Every time I come back from the Isles of Scilly it sort of feels like it might be the last visit for the foreseeable future. But every time I think it’s all over, I always find myself going back. Sometimes it’s so I can go to seabird meetings or to support Scilly swims. This time it was so I could attend my 5th Isles of Scilly fieldcourse, something I also thought I’d never get to do again!
I attended this field course myself as an undergrad (and did a project about shag diving behaviour, little knowing the future). During my PhD I went out every year with the field course and was abandoned on the island at the end of it.
This year was different. At the end of the course I came home with the rest of the staff and students. Also different this year was the date of the field course. Previously the course had always taken place in April/May which often resulted in mixed weather conditions. This year it was in June! In the sunshine! This made quite a difference (certainly it resulted in less tent based destruction).
There was also a complete changeover of staff, with myself being the only one who had done the previous field courses. This led to quite a lot of headscratching as I did my best to recall how things had worked in previous years.
It was lovely to get back to the islands and catch up with many of the islanders who had helped me during my fieldwork, and to catch up with the local wildlife. There were definitely more puffins spotted on our boat trip than there had been when the course had been earlier in the year (resulting in less instances of staff members nearly getting thrown overboard).
We were also treated to the sight of several red kites getting mobbed by most of the gulls on St. Agnes (more kites than had been seen on the islands for almost a decade) and with the help of Will Wagstaff (Who I just discovered has a wikipedia page!) some of us also got to see a bee eater.
Of course there were also plenty of shags hanging about. It was very nice to see the rafts in the flesh again, not squinting at tracked individuals moving on a screen. During a trip to St. Martins we travelled past a large raft, allowing me to enthuse about what I (think) I have found out about them. Some of the students might even have been interested!
On leaving the islands, I once again have no idea when I might be back. It’s unlikely I’ll ever have another chance to spend so much time in such a fantastic place. I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity, and to all those who have made living and working in the Scillies such a pleasant experience.
But I’m sure I’ll be back.