1 down, 99, 999 to go

Heading into Kirkhaven

Another Monday morning, another early start and myself plus Neil and George, the expert plumbers from Filpumps were heading over to the May to clean through the whole water system in the Fluke Street cottages and the Mousehouse visitor centre. I was just on for the day, they were on for a whole week, they had obviously done something really bad to be sent out for that long. It was bitterly cold and a bit splashy so we were hunched down a bit when about half way across I saw a small bird fly over the boat, “PUFFIN”, I yelled and everyone perked up. It wasn’t much to look at as it was still in its sooty grey-faced winter costume but it was the first seen since before Christmas and maybe a sign that they were starting to make their back towards the island after a winter out on the sea far from land. Only another 99,999 to go for a full set.

The Lowlight with its nearly finished extension.

Plenty of seals lounging around Rona

Once out on the island the plumbers set to work and I had a phone call from the Scottish Seabird Centre. Another seal in trouble. They seem to line themselves up for when we are on the island. This time it was animal that had got some fine fishing netting round its neck and this had cut in causing a horrible looking wound. The people in the Seabird Centre had spotted it on Pilgrims Haven with their remote control cameras. After asking them to switch the cameras off I went down armed with a pen knife, a pair of kitchen scissors and a large sheet. Luckily it was low tide and the seal was well up the beach fast asleep. So I creep down and got as close as possible. It didn’t wake up in the best of moods and the sheet that I threw over its head didn’t improve the way it was feeling and with a lot of growling it quickly wriggled out of the sheet and headed off to the sea with a short diversion to see if it could nibble my leg. This allowed me, with a bit of nimble footwork, to grab its tail, throw the sheet back over it head and then try to dart in and snip the netting with the scissors. The next few minutes were a bit of blur, both for me and the seal, there was a lot of lunging and swearing from both of us, but suddenly the netting seemed to fall away and I let the seal’s tail go so that it could finally head own to the sea in a very disgruntled fashion while I did a discrete air-punch. I was grateful for the cameras being off as I am sure the film of “man holding the tail of angry seal with sheet on head” would have gone viral on Youtube.
The seal still has a nasty wound on its neck caused by the net but we have seen seals recover from worse injuries than that in the past so we hope that it has a good chance of survival.
Of course this incident also brings home the effects of discarded fishing gear and plastics in the seas and by posting this I hope that it will be a reminder for us all to dispose of all rubbish and litter responsibly.

The young grey seal with the fishing netting around its neck. This was before I woke it up and removed it.
The fine but very strong netting once it was removed from the seal.
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