We are delighted to announce that work has now commenced on site regarding the rebuild of the Observatory. Working closely with our builders, IDMH, we have ensured that the Observatory building will be constructed and erected on site this year.
Notwithstanding the difficulties any building project faces on Fair Isle logistically, the effects of Brexit, the COVID pandemic, the war in Ukraine and inflation have considerably exacerbated this. However, we are delighted to still being able to proceed this year with the construction of the building.
For a number of months now IDMH have been proceeding with working through all the different aspects required in any building project. We were recently able to visit their factory to see the first modular units being constructed together with the relevant material beginning to be accumulated.
The first workers, plant and material has now arrived on the Isle and work has started on the groundworks. The actual modules themselves are timetabled to be delivered in mid-August with the building due to be completed by late November.
With work now having started we will provide regular updates together with photographs to enable everyone to see the progress being made. We are still presently on course to reopen to guests next spring and will in due course provide more information regarding this.
Douglas Barr, FIBOT Chairman
5th July 2022
News from our 2022 AGM
After an impressive 40 years working as a Director and latterly Vice Chairman, Dave Okill stood down from the Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust at our recent AGM. We thank Dave for his input over those 40 years and in recognition of his commitment to the Obs we welcome him as an Honorary President.
At our AGM, we also welcomed Hollie Shaw, former Administrator at the Obs, as a Director. Hollie is well qualified to help us through the rebuild process and beyond.
Glen Tyler has also joined the board of FIBOT. Glen is NatureScot's marine ornithology adviser and a well-known Shetland birder. Glen will join the team working to deliver our scientific objectives.
25th June - 3rd July 2022
Weather: Mid to light south-westerlies with some fog and rain showers
It's been a quiet week for us on Fair Isle, as COVID in the team, fog, and Avian Influenza have prevented a chunk of monitoring work. The big news, however, is that work has begun on building the new Obs. Keep an eye on our social media for updates!
Building supplies and workmen for the new Obs have made North Haven a hive of activity, by AW Alex Penn
A few more birds have been about, including a year tick of Bar-tailed Godwit, a large flock of siskin, and a juvenile Stonechat trapped in Plantation.
Juvenile Stonechat in the hand, by AW Alex Penn
We have also been treated to a visit by a couple of tall ships in the harbour, adding to the hustle and bustle. Ranger Holly took one crew of nine for a guided walk up to North Light, and in exchange was recieved lunch on board (and a very generous donation to the Obs - Thank you!!)
Guided walk with the Ranger looking at some Arctic Skuas, by David Pickett
Sightings of note: 8 Greylag Goose, 1 Teal, 2 Tufted Duck, 3 Swift, 1 Cuckoo, 2 Whimbrel, 1 Woodpigeon, 2 Golden Plover, 44 Curlew, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit (first of the year), 1 Dunlin, 16 Redshank, 1 Greenshank, 8 Black-headed Gull, 88 Common Gull, 10 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Great Northern Diver, 1 Storm Petrel, 3 Grey Heron, 1 Kestrel, 2 Peregrine Falcon, 9 Swallow, 1 House Martin, 1 Willow Warbler, 3 Chiffchaff, 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Blackcap, 1 Stonechat, 2 Mealy Redpoll, 21 Siskin
Year List: 162
Other Wildlife: Shetland Bee, Silver y, Magpie Moth, Painted Lady, 4 Harbour Porpoise (minumum count)
Sunset off Steensi Geo, by Ranger Holly Pickett
20th - 24th June 2022
Weather: Strong south-westerlies became force 3-4 south-easterlies with low cloud
At last a lull in the weather allowed us to fit in the last Guillemot population counts and continue observational monitoring of the seabirds. It's peak hatching time for many of the species, and the cliffs are a bustle of activity.
The Puffins on Buness are getting increasingly tame, this one had a nibble on the bottom of my telescope, by Ranger Holly Pickett
Birding has been a little more fruitful as well, with some nice sightings including a Black Redstart at Skerryholm on the 22nd, a Marsh Warbler and a fantastic count of six common Swift on the 23rd, as well as two Tufted Duck on Da Water today (24th). A Spanish ringed Dunlin was also spotted at the Haven by Alex, presumably ringed on wintering grounds on the Villaviciosa estuary.
