Friday, 29 April 2011
Mark: Doing Our Best to Break Everything
It seems to be my turn again to update the world on life at North Ronaldsay Bird Obs, and I guess the best way to sum up the week is to say we ‘broke stuff’ and ran around like headless chickens looking for big things that eat chickens!!! As Fleur mentioned in the last update, the tractor was very much stuck in a field; our attempts to tow it out failed and then the Land Rover suddenly wouldn’t start. Two Mars bars later and we fixed everything (or so we thought) as suddenly the tractor got itself free and the Landrover started once more. Hurray!!! Ploughing was finished and a celebratory cup of tea was had by all. However, when Rick took the Landrover to open the nets up for an evening ringing session at a maximum speed of 2 miles an hour, it would seem I’ve managed to burn out the clutch and it’s subsequently been whisked off on last Friday’s boat to spend some time in a Kirkwall garage!
So.... we decided to steer clear of heavy machinery at the start of the this week and resorted to some manual labour instead. We spent a morning re-rotivating, digging into furrows, meticulously weeding and planting one third of our potato patch outside the Obs. As all this was done by hand the resulting few days has seen Paul, Rick, Rael and I struggling with bad backs and sore thighs – I really don’t know how they did it in the olden days. But the results of our labour will hopefully prove to be worth the effort, providing spuds for our meals and cover for the birds. The bad news is we’ve got another two days at it when the rest of the potatoes arrive – we can’t wait!
The neatly furrowed Obs potato patch. Rael wanted to use a ‘string-line’ but the rest of us think it’s pretty straight?!
I guess the other main talking point of the week has been the weather, with glorious (Cornish like!) sunshine on a near daily basis resulting in everyone having pretty good tans. We’re trying not to talk about birding on this page, but it has been a decent weeks for birds so we’ve found ourselves out doing census routes both morning and afternoon. It really is starting to look like having four wardens and more intensive coverage is paying off, with five out of seven days this week yielding a rarity. We think that’s a pretty good success rate, and twice now I’ve found myself running all over the Island for a big bird of prey. In fact, with May approaching we’re running out of time to get things done. We had planned to put Rick’s mobile heligoland trap to the test, and try and catch some of the many waders on Bridesness, but haven’t had a chance yet.
The mobile heligoland still awaits its debut!
In the last few days we have also done a few things around the Obs. We dug up and weeded an area near the Observatory and planted it with sunflower seeds, in another attempt to get some cover for autumn migrants. We have been busy stripping the grass and watering our newly planted trees and Rael began harrowing the ploughed field. Unfortunately the tractor really has broken this time and currently sits at the bottom of the field awaiting the delivery of a part on Monday.
Guests are starting to arrive and with a full Observatory this weekend for the North Ronaldsay annual pantomime everyone has been busy. I’ve somehow found myself, along with Alison, with a role in said pantomime and the nerves are starting to kick in. I only have 6 lines but am finding it difficult (as is everyone else) to remember things in the right order, and with practice sessions running out, the big night is less than 24 hours away! Watch this space...
The sun setting over North Ronaldsay.