Category Archives: ocean

International Fulmar Rescue rides again!

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In safe hands

Graham and I recently returned from a very nice holiday with his father in Devon, in the south of England. On the return we had a day’s rest at father-in-law’s house in Lincolnshire, before heading out on our two-day trek north back to Orkney. We spent one night in a lovely B&B in Lauder before continuing our drive north.

We’d been keeping an eye on the weather which, while most eyes were on the immense Hurricane Irene in the US, had turned decidedly nasty up over Northern Scotland. We weren’t surprised then to learn that our ferry back to Orkney had been cancelled. We spent a night in a hastily-booked hotel in Wick and made it home the next day on the lunchtime Pentland Ferry.

Bags were lugged in and dropped in the hall, and the all important cups of tea had just been made, when the phone rang. It was Jenny at the RSPB office. Would we be able to rescue a fulmar fledgling that construction workers on a site near our house had noticed was trapped in the burn and unable to fly? How could I say no?

It’s in here somewhere…
So back into the car we went and parked at the now deserted construction site. I soon spotted the poor bird’s wings flapping in the vegetation as it struggled to push itself clear. It very obviously wasn’t going to be able to get airborne on this bit of water. Fulmars are a type of petrel, a seabird with legs set so far back on their body that they can’t take off from dry land, but need a stretch of open water.

After a few minutes of wading up to my knees in freezing cold water, I managed to get hold of the poor bird, clutched it to my chest, hoping it wouldn’t use the fulmar’s defence of spitting a noxious fishy fluid at me, and sloshed my way back to Graham and the car. Graham was helpfully taking pictures of the whole thing. I admit I don’t look my best, as we’d just been travelling for three days, but it was worth it.

Wrapped in Graham’s shirt to keep it calm – and protect my fingers from nips!
Back in the car, with the bird giving me the occasional spirited nip, we drove down to the beach at Skaill Bay, put the fulmar at the water’s edge, and watched happily as it half-paddled, half-flapped its way out into the open water.

Nearly there!
It’s a tremendously satisfying feeling to be able to help a wild creature in trouble.

The water’s edge
Knowing how long-lived fulmars are, it felt good to give this youngster a helping hand, and I hope that it has a long, productive life.
Off it goes
As the RSPB warden Alan commented later, ‘Who ya gonna call?’ Probably us again!

Kathie Touin

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