Tuesday, 6 March 2012
Ric: back for 2012
Although I spent more than a couple of months away from the obs during the winter, it was nice to get back again in mid February to help the others get the place ready for the fast-approaching start of the new season.
Before I could get back to work, there was some furniture rearrangement to be done. I spent my first year here with three extra, unused beds, numerous superfluous mattresses and several sets of unneeded lockers taking up most of the space in my bedroom, but my abode for 2012 was soon rearranged, and now contains a more appropriate bed:person ratio and a new wardrobe. The many dusty old boxes of crockery that spent the last year stashed away untouched beneath the redundant bunks have been removed, along with the two large boxes of fireworks, the compendium of adult drinking games and the fossilised vomit stain left on the wall behind the beds by one of the room's long-previous occupants (not me!).
The staff office also got a bit of an overhaul. A new computer desk was brought in to replace the one with the bent leg, and we tidied everything else up enough to move a couple of proper chairs into the room. The daily log will certainly be conducted in a higher degree of spacious comfort from now on.
The new office set-up.
There are, as usual, many small tasks to keep us busy, but we also have two current, larger projects that we are working on. The first of these is the transformation of the old staff room into a combined shop and visitor information display. We have already started by beginning to clear the room, burning as much of the many years’ worth of accumulated birders’ clutter that we can bear to be rid of, and appropriating the furniture and any genuinely useful odds and ends in other parts of the building – although a new home has yet to be agreed on for Mark’s Girls Aloud poster. Eventually, the space created will contain displays about the work of the observatory and the wildlife of the island, as well as exhibiting merchandise and supplies in a convenient way for the guests to browse.
Our other big project is the production of NRBO’s first ever bird report. Our annual bird records have always been summarised in the Orkney Bird Report, which presents them in the context of the whole archipelago; but we are in the process of creating our own, additional, report for 2011, documenting just our own sightings and activities. Most of the text is already written and edited, but the labours of home-publishing are beginning to become apparent. Mark and I spent a whole afternoon pitting our combined wits against a stubborn and temperamental printer that inexplicably stopped working at random and inappropriate moments, in an attempt to produce a complete prototype copy. Eventually, after much frustration and a lot of trial and error, we succeeded in getting each page not only printed, but printed the right way up, at the right size, on the right type of paper and in the right order. Johannes Gutenberg probably printed his first bible more quickly than we did our first report, but we seem to be getting the hang of it and hope to have saleable copies available soon.
The prototype copy of the first NRBO annual report: front and back views.
Other activities in the last week or so have included some maintenance of the Heligoland traps, fixing and updating the website, punding the sheep, repunding the sheep after they escaped, and the Sisyphean task of refilling all the potholes in the track to the observatory. And, of course, we are always looking out for any migrant birds that might begin to appear as we get closer to the start of spring. We are aiming to break the island year-list record for the second successive year, and, with a full team of wardens in place for the whole season again, we think we stand every chance – especially as 2012 has one more day of bird-finding potential than 2011 did.