Tuesday, 7 June 2011


It seems to have been a pretty frustrating end to the spring here on North Ronaldsay with the weather definitely not helping the latter stages of migration. To make matters worse the various metrological websites have continuously been tempting us by forecasting easterly winds a few days ahead, only to push them further ahead and for them to eventually not materialise at all! So with day after day of westerly winds, work around the observatory has continued apace, with a few ongoing projects nearing their climax and some new ones beginning.

Spud update -The potatoes are still growing, but the weeds are growing more. Rick and I have been paying daily visits to the potato field and our efforts are starting to pay off - we can actually see them now! Fleur thinks I’ve become a little obsessed with the spuds, but it’s become a case of mind over matter - just don’t look behind you and you don't realise how little you’ve actually done! It also seems the weeds are catching us up as we work our way across the field! And that’s just the first half! We’ve also put in a fair bit of effort into weeding our trees, with those in the various plantations and planned Heligoland trap sites near the observatory all doing reasonably well, although like the weeds, the North Ronaldsay grass also  seems to thrive - I guess that’s why there’s so many sheep!

The spuds are in there somewhere - underneath all that other nasty stuff!

The crow trap has had a serious makeover too in the last couple of weeks. I wonder if there’s much demand for a Nick Knowles presented Heligoland Trap DIY TV show - we’re becoming quite the experts! It’s been completely stripped down, the timber work put back together properly (with NAILS this time rather than blue-tooth!) and Rick and I have spent the last week re-wiring and sewing it all back together to a R.A.S.O.T (Rael Approved Standard of Tension)! Although Gavin the trainee (Alison and Kevin’s son) still isn’t happy as the million or so newly fledged Starlings keep escaping as we haven’t got round to putting the door on yet - even though he caught 4 Black-headed Gulls yesterday which all walked in through the big gap where the door will go.

Farmer Rael meanwhile has been ploughing on with the ploughing (when it’s not been raining), with the Barley and Oats both going in this week. Fingers crossed the bird crops will do well and bring the migrants and rarities to our doorstep in the autumn. I have to admire his patience with the somewhat temperamental tractor; I would probably have driven it off the pier by now in frustration - had I been able to get it started that is!

With the breeding birds in full swing we paid our first visit of the season into Hooking Loch to ring Greylag Goslings and check up on the Black-headed Gulls and other breeding wildfowl. A thrash through the Irises searching for nests and chicks was a highly entertaining affair which always involves someone falling in a ditch, and everyone getting wellies full of water! The Greylags are doing well, and we ringed plenty. We also found a few Mallard and Shoveler chicks which were too small to ring, plus it’s still a bit early for the Black-headed Gulls, with the only chicks found being a day or two old and most still on eggs.

An (almost) methodical thrash around Hooking Loch.

One of the many Greylag Chicks being ringed.

This Black-headed Gull chick’s not quite big enough for ringing just yet.

The Observatory has been a busy place in the last few weeks, with plenty of guests and even a few birders. We also hosted an 80th birthday party for one of the Island’s residents. Everyone mucked in and the busy event went down without a hitch with Fleur’s superb buffet (and the copious amount of leftovers) a definite highlight. The first of the Summer's Sunday boatloads of Day-trippers also visited the Island yesterday, and with glorious sunshine plenty popped into the Obs cafe for a Mutton dinner and we did a roaring trade in Ice-creams. Right on cue the first Killer Whales of the season appeared off the north end of the Island with plenty of the day trippers, Observatory guests and a few folk on visiting Yachts enjoying spectacular close up views.

Party time at the Observatory.

Any of you reading this may also have noticed we’ve ‘tarted’ up the website a bit this week. Or rather we’ve all come up with lots of ideas on how to tart it up and Rick’s actually done it. Luckily in Rick we have a resident computer whizz (there’s not much to do in Bolton in the winter) as it would probably take the rest of us all year to work out the joys of internet blogging! We still have various forms of availability at the Obs for both the summer and autumn so give us a ring and book in-there’s always something to see on North Ronaldsay.

And finally things weren’t so good for our resident Man U fan base as Barcelona made them look like a bunch of amateurs, running Rooney et al all over the pitch in the European Cup Final. Thankfully that’s the football season over - when does the Rugby World Cup start...?

1 comment:

  1. Allotmenting on an industrial scale is a tough gig. The wild flowers in the seed bank have been waiting for their chance. Freedom! If you look closely, I bet some of them have painted their faces blue.