I'm currently in the middle of installing Leach's storm-petrel nest boxes over at Gleann Mhor, but to get to this stage required a substantial amount of help from friends on the mainland followed by considerable prep work on Island. In late March I visited Inverness and met with the volunteer group that had worked tirelessly for weeks to build nest boxes for us according to a design put together by Steve MacDonald (see my earlier Ranger's Diary entry from February for more info). It was great to meet the 'Men's Shed' in person and even better to see the boxes for the first time.
The boxes were sent to St Kilda in two batches; some travelled with me in the tardis (my car) and by helicopter while the remainder were packaged up with other kit and sent by courier and boat (thanks Kilda Cruises!)
There were a mixture of jobs to complete before the boxes could be installed. We now have 48 boxes, almost double the amount we had last season, so each was given a number to help us keep track of goings on throughout the season.
Petrels often nest in chambers accessed by burrows so we decided to replicate this feature using drain pipe. The birds obviously aren't used to walking on plastic so the inside of each section had to be coated with sand to provide some traction - much mess followed as spraying adhesive glue in the wind was always going to end with me being covered in as much glue as the pipe!
The boxes had to be lined so off I went with my wheelbarrow to collect soil from the heap we store in House 7.
The boxes need to be anchored in place inside the cleits so the next job involved collecting large pebbles from the beach. The idea of carting heavy rocks across the island might seem absurd when there are stones lying scattered all over, but the policy of not moving any object on island applies to staff as well as visitors.
The boxes were then weighed and measured, broken bits were replaced, handles were added, bits were chiseled off and tape applied to the edge of the pipe. Once that was done the boxes were ready to go!
My wheelbarrow had a rest at this stage as staff from QinetiQ offered to move the boxes, pipe, soil and stones up the hill using the Case. Thanks to Peem for doing this, it saved much time and back ache.
The following day I woke up full of enthusiasm and ready to start moving kit across the hill. The weather quickly put an end to that idea as visibility was virtually nil. I can easily navigate to the cleits where I'll be installing the boxes but I didn't think it wise to try and move heavy kit in a wheelbarrow by myself across a muddy hillside in these conditions. Try again tomorrow....