Sunday, April 29, 2012

Puffin Photos by Henry Tonight

Friday, April 27, 2012

Hawfinch gone nuts!

Hawfinch on the Peanut Feeder Today.
3rd bird of the year in my garden.



Female Hawfinch today

Hawfinch 2 days ago
sorry about this photo but it was very grey out and I had already got better photos of the first one.

Hawfinch - April 15th 

Suzie Q

in the studio

Good Night Moon...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Birds, Art & Cute Lambs - random photos of Fair Isle

The Bluethroat
This is a painting make over... you could say I started it in 2007 and finished it the other day. It sat on my walls for years and I was never that happy with it. Sick of looking at it, I took it down to the studio a month ago. Then a few days ago I smashed it with colour and pattern! I love it now!

This Painting commemorates the first Bluethroat I ever saw... Spring 2007 in the Ferny Cup, Fair Isle. After hearing that a Bluethroat was seen Henry & I went looking for it... such a small bird in a big open area for two new birdwatchers. I was looking at a pipit when Henry said there it is! He was right of course. Now the painting has the excitement and the unbelievable flash of colour I felt when the little bird turned it's chest into the light and indeed it was a Bluethroat. I can't wait to see one again this year!

Kestrel on the garden wall.
Jimmy's Big Lambs

Love the Beard! - Bearded Bunting? or Whiskered Sparrow?

"Shearwater" Malcom Green & Tim Dallins
Thanks guys! You really know how to put on a show!

Common Crane not so common here on Fair Isle.
Please forgive this record shot from a half a mile away... it's badly taken in light rain with a fully zoomed pocket camera in a friends scope.

Black-Eyed Suzanne our caddy lamb from 2007 had triplets!
Now we are getting a caddy from our caddy! How cool is that! Her name will be Suzie Q

Henry & Suzie Q only 4 hours old.

1st Barn Swallows of the year

Large Butterfish

The rare Cowrie Shells of Fair Isle... We bet you can't find one!

We saved this Blackbird from inside a Lobster trap.

We saved this Fulmar trapped in a plantie crub by the Kirk and then let it go in the South Harbour.
Last we saw of it it was in the water cleaning it self.

Henry spotted this Wryneck in the garden.

but we didn't see the Hoopoe....
A Hoopoe was seen by Stuart at Quoy and then by the 2 Shearwater guys late Saturday night... already bummed out by FC Barcelona's lost to Real Madrid, I went to look for the bird and the car wouldn't start... it was getting to dark, but I did go looking for it anyways. The next day Sue of Brecks said she saw a striking thrush size bird with a crest on it's head like one of those cycling time trial helmets? We set out again. Myself, Henry & the whole FIBO staff dipped it? even though we tried...

Drawing by Henry made a few years ago when we saw our first and only Hoopoe.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Great Grey Shrike in the ringing room

Great Grey Shrike - Lanius excubitor
no one wants to see you Tommy... photo & comment by  my son Henry
Asst. Warden Jason Moss & Great Grey Shrike in the ringing room at the Fair Isle Bird Observatory.

The white on the tail feathers give clues to the birds sub species?

Thanks Jason it's nice to see one in the hand.

What a beauty!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hawfinch - Auld Haafinch up close and personal

Hawfinch - Coccothraustes Coccothraustes

As we like to say around here the "Auld Haafinch" as we just love to see them like this! What a lovely bird! A male in stunning spring plumage. What personality! He fought off the Starlings, House Sparrows & Chickens for rights to the window box. Though we get one or two in the garden and window box every year this is the first one that has freely let Henry & I photograph it in the window box and on my stick. The Hawfinch was first seen about 2pm. It fed all day until dark. We welcomed visitors to stop bye and into the house to watch the show! & what a show most people are lucky to see a part of one up top a tree at a considerable distance.

My son Henry (age 11) took these photos from the window only a few feet away.

Fair Isle Bird Observatory Staff  came in for a front row seat!

The weird thing is?
 This is the first photo of the Hawfinch rubbish I know but as you can see there is no bird feed in the window box? Has this bird been here before? Weird? Why else would such a shy bird be in a empty feeder?  but I quickly fill the feeders and covered the ground with feed and it still goes for the window box? One of the birds here last Autumn was ringed, but if any bird could chew a ring off  it's leg my money would be on a Hawfinch look at that beak! they say they can break cherry stones. 

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter Foiled Again! First Baby Lamb & Sea Snail Fish

Thank You Easter Bunny!

Foiled Again!

Skerry Holm's first lamb & mother

Spring vacation & low tides means plenty of tidepooling...
This fish is called a Sea Snail a first or lifer for us! 
Montaga's Sea Snail Liparis montagui
We think? it's also called a Tadpole Fish?

it looks more like a tadpole than a snail to us?

