Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Last Sunrise

Last Sunday was my last full day on Appledore. For once, I managed to willfully wake up before the Sun. In the faint morning twilight, I made my way to the Stone Bench, trying not to scare chicks into running or flying out of their territories. Every scuttle and peep revealed an adult-sized chick with sleek, grey, white and brown flight feathers and shiny new green or black and metal bands where, only two months ago, the place had been overridden with tiny, fluffy, next-to-helpless chicks.

It was a cool, breezy morning, and I settled myself on the Stone Bench, pulled out my notebook and wrote my last blog entry as the Sun's rays slowly crept over the island, filling me with warmth and showing me the extraordinary beauty of the place I was leaving behind.

The sunrise

Writing this blog post

Here's what I wrote, slightly modified and polished in places –

It's about five in the morning and breezy. I'm sitting here on the Stone Bench in the early morning twilight to catch the sunrise; to see one last Sun rise over Appledore before I leave. The clouds in the distance are a warm, golden orange, promising a beautiful scene ahead.

I have “Edelweiss” from The Sound of Music stuck in my head – Lindsay, Lauren and I finished the movie last night – and the gently lilting melody is strangely mixing with the numerous, constant yeow calls around me. Someone once tried to make a sarcastic remark, calling the yeow call “melodious”, and I completely failed to get it because, to be perfectly honest, I think it actually is a most beautiful sound, if not exactly melodious. And I'm going to miss it, so much.

I have a great view of the entire stretch of Norwegian, where the majority of my nests lie – or lay, rather, for we took the nest labels off yesterday – and I can trace my daily path through the colony with my eyes – I can even see 216's rock, 216 whose chicks I never failed to find – knowing I will never walk it again.

It has been a great run, a great summer. I can't emphasize the “great” enough, partly because I know that I will only realize the magnitude of it when I return to Ithaca (boy, was I right).

But, I can say this: I have learnt, experienced, grown and enjoyed more in the past two months than I have ever done before. Of course, I've learnt how to handle chicks and take a blood sample and band them and such. In fact, I've learnt a lot about gulls – how to tell when you've disturbed a gull too much or when it's going to poop as opposed to just hit or if a chick is not in its territory and thus needs to be rescued or the age of a chick just by looking at it. I've also gained a lot of random skills like sprinting across rocks and squeezing my hand under rocks and being able to tell if a bush is safe to jump into or will require some careful thorn-removal after.

But, more than all that, I have learnt to be disciplined (checking 75 nests everyday no matter what, without anyone keeping a check on me), to stay calm in emergency situations (of the kind when you stab yourself with an infected needle), to work with others (I've gained great friends in Brendan and Michelle, and, if you're reading this guys, thank you, for everything), to question everything I see in scientific terms and to take an active interest in trying to figure it out, and to be patient and adaptable when things don't go the way they were planned to (for that seems to be the nature of fieldwork).

I'm glad that Appledore seems to have a knack for luring people back every summer, and I'm sure that, if feasible, I will be back next year, running after and banding chicks, clambering up into the Shoe Tree to spend some time reading on my favorite branch and drinking in and delighting in the sights, smells and sounds – or, rather, the sound – of Appledore all over again.

One last visit to the Black Guillemot chicks who were already starting to grow in their wing patches!

Left my shoes on the Shoe Tree...


  1. Shailee, your photos and writing are lovely. I'm glad I found this beautiful blog!

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