Thursday, 7 April 2011
All in the job (part 1)
The things we do for the public. In an effort to improve the visitor centre (called the Mousehouse for historic reasons, another story) we want to make things a bit more hands on. One aspect of this is to be a touch table where people can get their hands on skulls, eggs, shells and anything else that we think they might be interested in. So we though a seal skull would be good. One of the shag researchers Hanna told us about a seal skeleton that was down at the dam of the loch. Seals can die during the winter when they are on the island and his one obviously passed away fairly recently. Armed with only a hook on a pole we set off to seek out and find the carcass. Once located Jeremy, being the assistant was sent in to hook out the skeleton and retrieve the skull and we were in luck, the invertebrates of the loch had cleaned up nicely any bones lying actually in the water. Piece of cake we thought until Jeremy managed to hook the backbone and rib out only to find no head !. Had someone been there before us ? Had it just rolled off into deep water ? Anyway the search goes on for a seal skull but if you visit us later in the season you will see if we have been successful.
More folk came on this week, a new gang of researchers dragged onto the island early because it is their job to follow the shag breeding season and things have kicked off early. Luckily they managed to visit the supermarkets at an appropriate time and beat the licencing laws. Yeeesssss.
And our 2nd visitor boat of the season came today, 60 people including some keen photographers with huge lenses. Puffin hunting was what they were about but today the puffins were mostly at sea.
And while the visitors were on, bashing its way back to the harbour was a fishing boat streaming gannets, herring gulls and kittiwakes. The birds were there for the discards and it perfectly illustrated the link between man, the fisheries and seabirds. Some seabirds have done very well surviving on fisheries discards and what will happen to their population if the new rules reduce the amount of fish thrown away. Equally other seabirds have suffered from the efficiency of the fishing industry through reduced fish stocks. On the Isle of May it is no good just looking after the birds on the island, you have to look at conservation in the wider ocean and not just what you can see from the island but much further afield, some of our puffins winter in mid Atlantic.