Thursday 23 November 2017

'Thoughts of pizza kept us going' - Meet the two conservationists who spent a whole summer on remote Rockabill Island

Brian Burke & Andrew Power (Photo: TV3)
Brian Burke & Andrew Power (Photo: TV3)
Brian Burke & Andrew Power (Photo: TV3)
Brian Burke, Birdwatch Ireland (Photo: TV3)
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

Thoughts of the ‘biggest pizza ever’ kept these two young conservationists going as they spent their whole summer on one of Ireland’s most remote islands.

Brian Burke (26) and Andrew Power (27) worked as wardens on Dublin’s Rockabill Island for three months, monitoring and protecting an entire colony of Roseate Terns, a rare migrate seabird.

The pair, who did not know each other before they arrived on the small rocky island, forewent a summer of backpacking abroad like most people their age to instead live on a small blustery island, while being challenged by thousands of diving Roseate Terns attacking them on a daily basis.

Brian, from Roscommon, returned to the BirdWatch Ireland job for the second year in a row and said he was far more prepared this time around.

“They were looking for someone with experience and with gathering data, someone who could spend the full summer on an island in Dublin and get on with one other person, that they haven’t met at all, it’s a bit of a risk,” he told

“The weather was much better last year, but this year I really feel the benefit of the first year’s experience. I was also a lot more prepared in terms of food and creature comforts.”

Brian Burke & Andrew Power (Photo: TV3)
Brian Burke & Andrew Power (Photo: TV3)

“It’s quite hectic but when you’re interested in it, it’s great.

“On the island, you get up everyday at eight and you go out looking for eggs. Once the chickens hatch, this job can take up to five hours because you’re making sure they’re alive and you’re measuring and tagging them.”

Although Brian and his ornithologist colleague Andrew, from Carlow, lived in accommodation which relied on a generator for electricity, they did have access to the internet and came prepared with box-sets of DVDs for evening entertainment.

The birdwatching duo were also treated to the odd visit from volunteers who would bring snacks and pizza.

“I didn’t take any time off, once you’re out there you don’t want to miss out on anything,” Brian said.

“But in the last month the conversation does turn very quickly to ‘the day I get off I’m going to get the biggest pizza I’ve ever seen’, you get sick of cooking and eating pasta.”

But the lack of fast food must not have been a deal-breaker, as Brian is set to apply for the job for a third year running.

“There is no particular stand-out from the three months, it’s the whole experience," he said.

“You’re spending the summer on an island the size of a small football pitch with over 10,000 birds on it, it’s mindblowing.”

The pair’s adventure will be aired on the new series of TV3’s Animal Rescue, starting tonight at 8.30pm 

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