Thursday, 18 July 2013

My first field season on the Isle of May - Klara Wanelik

This is the first of two Guest blogs from Klara Wanelik

My first field season on the Isle of May

I arrived on the Isle of May for my first field season on the 15th April. I was anxious, slightly home-sick and unsure of what to expect. My aim was to collect detailed data on the movements of pre-breeding guillemots to shine some light on the possibility of disease transmission within the colony. Little did I know that I would learn a lot more than this during my two months on the island.
On my first day out in the field, I was welcomed by gale-force winds, bitter cold and sea-spray battering down like rain. I eventually realised that it was impossible to do any work without risking being flung from the cliffs. That evening I found out that my grandmother had passed away. I felt incredibly isolated, in the middle of the North Sea and so far away from my family. I left the island the next morning. When I got back, I started spending longer and longer days out in the field, sitting in the same spot for up to three hours collecting my data. I felt comforted by the island and sitting out on the cliffs became almost meditative.
Although I enjoyed the solitude of my work during the day, I also looked forward to the communal dinner times. As my time on the island passed, I got to know the residents of the island better and better. Some people came and went but others were a constant presence. We enjoyed multiple ‘whisky o’clocks’ together, as well as a rounders game, movie nights, star gazing, a salsa night, a barbeque and a party in the south horn (among other things). Living on the island also made me realise how little I really needed to be happy:  fresh air, a bit of food and drink, cleanish clothes and some good company. Obviously, showers were off limits but I actually stopped caring so much about those worryingly quickly.
When I left the island in mid-June, I was not only very sad to be leaving such a unique experience but also scared of returning to the mainland with all its hustle and bustle. I knew then that I had caught the ‘island bug’ and the moment I stepped back onto the mainland I started to look forward to my second field season. Until next year!

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