Spanish Ringed Dunlin, by AW Alex Penn
On Wednesday (22nd), Holly (Ranger) continued working with the school to help make their garden as wildlife-friendly as possible. We Planted some Willow wands pruned from Plantation Heligoland trap. The hope is these will grow to form a bit of a windbreak and be able to be weaved in together as the grow. Birds and insects will enjoy the cover and there's potential for some good dens for the bairns!
Planting Willow, by Head Teacher Gillian Maxwell
Marsh Warbler: In Plantation on the 23rd
Sightings of note: 8 Greylag Goose, 2 Tufted Duck, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 6 Swift, 3 Woodpigeon, 1 Collared Dove, 5 Dunlin, 5 Redshank, 1 Black-headed Gull, 6 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Red-throated Diver, 5 Storm Petrel, 1 Manx Shearwater, 4 Peregrine Falcon, 2 Carrion Crow, 4 Swallow, 5 House Martin, 6 Chiffchaff, 2 Sedge Warbler, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Blackcap, 2 Blackbird, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Black Redstart , 1 Dunnock, 2 Mealy Redpoll, 1 Redpoll sp., 2 Siskin
Year List: 161
Other Wildlife: Shetland Bee
Male Wheater singing amongst the Thrift that carpets the isle, by AW Alex Penn
15th - 19th June 2022
Weather: Light south-easterlies gave way to force 7 (gusting 8-9) south-westerly winds by weekend, with mixed sunny spells all week
On Wednesday and Thursday we fitted in all the seabird work we could before the weather went downhill again. This meant Guillemot population counts both days, then Wednesday afternoon was taken up with a combination of mapping the remaining Arctic Skua nests and Guillemot productivity monitoring.
The first Guillemot chick has hatched at Pietron, by Ranger Holly Pickett
Thursday afternoon was even busier, and we squeezed in a partial count of the Arctic Tern colony (also their first chick!) before heading down Easter Lother for the next Razorbill visit. We ringed a number of chicks and saw some adults bringing in impressive beakfulls of Greater Sandeels. Unfortunately this will be our last seabird handling work for the foreseeable future due to the ongoing outbreak of Avian Influenza.
Razorbill chick with both parents on Easter Lother, by AW Georgia Platt
The weekend was wild, with huge swells and gale-force winds. As a result, observational work wasn't possible and we spent a couple of days catching up on the week's admin and watching the sea in awe.
Waves breaking over Da Skerry, by Ranger Holly Pickett
By Sunday, it had calmed enough to do some birding around the crofts and the less-precarious seabird monitoring. We were even able to ring some gorgeous Curlew chicks at Da Water in the morning.
Curlew chicks at Da Water, by AW Georgia Platt
Canada Goose: 2 settled with Greylags at Da Water on the 16th
Sightings of note: 22 Greylag Goose, 1 Cuckoo, 1 Woodpigeon, 1 Collared Dove, 3 Dunlin, 3 Redshank, 8 Black-headed Gull, 11 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Great Northern Diver, 1 Manx Shearwater, 1 Kestrel, 2 Peregrine Falcon, 1 Carrion Crow, 7 Swallow, 1 House Martin, 4 Chiffchaff, 2 Sedge Warbler, 1 Garden Warbler, 2 Whitethroat, 1 Blackbird, 2 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Dunnock, 2 Linnet, 2 Mealy Redpoll, 20 Siskin
Year List: 161
Other Wildlife: Shetland Bee
Razorbill chick in the hand at Easter Lother, by AW Georgia Platt
13th - 14th June 2022
Weather: Mostly overcast with force 4 westerlies moving to south-westerlies
A couple more days of seabird fieldwork with three year ticks worth a mention. A Shoveler on Da Water on Monday was followed by a Canada Goose at Utra Scrape today. This evening a stunning summery Little Gull was amongst the Kittiwakes at South Harbour, roundng a busy day off nicely. Cruise ship passengers enjoyed some of the first Puffins carrying healthy beakfulls of Sandeels this afternoon.
