Wednesday, 11 April 2012


I've just spent the last two days guiding a South African birder & photographer around the isle. He was on a whistle-stop tour of the northern isles - with a view to make a longer trip in the future. He was a throughly nice bloke, full of interesting stories of the places he has been and characters he has met. Although it's a bit early in the season (and the winds were wrong) for much migration he seemed pleased with what I could offer him - including good views of the pair of Peregrines, close-ups of a Gannet colony and some stunning scenery. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I didn't manage to get him a Puffin photo opportunity - even though birds were ashore when I went for a recce on Friday evening. We saw a few in the water but not a single bird came onto land. I also failed to secure him a nicely posed Long-eared Owl - but that wasn't my fault, it was flushed by some other over-eager photographers before we could get there! We went in pursuit and saw it only briefly at Kenaby. He left happy though, sporting a FIBO beanie (a much better garment than the one he arrived with!) and the proud owner of a sweater!
Today, the three youngest kids came back - all tired out after their ski-ing holiday with Grandma & Grandad, but excited to be home. Its lovely to have them back and I set them to work straight away. We gathered the ewes and sorted out those closest to lambing (18 of them) and moved them into the park next to the house - much to Munter the Ram's excitement, though this was short-lived as he was shifted into the haypark! So, shed cleaned out and partitioned, straw spread, feeding troughs/ring moved, silage bales transported............and we are all ready for lambs! Bring it on! Speaking of lambing, our other child, Lachlan, is enjoying his 'work' experience in the Borders, despite the 4am start he had this morning. He phoned this evening with tales of all the lambs he has proudly delivered.
Back on Fair Isle, lambing is in full swing at Setter now, including a set of quads and an eye-watering monster single!! The Obs is starting to fill up with staff, with David & Gillian arriving on the morning plane and regular returnee Becki Rosser in the afternoon! Meanwhile, Sarah (the workcamp Vet) also arrived to help Dave Wheeler with the lambing at Field - very much appreciated I am sure!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Wheresmekeys? Wheresmephone?

So, it took a bit longer than even I anticipated but for anyone who hasn't died waiting for it here is that update......
Today just happens to be the 13th anniversary of my arrival on Fair Isle. Thirteen years!!!!! Where did the years go?  Well I only had one child when I arrived (with Hollie), but now have four (!) so I know where some of them have gone - children certainly take the years off many ways!
So, what has happened at Burkle in the most recent of those years?
Lachlan made it into Vet School in Edinburgh. He is working hard but enjoying it and in his first year exams gained a distinction! Two proud parents at home! He is currently spending his Easter holidays lambing at a farm near Hawick.
Fyntan is also away from home now at the Anderson High School in Lerwick. Like his brother before him, he is doing very well academically and is just loving playing for a football team. We were concerned about him going away to the hostel, only getting home every third weekend. Everything is not perfect but on the whole he is coping better than we thought he might.
So this means Raven is the second eldest at the local primary school. She has stepped up to the mark with the maturity required. She is delightful daughter!
Ythan meanhwhile is still the loveable clown he was a year ago, just a bit taller!
Hollie has turned FORTY, is the school secretary and has started her own knitting company!!!!
I am working at this and that to bring money in to the house - ferryman, fireman, coastguard, roads, windmills, obs maintenance. Plus crofting in my 'spare' time! We sold 23 lambs in the autumn and got a good price.
Our flock has increased to 28 ewes now so should have more lambs to sell this autumn. Our lambing starts on 14th April but unfortunately I've lost one already - aborted this morning!
One other loss last year was our beautiful dog Lubo, who we had to have put down due to his sometime tendency to bite strangers. It was a very traumatic period of our fledgling crofting lives as he was such a lovely animal but obviously had a slight screw loose so we couldn't trust him. It took us all a long time to get over but a working croft needs a sheepdog so we now have Kes, who is also a loveable animal and now seven months is learning his trade.
Birdwise, I was delighted to add Pallid Harrier and White-winged Tern to my Fair Isle list.....and also a less glamorous Lesser Scaup - which was the first for Fair Isle.
I'll end with news that I start my guiding career on Monday - guiding for a globe-trotting South African birder for two days. Looking forward to it!
Almost finally, you may be wondering about the title to this post - take a look at a replay of tonight's Britains (not) Got Talent!!
 And finally, but certainly not insignificantly CELTIC WERE CROWNED CHAMPIONS TODAY!!!!!!!!