Marooned on Fair Isle

June 3, 2017

Today was the day for us to leave Fair Isle. It’s been fun being here but it’s time to carry on and see more of Shetland. It was a beautiful day with sunshine, blue sky, and very little wind, so perfect for flying. So after breakfast we finished packing up and took our bags down to the lobby. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 10:30 am so there was no point in doing anything other than wait.

But then it was announced that the flight would likely not go as scheduled. The weather was good at Fair Isle and Tingwall, but one of the aviation rules for our airline was that there must be two escape plans for a route. For us that meant we also needed good weather in Kirkwall in the Orkneys, and apparently the weather there was bad. But they planned to put on special Sunday flights tomorrow, to bring people to Fair Isle who were delayed and take us off.

Fair Isle harbour

Fair Isle harbour

So basically we spent the whole morning waiting to find out if the flight would go. We did manage to go for a short walk to look at the puffins on the headland. That was a great experience, with several of the little guys sitting outside their burrows in the sun. In the harbour we met three Canadians, mother, father, and daughter, who were sailing from Scotland to the Baltic Sea. Their boat was registered in Vancouver but they actually lived in Fernie.

Puffin on the cliffs

Puffin on the cliffs

Finally at 12:15 pm we found out that today’s flights were definitely cancelled. So we were assigned a new room in the Obs for tonight; because the cancellation had been late the staff had already cleaned our old room and reassigned it. But the new room was identical to the old room, except that it overlooked the car park instead of the garden.

After lunch, well, we were here for the day so we headed out for a walk. So far the weather looked okay but it was definitely clouding over. It was rather quiet, with only a few skylarks singing and no oystercatchers for quite a while. Then we got down to Da Water and what did we see? Large, showy waders—Godwits! We walked very carefully closer to them and found they were Black-tailed Godwits, the commonest kind but still pretty unusual. And they were new for our list, anyway.

Black-tailed Godwits in flight

Black-tailed Godwits in flight

As we were admiring them, a kittiwake flew by and all four of them took off and flew south past the kirk. That was too bad. But we told Robin and his wife about them, and they re-found them, hanging out in a grassy area with the usual group of geese.

By now it was raining slightly, but we decided to stay out and hope the rain would stop. It actually wasn’t raining too hard yet but by the time we got halfway back, it was definitely raining. Arriving back at 5 pm we made some tea and sat in the lounge.

Dinner was at 6:30 pm and tonight we had Lancashire Hot-pot, which was perfect for a cold wet afternoon.

June 4, 2017

We woke up this morning to low-hanging clouds, so we weren’t too optimistic about the planes being able to land. Despite this we dutifully packed up and took our bags downstairs to the lobby. After breakfast we sat around waiting, but by 10 am we got the news: the fog was likely to stay, there would be no flights today, and we were rescheduled to tomorrow. So just in case we couldn’t fly tomorrow either, we asked to make tentative bookings for the ferry on Tuesday morning.

But we were here for the day, so off we went for a walk. We headed over to the Gully to see if we could find that Purple Sandpiper which had been reported in the Log, but after spending quite a while looking for it, we couldn’t find it. We headed down to Da Water, which didn’t yield much, but today was Sunday so there was Sunday Dinner and we didn’t want to miss that.

Da Water and the kirk

Da Water and the kirk

We were expecting roast beef and Yorkshire pudding but instead we got roast beef—Austrian style. That was good, too; it came with a horseradish sauce which wasn’t too strong along with roast potatoes, carrots, and parsnips. Dessert was a delicious chocolate mousse.

Orchid flower

Orchid flower

By early afternoon the sun was shining, so off we went to the South Lighthouse, returning via the cliff tops. We missed the Icterine Warbler which was supposed to be around, and on the way back we didn’t see any new birds either. But the cliffs were spectacular, with narrow geos and tall stacks and eiders going “oo-oo” at each other.

4047—Sea stack on west coast of Fair Isle

Our evening meal was High Tea today, so there was cold meat, salads, bread, and cold salmon. A very nice choice of food and a nice follow-up to our noon meal.

At 8 pm there was a talk by Chris Dodd, one of the researchers at the Obs, about his experiences moving native New Zealand birds between nature reserves. That’s a very complicated process but New Zealanders seem to be very keen on bringing their native birds back from near-extinction. It was also interesting for us to see the scenery, especially since we recognized a lot of the locations involved in his projects.

And we were pleased that the Log tonight didn’t mention Purple Sandpiper in the Gully!

June 5, 2017

Today was the day we’d be leaving the island. Everybody was certain about it. So we were cautiously optimistic. We packed up and went down for breakfast. We were scheduled to go on the 9:30 am flight so after settling up our bill Susannah drove us and the two Norwegians up to the airport. Lo and behold, the plane did arrive! It was quickly unloaded and then we got on and flew to Tingwall. Easy as that.

We’re leaving the island!

We’re leaving the island!

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