Little Gull amongst Kittiwakes - what a beauty!, by AW Alex Penn
Quail: Singing at Setter on the 13th
Canada Goose: At Utra Scrape on the 14th
Little Gull: In Kittiwake roost at South Harbour on the 14th
A valuable year tick in the form of a Canada Goose, by AW Alex Penn
Sightings of note: 6 Greylag Goose, 1 Shoveler (First of the Year), 1 Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Woodpigeon, 1 Golden Plover, 1 Dunlin, 1 Common Sandpiper, 2 Redshank, 10 Black-headed Gull, 19 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Great Northern Diver, 1 Peregrine Falcon, 7 Swallow, 7 House Martin, 2 Chiffchaff, 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Whitethroat, 1 Blackbird, 2 Common Rosefinch, 2 Mealy Redpoll
Year List: 161
Other Wildlife: Shetland Bee
Adult summer Little Gull, by AW Alex Penn
7th - 12th June 2022
Weather: Strong (force 4-6) southerly winds all week with sun, turning cloudy by the weekend
As census has finished for the spring and we are deep into seabird work, Latest Sightings will be a wee update every five days with just the peak counts of migrants (unless we have a mega day!). The week has consisted of counting Guillemot and Fulmars, as well as regular monitoring of productivity plots for Guillemots, Gannets, Shags and Kittiwakes. On Wednesday (8th), we got over to Greenholm in our new dingy for the first Puffin visit. This involved reaching into their burrows (known as 'grovelling') to assess occupancy. There are a few very cute chicks already, while the majority of burrows contained an adult on an egg.
Alex and Holly checking Puffin Burrows with South Light in the background, by AW Georgia Platt
The cruise ship on Friday was cancelled, so we took the chance to begin mapping Arctic Skua nests around the island. The weather only deteriorated over the weekend, so with no cruise ships and unable to work on the cliffs, we had a quiet couple of days catching up on odd jobs and admin. Birds other than seabirds have been rather thin on the ground. A Hawfinch, a Marsh Warbler, a singing Quail and a couple of Common Rosefinches were highlights in a rather quiet week.
Brown Common Rosefinch at Quoy, by AW Alex Penn
Quail: Singing east of Burkle on the 9th
Osprey: North-east over Shirva on the 9th
Marsh Warbler: At Shirva on the 8th
Hawfinch: Female at the Obs on the 9th
Sightings of note: 23 Greylag Goose, 1 Teal, 1 Long-tailed Duck, 1 Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Cuckoo, 1 Woodpigeon, 1 Collared Dove, 3 Whimbrel, 1 Dunlin, 2 Redshank, 3 Black-headed Gull, 17 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Great Northern Diver, 4 Manx Shearwater, 1 Cormorant, 2 Peregrine Falcon, 3 Carrion Crow, 8 Swallow, 2 House Martin, 3 Willow Warbler, 5 Chiffchaff, 2 Sedge Warbler, 2 Garden Warbler, 1 Whitethroat, 3 Blackbird, 2 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Dunnock, 2 Common Rosefinch, 2 Mealy Redpoll, 2 Siskin
Year List: 158
Other Wildlife: Shetland Bee, Large White Butterfly (8th), 2 Bull Orca distant off Da Skerry, Pres. Hulk and Nótt (9th)
A pair of Mealy Redpoll have been around the Obs for a few days, and the male is blindingly bright!, by AW Alex Penn
6th June 2022
Weather: Sun with a force 3 north-easterly wind
A beautiful day to crack on with some seabird work. The day began with AWs Georgia and Alex decending the via ferrata at Easter Lother to carry out the first Razorbill visit. In the afternoon we counted Guillemot and Fulmar population plots. Very few new birds in as spring migration draws to a close, but the Red-rumped Swallow remained around Gilsetter for a second day.
