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The one week spent on Handa Island in NW Sutherland was wonderful. I love wee islands anyway, and this was special with the sheer number of birds there. 'Our' island had 150,000 guillemots, 9,000 razorbills, 15,000 kittiwakes, 10,000 fulmars, a few hundred puffins and skuas, etc. Plus lots of LBBs (little brown birds, ie anything that fits that general description but is too quick to identify). There were great numbers of flowers too - many that I have only learnt to recognise in the past year: bog asphodel, 2 varieties of orchid, butterwort, common and hare's-tail cotton grass, tormentil, thrift, vetch, bird's foot trefoil...etc.
Our accommodation for the week was basic but cosy; a small two-room bothy with an open fire, gas cooker, cold running water and a watering can shower! The summer Ranger, Lizzie had her own separate cabin, but the assistant Ranger, Victoria, a research scientist, Claire and the other volunteer, Marie and I shared the bothy.
Marie and I had the task of 'meeting and greeting' the day visitors to the island. We had to meet the small boat on the sandy beach, wheel out a wooden jetty on the sand and lead the visitors to a small shelter where we gave them a short (10 min) orientation talk about the island before they went off to explore on their own. Between boats (on demand, but about every half hour) we sat around on the beach reading and chatting to the visitors. A few visitors commented on our arduous task!!
After glorious sunny days on Wed and Thurs, I'm suffering from the affects of an over exposure to sun and wind and am glowing. Unfortunately, I got the tops of my feet sun burnt on Thursday (wading into the water to meet the boat washed off the sun cream), but I'm sure they'll recover before my walking holiday.
Marie and I went for a dip in the sea when we finished work on Thursday, but the water was absolutely freezing - the coldest I've ever been in the Atlantic Ocean.
We spent most of our waking hours outdoors, as we usually had breakfast outside the bothy, and after dinner Marie and I went for a walk around the island each evening. We spent hours sitting at the top of the cliffs mesmerised by the seabirds. We saw the sun set about 11.30pm over the Outer Hebrides, about 40 miles further west. Magical!
~ Sheila ~ wannabe Wildlife Ranger!
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