Notes from Buldir (V – Last)

Hallo hallo,

We leave the island to sail back to Adak on the 11th of August, we now
have less a month on the island left. It’s been lovely, and but I
suppose one of my bigger regrets is not exploring more of the island
like the Scot who shakes his head in disappointment when he arrives
back and realises the other 5 of us have been sitting around the cabin
all day. But then, a freshly baked tray of cinnamon rolls does seem
more exciting than sweating into pre-sweated clothes clambering up a
hill for a beautiful view (also I’ll admit I do prefer the view of a
warm bustly cabin of merry folk and food). I’ll make it point to do a
little more hiking in the last 2 weeks where I’ll have a wee bit more
time after the Crested Auklet chicks have fledged. We actually have a
blog where they do a little one-liner of what we do everyday relayed
thru radio call. I believe the website is
field-camp-updates.blogspot.com or some sort of iteration of that.
There is a photo of me in there holding a wee storm
  petrel chick from a couple of weeks before. 🙂

Scenery aside, the Crested Auklet chicks are growing big now. Jill and
I spend a good chunk of our days taking chicks out from their crevices
and weighing them. This is probably the highlight of the season. This
involves using a long wire shaped like a shepherd’s crook, except the
crook is really small. In fact it fits right above the knee of an
auklet. Then you kneel down besides a crevice, stick your face into a
small fist sized hole bordered with birdily fluids, peer in with a
torch, and try and locate the furry chick’n. Then with utmost stealth
you slowly slid in the wire, hook it right above the knee and gently
pull the screaming chick out, wings a flapping. I feel like I’ve
mentioned it before, but on the Farallones, we used to have a crevice
called the “I love biology” crevice, because to check it you creep
into a small alcove in dark cave, press your face on the muddy slick
pooey-ground and peer inside to see if the bird’s laid an egg, and the
utmost love for biology
 would compel anyone to partake in this. Well. This is every single
crevice on Buldir. Often I belly crawl into the famed cave called the
Stinky Panini. It’s basically a little space underneathe a gigantic
rocks, its dark, narrow and flat and smells to high heavens -hence the
name. I can only make it in on my elbows, and back out the same way. A
claustrophic’s nightmare. But it is home to a few brave auklets, and
it rests on braver field assistants to haul them out!

The last few days have been raining up a storm, and the Talus is a
fine stew of rain, mud, lichen, moss, faeces and throw up. You end a
chick-weighing day smelling like a sea monster’s armpit, and you pray
to high hell a tick hasn’t hopped into your hair, or a jumping bug in
your ear. But it’s all worth it, for even though they sometimes end up
covered in their own poo as you slid a small furry chick out, chances
are that he’s still fuzzy and downy, unbearably cute and as you press
him close to your face (still squealing) he emits a dreamy scent of
fresh tangerines.

Four more weeks till civilisation, till then!

xx
Michelle

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