The guillemot season is ova

Start with a pun, end with a pun.

This last month has flown by. My first field season is now over, and like a guillemot jumpling I feel I have taken a giant leap off a very tall cliff, stumbling and rolling clumsily between the ledges until finally crashing into the sea, which turns out to be the real start to the adventure. I am finishing this season feeling considerably more zen compared to the start, having learned a lot, and (I think!) having collected some relevant, useful data. Here’s to the next challenge…analysing it all!

Watching the chicks grow and the colony’s accompanying change in behaviour has been fun. I stopped needing to get up at 5am so was able to be sociable in the evenings and appreciate other aspects of island life. We were all sorry to see Cat and Sophia leave at the end of their placements – we had quickly formed a supportive, cooperative family in the weeks that we lived together, frequently sprinkled with uncontrollable snorting laughter, which I’m sure you’ll agree is the necessary ingredient for a successful field season.


‘Paddleboarding’ with Cat, Sophia and a curious seal

I helped to count cliff-nesting seabirds from the boat, record puffin feeding watches, and measure shearwater productivity by spending a delightful afternoon checking burrows for fluffy shearwater chicks, and accidentally finding a puffling too.

IMG_1875 IMG_1882

A Manx shearwater chick, and Ros and I smelling a puffin chick

Everyone has been excited about hatching and fledging, and the island has been a frenzy of ringing activity. Identifying the birds by individual rings allows us to monitor their movements and survival. TRB and BJH came over to do the guillemot ringing for our study. The four of us were the dream team, ringing 312 chicks and 4 adults in 7 hours.

IMG_4713At the end of the intense guillemot ringing session. As you can see, I’m pretty wild.

I have had a fantastic few months here. I am excited to be returning to Sheffield, to start wading through my data, and I am looking forward to entering my next season prepared with everything I have learned this year…

Best things about fieldwork:

– Living by nature: the days activities depend on the angle of the sun, the rain, the wind, the fog, sunrise and sunset. No amount of pressure or stress can change the weather!

– Being outside all the time, in a beautiful place, so close to the sea, simply stunning.

– Awareness of resources: I have become even more aware of conserving water and electricity, appreciating food, and dealing with waste.

– Learning: I have learned a huge amount about my own area of research and necessary field skills, as well as global conservation work, how small communities behave, and Australian slang.

– The people: I’ve laughed a lot, been laughed at a lot, and been supported through fluctuating sleep and stress levels by wonderfully accepting people.

– The birds, of course!

– Being grubby all the time

Not-so-good things about fieldwork:

– Missing friends and family

– Being mobbed by gulls

– Bad internet/phone signal/electricity reliability when you have things to do

– Being grubby all the time


To the next adventure!

IMG_1916A delicious guillemot cake complete with pasta identification leg ring, made by Alastair



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