Settling in and exploring the island.

It’s Wed and we saw the sun today. This prompted much photo taking and we attach the first one of the team.

Paddy, Sian, James and Toby

The guys have been exploring the island while there’s a chance – there are only 8 seal mums and 2 pups in the study area at the minute.

This year is the 21st season in a row we’ve been monitoring this breeding colony.  During this time the number of pups born here has fallen from around 1400 to around 600. Finding out the reasons for this decline is one of the reasons we’re here. We’ve started recording activity on the colony but won’t begin full photo surveys to check the identities of who’s here for a while yet.

Sian is hoping to record births in the study area to examine early maternal behaviour to see how this varies (in between making origami animals).

Further updates soon.

Best from the team

Here we go!

The 2013 North Rona field season is under way!
We arrived safely on the island on Saturday 21st September just in time to make the best of the remaining hours of dry weather before the rain came in and everything seemed normal.

The party this year has three new faces to brighten up the hut and make the old man feel even older.
Sian joins us fresh from a whirlwind tour of the West Coast, after a spell doing diet work at SMRU.
James is a known commodity as he’s just finished a Master’s at Durham, working on seal distribution in relation to topographical features – he finally gets to see in reality what has been a simple map until now.
Toby hails from Portugal, but came to us via working as a photo-ID specialist in Wales. He has just started work on a PhD with Paddy, the fourth member and team boss.

We’ve spent Sunday and today getting the hut into some sort of order then setting up the hides above the study area.
Despite the near zero visibility, we managed to see a handful of seals ashore – the real early birds.

Our next posts will update on what we hope to do this season.


P, J, S, T.

Last one from the isle

Last blog from Rona 2012 – on Halloween! Some tricky weather, but plenty of treats too in a last bid attempt to eat up our leftovers…. In anticipation of leaving the island tomorrow there’s lots of packing and sorting happening this evening.

Today we worked really hard to weigh and sex weaners in the colony. We managed over 70 in total, not too bad!… Sore muscles are of course inevitable for tomorrow. The largest weaner today, weighing in at an impressive 66kg was O8’s pup. Luke felt particularly close to this one. A last minute distribution map of the remaining individuals AND bringing down the remaining hide, completed our work outside. Not a bad day’s work.


It’s been a rainbow-tastic, science-er-rific Rona field season. We’d like to thank you for reading our blog- we hope you’ve enjoyed our ‘notes from a small island’, to steal inspiration from Bill Bryson. We’ll continue with updates from St Andrews with the more bulky material we couldn’t email. Thanks again and here’s to next year!

This is Ronabase signing out.


Charlotte (Shazza ‘cutthroat’ McCairnsy), Amelia (Alba’s awful apparator) , Luke (The Count) and Paddy (Padenstein).

The end is near

Well, the weather has been keeping us on our toes, providing extra spice to the challenge of finishing off the work and taking down two of the hides. Just one hide remains on the hillside and that will be coming down tomorrow, all being well. As the breeding season comes to its end, we’ll be dedicating tomorrow to the weaners as we were diverted to other major repairs today. The grey box of death is now partially green.

Des news: He’s now a healthy moulting pup. Interestingly, he and his mum have moved down the slope a bit, as the weaners disperse up (???!) the hill. As we may expect considering Des’ progress, his mum has been seen to be the object of at least one male’s affections recently, so we expect her departure from the colony at any time.

Please give us a window of rainless, clear skies on Thursday morning so we can leave as scheduled. As much as we have enjoyed our time here, it’s time to get back to the mainland and engage in normal hygiene routines again. Fingers crossed.

Here’s a new pup from the Arena yesterday with rather a snazzy Mohican hairdo.


The snow cometh

Scottish weather, you gotta love it. Today, we had Rona snow. Rona snow (actually a constantly varying mixture of hail, sleet and snow) doesn’t fall, it simply whizzes by horizantally, helped on its way by a howling northerly gale. Amelia assures us that 5 layers are required inside today and even our hardy Skywalker dressed in 6 layers when he ventured outside earlier. It is brisk. The trusty hut seems reliably robust to the external icy winds (apart from the stuff that gets in the front door), which is reassuring. In spite of the conditions, Luke and I will be persevering with ‘Cammy’ trials on the weaners that we have watched grow over the past few weeks. It’ll be interesting to see if they react to Cammy like their mothers. Many fewer mums on the colony now.


Sky show: the other night we saw the northern lights. A rather inconvenient dark cloud spoiled things a bit, however we were able to see big luminous rays of greenish light shooting up into the inky sky. Needless to say, Luke “has seen better” (..on the TV).

In other news, the bacon tally reduces slowly. Luke is on cooking duty tonight and threatens a bacon bonanza. Des has become noticeably fatter. His mum had a major disagreement with an incoming neighbour this morning. Howls and flippering were exchanged, Des’s mum retained her place by the tiny pool she usually occupies, the wanderer withdrew and quiet was restored.

Overheard on Radio 2: Vanessa Feltz says (so it must be true) there is currently a “wet wipe fad” in the UK. We were there first, people. Outer Hebridean trendsetters strike again.

Till next time,

(Notes for (i) Charlotte’s mum: Happy Birthday! Hope you have a relaxing day and go out to celebrate somewhere; (ii) Wully: glad to hear you’re mostly OK (iii) Kelly and Hannah – Pillow Toby sends his best xx ).