Fair Isle Bird Watching Delights

June 10, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

If you are looking for a great new place to enjoy a bird watching holiday, you might want to consider Fair Isle. Situated in the Atlantic Ocean somewhere between The Shetland and Orkney Islands, this little island is just three miles long and 1.5 miles wide. While the island is famous for its bird life, don’t expect exceptional weather or a bustling metropolis. This little island is frigid and virtually isolated – so you’d better pack warm!

Despite the fact that this tiny island is so cold, it is not completely deserted. Apart from the weather station it is home to a tiny population that regularly engages in traditional crafts. Visitors to the island can usually see locals busy with traditional boatbuilding, stained glass, knitting colorful ‘Fair Isle’ jumpers, making silver jewelry or creating straw-backed chairs. However, the real allure of this place is the wildlife and bird lovers will find that there is definitely not a shortage of birds here! The striking coastal cliffs make the perfect place for thousands of different birds. Kittiwakes, razorbills, fulmars, black guillemots and puffins can be found in abundance here. The moors enjoy a slightly different crowd and here you will see terns and skuas that have chosen this area as their summer nesting grounds. Though pretty, the birds are wild and fiercely protective over their young and visitors venturing out on the moors will likely find themselves under attack from these dedicated parents.

No trip bird watching trip to Fair Isle would be complete without a visit to the Bird Observatory. In 1948 George Waterson decided to purchase Fair Isle, which he planned to use for a bird observatory. This he did, with the result that the island’s economy was boosted. The Fair Isle Bird Observatory has played a large role in the study of bird migration. Not only did it help pioneer such studies but researchers were also able to study how changes in the marine environment affected bird populations. Today the island continues to be popular amongst bird watchers, though wildlife enthusiasts in general also find it an excellent destination.

Bird lovers will soon get to know the Fair Isle Specials: the Lanceolated warbler, the Pechora pipit, the Yellow-breasted bunting and the Palla’s Grasshopper. All four species regularly make their appearance on this small island along with a variety of other birds that migrate here to breed. Accommodation in this tiny corner of the world is freely available at the observatory, so pack in your winter woolies and get ready to join the 400 or so visitors who take in the sights at Fair Isle each year!

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