Thursday, January 31, 2013

Yoal never see this again. Sad lost of boats in the storm.

Photo taken Jan. 23, 2013
The old yoals always made a lovely photo,
reminding all of us of the days when men made there life at sea.
I took this photo last week because I was sad that the bow had blown of in a resent gale.
It seems that these yoals have always been there... a Fair Isle fixture and landmark.
Photo taken Sept. 14, 2012
Yoal boat with bow still intact

Photo taken Jan 30, 2013
Today, what's missing? the other yoal is completely gone! blown away and out to sea.
I was shocked!
Sure it was Gale force 9 with gusting wind up to 86 mph last night, but this happens occasionally. 
Photo taken Jan. 30, 2013
Broken up and some bits washed back on shore in Kirki Geo.
I find this very sad, a lost of history.

Rubbish on Kirki Geo Beach.

Some reaction from around the Isle...

A sad Seal

The Sheep hang heads low.

a Monkfish cries out!
Video taken Jan. 29, 2013

Sunday, January 27, 2013

What is this?

Today Henry found this on the South Harbour Beach, Fair Isle.

It looks to be hand carved ivory/bone? if you have any Idea what it is? please let me know. Age unknown?

 Henry found it in the seaweed & rocks washed up below the cliff where the 50 dead of Spanish Armada are said to have been buried in 1588. so one wonders... or  maybe Vikings? Over 5000 years of human activity on Fair Isle, . with the winter storms we have had plenty of erosion from the cliffs. I think it is possible that it fell from the cliff and has been washed clean and has suffered some chips and wear. But I also could wonder if it could of been washed in from one of the many old shipwrecks?  Truely, It is most likely that it is more more modern in origin.

My imagination leads me in many ways... it looks like the holes were used for attaching to threads, yarn, wire or sinnue? Of course being we are on Fair Isle, wouldn't be great if it was used for textiles in some way. Spinning? Knitting? Weaving? etc. less practical ideas could be a bit of jewellery, ornament, musical instrument or wind chime?  

The best guess or suggestion so far has come from Kathy Coull from my facebook photo, "one half a purse or bag frame" This explains the metal where the latch would of been and the holes for attaching the bag. popular in the Victorian period.
it's a rainbow!
 Boy Birdwatcher - South Lighthouse, Fair Isle.


A Dram  of Whisky with Haggis, Neaps & Tatties - Burns night dinner.

Blue Velvet - crab shell

Monday, January 21, 2013

Tommy's Best Birds of 2012 - Fair Isle

Inspired by Surfbirds who asked... 
"what was you best birding moment of 2012?"

Last year I had so many great birding moments living on Fair Isle , Shetland, UK. 
What was my best birding moment of 2012?  And how can I tell you without bragging?  

My most thrilling was answering the phone to an excited Jason Moss on the west cliffs with an unidentified American warbler in view... He was verbally describing the bird, as he knew I kept my American Sibley and Crossley Bird Guides at hand. We tried to ID it over the phone, but I couldn't wait.  Quickly I said I'm on my way! I'll bring my books; my son and I jumped in the car like rally drivers, up the isle we go, half way up Fair Isle's highest point on Ward Hill close to the mast, we get out and over the moors and hills we go and then down to the steep descent to the cliffs edge, thinking all the while...American Redstart? or? what the heck could it be from his description and my limited knowledge? So many yellow-grey warblers in the world. Out of breath, heart pounding, it’s ID confirmed just before I got there. Magnolia Warbler! a second for Britain. Totally outrageous bird.

Another great moment was finally seeing the illusive Siberian Rubythroat in my garden. After days of dipping or brief uncertain glimpses, it was more a moment of relief than amazement. A bit anti-climatic, sort of dull as it was a female that never held still long enough to study it’s subtle features.  At the same time I was dipping an even rarer bird for Fair Isle. Blue Tit! Yes, no Blue Tit has been seen on Fair Isle since the 1970s. We’ve had 4 Siberian Rubythroats since then. Both birds were one of the few island ticks I had all year and most difficult ones to eventually tick. 

My moments don’t have to be about rarest birds to be the best or be the one that everyone would expect. I love to feed the birds, and sometimes I’m rewarded with more than Starlings and House Sparrows. One such moment started  with a dull grey female Rosefinch feeding under one of my nigerseed feeders just outside my windows that the Twite love so much. The next day the bird moves onto my feeder, I’m excited! This is unusual, but female or immature Rosefinch are not that uncommon on Fair Isle, but still it’s always a good bird to see. Unfortunately , we have not seen any red males in years. The bird eats until evening. I fill the feeder in darkness.  The next morning, getting out of bed, I call downstairs, “Is the Rosefinch still there? Henry yells “Yes,” back at me. I come down to see the bird again, “Ah, good morning.”  then I go to the other window to check my hedge for warblers as you do almost with out thinking. Stunning RED Male Rosefinch! Two feet away on the other feeder, I freeze. I calmly call my wife and son, with a whisper hardly moving my lips, I call my wife and son away from the breakfast table over to get a look. Stunning! A breeding red male in the morning sunlight. Awesome.

