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Roger takes helm at Fair Isle

THE WORLD famous bird observatory on Fair Isle is starting a new lease of life with a new building, new wardens and now a new chairman.

This week ornithologist Roy Dennis MBE stood down as chairman of the Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust after 15 years at the helm, during which the organisation’s prospects have gone from bleak to bright.

He is being replaced by another former Fair Isle warden, Roger Riddington, who now edits the monthly journal British Birds from his home on the Shetland mainland.

New wardens David and Susannah Parnaby move to the island early next year to take over the day to day running of the observatory, which attracts thousands of avid birdwatchers from around the globe every year.

Mr Dennis was warden back in 1959 when facilities were much more basic, and became a director in 1994.

“When I took over in 1995, we were faced with bleak income figures but my first appeal to our Friends of Fair Isle got us back into the black,” he recalled.

“Our friends came to our aid again in 2008 to start the appeal which, with generous donations from Shetland Islands Council, the Scottish Government and other trusts, resulted in the building of the £4 million new bird observatory.”

He said that since being chairman he had moved the trust’s annual general meetings from Edinburgh to Fair Isle itself, appointed the first Fair Islander as a director, restored the focus on ornithology and seabird research and put the organisation on a sound financial footing.

“We had a very successful 50th birthday in 1998, when we also hosted the main board of Scottish Natural Heritage, but I’m disappointed there is still no Fair Isle Marine Reserve and I am saddened by the seabird breeding disasters.”

He thanked retiring wardens Deryk and Hollie Shaw for running the observatory for 12 years and finance director Mike Wood for being a tower of strength.