And so it begins! A new season on this unique and special island, I’m sure there will be many tales to tell over the next few months. For the last two weeks life has been about refamiliarising myself with the island, helping to prepare the facilities so they are in tip top condition, meeting visitors and most importantly (to me!) discovering whether the seabirds have returned and starting preparations for the upcoming busy survey season.
Since I arrived a northerly airflow has been stuck over the island. At times, it’s bitterly cold and windy and with harsh sea conditions this means a slow start for the visitor season.
Only a few vessels have made the trip across from Harris. On board one of the day boats was our first temporary ranger of the season, Willie Fraser. As both a property manager for the NTS and an outdoor enthusiast, Willie is hugely experienced and soon settled in making sure to find time to enjoy the island in between quite lengthy jobs such as making the jetty safe for visitors. The unpredictable nature of the weather meant his booking off island was delayed several times over but the few extra days allowed a bit more exploration before he eventually ‘escaped’ yesterday.
The seabird breeding season is influenced by the weather and the continuous cold blast from the north wind seems to have delayed some birds from settling down on the cliffs. A few days ago there were some auks on the cliff ledges but at the weekend there has been an almost total absence of guillemots and razorbills and with the weather unlikely to alter over the next few days, I can’t imagine this will change in the short term.
Sheltered from the wind, Carn Mor was the perfect place to spend a few hours one afternoon last week. Having spent the winter out on the open sea, the Puffins were back ashore with many preparing their burrows for the new breeding season. Several birds were muddy from clearing soil, some carried vegetation which will be used to lay their single white egg upon while others stretched their wings following a bout of renovation in their burrow home.
After a slow start to the lambing season there are now lambs popping up in almost every direction. I love this time of year at St Kilda, it’s almost impossible not to stop in your tracks when a woolly wee lamb crosses your path ‘velcroed’ alongside its mother. The cold weather just now isn’t good for these wee beasts but hopefully it won’t be long before the lambs start playing together in the late evening sun (let’s be optimistic!). If you’re ever on St Kilda in May, make sure to schedule some time to sit outside to witness the hilarity of lambs chasing one another up and down the meadows.
After several days in Village Bay, I took the first opportunity to spend some quality time on the hill. By following the west coast of the island, Willie and I were able to explore some of the more well-known sites, like the Mistress stone and Lover’s stone, plus some nooks and crannies that I’m sure only a few people have touched in recent years. As is often the case, a couple of seals were hauled out at Dun, skuas squawked on Mullach Bi, Oystercatchers peeped in the boulder field and fulmars flew by along the ridge line. It was great to be able to spend time sharing my ‘playground’ with someone who has never visited before.
Well, that's all for now, keep checking back as I will certainly have more wildlife related updates in the months to come.
St Kilda Seabird Ranger