For me, I guess my best birding moments are shared with my son. I realised that my personal favourite, was really his moment with the Waxwings. I think everyone knows, we had another Waxwing irruption this year. I also think everyone has seen the hand feeding photos to the point, that it isn’t amazing any more. but that's what happens when you get use to amazing birds. I viewed this mostly from a distance from my front garden. One afternoon, Henry was out feeding the Waxwings on a stick with apples. No camera around, he puts the stick over his shoulder like a hobo and decides to go for a walk to the harbour with 10 of his Waxwing friends. The birds fly on and off the stick trailing behind him. Occasionally resting on a fence post, then flying to catch up.  Henry is just out for a stroll down the road, not looking back, but I’m sure he could hear the commotion behind him. He takes in the view of the South Harbour for a while, then starts back. I saw my son and the birds, so comfortable with each other. It is that moment, his moment that sticks with me. When returning home, I asked Henry, “What are you doing?” He said "Taking my birds for a walk.” simply priceless, not only as a birdwatcher but as a father.

taking my birds for a walk...

I did ask Henry to  stop and pose for this photo in the road when he returned home.
Both birds & boy not worried about of the other. Legend.

More 2012 Highlights
Great Tit - Island Tick!

Hume's Leaf Warbler - Lifer & Island Tick

Goosander in the South Harbour - Island Tick

Horned or Shore Lark
Finally my most dipped bird! Lifer & Island Tick

I was lucky to get the best photo of the Black-throated Thrush.

We also had an amazing year for the rare little brown birds...

Thrush Nightingales, River Warblers, Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers, Lanceolated Warblers,
a Paddyfield Warbler, a Pechora Pipit, etc.
My Fair Isle Wish List for 2013 - all my bogey birds that have I have missed...
Firecrest - Nightjar - Sandwich Tern - Leach's Storm Petrel - Long-tailed Skua

Monday, January 14, 2013

Henry & the Waxwings on BBC Winterwatch

Tonight my son Henry was a special correspondent on BBC Winterwatch.
The Waxwings also featured... Spoken like a true proud father.

Liz & I took all the video & photos' and they made a few changes to the video package we sent.
 Here are links to some of our original Waxwing stories, photos and videos:

Watch BBC Winterwatch rebroadcast online:
Henry & the Waxwings start at 38min. into show

Watch this video!

Henry feeding Waxwings in our garden wearing his real Fair Isle Jumper

Thanks for all your well wishes. We are glad you enjoyed it.

in other Fair Isle birding new today...
I got this rubbish record photo of the Ring-billed Gull...
 A North American species - 4th ever sighting on Fair Isle. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Remembering Jimmy Stout

James A. Stout was laid to rest today in the Fair Isle Cemetery.

Family and friends gathered from far & wide.
In the foreground is the monument to the 50 buried Spanish Armada solders of the 1588 Shipwreck.

                               photo Sarah Stout de Sousa

The phrase, "Have a dram boy" is just how Jimmy said hello. When I met Jimmy in 2006, he was 95 years old, a legend. I could only listen and imagine as he told his tales of the Isle. Stories of wood on the beach, Lobsters in the creels and of course rare birds. I could tell he was still keen for the birds, even in his old age, so I built a make shift birdfeeder outside his sitting room. Over the years he had seen countless rare species, but it seemed even the simple Starlings & House Sparrows eating food scrapes were more than simple pleasures. Here is a story about Jimmy's birds if you would like to revisit it. 
It was his story of the first Pechora Pipit that was one of his favourites. New to Fair Isle and birdwatching I had no idea that one could still find such a piece of  history. A year and a half later my wife Liz picked up Jimmy and drove him over to our house Auld Haa to see the Citril Finch. Like Jimmy my bird was also a first for Britain and has inspired my interest in birds & birdwatching surely for the rest of my life. Today we had a dram or two in Jimmy's honour. And it was an honour. Cheers Jimmy

Do you have any good Jimmy stories you would like to share... please do so in comments below.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Pantomine - Christmas Tree - Men's Dance

Aladdin was the theme of this years Panto. 

The Evil Dervish Wizard
Magical music tidbit!


The musicians for the evening, Thanks again for your tunes & talents

Family Fun!

Getting ready for "Strip the Willow"

Another visit from Santa!

Fair Isle Choir

Now it's time to pack it up!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013