Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Invasion of Cruise shippers

Every year Fair Isle gets between 12-18 cruise ships visiting the island where we have a range of activities which they can experience. From standing with Puffins to learning about the History of Fair Isle at the Museum, From checking out Traditional Knitware and admiring the the local stores to treating yourself to delicous homebakes.

The Spirit of Adventure - The biggest cruise ship which we have visiting

The National Geographic anchoring just north of the Observatory

They come ashore on small boats and ribs (inflatables)

Before a FIBO member of staff takes them on a guided walk to see.....

Loads of Puffins

Shetland name: Tammy Norie

The Museum
The Museum use to be the village hall where they had there traditional dances. The building is very small so only half of the islanders could fit nt. They had to dance in shifts so one half stayed outside while the other half danced inside, And when it got to hot and vice versa, They swapped around. At least we dont have to to that now has the new hall is not as small.
After there encounters with Puffins, they come to the hall to endulge on scrumptious homebakes

and to buy their Fair isle Knitware

They can always check out The FIBO stall where they can buy gifts for their families

Before having one last look at the Puffins

By the end of their visit, they head back to the ship where it is set in a spectacular setting.

Sheep Hill

About four times a year, The hardy Shetland sheep (around 400) which live on the North of the island gets rounded up for clipping, their annual shots and to take the lambs of the hill for the winter. The Sheep are a communal flock which means every croft on the island has there fair share (which they have at least 20 sheep each). This is a big island event and all visitors are quite often encouraged to join in and give them a helping hand. The islanders round them up twice in the summer so they can get the majority of the sheep. With them being shetland sheep, they are very use to the terrain and they know the enviroment very well to a point they do run down the cliffs on to the beachs below....They know people wont follow them as it is too dangerous for us.
Being rounded up though Skua Territories

Being pushed in to the sheep cru

Finally, they are caught!

They are held in the cru so they can be released together

We dont use electric shavers to clip the sheep

Keeping Watch

We use a cross between sheers/scissors

A Ram waiting to be clipped

waiting to be released

We then take them to a nearby field 

So that ewes and lambs can find each other again.
(they are then released early next morning)

The Greater Art of Stalking.......without success!

Every summer, The small rabbit colony outside the observatory often produces alot of baby rabbits. This in turn provides rich pickings for the local Gulls and Skua's. Every few days, A Greater Black Backed Gull visits to colony to see whats on the menu. Below is a series of Photographs (record shots) of the avian predator attempting to get its meal but in the end the young Rabbits gets the last laugh when the adult steps in.

Checking out its potential meal

You can tell the Gull is still a amature at stalking

And the chase is on.......

The adult rabbit has just clocked what is going on

And steps in to save the day leaving the Gull go hungry for another night
Will the Greater Black Backed Gull get its this space to find out!!

What a Whale of a Time!!

At the end of June, Fair Isle  got visited by a pod of 8 Orca's AKA Killer Whales which put on an amazing performance for all islanders, staff, researchers and observatory guests. As everyone sat down for lunch, Susannah came running through to the dining room to say "Sorry this is an inconvienient time but there is a Pod of Killer whales up at Wirvie", I have never seen the observatory emty so fast, Not even for a rare bird.

The Bull
 These exceptional visitors even made it on to several news articals where they used my photo below.
Two extremely lucky observers watching the Bull below
Shetland and Fair Isle waters are no stranger to these magnificent creatures as we have a few pods summering each year. The best time to see them is May, June and July but I have seen them as late as October. Every eccounter is just as spectactular as the first as you can see from the next two photo's from 2005.
A pod of four consisted of 2 cows, 1 calf and a bull.

Showing how close they come in.
Who needs to go abroad to see whales when you can see them just as good in the UK!

Below are the links to just some of the very interesting news bulletins including some fasinating accounts of such an magical encounter:

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Travelling with Gannets

One Sunday afternoon I got the privilage of going out on a small inflatable called 'The Zodiac' surveying breeding Gannets around the Fair isle coastline. As many people know whenever the boat is mentioned I often have the biggest smile on my face as its just some of the best adventures that I ever have experienced.
The Zodiac - I wish I had one!!
After all safety checks were made, We finally left North Haven and headed to the west coast where the majority of the Gannet colonies are. With our binoculars armed and ready, Myself, Carrie, Jason and 'Sailor' David attempted to count the Gannets in each colony hoping we will come up with roughly the same number as each other. Its alot harder then what you might think, as you have the dense colonies and the motion of the boat while trying to keep your binoculars still without the urge of feeling Sea sick.
Jason and Carrie Surveying Gannets
Gannet Colony on Inner Stack
As we stopped to survey each cliff, we were usually being watched at close quarters ourselves.
As we travelled to each colony, we were often followed by an impressive sight!
Gannets ascorting us down the Fair isle Coast

Coming in for a closer view

With us being out on the boat, it gave us a chance to watch Great Skuas (Bonxies) trying to steal fish that Gannets were coming back with to feed there chicks. They do this by constantly harrassing and chasing them until they grab a wing to stop the Gannet from flying. This will make them fly around in circles while tumbling out of the sky into the sea. It is definitly enough to make any bird regurgitate their catch enabling the skua to steal the fish. After all Skua's are known as the bird Pirates of the ocean.
Record shot of a Great Skua harrassing a Gannet
As we continued our way around the island looking for new colonies, We were admiring the impressive west cliffs from a different angle where we often found Seals hauled out on rocks below.
Just Chillaxing
Below is just a few more photographs from such an amazing adventure all in aid of monitoring our declining seabirds. The data which the Observatory collects is extremely vital as it will help us find ways to save our seabirds.
One of many caves around the island

The north cliffs - you can clearly see the rock fall at Bergeroo

Travelling companions

Different View of South light house

The 'flatter' Croftland of the south of Fair isle