 6th, and in fact the same goes for Snow Bunting the same day. On the 8th there were again some movements of raptors, with six species noted, including an Osprey seen perched on a pole out in the northwestern fields.

Great quality in the ringing forests was the capture of an Ortolan Bunting on the 10th, followed by an equally rare Yellow Wagtail the next day. Other birds in the nets these days included Common Grasshopper Warbler, Eurasian Reed Warbler, Eurasian Treecreeper and Red-backed Shrike. The number of trapped and ringed birds on the 11th was 93 and involving 14 species.

On the same day, the autumn´s first Richard´s Pipit flew over. It seems a northwestern invasion of Lapland Longspurs is going on, and Utsira is starting to feel it with 20 birds on the 12th.

During fresh winds in the period from the 12th to the 15th a total of 80 Sooty Shearwaters, one Manx Shearwater and one Pomarine Skua passed the isle.

Photo Ortolan Bunting: Atle Grimsby.