Guest blog by Dr Jodie Crane, Senior Research Assistant, RSPB Centre for Conservation Science

Fair Isle is Britain’s most remote inhabited island lying 25 miles south of Sumburgh head on Shetland and 27 miles north of North Ronaldsay in Orkney. It is home to about 70 people and, in the summer, to around 100,000 seabirds.

Photo by Jodie Crane. Arriving on Fair Isle.

Meet the seabird tracking team

For three months a year since 2010 Fair Isle has also been home to two RSPB seabird researchers. This year the task of carrying out the RSPB Seabird Tracking and Research (STAR) project on the island falls to us, Dr Jodie Crane, Senior Research Assistant and Dr Jess Walkup, Research Assistant. We’re both well accustomed to island life having previously clocked up years of experience on the Calf of Man, Sanda, Skomer and South Georgia. 

Photo by Jodie Crane. Fair Isle seabird team.

In addition we have Marianna Chimienti with us for a few weeks: she worked on the project last year and is using the tracking data for her PhD research, based at the University of Aberdeen.

Tagging Guillemots and Razorbills

The Seabird Tracking And Research (STAR) project uses small GPS tags that log a bird’s position every 100 seconds. These are attached to seabirds and then removed a few days later, giving us a detailed insight into where the birds have been foraging at sea. This information is critical to understanding which foraging areas are most important for our seabirds, and consequently informing marine conservation decisions. This year we will be tagging guillemots and razorbills, members of the auk family.

Photo by Jessica Walkup. Razorbills.

Working on the edge

Work with seabirds can be particularly exciting when they nest at the bottom of some of the highest sea-cliffs in the UK! But we are well equipped for the task and thankfully our sites have been set up with safe, rope-based, access by the Fair Isle Bird Observatory with whom we stay whilst on the island.

Photo by Jessica Walkup. Heading down the cliffs.

So far the season is off to a good start. Despite some wet days we have familiarised ourselves with our field sites and got our first few batches of tags deployed on the birds and have even managed to twitch a few of the famous Fair Isle ‘rares’ in our down time (including rustic bunting, tawny pipit, and Moltoni’s warbler). Everyone at the Fair Isle Bird Observatory has made us feel very welcome and we are looking forward to a productive field season.

Photo by Jodie Crane. North Haven and Fair Isle Bird Observatory.

Find out more about our seabird tracking and research