MAGGIE SHEDDAN on how volunteering for a seabird charity led her to a new life by the sea. Interview: Alex Fisher
I started volunteering for the Scottish Seabird Centre back in 2000. I was a full-time carer, looking after my father in Edinburgh at the time, and thought that it would help me meet new people in North Berwick, where I intended to move. The aim of this new charity was to protect the huge colonies of gannets and puffins that live on the nearby islands. Bass Rock has the largest single rock colony of gannets in the world, and Craigleith and the Isle of May are breeding grounds for thousands of seals and puffins. I didn’t know anything about the birds to begin with, but I learned quickly and within a few years I was employed to take people out on boat trips around the islands.
The charity was a fantastic success. Before we knew it, film crews and photographers were frequent visitors, alongside members of the public. My job is to look after them all. We’ve had everyone here: the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV. I had to tell David Attenborough off for not wearing a lifejacket.
My work is varied. I might be organising catering for a film crew, rescuing a trapped baby gannet and digging out the path on Bass Rock to clear another landslide all in one day. Gannets are huge birds, with a wingspan of up to two metres and there are around 170,000 on the island when they are breeding. I act as a guide, showing people how to behave around these beautiful birds, not to go too near, to stay still and watch and listen. I’m amazed at how my life has changed. I’m so lucky to have this job, where my commute is a boat ride and my office is the sea.
Find out more at seabird.org.