Saturday, 16 April 2011

Its Official - its early.

Things are happening out here and are happening fast. It is an early season all round. The visitor boats running early this year to take advantage of the school holidays and this means us who meet the visitor boats have to be out here early. But more importantly many of the bird have decide to start breeding early this year. This can be good news for the birds as it means that they have come through the winter in good condition having found lots of food and not having many storms to contend with and therefore have plenty of energy reserves to undertake the taxing business of nest building and laying eggs. But it also means that the researchers who study them have to be on the island early. Today Mark spotted the first guillemots with eggs and also the first razorbills. Once they have laid they get into a hunched sort of position to incubate the egg so Mark can tell just from the way they sit on the ledge as to whether they have an egg or not. It isn't surprising that they clutch the egg so tightly when you see some of the ledges that they use, some are on a 45 degree slope and if they let go the egg would be gone. As you can see from the pictures the puffins are also busy collecting bits of plant to put in their burrows and the rock pipit with the big tache is actually also gathering nesting material.
The island is packed with people this week as as well as the early researchers and wardens there will be builders, rope training contractors and 11 volunteers all on the island. The volunteers are on a week long work party from the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, these people actually pay to come out to the Isle of May and spend the week helping us get set up for the season. Apparently the Isle of may is a BTCV most popular working holiday so it says a lot about the draw of the island. They will be helping us with smartening up the visitor centre, getting nesting platforms ready for the terns, cleaning out ditches, dry stone walling and any number of other essential jobs that are part of keeping the island up and together. Their first day was spent getting to know the island and it was good to see that when I went for an evening stroll they were all out and about savouring their first island sunset and seeing as much of the island as they can before it gets dark. In past years we have had some volunteers from the work party who have stayed on for weeks afterwards as they have fallen in love with the island so we will see if we work them hard enough that they will want to stay this time.

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