Fair Isle Bird Observatory & Guesthouse

Fair Isle Bird Observatory rebuild

Update – Staff 2019

Log on Tour, Quoy, (Logan Johnson, Allan Perkins, Richard Cope and David Parnaby). © David Parnaby

After the fire, we were very clear that we wanted to carry on the work of the Obs as normal; with over 70 years of fieldwork, we felt it was important to ensure there were no breaks in the data collected. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting a few updates here as to how things have gone this season, starting with what has been the most important element of the season – the staff.

The immediate issue was that we had staff due to arrive just a couple of weeks after the fire. The flat at South Light east was vacant and NTS were quick to offer help, by offering FIBO the rent there to house staff for the season. Once that was confirmed, we were able to work out what the team would be. We thought that, given the uncertainty as to how things were going to work out, a small experienced team would be the best way forward, so we were delighted that Richard Cope and Chris Dodd agreed to return as Assistant Warden and Ranger respectively. Both were coming back for their fifth season (‘Doddy’ had also worked through the autumn of 2012 and provided volunteering cover for parts of 2018), making them both the longest serving staff for their respective positions in FIBO history – we couldn’t have asked for a more experienced team! In order to carry out the full work load, particularly during the busier periods, we would also need some volunteer cover and we were delighted with the response of previous volunteers who offered to help. In particular Max Hellicar and Tom Gale between them have become almost permanent fixtures of the team this year, whilst Nina O’Hanlon and Sarah Harris have also helped for several weeks between them, Glen Tyler has come across from Shetland, Karen Hall came over to help with a particularly busy period of cruiseships visits during peak seabird monitoring, Rob Hughes (former FIBO Ranger, volunteer, researcher and visitor) is due in October and Allan Perkins and Logan Johnson have helped out during their visits to the Isle. Hannah Bell has been to visit a couple of times and helped out by providing environmental education lessons to the school children as part of the SNH-supported Fair Isle Ranger Service programme.

Chris Dodd, Max Hellicar, Tom Gale and Richard Cope monitoring Puffin burrows on Green Holm, 2019. © David Parnaby

We can’t thank the members of ‘Team Phoenix’ enough for all their efforts this year, Susannah and I are incredibly grateful for everything they have done in what has obviously been a challenging year. We’d also like to thank the domestic staff who were due to arrive in April; obviously we were not able to offer them jobs, but they were all very understanding about the situation, and we hope that we will see them again in the future.

Doddy left us in August to take up a two-year contract as a Kiwi Ranger in New Zealand. Doddy has been commuting between New Zealand and Fair Isle for a number of years now (and therefore has not seen a winter for a while!) and we’re delighted he’s been able to get himself a more permanent position out there (even if we’re sad to have lost him). He leaves with our best wishes and we’re glad the Kiwis will be getting a dedicated conservationist to look after them and we look forward to his next visit to Fair Isle. In the meantime, the Ranger Service role has been covered by the rest of the team.

We know that 2020 will be a very busy year, so it is likely that we will be looking to have two Assistant Wardens and a Ranger and possibly also some volunteers. However, this will depend upon a number of factors (accommodation etc) and so the final decision won’t be made until the winter, so keep an eye on the website and social media for updates.

David Parnaby, FIBO Warden

27th September 2019