Last summer I was a seabird warden at Rockabill island, off the coast of Dublin. I had been to Rockabill previously sampling during my PhD and postdoc and it is a magical little island (the size of a football pitch!), home to over 7,000 seabirds! It is also the most important Roseate tern colony in Europe! But not only Roseate terns live there, we also have Common and Arctic terns, Kittiwakes and Black Guillemots nesting on the island. In addition, Puffins, Common Guillemots and Razorbills are regular visitors to my delight!
It is as incredible as it sounds, but with a little catch: we have no power or running water. Well, almost none. We have a generator that we turn on for about two hours a day, enough to charge our laptops and phones and give a bit of a cool breeze into our small fridge! And we have tanks that were filled with rain water during the winter, but since hello climate change and we didn’t have a wet winter and a had like a tropical summer (but with no storms), we were pretty low on freshwater quickly and seawater was used a lot (please, don’t ask how often we showered! Haha!). We, yes, we were three wardens on this island. Our boss and sometimes visitors come to us and supply us with fresh food, drinking water and petrol for our generator. No random visitors, let me be clear. It is strictly not allowed to land on Rockabill as it is private property and we are trying to protect ground nesting birds.
Speaking of birds, as we all know, they are amazing! And I’m not biased! 😉 We laid out nest boxes for the Roseate terns and Black Guillemots, but Common terns nest on the ground (everywhere!), so do Arctics, and Kittiwakes nest on the cliffy areas of the island. The first Roseate and Common tern eggs were laid at the end of May. On average, incubation takes about 22 days, then quickly tiny chicks become big chicks and fledglings! They grow so fast! For a period of three weeks, things went crazy with all the chicks hatching and we had to measure and weigh them every day, and ring them when they were big enough for a ring (on average 4 days old). This was for our study area birds (each one of us was responsible for a few study areas). In the space of a week we had the ringing sweep and we had to ring all chicks on the island! In total, we ringed over 4,300 birds between Common, Roseates and Arctic terns, Black guillemots and later, Kittiwakes. We had help for 2 days from two previous wardens: Brian Burke and Shane Somers and our boss, Steve Newton. And then we were left to our own to finish the job, which was successfully completed on the following Sunday (who needs a weekend?!).
Then it was back to biometrics and feeding watches. The great majority of the chicks were soon after in fledging plumage and taking low flights, sometimes even to sea (again, they grow up so fast!). It was amazing to watch and monitor all the process and I love all the birds… but again, everybody knows that! 🙂 I’ll leave you with some photos about #lifeontherock (as I like to call it!)and if you feel so inclined, follow my Instagram profie @heidiacampora , where I continue to post photos and videos of my bird and wildlife adventures, along with others 🙂
For more information on Rockabill, check out the Rockablog, which was updated in real time!
Until next time,
* All photos were taken under National Parks & Wildlife Services (NPWS) licence.