Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Meet the Rockabill team for 2016

As usual, Rockabill is being wardened  by two Birdwatch Ireland staff living on the island for the duration of the breeding season (May-August), with support from the mainland. Andrew Power was warden last year but has moved on to other projects after three record-breaking years Tern wardening at Kilcoole and Rockabill. So this year we welcome David Kinchin-Smith to the island.

Meet the Rockabill 2016 team:

Brian Burke

Brian returns again to Rockabill, becoming the fifth person to join the exclusive club of three-time Rockabill wardens. He holds a degree in Zoology and a Masters in Wildlife Conservation and Management, both from University College Dublin, and has published research on Peregrine Falcons and White-tailed Sea Eagles in Ireland. His love of raptors means he's a bit more forgiving of the Peregrines that visit Rockabill than other wardens might be!  Soon after graduating, Brian did an internship with the NPWS at Wexford Wildfowl Reserve, documenting the Greenland White-fronted Goose (GWFG) in Ireland over the last thirty years. Irelands hosts c50% of the flyway population of GWFG every winter, the majority of which can be seen at Wexford Wildfowl Reserve, with important flocks in his native Roscommon. The GWFG is also the species featured on Birdwatch Ireland's logo.

Brian is delighted to be back on Rockabill again and looks forward to another tough but immensely rewarding season ahead. He's had record-breaking numbers of Roseate Terns in both of his previous years here, so fingers crossed for the hat-trick!

You can follow Brian on twitter: https://twitter.com/BBurke88

David Kinchin-Smith

This is David's first season as a Tern Warden on Rockabill, making him the 40th warden on the island since the conservation project began here in 1989. His interest in seabirds stems from his final year dissertation as part of his Zoology degree from Newcastle University, where he researched the parental attendance of the Atlantic Puffin on the Farne Islands. He spent the following three years working as a Ranger on the Islands, gaining experience with a wide range of seabirds and Grey seals. He is delighted to be involved in the research and conservation of the threatened Roseate tern, a species which previously nested on the Farnes but no longer does. David hopes this season echoes the successes of previous years and has his head protection dusted off and ready for the Common terns!

You can follow David on twitter: https://twitter.com/fantapants1990

Dr. Steve Newton

Dr. Steve Newton is Senior Seabird Conservation Officer for BirdWatch Ireland. He is responsible for seabird research, monitoring and colony management. This comprises coordinating, on an annual basis, the Irish input to the Seabird Monitoring Programme (UK-Ireland) and managing the Rockabill Roseate Tern and the Kilcoole Little Tern Projects. Equally importantly (to us anyway!), he brings us out bread, milk and fruit on a regular basis!

Steve organised the first quantitative survey of nocturnal petrels and shearwaters on west coast islands in 2000-2001 as part of the Seabird 2000 Project. He was also responsible for managing the BWI/NPWS Chough Survey and follow-up research programme (2002 to 2010), the NPWS/BWI Upland Bird Survey (2002-2004), and other work on upland habitats and their birds, including Hen Harrier and Red Grouse. He is a member of the all-Ireland team responsible for the 'Birds of Conservation Concern' process which reviews the Red, Amber and Green lists for Ireland and is a member of the Irish Rare Breeding Birds Panel.

Skerries Seatours
While they don't do any work on the island, the guys from Skerries Seatours play an important role in the project. They drop the wardens and their mountain of supplies out to the island at the start of the season, they bring us home safely at the end of the season, and they keep us topped up with everything we need throughout the summer months (volunteers, water, shopping... the occasional pizza... all the essentials!). Eoin is a local RNLI crewman and is always just a phonecall away if we ever have any problems.

They do tours around Rockabill in their new bigger and better boat - a great way to see the island and all of the birds without causing any disturbance. See http://www.skerriesseatours.ie/ or their Facebook page for more details. And give us a wave if you see us!

David and Brian about to head off to Rockabill in April 2016. (Michael Burke)

The project is funded by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, to whom we are very grateful, as well as to the individuals in NPWS who provide various logistical support early in the season. 

We'd also like to thank the Commission of Irish Lights who allow us to use and stay on the island.

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