Fair Isle presents one of the great wildlife spectacles of the world- at least if you like puffins! Seabirds depend on inaccessible sites to nest in safety, so most puffin colonies can be viewed only by boat. But here on Fair Isle the puffin colony can be reached on foot, and the birds, accustomed to human visitors, allow us to sit right beside their burrows! We enjoyed their clowning antics, such as bill-tipping territorial displays, and the "puffin kiss"- a paired slapping of colorful bills. We were close enough to hear their subterranean growlings, which sounded like distant chainsaws, and even the patter of their feet as the ran for shelter underground!
Like puffins, humans have long occupied Fair Isle. And though it is one of the most isolated places in Britain, sixty or so people live here. Their traditional farms maintain the habitat for open-country birds like skylarks and curlews.
At the Community Center, we talked to Fair Islanders and saw their traditional crafts, including colorful sweaters and caps. The rich designs of their knitting are said to derive from patterns introduced by shipwrecked sailors from the Spanish Armada!
Overlapping layers of cultural and natural history never fail to impress us in the British Isles.