A week flies by…
I’m not exactly a stranger to the Isle of May as I’ve spent several winter seasons out here studying the seals. However, it’s hard to imagine the island as a bird haven when my experience of the dawn chorus is one of howls (from the seals) and ‘who’s for coffee’ (from the seal researchers). So when the chance came to volunteer out here for the summer, I grabbed it with both hands.
I’ll be helping with a variety of tasks over the summer – general maintenance, talking to visitors and a bit of seabird research too. I’ve only been here a week, but it’s all been a learning experience so far – cleaning out cupboards has unearthed old equipment and tools from the lighthouse, as well as newspapers dating back to 1934 when a night at the theatre would cost you a shilling (or 5p in new money!). Adding stuff to the touch table has meant cornering a seabird researcher to find out what birds the skulls and feathers are from, and even sitting in the hide counting seabirds has taught me that puffins mate on water. And it doesn’t stop there – although I knew that the rabbits were originally introduced by the monks, I never realised how important they have become for conserving the maritime grassland. As for all the different birds…. well, there’s an awful lot of learning to be done there, but it’s impossible not to learn things when you are surrounded by them 24/7. Hopefully I can pass on some knowledge in return – there might not be as many seals here as there are during the breeding season, but there are normally a few hanging around, so if you’re visiting the island and want to know about them, make sure you find me when you’re here.
Paula (summer volunteer)