Thursday, 31 January 2013

Wrecked wreck - the Island has moved.

As we worked our way round the island last week we realised that a number of landmarks had changed. The most startling was the wreck of the ship The Island. This was a Danish ship that ran aground on the Isle of May in thick fog in 1937. Over the years it has been battered and broken by the seas but there was still several big chunks of metal work lying on sloping rocks on the east side. These had become taken over by the shags during the breeding season with up to 60 pairs nesting in and around the wreckage. It was always a smelly job for the researchers checking and ringing those birds as it sometimes involved a belly crawl under rusting plate slabs to reach stinking and parasite ridden shag chicks.
 But things have changed. When visitors looked at the wreck which lay about 30m from the high tide mark up a slope, they wondered how the wreck got there. Well, this winter the big swells that have battered the east side of the island have reached the wreck, washed away lots of the smaller pieces of ironwork and turned the biggest lump 90 degrees and rolling it over. It is hard to believe the sea reaching this far up the island and having the power to shift tons of steel but it has.
This next breeding season it is going to be interesting to see what the birds make of it. On the negative side all their nesting ledges and sites have been totally changed or removed but on the plus side maybe lots of the external parasites have been sluiced off the nesting areas. This is one of the benefits a long-term research project as there is a baseline of data on nest positions and where ringed birds nest so changes can be plotted to give us a better understanding of what influences these birds in their decision making for breeding. Can't wait for the next season.(Thanks to Mark Newell for the photos.)

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