|Bonfire night was put back due to poor weather, as November has seen a succession of windy and wet days, interspersed with some pleasanter weather, although the island is still pretty soggy.
|We don't get to go out much as a family during the Obs season, so whatever the weather, we try to make the most of the winter.
Let’s start with the birds. There was a general theme of a few lingering highlights at the start of the month, then things quietened down before an unexpected late fall on 12th then a gradual decline in numbers and variety again as another fabulous autumn finally drifted away to be replaced by the typical winter fodder of wind, few birds and a ridiculous amount of paperwork (over 70 descriptions amassed this year – sorry if I’ve mentioned that before, but between that and Annual Reports, it’s fair to say that I’m not exactly sitting back with a cigar on at this time of year!).
|Sparklers - better than cigars!
The 12th also produced counts of 37 Woodcock, 646 Blackbird, 164 Fieldfare, 93 Redwing and 11 Robin (including the Dutch-ringed bird that seems to be attempting to overwinter at the Obs), although with only two people covering the island, these are likely to be underestimates, particularly of Woodcock which were probably spread thinly across the whole island.
|Thrush numbers have dropped right off since the fall a couple of weeks ago. Fieldfares and Song Thrushes are now pretty hard to come by, whilst just a couple of dozen or so Redwing and Blackbirds are hanging on.
Lingerers included the Olive-backed Pipit (to 2nd), Richard’s Pipit (to 12th), Bullfinch (to 2nd), Grey Wagtail (to 16th), Hen Harrier (to 9th), Chaffinch (with 2 still present), Brambling and Mealy Redpolls (up to 10) to mid-month, Chiffchaff and Blackcap (both to 19th), Goldcrest (1st), Woodpigeon (to 2nd), whilst the last Bonxie was seen on 8th and the Tree Sparrow that turned up in mid-June finally departed (it was last seen on 6th).
|At least one (probably two) Hen Harrier remained into November, with one spending most of its time on Gilsetter, so it could be seen most days from the road on the School run.
|In the absence of any of its friends, this Whooper Swan did the best it could and started hanging out with the sheep on Suka Mire.
|Not quite an annual species on Fair Isle, these Goosanders were the first since the wintering bird of 2012/13 was last seen on 1st January.
A few updates from wildlife sightings from the last few weeks, starting with those immense Killer Whales that appeared at the start of the month. Andy Foote from NAKID has identified the individuals as a group that are regularly seen in North Scotland and the Northern Isles (and as far as the Faroes) in the winter and spring, with the male being about 19 years old and the youngest a calf from the winter of 2009/10.
|The animal on the right is older than a few of our volunteers this year. The slight haziness of the photo is due to the animals swimming through a rainbow!
|One of the Siberian Chiffchaffs trapped on 15th October.
So, I still await the ultimate prize of a first for Britain during my time as Warden, but on the subject of winning prizes (see what I did there?), there are a couple of awards to mention. FIBO itself has won a Shetland Environmental Award in recognition of our work and the green credentials of the building, whilst Nick Riddiford’s efforts in campaigning for a Marine Protected Area were rewarded with a Nature of Scotland Award.
|Former FIBO Warden and current Fair Isle resident Nick receiving his award. (c) RSPB
|It's been generally too cloudy for much Aurora action so far this winter, but there was a good show on 31st October, a great way to end the season!
|Bonfire night and a great array of hats (note: not all of these are authentic Fair Isle knitwear!).