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2013 Field Season Underway

posted 22 May 2013, 09:40 by Philip Collins   [ updated 2 Oct 2013, 07:45 ]

After a brief delay due to unfavourable weather, the 2013 field season on Puffin Island is well underway. With a weather window providing suitable conditions for landing on the island, six of us set off from Beaumaris at 9am on 16th May for an initial explore of the island.  

One of the main objectives of the day was to deploy four remote cameras which will take photographs of breeding kittiwakes throughout the season. Remote cameras tend to be particularly useful in that they allow us to constantly monitor the breeding birds without causing the disturbance which would arise from a constant human presence. The data collected by these cameras will allow us to monitor numerous behavioural traits (e.g. chick provisioning rates).

We managed to deploy all four cameras across four areas which we hope will be key to the rest of our work on the island. The deployment did involve a healthy dose of improvisation regarding attachment to the rocks (see below), but hopefully the cameras are now there to stay. One issue we did face in deploying the cameras was that the kittiwakes were very scarce in numbers. At the moment we aren’t completely able to determine why this is, however it is very possible that after an exceptionally cold start to the year the birds are slightly delayed. Fingers crossed that this is the case!

This year the plan of action is slightly different to previous years in that there will be a large focus on kittiwakes. The work on the kittiwakes will form the main body of my PhD thesis which aims to examine what makes certain individuals more reproductively successful than others. This will be addressed through a variety of methodologies including: visual monitoring, morphological measurements, and deployment of data loggers (GPS and accelerometers). Also working on the island will be Katie Ferneyhough, a Masters student from Liverpool, along with Julia Borges-Molina, a student visiting from Brazil. In addition Steve Dodd, who has proven to be pivotal in the success of previous work on the island, will once again be assisting where possible. Steve will also continue his work carrying out GPS tracking of Razorbills (the data from which will feed in to the RSPB’s FAME project), and lead ringing trips with the SCAN ringing group.

Although the main focus this year is on the kittiwakes, we will still be monitoring the productivity of other breeding birds to continue adding to the long term data set which is building up. In particular the productivity of shags will be monitored. Whilst on the island we located a patch of twenty nests which we will watch over the coming months to determine productivity. As these birds tend to breed earlier than the kittiwakes, it was encouraging to see birds already on eggs.  

Overall the first trip of the season was a big success for all involved. All we need now is for the rest of the kittiwakes to turn up!

Puffin Island Team 2013(L-R: Steve Dodd, Jon Green, Philip Collins, Julia Borges-Molina & Katie Ferneyhough)