Castaways off again to uninhabited
A SUMMER job that
involves being attacked every day by angry Irish
birds might make some people take flight.
But not wildlife warden Brian Burke, who is off once
again to monitor the endangered roseate tern seabird
on Rockabill Island, seven kilometres off the north
Admittedly, Brian (26) will earn 400 euro a week and
get free accommodation on the remote rocky outcrop
that is smaller than a football pitch.
But the BirdWatch Ireland warden will forego all his
usual home comforts, will rely on a generator for
electricity and will suffer severe pecks by
thousands of screaming birds for three months. He
will also have to endure the incessant showers of
bird droppings that rain down daily on the important
BirdWatch Ireland warden, Brian
Burke, measures a tern chick on Rockabill during the
2014 breeding season.
Brian will be joined on
the island by a different colleague this year as
last summerís co-worker, Donnacha Woods from
Wicklow, is working abroad.
His co-castaway will be Carlow ornithologist, Andrew
Power (27) who has extensive experience on other
BirdWatch Ireland tern projects.
The two men will meet for the first time when they
board the boat for Rockabill, weather-permitting,
Brian admits to being a "glutton for punishment" in
signing up for a second stint adding that Rockabill
is a far cry from his native - and inland -
"I switch between being really excited about going
back and then thinking to myself, what am I doing?
But I know that once I get out there, it will be
great and I'll enjoy it. It's a fantastic project so
to get a chance to do it a second time is great," he
He admits that being single also allows him the time
and flexibility for the unique undertaking.
The two ornithologists will install nest boxes for
the migrant roseate, common and Arctic terns during
the critical May to August breeding season.
A roseate tern at a nestbox installed
by BirdWatch Ireland wardens.
They will also aim to
protect the 7,000 breeding adult seabirds and their
10,000 chicks from predators.
Rockabill is home to the majority of Europeís
population of roseate tern, which is a threatened
Project co-ordinator, Dr Stephen Newton, says the
Rockabill job is vital for the birdsí survival but
is not for everyone.
"This is very specialised work and Brian and Andrew
have a lot of experience working with terns. They
also need to be able to deal with the remoteness of
the island because they are more or less on their
own for three months. I visit occasionally but they
have to be proficient in self-survival and keeping
their spirits up while also getting on with the
job," said Dr Newton.
Meanwhile, Brianís shopping list for the summer
ahead looks something like this: 40 packs of
chocolate biscuits; 100 packs of noodles; 50 euro's
worth of pasta; jumbo bags of teabags and super-jars
of coffee; box sets including 'Firefly' and
'Vikings'. And letís not forget his
droppings-splattered work jacket and hat which
remain on the island from last year.