Wednesday, 6 April 2011

First Manx Shearwater Experience by Jasper Green, Volunteer.

Jasper Holmes - a volunteer on the island this week has written an entry for the blog that I would like to share with you all. It is a nice insight into someone's first experiences of the Manx Shearwaters. April is one of the noisiest months for the Manxies, which only come ashore at night to avoid predation. This time of year many birds are re-establishing burrows and bonds with partners who have been out at sea since last September.

I hope you enjoy the read as much as I did.



'What the hell is a wheatear?' I wonder at the first Bird Log debriefing. These take place in the evening at Chris the warden's house.I say house but its more a palatial mansion compared to our volunteer accomodation.

He asks us what birds we have seen during the day. Unfortunately my bird knowledge is a little lacking.'Chiff chaff? Teal? Widgeon?' 'I ,err, saw a puffin and a,,,black rabbit'

I reckoned the black rabbit might have scored me some points.The group turn to me and collectively smile. ' Hen harrier in North Valley' one eagle-eyed spotter notes and I drift,sleepy from the fresh air and warm room and wonder about the famous Manx Shearwaters and the old tale that I have heard.

'The souls of shipwrecked sailors come back home'.It is said some early visitors to Skomer were turned mad by the noises and the calls.There have been unexplained shipwrecks on calm clear nights and reports of strange fluttering night shapes in the sky.

A thick nightmist had come down as we left the warmth and made our way up the path back to our cold cells.

Then the most strange of sounds seemed to come from beneath our feet,a moaning from the grass.It was unlike any sound I have heard before.

'The souls of shipwrecked sailors come home' is what they say. And it got louder and louder, a gurgling,rasping,juddering sound.I seemed to be drawn closer and closer to the grass as it groaned in despair.

Then more and more from other parts of the cliff edge,the whole area was pulsing,throbbing.

The dead were calling siren-like,wailing. This is not the comforting groan of the puffin in its burrow, it is the call of one in despair. It changes from quiet and distant to a bold proclamation.

'Help me! Help me!' then a demand' Dig me up!' But as the sirens call you would be lured to your death.

Then your torch catches ones of the birds in its beam and they appear delicate, beautiful birds that are barely able to walk on land,fragile things,their realm is to ride the ocean winds,not to drag themselves into their nesting burrows beneath our feet that give them protection from the marauding gulls. They call to their mates and give rise to one of the most extraordinary nature phenomenon on the planet.

Mind you it doesn't make the showers any hotter.




1) The mansion is also a library, office and research quarters with built in lab, kitchen and researchers!

2) The volunteers have now been cleaned with hot water (can't ALWAYS have hot water on an island, they might go soft on us!!)

3) There are lots of black rabbits this year.

No comments:

Post a Comment