Friday, 9 December 2011

Welcome Home!

No, not on Fair Isle - Nuthatch from the breakfast table at the in-laws was a great bird to catch up with on our mainland jaunt.
After three weeks away, we’ve returned to Fair Isle. I managed not to miss too many birds, although if I’d checked the North Haven the morning that we left I’d have added seen the 13th Great Crested Grebe for Fair Isle (the first island record since 2005)! But most people on the island have been too busy dealing with the effects of the weather to worry about what birds are around. North-west winds have lashed the island, with winds regularly getting above force 10 and lying snow causing some damage and lots of travel disruption. The Good Shepherd sailed on the day we left then not again until the day we came back, whilst the planes have been hampered by strong winds, lying snow and a frozen runway. That meant we had to take the Good Shepherd to get back to the island, although the crossing was too rough for the van to make it, so who knows when we’ll see that again! The crossing also proved too rough for mine and Susannah’s lunches to make it all the way across as well, although Grace slept through virtually the whole thing (thanks in part to Kenny’s ear defenders!). The Shepherd crew were very helpful and Deryk had put the Obs heating on, got some milk out the freezer and brought the minibus down to the harbour having heard we weren’t feeling great (he even didn't mention the Sunderland results, so we must have looked bad!). Along with the greetings and hugs we had at the harbour, it really highlighted one of our favourite things about Fair Isle, that great community spirit.

No sooner had we returned to the island than the wind picked up again, bringing some violent stormy conditions. We survived Wednesday night without too many problems (a few bits of fence have come loose, there’s some guttering in the garden etc) and the wind dropped enough to get out and about for an hour to check the birds. A good start were two Long-eared Owls in the garden, with a few Redwings, Blackbirds and Robins also lingering around the island and a Woodcock flew past the kitchen window. A Great Northern Diver in North Haven was a nice bird (still largely in breeding plumage) and down the island there were several Greylag flocks with 12 White-fronts, two Bean Geese and a couple of Whooper Swans still present.
After the worst of the weather had passed, this rather soggy Long-eared Owl emerged from the Obs garden.
It had a bit of a fly about, presumably to try to dry itself off, before returning to the garden.
At which point it became clear there were two, as a second one emerged (and sat on the mist net). There could have been more hiding in there, but we weren't about to disturb them to find out.
The brief lack of wind though was very much the eye of the storm and as we settled down for the evening, the radio crackled out*, ‘Fair Isle: cyclonic becoming northwesterly severe gale 9 to violent storm 11, occasionally hurricane force 12 at first’. And boy did it mean it, the gusts peaked on the island at 98mph overnight and down the island people were unable to sleep as their houses rattled and unidentified objects flew past the windows. Now the wind has dropped to a more manageable 60mph or so we can get out and see what the damage has been...

*note: artistic licence used here as we get our shipping forecast off the internet like most other people nowadays and even if we did listen to it, using the laptop tends to cut down on the crackle.

The avian highlight from my time off the island was this Greater Yellowlegs in Northumberland, although two Hume's Warblers on Shetland were also good birds.
My sister's wedding was also a major highlight of the trip, as was the baptism of my Godson David Cheetham.


  1. Hey David, glad you, Susannah and Grace made it back onto the island, though I hope that the severe weather your experiencing improves soon. Good luck!

  2. Welcome back! What an ordeal! It's great to hear from you again. May the weather calm down soon.


My Blog List