Sunday, 11 December 2011
Mark: Winter on the Island
With the daylight hours rapidly diminishing it’s almost time for Fleur, Pumpkin and I to make our way south to Cornwall for a few weeks of rest, relaxation and err Guinness. We leave on Tuesday and should be back in the middle of January so were not avoiding the whole winter on the Island-and what a winter it’s already been so far! To tidy up a few loose ends, Rick left a couple of weeks ago and he did so in fine style. A venture north on his last day to search the coast for Gulls was aborted as he decided we should in fact be checking the ditches near Garso for any late locustella’s-using the Landrover!
Excuses offered included-“those 2 Swans (clearly Whoopers) looked interesting” and “The wind blew us in the ditch” even though the wind was in the opposite direction!
Just Kevin, Alison, Fleur and I are left now, so we’ve started to plan new projects for next year and make a start on the winter jobs to spruce up the observatory a bit before the season begins. There’s a long list with plenty to do, although I have still managed to get out and about the Island most days but there’s been no Gyrfalcon or Harlequin yet. I’ve begun replacing the covers on the chairs in the dining room and bar-a good wet weather job as long as you don’t count how many you have left to do! As long as it rains lots in January and February I should be done by the spring. Fleur has given the Kitchen and Rooms a good deep clean, and the paint and varnish has arrived ready for us to start re-decorating the rooms and hostel as soon as we return in the New Year. Alison and I rebuilt a section of the sheep dyke last week and I’ve taken the mist-nets down for the winter and done a little bit off maintenance to the catching boxes of the Heligoland traps. There are many exciting plans and new opportunities in the pipeline for North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory in 2012 so watch this space....
The main other talking points revolve mainly around the weather. The first Snow of the winter arrived on the Island overnight on 3rd December and settled for about 48 hours. It was strange seeing the Island covered in the white stuff, with it even settling on Nouster beach for a while. Once the winter wonder land vanished it’s been all about the wind, with an evil storm hitting Scotland during the 8th and 9th December. It was overnight between the two dates when we suffered the worst, the wind got up to somewhere between 90 and 130mph depending on who you talked too! Damage could be seen all over the Island with plenty of sheds relocating to Sanday, Cattle feeders blown into the sea and the odd Chicken with a headache! At the obs we suffered more damage to the roof with another 3 glass panels blowing off, subsequently replaced with less attractive temporary plywood alternatives. We’ve also lost one of the small sheds, a few slates and rather bizarrely the inside panel and window of the red land-rover door (which has had a difficult week!), but it could have been a lot worse
Fleur and Pumpkin enjoying the snow on North Ronaldsay (well Fleur is anyway!)
You wouldn’t see this on Countryfile-farmers on North Ronaldsay make use of all the available land
Something is clearly wrong here-no crash helmet, that’s it!
So tomorrow is our last day of 2011 on North Ronaldsay (weather depending of course), were all packed, Pumpkins got plenty of Gravy Bones for the long journey to Cornwall so all that’s left to do is to wish all Observatory and Blog followers a Merry Christmas and we’ll see you all for the Happy, bird filled New Year were going to have here on North Ronaldsay in 2012!