While what seems like the rest of the UK basks in glorious sunshine, us folk on St Kilda are battling with the elements. Even on a blue sky day when it seems relatively settled in Village Bay it is gusting hard at the cliff edges making it tricky to steady the scope (and myself!) to count guillemots that are squeezed together on ledges, as well as securing the precious plot photographs and trying to keep a notebook from flying away!
Calm days have been few this month but on Tuesday morning I awoke not to the sound of the wind whistling around the building but to birds tweeting outside. What? Surely not? A calm day, with no wind - hooray! The bay was flat calm, there hadn’t been a drop of rain for 24 hours and the sky looked like the clouds would clear – perfect conditions for a trip to Dun.
Kilda Cruises happily gave me a lift over to the landing spot (thank you!) and I had a couple of hours to find burrows, particularly difficult given the length of vegetation! I checked lots but couldn’t feel an adult or egg in many of them, that doesn’t mean to say they were empty – I could hear the pitter-patter of feet or cheep of a chick inside some - it’s just that they were beyond the reach of my arm. Of the 30 burrows where the contents were within my reach, 20 contained chicks and 10 contained an adult still incubating an egg.
This first visit was about a month overdue which unfortunately means I won’t be able to calculate a productivity value for the season. Accessing the island is difficult and there's certainly not much we can do about the weather, no matter how much we want to. All is not lost though as I hope to get back to Dun in a few weeks to remeasure the chicks before they fledge as this should provide some data about growth and body condition.
What a difference a day makes and we’re back to mist, rain and strong winds with the prospect of any settled weather looking slim for a fair few days. No boats in the bay today but no mist either so I took a stroll to see what was happening along the village: a few late lambs have been born in June and it's always fun to watch their antics as they run and jump about the place, our 'resident' swan is still wandering amongst the meadows, and starlings, wheatears and wrens are busy feeding their young.
Of course, there is still plenty to do when I can’t access the hills. Sometimes all staff are needed to lend a hand with visitor services, particularly when a large cruise stops by. The poor weather also gives me time to transcribe data, catch up on paperwork and write this entry for the Ranger’s Diary!