Saturday, 20 July 2013

To see every bird on the Isle of May - Klara Wanelik

Student  Klara Wanelik guest blogs today.

She writes -

This year is my first bird listing year. I reluctantly gave in to my boyfriend, Jake’s encouragement and started one on New Year’s Day. By mid-April when I arrived on the Isle of May, Jake was steaming ahead of me with 125 birds on his list and I was lagging behind with just 95. I didn’t think of myself as a particularly competitive bird lister, but during the two months that I spent on the Island that all changed…
I ticked off all the resident seabirds very quickly as well as a Wheatear, a small population of which had landed on the Island. That got me to 111 but things slowed down after that. I hadn’t got my eye in and I found it difficult to spot any migrants, let alone identify them. I started to check the daily sightings board for inspiration and this led me to my first notable discovery: a Black Guillemot (or “Tistie”).  I ran across the Island to the low light where it had been reported and sat watching the shore. Finally, I spotted it - a beautiful combination of black, white and bright red (and no. 112).  Then the weather went downhill and the wind switched to a westerly (I learnt to despise westerlies, like every other birder on the Island). I didn’t see anything interesting for a while but just as I was losing hope I glimpsed a Black Redstart, hopping along a wall by the bain trap in the rain.
My list started to steadily grow after that and I became infamous for my obsessive listing, giving regular updates on my progress to everyone at dinner (relative to Jake’s, of course). It wasn’t quite that bad in reality. When the poor bedraggled Hobby dropped in, I made a point of finishing my work before sprinting like a maniac down from the south horn to the mouse house. I made it, and that was no. 124. No. 125 was a Grasshopper Warbler in the garden behind the low trap. I suddenly realised that I was tied with Jake and my competitive instinct cranked up a notch. A Sand Martin pushed me into the lead, followed by a Red-backed Shrike, a Spotted Flycatcher and finally a Pied Flycatcher (no. 133) - what a beautiful bird. 

The most memorable birds came towards the end of my stay. After partying into the morning and drinking a considerable amount of alcohol, we were all woken up by a message from the low lighters – they had found a Woodchat Shrike up at the top trap! I don’t think I’ve ever jumped out of bed with quite so much excitement. I legged it up palpitation brae to find a small (and hungover) congregation watching the bird. What a great way to start the day. My final tick on the island came only a day before I was due to leave. It was another early morning arrival – a majestic Long-eared Owl. What an end to an amazing, bird-filled two months on the island. 

I left the island at 141, well ahead of Jake, and he still hasn’t caught up. In case you’re interested, our relationship hasn’t suffered from all this fanatical listing, yet.

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