Wednesday, 12 July 2017

A Royal Affair

This past weekend our tiny island was lucky enough to receive a royal visit. After much anticipation and a generous piece of luck with our famous Irish weather, Her Imperial Highness, Princess Takamado of Japan, arrived from Lambay just after ten o’clock on Sunday morning, together with BirdWatch Ireland’s Chairperson, Gerry Lyons, and Interim CEO, Declan O Sullivan, and a select party of invited guests. 

Her Imperial Highness, Princess Takamado of Japan, Shane Somers, Steve Newton and two common tern chicks. Photo: Dick Coombes. Taken under NPWS licence

An avid birder, Her Imperial Highness (HIH) is Honorary President of BirdLife International and an accomplished wildlife photographer. Despite a packed itinerary of official business, HIH had made the trip out to us specially here at Rockabill, in the hope of spotting some Atlantic Puffins in their summer finery, as well as some of our breeding Roseate Terns.

By all accounts this special and unique visit was a great success. Following a calm crossing, HIH was greeted on Rockabill by a full variety of the island’s bird life. With the nesting season in full swing, we were able to show HIH everything from clutches of unhatched eggs through tiny fluff ball Common Terns to nearly fledged Roseate Terns. Dr. Steve Newton was on hand to locate a Black Guillemot nest - luckily the entourage came prepared with baby wipes for when the chicks presented HIH with their regurgitated lunch.

As our most seasoned warden, Shane Somers had the honour of catching an adult Common Tern to show HIH. From the ring, we determined that the bird he caught was a local - born and ringed here on Rockabill in 1994, making it 23 years old, the same age as our youngest warden!

Her Imperial highness, Shane Somers, David Miley, Steve Newton and Caroline McKeon. Photo: Dick Coombes. Taken under NPWS licence. 

Along with this season’s young, HIH got a good look at the adult terns as well. The hide in Garden 5 has previously been modified for ease of access, and proved a perfect spot for observing the aerial acrobatics of Roseate Terns in flight. Hopefully HIH got some great shots!

After signing Rockabill’s guest book and posing for some photos of our own, HIH sailed back to Howth for the final stop on her seabird sightseeing, leaving us flustered, impressed, and surrounded by much appreciated cupcakes from HIH’s boat!

Her Imperial highness, Shane Somers, David Miley and Caroline McKeon. Photo: Dick Coombes. Taken under NPWS licence. 
Aside from our weeding and carpentry, a huge amount of preparation went on behind the scenes into organising and authorising this amazing visit.  A BIG thanks to everyone at BirdWatch Ireland HQ for making it happen. It was great to have the opportunity to host such an interested and genuinely enthusiastic birder, not to mention someone who happens to be royalty! Hopefully HIH will take back some fond memories of her time on the Leinster coast, which along with her photos, showcase the fantastic natural heritage still to be found here, and the importance of the conservation work done to protect it.

Caroline McKeon 
The Rockabill Team

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