The Isle of may isn’t the first place that comes to mind when thinking about the famous sci-fi horror film Alien. But it was at the forefront of my mind for a short while yesterday. When down at the South Ness taking photos of the big swell running across the harbour mouth I found this dead greater black-back gull. Now the normal practice when finding a dead bird on the island however old and rotten is to check it legs for rings. With so much ringing going on on the island a lot of our ring return come from birds that have died on the island. Rings are put on legs to stay there so the best way to get them off a leg is usually to cut the leg off. I have a sharp penknife and so this is no problem providing I remember to wash the knife before i next use it to cut up food. So I picked up the gull, found it had a ring on its leg and cut off its leg so I could get the ring off. I then turn the gull over to double check that it was a greater and not a lesser black-backed gull when out of its chest burst a small mouse which then pinged over my arm and raced off across the rocks. To say that I was surprised would be a bit of an understatement but at least I know my heart is now in full working order and there is nothing wrong with my circulation . Only last week i have been discussing with the mouse researchers what the mice on the island ate and which parts of the island they got to. Well this dead bird was on the vegetation free, bare rock South Ness, the nearest vegetation being about 80 m away across a deep gulley so the only reason for the mouse being there would be for scavenging. The Isle of May mice obviously have to be very adaptable to survive on the island through the winter, not just cheese for them. Scary mice.
Anyway it does mean that I will be checking dead bird carcasses a lot more carefully from now on.