Butterfish Pholis gunnellus

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Great Auk Clones to be Hatched on Fair Isle! Extinct no More?

The Witch of St. Kilda - 1840
There are no written or audio records of the call or sound of the Great Auk...
 I can only wonder if it sounded like a snickering, laughing or screaming witch?

Cloning the Great Auk

 The DNA sequencing is only a small part in successful cloning of the once extinct Great Auk said Dr. April J. First of Oxford, who is collaborating with the Scottish & Canadian cloners. Samples from birds in museum collections from around the world have been gathered to get a diverse gene pool. A huge effort was under taken to hatch a Great Auk in the lab and the plan is now to go wild! After years of work, a combined effort of scientists from the UK & Canada is culminating this Spring on Fair Isle. Next week a 2-person team will arrive on the isle to surgically implant cloned embryonic DNA into about 12 of our local Razorbill population. They are bringing with them a portable lab/surgery that fits in 2 backpack units-- as they plan to work on site at the rocky beaches and low cliff edges.  The Razorbills will hopefully lay an egg to be hatched & reared in the wild, much like the nest parasite Cuckoo who leaves a egg for a smaller bird to feed. I personally can't wait to see the "new" Great Auk, but I also know Razorbills are having a hard time fledging their own young. I'm told that the nest will be monitored and helped if needed. Fair Isle was picked for it's location, no egg sucking rodents & infrastructure, plus, limited "Auk gawk" as she referred. I myself hope to be a "Auk Gawker" soon but the nesting site is at the bottom of the cliffs at Easter Loder and that is sure to cut down the foot traffic. Intrigued I had a look online at some of the history and science of the cloning of the Great Auk and have provided some links if you are interested? 
The Great Auk is large and flightless seabird, it was also known as a penguin and garefowl and was hunted to extinction for its oil, feathers and eggs. The seabird was a familiar sight to sailors and islanders in the North Atlantic until the mid 1800s. In Scotland, the last one was thought to have been caught and killed on the remote island archipelago of St Kilda. According to the National Trust for Scotland (the owners of St Kilda), it occasionally visited the island group. Scots writer Martin. Martin wrote of seeing the bird there in his book A Late Voyage to St Kilda 1698 referring to the bird as a Witch.
St. Kilda boast the last recorded sighting of a Great Auk in the British Isles.
It was made in 1840, when islanders on Stac an Armin suspected it was a witch and the cause of a tremendous storm. The last breeding pair are believed to have been spotted (and promptly killed) in 1844 by sailors on a rocky outcrop on the island of Eldey off IcelandAnd the last recorded sighting was in Newfoundland, Canada, in 1852.

Pioneering ornithologist Dr. Eagle Clark (1912) refers to a statement in Baikie and Hedle's Historia Naturis Orcadensis (1848) that one was seen off Fair Isle in June 1798. The Great Auk was still known to breed at Papa Westray, about 40 miles away at the time. I can not find this book but would like to see if it has any other Fair Isle bird info?

More great Great Auk info & History:

a bit of the Science publish in the Oxford Journals:

Fig. 1.—Organization and sequence characteristics of great auk mtDNA. a, Schematic representation of a 4,258-bp mtDNA region in great auk. The length of each gene is indicated, and lengths of the intergenic spacers are given below the gene junctions. For designation of tRNAs the corresponding three-letter amino acid code is used. A representation of the control region with conserved boxes F, D, C, and conserved sequence block I (CSB I) is given below. The heteroplasmic tandem repeat (HTR) region and a possible TAS are indicated. b, Multiple sequence alignment of the 3′ end of the control region showing the position and sequence motifs of HTRs in CR III of six alcid species. Dashes represent gaps. HTR sequence motifs are shown in brackets, and n designates the variable number of repeats found within single individuals, a condition known as heteroplasmy. The 3′ end of the CR is indicated

Great Auk - Museum of Natural History - London

Since 2002 Scientists at the Royal Ontario Museum have been slowly but successfully piecing together the genetic blueprint of the Great Auk from the scattered remains of a bird whose extinction at the hand of man in the first half of the 19th century has made it the tragic figure of Canadian nature.
In a project aimed at tracing the Great Auk's evolutionary history and establishing its relationship to several living species of birds, the researchers are also taking the first steps toward a tantalizing possibility: the complete mapping of an extinct animal's genome and its resurrection through cloning
Razorbill parents of a cloned Great Auk chick.

As a human I have always been ashamed of this type of mass extinction.
I wish that I could say the Great Auk flies again! even though it never could...
If you have not figured it out yet...

April Fools!
The above links I found by google and are real as far as I know? 
Dr. April J. First says cloning gone wild will have to wait a few years...


Here is a great video of the history of the Great Auk... no foolin'

Have a Great Auk Day!