Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Please touch

When people come to the Isle of May we really don't want them to spend very much time in the visitor centre as what we really want is for visitors to be out there and experiencing the island first hand. But the visitor centre can be a good place to either get the answer to a question or find out something new about the island. This year we have added a few things that are a bit more interactive and tactile. The touch table was made by our hard working volunteer, Rinchen, out of recycled materials (budgets are very tight this year). It gives people of all ages the chance to feel a gulls wing and even flap it, put their finger on the teeth of a bull grey seal, touch the webbed foot of a gannet and look closely at the differences in beaks of some of the seabirds. None of these things you can do as you walk around the island. Someone asked me how we clean up the skulls of the dead things we find around the island ? Well the traditional way is to bury them in the soil or the compost heap and let the microbes and worms clean them up. The problem is that it takes so long that most people forget where they bury them, there are so many skulls buried and forgetten around the garden that it is a job to find room to plant my pototoes. We have found a much quicker method.
- First take one nylon net onion bag.
- Put skulls in bag and tie long string around bag.
- Take it down to the jetty that goes out into the middle of the freshwater loch by the engine room.
- Leave in loch for 4 weeks
- Remove and leave in bucket of dilute bleach for 2 days,
- Dry and put on touch table.
This works becuase the loch which is like pea green soup most of the year has some mean creepy crawlies in it which clean of all flesh of the skulls within a month. I bet even David Walliams wouldn't do a sponsored swim across it, there would be nothing left of him by the time he got to the other side.
The other addition to the visitor centre is a large white board rescued from a SNH office. This gives us a chance to put up the latest sightings on the island and what work we are currently doing but also gives the opportunity for visitors to put down what they liked best from their visit. Some people seem to like it anyway.

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