I arrived on Oronsay at the beginning of December for a 3 month stint as a voluntary warden. I am a mature Environmental Science undergraduate in my final year and I applied to come to Oronsay to gain valuable practical experience with a wildlife conservation charity.

I have previously worked and volunteered with the National Trust in other coastal locations and lived in remote islands in warmer parts of the world. Oronsay presented an opportunity to experience island life in the UK for the first time.

After a fairly uneventful crossing on the ferry I was greeted by some of the Colonsay locals and introduced to their famous hospitality, with a cup of tea and cake. The next day a quick talk about the important work the RSPB is conducting here and in other parts of the region was followed by an introduction to the island’s other inhabitants.

Other than the amazing diversity of plant and bird species the most important members of the team are the sheep and cattle that carry out all the hard work in maintain the favourable status of the island. Working with the livestock was the main reason I applied for the position and I haven’t been disappointed. The reserve staff have an incredible wealth of knowledge and in a short time I have learnt some valuable skills and theory behind the grazing regime and animal husbandry.

My highlights so far have been my first sightings of the sea eagles and golden eagles, improving my identification skills and getting acquainted with the resident sheepdogs, Moss and Ben. As well as being good natured and talented sheep herders they make the trip to the Carn for cattle checking slightly easier. Every other day I am required to trek out to the Carn, my favourite part of the island. The dunes on this part of the island are particularly impressive and the low lying area in between the several small hills is known as the Serengeti by the resident wardens. The 19 cattle that are spending the winter here are masters of disguise and seem to appear from nowhere in this 100ha mosaic! When the dogs aren’t in attendance finding the residents can require the bagging of several of the hillocks and several hours! Something I really enjoy! At low tide a slow walk along the coast on the south end often throws up some interesting sightings, such as divers, ringed plover and grey seals.

  

The accommodation, Eve cottage, is a lovely place to spend a wild and windy night waiting for the next day’s tasks. Each day presents a new and interesting challenge and the island can seem like a completely different place depending on the weather!

In my spare time I have my degree to keep my mind occupied and I also like to go running on some of the tracks that lead round the island to keep maintain my health and fitness. As a Scuba diving instructor I rather optimistically brought my wetsuit and fins, with the hope of some snorkelling… The Atlantic in December is slightly colder than the South China Sea.

Anonymous