Thursday, 14 March 2013

Mark-A 'big' surprise

A quiet month really since we last updated... NOT!!! You’ll have done well not to have heard about North Ronaldsay recently, something to do with a Walrus...? But just in-case you’ve been practising being an Ostrich with your head in the sand for the last couple of weeks, I’ll tell the tale again about how the world went mad for North Ronaldsay!

Our news, quite literally made the National news at the beginning of March when I stumbled upon that lump of blubber on the beach at Bridesness. With a bit of help from the World Wide Web, within an hour our phone was ringing to call centre levels, the blog page was receiving more hits than in a Boxing match and I found myself needing an agent to handle all the subsequent interviews and photo requests. For the next week the whole country, in fact the whole world (we even had a call from Japanese TV) wanted to know about Waldo, our Walrus superstar. There were too many to mention but highlights for me were a chat with Zoe Ball on the Radio 2 Breakfast show and the fantastic page 3 spread in the Daily Record. The publicity has been fantastic for the Observatory but thankfully the media frenzy has subsided a little, although we are still getting requests for pictures and quotes daily.

The picture which made the BBC Breakfast news and among others the Times newspaper. He's not a circus Walrus...honest.

So... onto some other news and some of the ‘proper’ work we’ve been up to. Birding is always a bit slow at the start of year, but I’ve been trying to get out for at least a few hours each day-if only for a walk around the block with Fleur and Pumpkin. It’s been freezing cold the vast majority of the time, with what has seemed like a constant northerly airstream. There’s not been much, with ‘white-winged’ Gulls virtually absent but I have managed to dig out the first wintering records of Stock Dove, Velvet Scoter and flock of Black-tailed Godwits, all of which have kept me going. Oh yeah-and a Walrus!!! Nearly 100 Twite have been trapped and ringed at the baited whoosh net site but the first Wheatears and Chiffchaffs still seem a long way off yet and even further so today as we’ve had our first settling Snow.

The view from the bedroom window this morning-we can't see the Wheatears for all the Snow!

We’ve mentioned recently the demise of the sheep dyke, and although I haven’t actually built any wall I spent a week with a few Islanders fencing off the area which was brought down at Gretchen. I’m not a fan of fencing but needs must-soon we’ll be rebuilding the punds before the sheep are taken in at the beginning of April. Luckily most of my work of late has been of the indoor variety, although I have had to replace or repair a couple of shed doors damaged during some rough stuff in February. The bird report is all but finished with Alison doing the final proof reading this week. Everything is as it should, printer tests have been completed and the final printing of our 107 page, second annual report is due to start next week. There’s been a bit of painting and general repairs to guest areas but the major project which I’ve just finished has been the assembling of the display of the birds of North Ronaldsay posters we designed last year. They look good and will prove a great help for guests to identify some of our commoner species during visits to the Observatory.

The new information display in the Observatory Shop

We’ve had a few such guests with Fleur kept busy when virtually every builder or water board operative descending on us during the only calm, windless week of the period. With Easter looming, tourists will soon also be arriving and bookings are coming in fast. There’s also the traditional pantomime coming up with Alison and I again featuring, although the audience will no doubt be disappointed that I’m not repeating my fan dance this year! We don’t seem very good yet and with several cast members away and missing practises, our performance of Little Red Riding Hood may not be ‘alright on the night’.

Simon is due to arrive next week and along with Alison and I we plan to begin daily census again. There’s easterlies forecast but it’s probably a bit early for too many migrants to arrive, but you never know, and there's always White-billed Divers and King Eiders to look for. If winter persists then hopefully the increased coverage will turn up one of these...

One farmers attempt to scare the Geese off his fields should work if he manages to attract breeding Gyr Falcons to the Island!


  1. Will the 2013 Bird Report feature two extra supplements? The first for unexpected marine life and the second for carved ornithology? Wooden Sandpiper, Warbler, Pigeon etc?

  2. Is Waldo rubbing his eye because that's where the stone hit him?