Mapping Razorbill nest sites at Easter Lother boulder beach, by AW Alex Penn
Red-rumped Swallow: Still at Gilsetter
Sightings of note: 1 Greylag Goose, 1 Long-tailed Duck, 1 Wood Pigeon, 2 Collared Dove, 2 Golden Plover, 2 Whimbrel, 2 Redshank, 10 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Kestrel, 1 Peregrine Falcon, 1 Carrion Crow, 5 Swallow, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Willow Warbler, 2 Sedge Warbler, 1 Blackcap, 2 Whitethroat, 1 Blackbird, 1 Redwing, 2 Spotted Flycatcher
Year List: 158
5th June 2022
Weather: Sunny spells with a force 2 WNW wind dropping to a force 1 easterly by evening
It was an early morning for the team as we completed the final Breeding Bird Survey of the season. The rest of the day was spent with seabird monitoring work. The best sighting was surely a Red-rumped Swallow (15th for Fair Isle), which remained around Gilsetter amongst a large number of common hirundines and swifts for most of the day. Despite circulating rumours, the White-throated Needletail seen 65nm off Duncansby Head yesterday evening hasn't made it closer to Fair Isle waters.
Red-rumped Swallow pausing briefly on a fence, by AW Alex Penn
Red-necked Phalarope:Calling over North Light
Red-rumped Swallow: Seen first at the Havens then spent the day at Gilsetter
Marsh Warbler: At the Haa
Icterine Warbler: At Brecks
Sightings of note: 6 Greylag Goose, 1 Long-tailed Duck, 3 Swift, 2 Wood Pigeon, 3 Whimbrel, 7 Dunlin, 3 Redshank, 1 Black-headed Gull, 10 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Great Northern Diver, 2 Cormorant, 1 Kestrel, 2 Peregrine Falcon, 1 Sand Martin, 17 Swallow, 8 House Martin, 2 Sedge Warbler, 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Blackcap, 2 Whitethroat
Year List: 158
Other Wildlife: Shetland Bee, 2 Harbour Porpoise at North Light
Absolutely flat calm day to receive the Ortelius cruise ship, by Ranger Holly Pickett
4th June 2022
Weather: Sunshine all day and a force 3 south-westerly wind
The most excitng bird of the day was an absolutely pristine leucistic Starling found by AW Georgia, although a bit of a shock at first! A Storm Petrel seen off the Good Shepherd was also a nice year tick. Meanwhile, a female Bluethroat and Icterine Warbler added interest to the quietest census for a while. We spent the afternoon carrying out the first Guillemot and Fulmar population counts of the season, so with all the walking (over 22,000 steps each), and counting we truly earned our evening beer!
Leucistic Starling - bet that got the pulse racing for a second! by AW Georgia Platt
Snipe at Busta, by Ranger Holly Pickett
Icterine Warbler: One in Plantation
Bluethroat: Female at Shalstane
Female Bluethroat at Shalstane, by AW Georgia Platt
Sightings of note: 5 Greylag Goose, 2 Wigeon, 1 Long-tailed Duck, 2 Wood Pigeon, 61 Oystercatcher, 18 Lapwing, 48 Ringed Plover, 2 Whimbrel, 12 Curlew, 6 Dunlin, 5 Snipe, 3 Redshank, 4 Common Gull, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gull, Storm Petrel (First of the year), 2 Peregrine Falcon, 2 Carrion Crow, 64 Skylark, 5 Swallow, 2 House Martin, 1 Willow Warbler, 4 Chiffchaff, 3 Blackcap, 2 Whitethroat, 2 Blackbird, 1 Redwing, 3 Spotted Flycatcher, 63 Wheatear, 1 Dunnock, 5 Pied Wagtail, 1 White Wagtail, 82 Meadow Pipit, 56 Rock Pipit, 29 Twite
Year List: 156
Other Wildlife: 6 Shetland Bee
Puffins crowding the cliffs in the sun, by Ranger Holly Pickett
3rd June 2022
Weather: Sunny spells with a force 4 north-westerly wind
For Holly (FI Ranger) the day started with some rock pooling in Kirki Geo with the bairns and the valuable expertise of naturalist Nick Riddiford. Three species of crab (Shore, Velvet Swimmer, and Edible) were found to high excitement, as well as a vicious set of Monkfish teeth. Meanwhile, AWs Alex and Georgia carried out a number of jobs necessary for the seabird season which is now upon us. The afternoon was filled with seabird monitoring and birding around the crofts, with a similar selection of common migrants and scarcities to yesterday.
