Friday, 17 February 2012
Rael: Glad to be back
Illness related fatigue meant an early exit for me last season, consequently missing a large chunk of an outstanding birding year on North Ronaldsay to take a’ time-out’ ,or my interpretation of such at Spurn Point, occasionally Hull Royal Infirmary before heading home for a 3 month spell in the gym, my preparation for an early return to North Ronaldsay, with intension of completing or at least starting the practical jobs in and around The Observatory before spring gets underway and guests arrive…. And here I am, mid February, enjoying myself.
Of course the first few days were spent logging what birds were present, and we have since made a good compromise between birding and what most readers will consider, ‘proper’ work. Either birding in the morning and working in the afternoon/evening, or working all day with the Whoosh Net set catching Twite as and when we could. An added bonus to this early arrival was that it coincided with the current influx of Iceland and Glaucous Gulls into the Northern Isles; a maximum of 42 individuals casually logged in January alone.
Wader Nets at Brides' Loch
Whoosh Net for Twite
Firstly the eyesore that was the burning pit and compost heap has now been neatly fenced, recycling the wood from the once strawberry patch, and all large stone taken from the Burning Pit used to tidy stone dyking by The Observatory and the rest taken to Funny Park to heighten and therefore sheep-proof the outer dyke, with hopes of bringing this field back into rotation with the surrounding the 34 acre croft land in the near future.
Dyke repairs and Burning Pit/Compost Heap before & after
Decorating was our next mission, with the re-painting of all Guest House rooms and also my own room, giving Mark and Fleur some space and the chance to sort the flat which had been my luxury accommodation for the previous few weeks. I know have a walk along the corridor and stairs between my room and the bathroom, which is fine – in summer! Although in fairness, despite lots of rain plus the usual strong winds it’s been surprisingly mild so far, a statement Fleur may dispute.
Before continuing my post, after a 13 year spell at North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory, I must mention now former assistant Paul Brown, who left the island recently, his loss will impact The Observatory and Islanders alike, not to mention bar sales! His discovery of a Siberian Blue Robin in October 2001 is surely never to be forgotten.
Continuing with the decorating, Paul’s departure left another room to be painted and consequently a re-jig of the layout of the rooms; this becoming the new staff room, only to be re-decorated by Pumpkin days later…don’t ask! Having a small porch for boots and outdoor clothing adjoining meant the previous, larger boot room would become the guest boot room. The former larger, darker and much colder staff room known as the Flagstone Room, is now our indoor focus, along with re-covering all the dining chairs, and will soon be utilized more effectively. Next on the agenda is clearing the conservatory of furniture and de-cluttering the assistant warden’s office whilst Alison hopefully begins the mammoth task of sorting hers.
New Staff Room
As I mentioned earlier we have put a few hours aside for playing, the dead seal we set up with a whoosh-net making a few Heligoland trap alterations, and sooner than we anticipated trapped the Glaucous Gull that had been feeding on it for weeks, but we’ve still much work to be done such as preparing the storm battered polytunnel, but with the arrival fellow assistant Ric, and last year’s volunteer Martha this morning, the extra effort should get things progressing faster and we begin our routine daily census.
Whoosh Net for Glaucous Gull