Monday, 23 July 2012

To the ends of our known world

At the north end of the island looking south.

A ceiling of gulls.

More rain on its way.
 No boats today due to an ever increasing south westerly wind so this afternoon we headed out to count the islands waders. You normally think of wading birds wandering around huge muddy estuaries but the Isle of May is actually quite important for these birds. The island has been designated for a whole load of features including for being important for non-breeding populations of turnstones and purple sandpipers, But many other waders use the island as a motorway service station to refuel when heading south (but with a better and healthy selection of food and cheaper fuel). So between July and early October we systematically count all the islands waders every 2 to 3 weeks. We divided up the islands shoreline and Lucie and I drew Rona, at the north end of the island, the end of our known world. This is good as it often holds good numbers of waders and bad because the count is done at high tide and it means wading across creeks and gully's that separates the different islets.
It was slow` work as we zig-zagged our way round the shore, scanning each pool and slab. First a dunlin, next a couple of purple sandpipers and then a bigger flock of turnstones, we gradually added to our total. Past the wreck of the Mars, a small coaster that hit the island in the 1930's and never left. Gull chicks shuffled out of our way or edged themselves in cracks pretending they couldn't be seen while their parents yelled above. Progress made was dry until we had to cross a thigh deep gully which needed shoes and socks off. Next up was a wider but supposedly shallower strip of sea to cross. I made it fine but half way across Lucie decided to sit down on the job and so got soaked up to her waist. Valiantly she carried on and 2 hours later we finished. Luck was with us for the last crossing as the tide literally parted and retreated like the Red Sea and we zipped over slippery rocks before the next waves came through. After 2 hours of having several thousand gull screaming at us we were glad to leave Rona, it is a bit like New York City, exciting to visit with fantastic sights but the density of inhabitants,  the smelliness and rubbish lying around make it uncomfortable after a while and a pleasure to leave. So we gladly headed back for well earned pizzas clutching bootie of a found oar that was washed up .
And the final total for the whole island ? As follows:-
turnstone 157, purple sandpiper 43, dunlin, 2, curlew 25, whimbrel 4, common sandpiper 2, oystercatcher 28, redshank 6. Not bad for a big lump of rock.
The Mars wreck.

After the soaking.

Gull chicks wedged in every crack.

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