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Fair Isle Bird Observatory

A Royal Scottish Museum Curator, Eagle Clark, was the first to recognize how important Fair Isle is to the documentation of local and migrating bird species. He began his studies in 1905, and soon many other ornithologists began to assist him. He continued to study the migrating birds until 1911. George Waterson, a young ornithologist in his twenties, visited the island for the first time in 1935 and began envisioning the establishment of a bird observatory on the island.

Over and above a lack of financing, World War II put Waterson's plans on hold. While in a prisoner of war camp from 1941 to 1943, George Waterson remained focused on his goal to create an observatory on Fair Isle. In 1947 he was able to purchase the island, and on 28 August 1948 the doors to the Fair Isle Observatory were opened. Naval huts were used for accommodation, with new accommodations erected in 1969 for visitors to the Fair Isle Bird Observatory. After handing Fair Isle to the National Trust for Scotland in 1954, the Fair Isle Observatory Trust kept ownership of various pieces of land and the observatory.

Fair Isle is an isolated island and the local population is only approximately seventy. They are generally involved in spinning wool and craftwork. The only way to reach the isle is by boat or ferry. Even though the observatory specializes in birds, the marine environment surrounding Fair Isle is also protected. Ornithologists document both sea bird studies and migration studies.

The island is home to more than two hundred and fifty thousand seabirds, and they are of eighteen different species. The birds use the area for nesting and breeding. Some of the species to be seen include the Lesser Black-backed Gull, the Arctic Tern, Black Guillemot, Fulmar, Great Skua, Common Gull and the Kittiwake, to name a few. Some of the migrant birds that are documented are Skylarks, Snipes, Ravens and Meadow Pipits. It is the ideal location for photographers and bird watchers to learn about these species. The island also boasts 362 other bird species, which includes Crested Larks, Savannah Sparrows, Pallas’ Reed Bunting, Blackburnian Warbler and American Kestrels. Visiting the Fair Isle Bird Observatory is an educational and fascinating experience, making it a recommended attraction for all birding enthusiasts.


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