Tommy's "Wild Life" adventures. Lifestyle and island living insights on the most remote inhabited community in the UK.
Fair Isle, Shetland Islands, Scotland. - Population 45 Resident Islanders, 1200 Sheep, 20,000 Puffins and a few rare birds.
Tommy trying out the camera's timer in his new Christmas trousers, boots and hat.
old boats by the grave yard
"click" on photo to make it bigger Window in the Kirk
Thanks Santa for the new pocket Camera! Canon - Power Shot SX210 IS - 14mp - 14 times optical zoom. Photographs taken playing with it on Christmas day.
Christmas Bird List? odd mix of birds eating seeds on Christmas Day... Surprised by 6 Greenfinch and the one strange seed eating Turnstone has turned to 8? a 9th found eaten possible by that Peregrine I saw swooping through again today. Other birds of note. 2 Ravens, 5 hooded crows, Chaffinch, Lapwing, Snow Buntings, etc. a total 22 species seen in or from my garden on Christmas Day. No sign of the Waxwing I saw on the 24th
just playing with my new toy on Christmas... Cheers Tommy
When asked what I wanted for Christmas? I responded in jest “Lowri’s Fair hat”
Lowri’s hat is beautiful, a classic Fair Isle Fisherman’s Hat. It’s long and flops over with a big pom-pom in traditional colours and patterns. The hat was knitted by his great grandmother, Annie, who is retired from knitting for a living and now knits for her family.
It started me thinking what type of hat would Santa wear if he wore Fair Isle? I then ask Mati at Fair Isle Crafts Co-op if she had time to make me one from my suggestions. The hat should have a white band with a red Fair Isle pattern traditional but similar to a snow flake. The rest of the hat should be red with white patterns. I suggested the use of the classic Fair Isle tree pattern would look like Christmas trees and Mati agreed. We wanted to use small pattern at top slowly getting bigger like falling snow upon the trees. From there Mati completely designed and chose the patterns to perfection. Mati then skilfully hand framed knit the hat decreasing the stitches creating a traditional shape to a stunting result.
What Mati and I didn’t know was my wife Liz had already asked Elizabeth at Fair Isle Crafts to knit me a traditional Fair Isle hat for Christmas? Oops! The first hat Elizabeth knitted fit Liz perfectly and the red looks so good on her. So another larger hat was made that I love, but Henry has now commandeered it. I hope he lets me wear it from time to time as I think Elizabeth hats could also be worn year around. We of course love to buy local and the whole family is delighted with our Fair Isle Christmas Hats.
Look at these two goofballs... Same smile! Same expressions! they crack me up!
Thank you Fair Isle Crafts Co-op for making our Christmas!
I think every Birdwatchers must see interesting mystery birds that stick in the back of their minds as being different? This happens to me all of the time… especially with Warblers & Pipits. I’m always wishing for better, longer, closer views and sharp clear photos but everyone knows I’m a dreamer. Birdwatching is cruel! It has this way of making common birds look rare and rare birds common. Common wisdom says don't even talk about this stuff unless you're sure but that makes it hard to have an open dialogue and I wonder what others like you might think?
Snow Buntings – March 3rd 2008
I had never seen a Snow Bunting so white before. So much more beautiful and different than the others. I went back to my house to get my camera and tried to get a photo. It was in a flock of about 30 quite flighty birds. I chased the Snow Buntings around the fields of Leogh Croft and final managed this one photo of the bird in question by the stone dike near the road before the whole flock took off to somewhere below Malcolm’s Head. I felt that somehow that this bird was special but didn’t continue to chase it because it was just a Snow Bunting after all, not like it could be anything else? The photo was bad but I had kept it and for some reason and moved it to a select bird photo file on my computer I call “Birds Birds Birds”
full size - original photo
Over a year and a half later while buying the new 2nd addition Collin’s Bird Guide… Amazon.com suggested that I also buy David Sibley’s North American Bird Guide and The Big Year by Mark Obmascik. The Big Year was really fun to read and I can’t wait to see the movie coming out next year with Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson as obsessed birdwatchers. But Sibley’s book is very useful for Redpoles and other rare North American visitors to Fair Isle. So this autumn when the Snow Buntings came back I had a look to what Sibley had to say on the subject… and what’s this McKay’s Bunting? Yes in the book next to Snow Bunting is a very similar but even whiter Bunting? Immediately I wanted to check my old photo! But… the power was off, as it was past 11:30pm and I was reading by battery and candle light. The next evening when I finally had time to check my old photo I was surprised how much it looked like a 1st winter Female mainly due to the white back and all the other matching features. Even the plumage looks right for the time of year? But that must just be a high light I thought? but it’s not on the other birds in the photo? I've considered (lucistic)? But I continue to dwell on the mere dream that it might have been... While searching online I found this great McKay’s Bunting info: http://www.aba.org/birding/v37n6p618.pdf
I’m not trying to string anything here I have just found the whole process interesting and educational not to mention a bit exciting at times and thought I would share it. I now know that a bird like a Mckay’s Bunting in Britain would be close to impossible to identify, even by experts in the hand. It would also be impossibly lost... Seeing how anything is possible and this is Fair Isle where things like this do happen? I will be forever checking every whiter than normal Snow Bunting and I hope you join me.
