The new warden and administrator of the Fair Isle Bird Observatory will be a couple from Ellon in Aberdeenshire.
David and Susannah Parnaby, who have a 16-month-old daughter Grace, were chosen from four shortlisted couples who spent a weekend at the new premises finding out what the jobs entailed and meeting the islanders at a musical evening. They will start work next spring.
David, 33, who is currently a visitor and publicity officer with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said:“It’ll be a life changing experience, moving to Fair Isle, and a fantastic opportunity to live and work somewhere so well known, that you hear so much good stuff about – from the birds and the wildlife, to the scenery and the lifestyle.”
The couple met in 1996 on a Young Ornithologists’ Club holiday in Spain. He said: “When we met in the small hours of the morning at Gatwick airport we never expected that one day we’d be moving to Fair Isle.”
David has already lived in a bird observatory on the Calf of Man where there were only three people. “It’ll be nice to have a bustling community of 70 on Fair Isle. As a birder, it’s hard to imagine anything better than working there – and, of course, it’s not just about watching birds, there’s the vital ornithological research and a chance to give something back in terms of looking to the future of the birds.”
Susannah, 32, who has recently completed a PhD in biological sciences, is looking forward to sharing her passion for natural history with the many visitors to the observatory, from the twitchers in search of rare birds, to those who enjoy island holidays. She said: “Fair Isle is a very special place, with some great wildlife. I’m really looking forward to sharing that with visitors to the brand new observatory.”
Roger Riddington, chairman-elect of the Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust, said: “We were very fortunate to have a strong list of candidates to choose from and, in David and Susannah, a couple who are well qualified to maintain our tradition of warm hospitality at the observatory and build on Fair Isle’s great reputation for offering the best birdwatching in Britain.”
The new observatory building opened to visitors in June, offering, for the first time, en suite facilities in all bedrooms.
However, an official opening ceremony has been postponed because the developer went bankrupt, leaving the warden’s accommodation unfinished and a number of islanders owed large sums of money. Building work has resumed and the directors of the trust are continuing to work with MSP Tavish Scott and Shetland Islands Council to try to find a way of helping the islanders.