Thursday, 28 February 2013

Big Plant Off Island

The barge making its approach lead by the RIB Osprey.
Drifting in close to the jetty.

Inches to spare once moored up.
Since the tractor shed was demolished the big plant machinery has been sitiing on the island waiting to come off. There have been a couple of planned attempts but the weather has been too bad. The barge that carries the kit can only get into the harbour at the top of a spring tide so there have been limited opportunities but yesterday it all came together and the machines are off. This current high pressure has meant low winds and though the day before the swell was too big, yesterday it dropped to allow the Forth Fighter barge to make it way up down to Forth and creep into Kirkahaven just before high tide. Ably guided by our own Colin Murray, skipper of the RIB Osprey, the barge drifted slowly in and nestled up against the jetty with inches to spare on the otherside. The 20 ton digger, fuel bowser, dumper truck, other kit and the scrap iron for the demolished building were quickly loaded on. It was all a testement to the skills that the boatmen and machinery operators have to see the whole operation go so smoothly and quickly. The barge could then reverse out to a wider part of the harbopur spin round and head back up the Forth.
It is a real relief to get the kit clear of the island and take another step towards getting set up for the season. It is a month away to when the first visitor boat lands and there is a boat  load of work (loads of boat loads actually, if you get what I mean) to do before they arrive so things will have to start cranking up.
A bit of a list - that happens when a 20t digger climbs on a barge.-

A dumper over the top of our jetty crane.

Nearly full.

The Forth Fighter turns round to head back out, full to the gunwales.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Forth Emergency Service

Well you just never know what is coming up next on the island. The next day we found that if they try hard young seals can get themselves in all sorts of difficult situations. Via  Maggie and James from the Scottish Seabird Centre  and via the contractors it appeared that there was a young seal stuck down a hole at Lady's Bed.  Maggie and James had come out with all the right equipment to see if they could get the animal out of a small hole  that is the remains of an old sea cave at the back of  Lady's Bed.  The hole was tiny and we don't know what possessed the seal to get in the hole but the step was too high for it to get back out again. According the the contractors it seemed to have been in there for up to a week but then they do have reserves that they can live off. Maggie and James gave it a good try to get it out and got a long board down into the hole for a ramp but unfortunately ran out of time and they had to catch the boat back. So those left on the island decided to give it a go and in the end it was Carrie, a seabird researcher who was the star of the rescue show by managing to get a loop of rope over its head (she could win a lot of prizes at a fairground), and behind its flippers so that it could be pulled up a plank and out of the hole. The pup was pretty weak but once it had been dipped in a pool for a quick drink it soon perked up and we were then able to put it into the sea where it seemed to be delighted in just getting wet and blowing bubbles under the water. Though weak it immediately started poking around for food so we hope that it will make a full recovery and maybe have learnt from the experience. It must have lost a fair bit of blubber as its skin was like an extra large overcoat.
The hole the seal managed to get into in the lower centre of the picture.

A hungry seal - the ledge was too high for it to get back out.

Maggie and James from the Scottish Seabird Centre putting in a plank in the hole to form a ramp.

A wash down in a rock pool

Glad to be out of the hole.

The grubby team - Colin, Carrie and myself. 

Just in case anyone thinks it might be fun to get up close to a young seal it must be stressed that we took great care in handling the pup, not only for the pups sake but seal bites can become badly infected very quickly due to the bacteria found in their mouths. So people, please don't try this at home.

Friday, 22 February 2013

A bray on the cliff is worth 2 on the sea.

My first view of the island as I came over the fife hills in the early morning light.

It is not a big territory for each pair but the best ledges are in great demand.

Guillemots pouring off greenface as we go past.

I dare not mention the spring word yet but things are definitely starting to happen out on the May. There is a buzz of activity with contractors and researchers of all sorts heading out on Monday with me tagging along. It was an early start leaving Anstruther before 0900 on a beautiful morning and we headed out over a flattish (for this time of year) sea through a light haze to the shadow on the horizon. As we got nearer the cliffs we could see white dots against the black rain washed cliffs. And then the white dots started tumbling off the cliffs and then we could see, and hear that the guillemots were back on the cliffs again. During the winter they don't completelydisappear like the puffins do but stay closer and in synchronise movements come back en masse onto the cliffs to stake a claim on a nesting ledge. They seems to come in before first light  and for not long after the cliffs are full but as the morning goes on they head back out to sea to feed. It seems so long since we last heard, back last July,  the guillemots braying, and the cliffs have been so quiet all winter. It may not be a beautiful sound but the first guilli bray of the season can't help but bring on a smile and is as welcome as the first call of the cuckoo or song of the willow warbler.

The end of a glorious day on the May.

Peregrine enjoys some rare late afternoon sun

Once we were on the island there was much to do, one contractor was assessing the waterlogged and wrecked footpaths and helping to draw up an improvement plan, others were out to help try to fix a troublesome problem we have with the power unit, others were there source stone for future building works and the final group continued their work on the Lowlight. It was a bit like rush hour with workmen buzzing around. In amongst them were some of the shag researchers getting winter resightings of colour ringed birds.
We found a few more shag carcasses, part of the high winter mortality suffered by these birds this winter and we wonder what the fast approaching breeding season will be like. Will the shags continue to increase their Isle of May population or will it be knocked back this year. We will just have to wait and see.