Now another whiter than normal bird ?
I saw this bird June 2nd 2009 with a few Collared Doves in my garden. When I informed the local experts that it might be a Barbary Dove/African Collared Dove? or a Ringed Necked Turtle Dove as they say in the USA? I was then told “I’m not saying it isn’t. But so what if it is? It’s most likely an escape.”
Well… Birds have wings and I love that about them. So I guess I’ll always wonder where these birds really came from? and I’ll never know.
These photos are just record shots... but birding on Fair Isle is often all about the records!
I found these 2 Goldfinch the other day and thought at first they would be the latest year sighting ever. I checked the facts in the Birds of Fair Isle book and it's update and found only one other December sighting of only one bird. As my luck would have it also was on the 7th. Darn! I did have 2 birds though as a small consolation. I know not everyone lives in a place with it's birdwatching so well documented, this has it's advantages and disadvantages but if you can find any sort of bird record here you are well chuffed. When I got home I cleaned and filled my niger seed feeders in hopes they would find them in my garden and stay till tomorrow? Nothing. Nowhere on the 8th, and I looked everywhere I knew of thistles.
When I moved here from the States and got my Collins guide that first Christmas 2006 I saw the image of the European Goldfinch and remember saying "I can't wait to see one of these!" (I also said this of Hoopie, Bluethroat, etc. as Henry and I leafed though the pages) and wait I did... I had lived on Fair Isle for more than two years before ever seeing a Goldfinch... that is to say they are not that common here. Seen mostly in Spring & Autumn, in small numbers like 1 or 2 for the same amount of days. This year I had 5 in my garden at the same time. That is also a good record thanks to the power of niger seed.
2 Goldfinch 2 Starlings - Gaila - Dec. 9, 2010
Today I filled my birdfeeder again but nothing but nothing... House Sparrows and few desperate Starling on the niger seeds? I know some people would gladly trade a Goldfinch from their garden for the Snipe and Turnstone in mine today... While checking my emails from my computer set up at the table by the window I glanced two birds dart up and back down on the other side of my stone wall at the end of the garden. I didn't get a good look? It could of been anything? Twite? Redpole? The number was right and I had already checked those thistles just over the dike this morning and most of the Autumn for rarities. Today I would rather see a Goldfinch instead of another Arctic Redpole. I quickly get my hat, coat, bins, camera, boots, etc. in the sleeting rain at the end of the my Garden I found my record as I peered over the wall of Pig Street into Gaila near the Walli Burn. Those of you that know Fair Isle will know exactly where this is by looking at the old rusted farm equipment. The light was poor at the time and I had to brighten this photo. Later the sun broke though and I was getting ready to get a better shot as I noticed a Peregrine charge in! It sat on my wall for a bit then did a fly by flushing the South Harbor Beach. The Goldfinch were gone... its okay I saw the 2 of them again later by the South Lighthouse. I'm hopeful they find my niger seed eventually and stay to brighten up my Fair Isle Winter?
While taking a beautiful but brisk sunrise walk I took these photos. About 9am. a still lit lighthouse in the snow. You can see the Heron I unknowingly flushed from the tidepools flying away. Snow doesn't usually stay very long on Fair Isle because we are so close to the Sea, but with northern winds it has manage to hang around longer than normal. It was quite bitter cold out and had to laugh at the Starlings all snug in the wool stealing body heat from the back of this Ewe (female sheep) I bet she had a cold nose trying to find some grass to eat. I have seen many Starlings and occasionally other birds use Sheep as vantage points to look for food but never this? Trying to get a bit closer I was totally surprised by the bird's voice and its fanned tail as it took flight... Hey one of those Starlings is a Blackbird!
The Sheep Snugglers
They were really quite snug in the wool but just lifted their heads up as I was getting closer to take this photo.