Fair Isle

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Fair Isle (from Old Norse Frjóey; Scottish Gaelic Fara) is an island in northern Scotland, lying around halfway between mainland Shetland and the Orkney islands. It is famous for its bird observatory and a traditional style of knitting.



Fair Isle is the most remote inhabited island in the United Kingdom.[6] The island is administratively part of Shetland and lies 38 kilometres (24 mi) south-west of Sumburgh Head on the Mainland of Shetland and 43 kilometres (27 mi) north-east of North Ronaldsay, Orkney. 4.8 kilometres (3 miles) in length and 2.4 kilometres (1.5 miles) wide, it has an area of 768 hectares (3 square miles), making it the tenth largest of the Shetland Islands. It gives its name to one of the British Sea Areas.[7]

The majority of the seventy islanders live in the crofts on the southern half of the island, with the northern half consisting of rocky moorland. The western coast consists of cliffs of up to 200 metres (660 feet) in height. The population has been decreasing steadily from around four hundred in around 1900. There are no pubs or restaurants on the island, and there is but a single primary school. After the age of eleven, children must attend secondary school in Lerwick and stay in a hostel there in term time.

Bird observatory

Fair Isle has a permanent bird observatory, founded by George Waterston in 1948, because of its importance as a bird migration watchpoint and this provides most of the accommodation on the island. The first Director of the observatory was Kenneth Williamson.[8] It is unusual amongst bird observatories in providing catered, rather than hostel-style, accommodation.

Many rare species of bird have been found on the island, and it is probably the best place in western Europe to see skulking Siberian passerines such as Pechora Pipit, Lanceolated Warbler and Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler. In spring 2008 a Calandra Lark was identified in April, and in May a Caspian Plover was observed, only the fourth such record for the UK.[6] On June 6 a Citril Finch was identified, a first record for Britain. September was highlighted by Brown Flycatcher, Red-flanked Bluetail and Siberian Thrush. Fair Isle can claim to be the best place to find rare birds in Britain with at least 27 first records. Spring 2009 started well with notable birds including White-tailed Eagle, Green-winged Teal, Red-rumped Swallow and a Brown-headed Cowbird (2nd for Britain). The island is home to an endemic subspecies of Eurasian Wren, the Fair Isle Wren Troglodytes troglodytes fridariensis.

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