The Fair Isle School Expeditionary Force explore depths of Kirki Geo, by Head Teacher Gillian Maxwell
Quail: One singing at the Cemetery
Osprey: North over Shirva
Icterine Warbler: 4 - at Schoolton, Burkle, the Obs, and Lower Leogh
Sightings of note: 1 Greylag Goose, 1 Long-tailed Duck, 2 Wood Pigeon, 1 Golden Plover, 1 Turnstone, 5 Dunlin, 2 Redshank, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Short-eared Owl, 5 Swallow, 1 House Martin, 2 Willow Warbler, 3 Chiffchaff, 1 Sedge Warbler, 2 Blackcap, 5 Whitethroat, 1 Blackbird, 7 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 White Wagtail, 1 Common Rosefinch, 14 Twite, 2 Mealy Redpoll
Year List: 155
Other Wildlife: 6 Shetland Bee, 1 Buff-tailed Bumblebee
Guillemot monitoring at Da Swadin, by Ranger Holly Pickett
2nd June 2022
Weather: Cloudy with a force 4 north-westerly wind
An overcast day but with a nice selection of scarce migrants including a female Bluethroat, gorgeous red male Common Rosefinch, and a couple of lingering Red-backed Shrikes. A third Cuckoo for the season was also netted at the Obs along with a new Icterine Warbler.
An insanely bright Common Rosefinch at Stackhoull, by AW Alex Penn
Red-backed Shrike at Lower Leogh, by AW Alex Penn
Red-backed Shrike: Males at Meadow Burn and the Mast
Icterine Warbler: 5 - two in Obs Garden, one at the Haa, one at Shirva, one at Lower Leogh
Bluethroat: Female at Gully
Serin: Around the Haa
Sightings of note: 1 Greylag Goose, 1 Teal, 1 Long-tailed Duck, 1 Cuckoo, 1 Wood Pigeon, 1 Collared Dove, 62 Oystercatcher, 21 Lapwing, 60 Ringed Plover, 2 Whimbrel, 12 Curlew, 1 Turnstone, 9 Dunlin, 11 Snipe, 1 Common Sandpiper, 2 Redshank, 13 Common Gull, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Red-throated Diver, 1 Short-eared Owl, 2 Red-backed Shrike, 3 Carrion Crow, 73 Skylark, 7 Swallow, 2 Willow Warbler, 6 Chiffchaff, 2 Sedge Warbler, 3 Blackcap, 1 Garden Warbler, 5 Whitethroat, 2 Blackbird, 12 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Whinchat, 56 Wheatear, 3 Pied Wagtail, 73 Meadow Pipit, 40 Rock Pipit, 14 Twite, 2 Mealy Redpoll
Year List: 155
Other Wildlife: 3 Shetland Bee
Cuckoo in the hand at the Obs, by AW Alex Penn
1st June 2022
Weather: Sunny morning but overcast later on, with a force 4-5 north-westerly wind
A sunny census with a handful of scarce migrants including a Marsh Warbler as a year tick, at multiple Icterine Warblers (including one unringed, i.e. probably new), a Black Redstart, and two Red-backed Shrikes. The real showstopper however was a Kestrel caught in Gully which turned out to be a Finnish control. A stunning bird to see close-up anyway but even more exciting given the journey it's been on to get here! Looking forward to hearing the details from the Finnish ringing scheme.
