Fair Isle Bird Observatory & Guesthouse

We are now 75 years young!

On 28th August 1948, Fair Isle Bird Observatory was officially opened. Those present included George Waterston (founder of the Obs), Ken Williamson (the first warden) and many Islanders including George ‘Fieldy’ Stout (local birder since the 1920s).

75 years
The official photograph at the opening of Fair Isle Bird Observatory, 28th August 1948. © FIBO Archives

Since our formation, the Obs has witnessed many changes both in the material and natural world. Through the data we’ve collected since our inception, we have monitored large scale ornithological changes in both migration and our seabird colonies.

Over the decades, countless conservationists who now work throughout the world have passed through the doors of the Obs on their employment journey. Numerous volunteers have assisted in the work of the Obs helping the wardening teams and those who have kept our hospitality operating so efficiently. We are indebted to everyone who has worked in whatever capacity in keeping the Obs functioning over the decades.

75 years
The original Observatory was housed in the former naval huts by the Havens, 1968. © George Waterston/FIBO Archives

Thousands of guests from all over the world have been able to visit and enjoy the delights of Fair Isle and experience its ornithological treasures. From witnessing the spectacle of migration laced with rarities, including firsts for the UK and Western Palearctic, to the spectacular seabird colonies.

With work well underway with the rebuild of the Obs, we can confidently look forward to welcoming future guests and conservationists for many years to come. We are only two birds short of 400 species seen on the Isle - who knows what they will be?

75 years
This Daurian Shrike was the 398th bird species recorded on the island, 1st October 2021. © Dan Gornall

What have been your most memorable experiences of the Obs in the last 75 years?

Douglas Barr, FIBOT Chairman, 28th August 2023