Tuesday 25 December 2012

We're back!

The Parnaby family travelled round the UK catching up with relatives and taking in a few things that we don’t have on Fair Isle (cinema, restaurants, that roundabout in Hemel Hempstead made up of all the mini-roundabouts) before returning last week. The journey home was neatly sandwiched in between two massive SE gales (although slightly delayed by a ferry strike), but did result in Grace coming home with norovirus, which manifested itself spectacularly after we’d got the Christmas tree up. It wasn’t long before I was also enjoying this all-action virus, which thankfully eventually departed without infecting Susannah or Freyja. We’re now all recovered, out of quarantine and ready to enjoy Christmas.
The SE winds reached 77mph yesterday and the seas were wild. With non-stop rain thrown into the mix, the only weather pictures were those taken out the window!
As we approach the end of the year (and what a year!), it seems like a good time to say thank you to a few folk for their help this year. First of all, a huge thank you to all the FIBO staff. Lots of the visitors this year have commented on the friendly atmosphere of the Observatory and the willingness of the staff to provide every possible help, whether it’s catching mystery locustellas, pointing out the Puffins, chatting in the bar or whatever. The Wardening team had another great year, so thank you Will, Jason and Sammy for everything (maybe I’ll share some of my favourite stories and pictures over the winter if there are no birds to talk about!). The food was highly commended again (despite unfortunate circumstances resulting in a high turnover of staff) and the hard work of keeping the Obs clean and tidy was carried out again with minimum fuss and maximum effort, so thank you to Ann, Mandy, Sue, Ed, Kat, Becki and Tracey. Finally, Claire will be a huge miss after her time looking after the girls (and, let’s be honest, Susannah and I as well on occasion).
We’ve had another great run of volunteers as well. The huge amount of work carried out by the long-term volunteers David, Gillian and Elisa enabled us to get far more done, whilst we were also supported by Alex and Ed on the Wardening side, Maggie on the domestic front and Hattie and Frances behind the bar (and various other places as needed!); we’ll hopefully see some of you again soon. My parents also managed to make it to the vols list, after their fortnight’s stay in the spring extended to about six weeks! The visiting long-term researchers Jess, Rob and Jenny all provided help, support and a great deal of fun (again, there might be a few photos and stories published later!) as well as their own work.
We also benefited from some fantastic support from the island, with a variety of people stepping in to help with all aspects of the work (especially when we were temporarily short-staffed in the kitchen). Especial thanks to Hollie and Deryk for their happiness to be called upon at all times for all sorts of questions, they still remain very much part of the Obs. Raluca, Angela, Maree, Josie, Liz, Darren, Kenny, Brian, John, Bill and Iain have all helped out at the Obs at some stage this year - thank you all. The help from Robert, Fiona, Jimmy, Neil and the Good Shepherd and Directflight crews in getting supplies to the Obs must be mentioned as well. Thanks are due too to Dave (and latterly Lucy) for their ongoing help with the website. Dave’s weather and transport updates (the latter also provided by Pat) have also been invaluable. Nick’s ongoing support with all non-avian biology (not to mention finding Siberian Rubythroat!) is very useful, and the bird records provided by Tommy, Stewart and many others are much appreciated. The popularity of Fair Isle Thursdays is all down to Lise, Neil, Stewart, Stewart and Anne (and the various ‘guest singers/musicians’) and I’m looking forward to the first one of 2013 already.
I would especially like to say thank you to the islanders for their continued support of the Bird Obs and of Susannah and I. It isn’t always easy (in the autumn, the number of visitors to Fair Isle can increase the island population by over 50%) and it isn’t totally without incident (although thankfully these are very few), but the whole visitor experience of Fair Isle wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as it is without the friendliness and understanding of the community here. The support and friendship that was provided when Freyja was born (and subsequently went off to Aberdeen Infirmary for a short stay) from the staff, volunteers, islanders and visitors helped us through a very busy (and at times rather difficult) spring. Thank you.
And now, I'll end the day the same way I do so many times during the season: Log.
Merry Christmas to everyone who reads the blog, we hope you all have a great day.

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