Back in February (my last blog) I wrote that it felt like the lull before the storm. The fact it’s now late June should be evidence enough that the storm broke. And it broke big time! It’s only really because of our marketing guru Bex that I’m even finding the time to write this blog. Constant hounding will eventually get through (Thanks Bex ;-)).
It's been all the usual stuff...well apart from a trip to Assam in India to radio track the World's most endangered pig! More of that later in a separate article. This spring found us yet again pounding (squelching?!) the Somerset levels in search of great crested newts and although the project was not as big as last year, it still took a lot of organising (thanks Andy and Kate).
On top of this we’ve been doing our normal trick of servicing jobs in all the geographic extremes of the UK (using local ecologists of course!). Wind farms in Scotland, and west Wales, newt and bat surveys in Suffolk, newt surveys in Sussex and bird surveys in Devon, as well has a whole heap of projects in the middle.
And I’ve also been getting out and meeting lots of you face to face. This is an element of my job at Biocensus that I love. Not only is it great for business but I learn so much! Whether it’s technical stuff or just more general info on the sector. All well worth it!
A few weeks ago I was back on Priest Island. One of the Summer Isles off the North West coast of Scotland, Priest Island is uninhabited by people but is home to thousands of storm petrels and a host of other seabirds. It’s an SPA and designated for its population of breeding storm petrels. Every year the RSPB ask us to spend three nights catching and ringing the birds as they come into their burrows at night.
This is all part of a monitoring program the RSPB do on an annual basis. It’s a great experience being dropped off on the beach with all our food, tents nets and ringing kit, and waving goodbye to the boat. As well as hoping they can come and get us and that the weather doesn’t leave us stranded! It’s a real privilege to stay on the island and, as a desk marooned ecologist that lives and works in a city (albeit a small one), it's a huge contrast to the normal day to day. Even something as simple as the difference in the soundscape is incredible. At times there is complete silence. Now that’s weird!!
Of course there is often plenty of noise made by the birds etc… For example the sound of calling storm petrels, which when you are standing in the dark at the base of a scree slope and the whole side of the mountain is ringing with the calls of thousands of storm petrels is just amazing.
We also ring great skua chicks while we’re there as part of a wider research project. This chick was only hours old and so too young to be ringed. Obviously as a hard bitten, cynical, objective scientist I can’t possibly say “CUTE!!!!!!!”. So I won’t.
When the boat comes to get us at the end of five days it’s usually with an odd mix of contrasting emotions. Firstly “thank God they remembered!” followed by a touch of regret that it’s all over and the real world is beckoning. This is fairly swiftly followed by the appeal of a hot bath!
It was therefore a wonderful distraction to come across a pod of bottlenose dolphins on the way back this year. We were honoured to witness incredible views of these fantastic animals partaking in what can only be described as human watching. I’m no camera man as you can see but as a sign off with a difference I thought I’d share this with you (click here to see the footage).