Trust keen to see bird observatory rebuilt

THE PRESIDENT of the Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust says it is “essential” the facility is rebuilt after it was destroyed by fire.

The world-renowned building has been left decimated after a fire caught hold in its roof area on Sunday morning before the flames spread. No injuries were reported.

Moray-based field ornithologist and wildlife consultant Roy Dennis, who is the president of the trust which runs the observatory and guest house, said that while its records had thankfully been digitised a number of years ago, items like books and paintings will probably have been lost.

The observatory was completely destroyed in the fire.

He said diaries belonging to George Waterston, who founded the observatory on the island in the 1940s, are likely to have also succumbed to the fire.

Dennis said the £4 million building, which was relaunched in 2010, was fully insured and the hope is to ultimately rebuild the observatory on the remote island.

“Our thoughts are very much now that we’ve got to get up,” he said.

“It is insured – all that has to be done first, and then we must be planning on how we can replace it and carry on working on the island. It’s essential. I don’t think there’s any question about if it will be rebuilt.

“The trouble is working on such a remote island, how quickly that can be done, but our wish would be to get underway as soon as possible.”

The president said the trust was “so pleased” that warden David Parnaby and his wife Susannah, who is the administrator, were safe.

Dennis added that as the building was insured, the trust is not planning to put out a special appeal to raise funds.

People from across the world have questioned on social media how they can help, however, with some people choosing to donate directly to the trust.

The observatory, meanwhile, has been hugely important to not just wildlife research but Fair Isle too over the decades.

“Right from the start George’s idea was that it allowed really first class ornithological work on the island, which has increased because of the 71 years of data,” Dennis said, “so that has really taught us a lot.

“Fortunately all that material was digitised some years ago. And then the seabird research has got ever more important. The big one is the relationship with the island, which has always been very special, and why working on Fair Isle and visiting Fair Isle is such a special thing for people.”