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5 Jul 2019

From the edge of the world: part 6

Written by Sue Loughran
A group of people standing on the jetty on Hirta, St Kilda
Hello! I’m Sue, the ranger on St Kilda. I’m writing a blog to share what it’s like to work on these incredible islands. This week, I talk about visitors and seabirds.

One of my roles is to welcome all visitors and introduce them to the main features of the island. This can be quite a difficult task, when some arrive feeling unwell or cold from the crossing, or just plain keen to get out and explore. Many people have waited a long time to make the journey to St Kilda and I want them to have as enjoyable an experience as possible. I try to keep things short but informative, and include points of safety both for the visitors and for our wildlife and heritage.

People in a small boat arriving at St Kilda
Visitors arriving at St Kilda in an open tender

Visitors come from all over the world and may arrive by cruise ship, day boat, yacht, landing craft or helicopter. It’s vital that we maintain biosecurity, and the prevention of introducing non-native species via the jetty is one of my responsibilities. No pets are allowed ashore, and all visitors have to arrive by an open boat so that rats cannot be harboured. Rats would have a devastating effect on the seabird population on St Kilda, which currently boasts the largest colonies of Atlantic puffin and fulmar in the UK, the second largest gannetry in the UK, and 94% of the UK population of Leach’s petrel. In addition, there are notable populations of European storm petrel, great skua, razorbill, guillemot and Manx shearwater; so vigilance is key!

Birds flying offshore on St Kilda
Monitoring puffins

All of our seabirds are monitored by our seabird and marine ranger, Sarah. I too have experience in bird monitoring, and so am keen to be involved whenever I have the time. It was fantastic to be part of the recent survey to monitor puffin breeding success, which is carried out over a predetermined location on the island every year. We’re really looking forward to seeing our first pufflings (fledged puffins) soon!

From the edge of the world

St Kilda blog

Find out more about what it’s like to work on these incredible islands.

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