Saturday, 30 April 2011

With our first visitors due on Monday, things are hotting up nicely on the bird front...

More pics to follow (along with news on the rest of today's birds), but there's more important things to be doing at the minute than being sat at the computer!
As the wind swung round to the NE yesterday it seemed to stop birds in their tracks who decided that the final push north was just not worth it and several migrants dropped in. The North cliffs in particular seemed to concentrate birds and the pick of the bunch was a fine male Subalpine Warbler. Also around were Black Redstart, Stonechat and higher numbers of Willow Warblers than usual, whilst the unraced female Subalpine Warbler was again at Lower Stoneybrek (see the sightings page for full details).
Flighty and often distant, this smart male Subalp shows the restricted red on the throat and short fat moustache of the eastern subspecies albistriata.
It's not just birds on Fair Isle of course and I finished an evening wander carrying home a small abandoned lamb, which is now being looked after down the island.
Sadly, none of the wardens were able to watch the royal wedding, but we might have done if we'd realised that Skerryholm were serving Champagne to visitors (Carrie and Lindsey kept that one quiet until they got back!).
With new birds still arriving yesterday evening, there will hopefully be more to report today...

Friday, 29 April 2011

Fair Isle Flying High!

No new news so far this morning but a couple of bits and bobs to report.

We don’t have a TV at the Obs (or a day off today), so the royal wedding has largely passed us by. Whilst I’m sure everyone here wishes the couple all the best for their big day it didn’t seem particularly relevant to Fair Isle until I found out that the pilot of the lead Typhoon in the flypast is none other than Roddy Dennis, son of FIBO Trust President Roy Dennis. Roy is also an ex-warden of FIBO and Roddy was a baby at the Obs, so maybe we will have to tune in to watch the ceremony after all!

Fly-past Fair Isle style
In bird news, the Dipper was not refound, the Hen Harrier was seen again yesterday, Hollie saw a Waxwing in the plantation and a trickle of common migrants are still moving (see the Obs latest sightings page for all the details). The weather has been glorious and I’m sure there’ll be more on the move today.

Amongst the common migrants was this distinctly northern looking Willow Warbler trapped in Gully

Wood Sandpiper and Black-tailed Godwit on Da Water
Right, I’m off to see what the North of the island has in store...

Cook Wanted

The new season is almost upon us and the staff are all in place, almost. Although we are being superbly fed by Chris, Becki, Lindsey and Susannah (and apologies to anyone I've missed off the list), we still need a full time cook for the season.
Duties for this post include preparing menus, ordering stock, managing staff and cooking for up to 40 people on a set-time, set-menu basis.
The rewards are a modest salary, (board and lodgings and some transport costs to and from the island are met) and the opportunity to work in a fantasic environment in a friendly team. We require somebody with cooking experience, who is friendly, hard working and aware of the demands of living and working on a remote island.
If you would like to apply, or have any questions about the post, please contact Susannah at the observatory on or 01595 760258.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The warm conditions and southerly airflow have been incredibly pleasant and have seen a few birds turn up. Two highlights from yesterday were a Black-bellied Dipper found by Will in Hjukni Geo (which I managed to miss - hopefuly it'll reappear in Wirvie or the Gully in the next couple of days) and Jane turning up her second large raptor in consecutive days with a fine ringtail Hen Harrier. It was three in a row today when an Osprey headed north over the island (although this one was picked up by Rob in the south of the island). What are the odds on Marsh Harrier tomorrow?
Although we await the employment of a Cook, we are up to full strength staff now, with Carrie the Ranger returning for her second season and already transforming the chaos in  the Visitor Centre. A few of the ladies are off to knitting classes (Chat Club as the men of the island seem to refer to it) tonight and I'm the chauffeur, so I'd best be off.

Monday, 25 April 2011

The Eagle Has Not Landed

Bah, no sign. Our second late lunch in a row (many thanks to Chris in the kitchen for being so understanding!) saw a line of expectant eyes trained to the south, but sadly the White-tailed Eagle missed us completely. A few birds were still around including a Crossbill that keeps taunting us by almost venturing into various traps, a female Grey-headed Wagtail and a nice show from the Subalpine Warbler early this morning only. An unusual gull (with some Thayer's-like characteristics) that has given a few views in recent days was again seen, but perhaps the paleness may be related to extreme wear or leucism, hopefully there will be better views soon to be able to draw a conclusion from this frustrating bird.

