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Published: 27 September 2014

By Andy Ross

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The little bird that can

Living, as we do, at the edge of the UK, it is sometimes easy to forget that we are part of a wider world with intricate connections and dependencies on things we may not have even heard of.

One of the beauties of living here is the birdlife and wildlife that surrounds us. It constantly changes as the seasons do, bringing birders and nature lovers to the islands, and inspiring artists and craftspeople. The proof is in the pudding; a few years ago I commissioned a music stand from a local craftmaker, based on the shape of a swan!

Now to the story. Last year a friend of mine who is the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) Ranger locally did a project which involved some pretty small gadgets - bird rings which collect data about latitude and longitude, and length of daylight. He and a small team attached these rings to some of the red-necked phalaropes, a rare bird in the UK which is only found in Shetland and the Western Isles, and when one of the birds returned for the summer to Fetlar to breed, the ring was recovered. Imagine the surprise of the team when they discovered that the little bird did not migrate, as they thought, to Scandinavia for the winter but instead spent the winter months on the ocean off Ecuador and Peru! An amazing migration, across the ocean and down the coast of America,  not only into the prevailing weather but in entirely the opposite direction to any other bird migration in the UK. Our population of phalaropes in not related to the Scandinavian population but to the Americas!

It got me thinking about the interconnectedness of things. The way in which we are all part of something we may not even know about, whether it is community, the world, or interests. And it also got me thinking about the journey GlobalYell is on as we strive to create our weave studio in the North. In spite of the obstacles of wind and weather, this little bird continues to fly across the oceans, returning every year to the same places to fatten up before making the long way back to breed in a few special places in the UK, and in spite of the problems that we face living on an island in the middle of the North Sea, we continue to make small steps towards our goal because we live in a special place and want to see it thrive. Thank you, phalaropes. If a little bird can do it, so can we. Onwards and upwards!

PS If you want to see the swan music stand it will be on display at Knitting and Stitching in a few weeks time and I shall be using it to hold my music while I serenade the massing throngs with song!