And so, my first week at Rathlin Island has come to a close. The views are just as breathtaking as ever, and I feel that I am slowly getting used to the relaxed atmosphere on the island. The weather is very unpredictable, with winds bringing different weather from both NI and Scotland. As for the RSPB seabird centre, unfortunately a majority of the birds that were left have flown away for their winter migrations. The few that are left are mostly fulmars and kittiwakes, with the occasional guillemot and gannet flying around. Today I also saw my first great Skua. However, there is still an abundance of things to share with the visitors, from puffins heads (the poor things that had been caught and killed by peregrine falcons, eaten, and their heads and legs left behind) to guillemot eggs to a number of RSPB bird and nature books to peruse. I have now also been trained in membership recruitment, and recruited my first two members this morning! Even a couple of new members recruited at the centre is significant to the centre as it receives a significant amount of funding for every member that joins at the centre. It is also interesting to hear the opinions from visitors and answer their questions about conservation work on the island (focusing mainly on corncrakes and choughs) and the threats that seabirds face today,ranging from overfishing to warming climates to habitat destruction. I think the experience I am gaining here will help me substantially as I address similar topics in my third year at Imperial.
The work we have done on the island has also extended beyond the seabird centre. Just a few days ago we drove over to a local family’s farm and helped them pull ragwarts (yellow flowered weeds that are toxic to livestock that may graze on them) from their fields. The local name for the weeds is bendweeds, a nickname I fully understood once I had spent a few hours bending over to pull them out. The following day we helped the same family tag some of their newly born calves. While both evenings involved hard work, it was interesting to experience the work that locals have to undertake in their daily lives – so different from the city life!
This week two new volunteers have arrived to the RSPB centre. It is nice to meet so many new people who are also interested in the conservation work of the RSPB. I look forward to the coming weeks and hope I will enhance my knowledge of the bird conservation of RSPB even more.
(A shout out from volunteer James, sitting next to me, to all his mates in London and who wanted to be included in this post 😉 )