As well as not saying hello to an eagle, we also said goodbye to Joseph Cooper who has been volunteering on the island for the past fortnight (with assistance from the John Harrison Memorial Fund). We miss him already, his enthusiasm and bubbliness made him a popular member of the Obs team. Safe journey back to Brighton Joseph, we hope to see you again soon and thanks for the kind comments in the 'chatty log'.

Eyes to the Skies!

A Buzzard was found by Jane (who should have been looking at Starlings really!) as it headed south over Buness but North Ronaldsay Bird Obs have just been in touch (thanks guys) to say that a White-tailed Eagle has just headed high north from them. No time to type anything else, I'm out to look up! I'll keep you posted.
The Buzzard, but is there something bigger on the way...

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Nice One Jason

Just a quick post as everyone is running late for Sunday lunch, although with good reason as Jason turned up a Subalpine Warbler at Lower Stoneybrek about an hour and a half ago. After hiding for a while, it was relocated in Vaila's Trees where it showed fairly well before heading back to Lower Stoneybrek.

Now, can I smell gravy?...

Last Orders!

I'm not sure that I would say it has ever been a major ambition of mine to ring the bell for last orders at a pub, but it turns out it is quite fun! Tonight was a dance at the Obs, a perfect chance for our staff to say hello to the islanders and it all seemed to go well, although I didn't really get to see much of anyone as I was behind the bar for the night. The biggest talking point seemed to be my decorations behind the bar, which weren't universally popular (but if you can't display a model of the Stadium of Light, a 1973 FA Cup final scarf and a cuddly Samson the cat on a day when Sunderland have just won 4-2 and surely secured their Premiership status for another season, then when can you?).

Bird wise it was also a good day with the first Grasshopper Warbler of the year trapped in Double Dyke (a ridiculously showy individual which performed incredibly well upon release at the Obs), a Lesser Whitethroat trapped in Double Dyke (also the first of the year) and a Whitethroat at Barkland (another year tick!), around six Ring Ouzel, five Fieldfare (the first for a few weeks), a couple of Yellow Wagtails and Tree Pipits and a Waxwing at the Haa, which may well have been the bird I later saw flying around at Furse.

After a quick sprint to bag a Ring Ouzel in Double Dyke I was a bit disappointed to get back to find the hot water tank had just sprung a leak and so I had to hand it over to Jessica to ring whilst I went to check out the problem! It wasn't a major issue in the end and hopefully we will get the new hot water tank next week anyway, and I've been promised a pint by Jess for the ringing tick!

A Raven at Wester Lother. He's a regular up there so we have a bit of a chat every three days when I'm on North Census!

Friday, 22 April 2011

Eastern Promise

The east winds have picked up slightly and a few new birds are making it in: Yellow Wag and Greenshank were added to the year list today and there were also Redstart,a couple each of Tree Pipits and Ring Ouzel, although migrants were generally thinly spread across the island. The wind also brought with it fog, which delayed the plane that was due to bring the FIBOT Chairman Roger Riddington, his wife Agnes, ex-FIBO Ranger Rory Tallack and his girlfriend Chloe and Marilyn, Grace's new 'minder'. After what must have seemed an eternity at Tingwall (charades and dancing were resorted to), the 9am flight finally took off at 4pm - that's a long time to wait at an airport (which is maybe a slightly overglamourous description of the lovely, but petite Tingwall) with nothing to eat.

Thankfully everyone made it, the sun shone, Chris the cook excelled again with home made profiteroles and there was much happiness. In the evening Neil came round to lend Jason a guitar, although the idea of singing Log doesn't seem to have been accepted (yet).

Birds lingering from recent days included this stunning Black-tailed Godwit at Shirva...

...and this Knot  in South Harbour having its picture gatecrashed by a colour-ringed Starling

More east winds are forecast for tomorrow with rain as well, so hopefully there will be some more birds to report soon...

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Soup and Quackers

A good old fashioned 'pea-souper' limited the visibility on the census (and made things tricky for the Starling research team to read any of the bird's colour rings), but despite this a number of wetland birds made it to the island giving a varied bunch of highlights.

