Sunday, 18 May 2014

Puffin Island 2014

I really enjoyed my visit to Puffin Island with Steve Dodd (RSPB); he’s been ringing and monitoring birds here for over 30 years. It was a master class in how to catch a Shag with a shepherd’s crook and without being bitten. Also an impressive demonstration of plucking a Razorbill off a cliff with a noose on the end of a fishing pole. Essential requirements are a steady hand, a head for heights, balance and patience.

We were there to record a story for Country Focus to find out to what extent seabird populations have been reduced by the prolonged storms of last winter. You can hear the outcome in June, which is when the programme will be broadcast.

The island is owned by the Barron Hill Estate and I am grateful for their permission to visit. It’s fantastic that there is this beautiful sanctuary, close to but free from humans, with no foxes, stoats nor rats. The rats got their come uppance with two tonnes of Warfarin about thirteen years ago. They used to feast on eggs and chicks during the short breeding season then the next nine months of the year they’d turn vegetarian. This kept the vegetation down but these days it’s a struggle to get around; Steve had a machete with him to hack a path through to the Cormorant breeding cliffs.  

Despite being named Puffin Island there are not many Puffins, maybe thirty to forty pairs, but on our visit we saw just two and three more out to sea.  

It was a privilege to be in amongst so many seabirds, it was so perfect I expected to bump into David Attenborough. It was a still day, perfect for sound. If you watch the YouTube film below don’t forget to turn on the speakers or better still put on some headphones – the sounds are more impressive than the sights.

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