The counting starts.

Jeremy checking ledges. It isn’t as bad as it looks.

Jeremy roped up for safety and counting away.

It is counting time for the cliff birds. The first 2 weeks in June is when we do the counting to see how many seabirds we have, Jeremy counts all the cliffs once and I count 20 plots 5 times for guillemots and razorbills. It is vital work to assess how the populations are doing in the difficult times of warming oceans and diminishing fish stocks. And I love it. The first plot on the first morning is down on Rona, it’s cold, my fingers numb as I fiddle with my stack of plot photos, clipboard, data form, binoculars and pencil. I get myself organised and familiarise myself with the boundaries of the plot, matching the photo with the cliff face in front of me and muttering. “You’re in, you”re out, you”re in” to birds on ledges and gradually the plot becomes familiar again. And then I am off counting, clearing everything else out of my mind, working systematically from the bottom to the top and sweeping the ledges. First picking out the guillemots and then razorbills, looking for tails, ends of beaks or wing tips sticking out of cracks. The gulls nesting around where I am sitting eventually settle down and go quiet, all except for the one that nests closest to me. It keeps diving, yelping as it passes cover head and I can feel the breeze each time as its feet miss my head by inches.Once I am confident with the count I write it down on the form and move on to the next plot. What a way to spend a day – temporarily being back in the midst of a city….a seabird city.

Guillemot or razorbill?

They don’t always line up like this to help us.

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