Trip Cut Short

Some unexpected news means our trip has to be curtailed, so our last day in the colony was today.

Here we see the 3 wise monkeys contemplating Rona life. As is evident, the seals aren’t impressed.

C’est la vie.

We expect a busy few days before departure. All hands to the decks – and hides!

P, T, S, J.

Pup in Red

During our work in the colony on Sunday, a couple of things really caught our attention. The first was a female who was tagged here as a pup way back in the early nineties: a nice example of natal site fidelity – females coming back to breed at the same site as they were born. The second was a young pup wearing a dashing red jacket for his weigh-in (pictured). Isn’t it nice when they dress up for the occasion!

After the rain yesterday, there was plenty of sunshine today whilst Sian and Paddy went up to Fianuis north to test the aerial survey ‘copter, and it was a balmy seventeen degrees in the hides!

Most importantly – on the food front we’re almost out of “fresh” meat, but a can of haggis (for “6-12 people”, apparently) went down nicely with some neeps and tatties last night after a day of hard work, and the gammon still tastes great once the mould has been removed…

Shopping in Dundee

Here we are at the end of another fun-packed Rona week. Frolics with hides, pups and water containers are just too hilarious to relate in all their detail to our readers.
So you’ll be glad to know that all personnel are still healthy (relatively) and retain all digits etc.

We’ve seen the weather worsen steadily as we approach our next full day in the colony – tomorrow. You lot will be having a “normal” Saturday, we’ll be up to our necks in pup poo, snarly mums and dumb males. Coming to think of it, sounds just like shopping in Dundee…..

Old Friends and Chocolate Cake

Sian did a photosurvey in the northern part of the island the other day and after comparing the patterns we found one of our oldest photo-ided seals, Rose, among those up north. This is a really good example of one of the girls I hadn’t seen for many years suddenly appearing again.
We were in the colony today again and James, Sian and Toby got to weigh some more older pups. They are aware now of the reality of the effort required- backs and legs are complaining!

The quality of food continues to impress – Sian has produced an unburnt choc cake which was fallen upon and devoured before it was barely out of the oven.

Wildlife passing by has included many geese with a few barnacles in amongst a flock of greylags. There has been surprising little else of note, apart from what looked like a dead whale floating on the surface a few miles off the south of the island yesterday. I’m sure the Joint Warrior exercise going on here has no connection to that at all.

Monday – just another special day

Monday is a tough day most weeks in normal land, but out here events and little accomplishments give each day something special.

Today we had a couple of cool old friends appear: Ping appeared in the Fank Gulley and later Discus was seen on the west edge of the colony. These are animals that have featured in our records for many years. It is still worrying that there are just over 100 females visible in the whole of Fianuis South. When I first started mapping this area in 1996, 350 females used the area at this time in the season. Fianuis North is the same. The reappearance of many of our known animals contrasts with the decline in general.

The first photosurvey from Sean’s Revenge took place this afternoon, while Sian trekked north to do FN. Toby trialled his new observation regime, and found his batteries were a bit less reliable than anticipated.

We look forward to a curry this evening, courtesy of TO.

Plough and her pup.

Remarkably, we have some real social climbers here on Rona.
Today’s pic shows one such – an old favourite, Plough and her pup. She is approx 80m above sea level and the marks in the grass on the slope show that she’s been up and down from the pup a number of times. I still find this amazing, mostly because I know the effort it takes to get my crocked carcase up and down that slope, and that’s without the recent exertions of birth.

In other news, we are on to a whole new episode in Rona’s hall of fame. It’s “Return of the Pyramid – Sean’s revenge”. Or put another way, a new photo-hide is taking the vague shape of what had been considered a recently retired but venerable construction. Pics of this magnificent erection should follow soon.

We also have our first stage 4 pups, moulting merrily and causing drifts of shed white hair on the grass.

Best from P, S,J & T.

It’s a tad windy.

So when I was told that “The north winds are the worst up there on Rona – they bring the cold” I didn’t think we were going to notice it that much. Well the north winds are definitely blowing and by Jove it’s noticeable! This may also have something to do with the fact that it’s a STORM FORCE 10 out here at the moment. It appeared out of nowhere overnight too.

I was making my way up to the hide, thinking of what individuals I’d be able to recognise (due to their individual pelage markings) when I see the photo-ID hide about 50m away from where it should have been…and on it’s head. We spent the rest of the morning salvaging, and securing the other two hides as much as we could (although we’re sceptical on whether or not they’ll be there tomorrow). All this in a STORM FORCE 10, may I add again – ruddy good fun! The photo-ID hide may be repairable. Although the back panel for it flew off in to the wind and off the cliff when we were trying to dismantle it. So it’ll be more of a photo-ID wind tunnel now…The only thing Sian seems to be preoccupied about though, is whether the cider and wine is secure or not.

In other news, we spent yesterday in the colony – and saw a lot of male-male and male-female aggro – I learnt a lot!

Looking forward to the following days of wind-related fun – no pun intended regarding Sian’s curries.

The weather has turned!

Hello from a blustery wet Rona – those dry warm days seem like a lifetime ago.

We’ve had a very busy weekend – on Friday we were doing photo surveys – to get pictures of as many of the seals in the study area as possible to see who’s here. We reckon without the computer programme for comparison we know at least half of the seals here from previous years. With the programme helping out this rises to about 70% so far.

Saturday saw us venture down into the colony for the first time this year. Close up pictures and pup weighing were experiences new to the TobSiaJam set. In fact, James came quite close to singing soprano again when he let a pup nuzzle him a little too closely – happily, no real harm done to man or beast (as far as we know).

Today’s been grim – gale force mist and rain, making obs a bit difficult. Toby saved the day by creating something great featuring chorizo for dinner. (Food is a real highlight here – we all think we’re eating a lot more than at home).

Monday will start with fetching water from the well before breakfast, making a large pot of porridge, eating and then getting out to the hides for the day.
Listening to the forecast as I type this, we’re in for more of the same. Yeughh.


P, J, S, T.

Seals on the up.

It’s James here – my turn to blog.

The number of seals in the study area is slowly increasing – new arrivals from the sea keeping Toby and Paddy busy and new births to keep me and Sian busy.

I took a short break from monitoring births today to help Paddy with a photo-survey of the study area, which brings our total number of ‘known’ females up to 24 this season, with more likely in the next few days.

Following on from last years efforts to identify seal types (e.g. imbe-SEAL), I’d like to introduce “fifty-shades-of grey seal”. We currently have a male in the study area who, when not sleeping or chasing away other males, seems content with pouncing on unwitting females and biting their flippers, then lying back as they claw at him ferociously. It takes all sorts…

In other news, the weather has finally taken a turn for the worse, but we’re still in high spirits as our hides are keeping us dry and Sian has just made us some popcorn. It’s a hard life…

All the best,


Toby says Hi

Toby here with today’s post. Even though the weather has been amazing for the past few days (allowing me to take full advantage of the time-lapse setting on my Go-Pro) today you can feel Winter is coming.

As my PhD will be examining social networks in grey seals, I’ve been spending a lot of my time looking at female/female interactions these past few days. I hope to find whether or not grey seals have friends. Sealbook anyone?

Also, saw my first seal birth ever today! It was a very rapid process – the pup seemed really surprised at its new surroundings. Hopefully the next few days will bring more – to give Sian and James something to do 😉