Singles of Scaup (on Golden Water), Tufted Duck and Goldeneye made for a good duck day with the biggest rare of all being the Coot on Da Water (our second this year!). The Moorhen reappeared in Gully where it was promptly trapped and a Black-tailed Godwit was also on Da Water.

One of these is a very exciting bird on Fair Isle.
Our new staff Chris (Cook) and Lindsey (Domestic Assistant) are settling in nicely (empty plates all round, which is always a good sign) and Lindsey has just headed off to knitting. I'm not sure how much knitting is done at these evenings but I'm sure Lindsey will know a lot more about everything (and everyone) on the island by the time she gets back!
The wind did make it round to the east and there have certainly been a few more birds, with a stunning Redstart trapped in the Gully this morning along with several Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs scattered around the island. Mist and drizzle has swirled around at times, but when the sun has come out it has been very pleasant with hundreds of Wheatears about the island and even a few migrants bursting into song on their way through (a Brambling in the Obs garden was a 'singing tick' for a few people today).

Fair Isle Wren in the Obs Garden 'habitat pile'.

The Good Shepherd also arrived today bringing more staff and researchers to the Obs and the place is starting to get a bit of a bustle to it (helped by a massive food order also coming in, so boxes and packets are stacked everywhere). No cetaceans were seen from the boat but bird sightings included a warbler (probably a Blackcap) heading south to Fair Isle from Shetland that Jane would have identified positively it if she'd dared to leave go of the handrails - I guess it wasn't the smoothest ever crossing!

Everyone at the Obs (and on the island) is helping to muck in with things as we get nearer the start of the season (Assistant Warden Jason Moss being a very useful babysitter!) and it's getting very exciting as the first guests are only a couple of weeks away now.

Sunday's Bluethroat (by Jason Moss). It had a curious habit of
holding its wings out as if trying to make itself look larger.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Blue is the colour (sort of)

The sun is shining, the winds are WSW gusting up to Force 7, but this is Fair Isle so you just never know what might turn up. Although reasonable numbers of Meadow Pipits and Wheatears seemed to be about up North, it seemed my four Barnacle Geese were going to be 'bird of the day', until Will phoned to say he was coming back to the Obs with a Bluethroat !
A cracking little bird, it was a young female (so largely lacking in blue) and presumably (based on the early date), a 'white-spotted' bird.

Grace adding bluethoat to her list (she doesn't have one really, although she does like puffins)
There will be pictures of the bird on the Fair Isle Bird Observatory website tomorrow, along with a more complete list of recent sightings.
With a hint of SE winds promised for tomorrow, there may be a few more birds to report soon...

Monday, 11 April 2011


We've been here for six weeks but the time has just flown over and in just a few weeks time we'll be open for visitors for the first time. Scary? A little bit maybe, but more exciting than anything else.

We've got loads of stories already from our time on the island, far too many to put in here now, but in summary, the island is every bit as wonderful and the islanders every bit as welcoming as we expected. Grace loves the beach, the cows, the other children, the Obs (pretty much everything really!), which has been important for us and we love it here as well!

I'll introduce the full team during the next few weeks (we've not met them all yet!) and keep you up to date on the bird sightings (full details of which will also be published regularly at, where you will find the sightings so far this year) as well as mentioning the goings on of our life on the island.

We're inheriting a great legacy from Hollie and Deryk and they have provided us with lots of support in the move up here and the settling in period and we wish them the best of luck with their crofting at Burkle (just down the road), although hopefully Deryk will leave a few birds for us to find!

I'd love to hear your comments and questions about all things Fair Isle, so please get in touch.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011


This is my final post on this blog however anyone can still follow my infrequent ramblings on my new blog The new Warden, David Parnaby may take this one over. It has been a great 12 years in charge of FIBO and I wish David & Susannah great success and hope they get as much enjoyment out of running the Obs as Hollie & I had. Sincere thanks to the Directors, all the wonderful staff and the many guests who have since become good friends. The new Obs is a truly magnificent place to stay and Fair Isle is a fantastic place to visit......and live! Many thanks for reading my blog and the many positive comments. To keep abreast of FIBO happenings please keep an eye on the Obs website

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