Finnish ringed Kestrel in the hand, by AW Alex Penn
Marsh Warbler at the Haa, by AW Alex Penn
Quail: One Skerryholm, one Schoolton
Icterine warbler: One in Obs Garden, two in the south, one at Setter
Red-breasted Flycatcher : One at Lower Stoneybrek
Red-backed Shrike: Males at both the Mast and Upper Leogh
Marsh Warbler: At the Haa all day
Red-backed Shrike at the Mast, by AW Georgia Platt
Sightings of note: 11 Greylag Goose, 1 Teal, 1 Long-tailed Duck, 5 Wood Pigeon, 2 Collared Dove, 1 Water Rail, 63 Oystercatcher, 18 Lapwing, 42 Ringed Plover, 2 Whimbrel, 12 Curlew, 12 Snipe, 2 Redshank, 8 Common Gull, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 200 Arctic Tern (minimum count), 23 Arctic Skua, 1 Short-eared Owl, 1 Kestrel, 1 Peregrine Falcon, 2 Carrion Crow, 65 Skylark, 1 Sand Martin, 16 Swallow, 1 House Martin, 2 Willow Warbler, 2 Chiffchaff, 4 Sedge Warbler, 3 Blackcap, 1 Garden Warbler, 5 Whitethroat, 1 Backbird, 14 Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Robin, 87 Wheatear, 1 Black Redstart, 1 Whinchat, 4 Pied Wagtail, 75 Meadow Pipit, 48 Rock Pipit, 32 Twite, 2 Redpoll, 1 Siskin
Year List: 155
Other Wildlife: 1 Painted Lady, 5 Shetland Bee, 2 Buff-tailed Bumblebee, 1 Silver Y Moth
Black Redstart at North Light, by AW Georgia Platt
31st May 2022
Weather: Sun and a force 3 easterly wind
The day started quiet and then birds began to arrive towards the afternoon, with a small arrival of Icterine Warblers and a Red-breasted Flycatcher. The Common Rosefinch from yesterday was also around Chalet for most of the day. One Icterine Warbler was trapped in Plantation and then the other two were netted in the Obs Garden in the evening. What pristine lemon yellow birds to see in the hand!
Icterine Warbler, by AW Alex Penn
Quail: One singing on the Houll
Icterine Warbler: One in Plantation, two at Obs Garden
Red-breasted Flycatcher : At Lower Stoneybrek
Serin: At Houll
Sightings of note: 1 Greylag Goose, 1 Wigeon, 1 Long-tailed Duck, 1 Cuckoo, 69 Oystercatcher, 17 Lapwing, 2 Golden Plover, 43 Ringed Plover, 2 Curlew, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Dunlin, 3 Snipe, 3 Redshank, 3 Common Gull, 28 Arctic Skua, 1 Peregrine, 4 Carrion Crow, 85 Skylark, 22 Swallow, 1 House Martin, 1 Willow Warbler, 5 Chiffchaff, 2 Sedge Warbler, 1 Blackcap, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 12 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Robin, 87 Wheatear, 1 Dunnock, 2 Pied Wagtail, 76 Meadow Pipit, 51 Rock Pipit, 1 Common Rosefinch, 11 Twite, 2 Mealy Redpoll, 1 'North-western' Redpoll, 1 Siskin, 1 Snow Bunting
Year List: 154
Other Wildlife: 1 Painted Lady, 10 Shetland Bee, 3 Buff-tailed Bumblebee
A very cute Ringed Plover chick, by AW Alex Penn
Please support us and become a 'Friend of Fair Isle'
Becoming a ‘Friend of Fair Isle’ is a significant way to support the running of the Obs and to enjoy the benefits of a free Annual Report, a newsletter and early booking opportunities. From 1st April 2022, we are introducing new rates and benefits, including the opportunity to join as a Green, paperless member. Details of our new rates and an application form can be found on our FoFI webpage (please download the form and return by email or mail).
Joining now, you will receive the 2021 Annual Report and you will also be given advance notice of when we will be opening up the bookings for the new Obs.
In the future, we will be looking to develop the ways in which FoFI income is used, and we will detail specific projects that subscriptions and additional donations will fund.
Please support the valuable work of the Observatory by becoming a long-term ‘Friend of Fair Isle’.
Advance notice of staff vacancies
With the rebuild now underway, FIBOT will shortly be looking to appoint two permanent senior staff to manage our ornithological work and guesthouse operations. Full application details will be available in the near future for a starting date later this year.
These positions are for either a couple or two separate individuals with suitable accommodation being available for both.
Provisional notes of interest for either vacancy can be emailed to us now at email@example.com.