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Progress and a Puffin

posted 22 Jun 2013, 05:00 by Philip Collins   [ updated 2 Oct 2013, 08:48 ]
Work on the island has been progressing well since the last update, with the island feeling a lot busier in terms of numbers of birds present as well as numbers of birds making an attempt at breeding.  

The work on razorbills has now come to an end, with retrieved GPS devices providing a wealth of data illustrating the foraging distributions of these birds. Many of the razorbills are now finally on chicks, meaning that sightings of birds bringing in fish are becoming increasingly common.  Hopefully the SCAN ringing group will soon be out to ring these chicks (weather permitting of course). The next species to be targeted for GPS tracking is the Common Guillemot, with this work hopefully taking place next week.  Following on from guillemot tracking we will aim to carry out tracking work on kittiwakes.

The kittiwakes seem to be doing well, with a lot more birds now on eggs. Given how late the birds have been in settling down, it is encouraging to see a large proportion of them attempting to breed rather than deferring their breeding effort until next year. The remote cameras are proving reliable, with images such as the one below being taken every four minutes around the clock.  

Remote camera image of one of the Kittiwake study sites

On our latest trip to the island we marked some kittiwakes with a small band of yellow dye. This will allow individuals to be identified from the remote cameras, further enhancing the data we collect. Through being able to separate individuals in the pair, we will be able to identify the effort that each individual puts in to raising the chick. It will be interesting to see if pairs which share duties more equally are those with the greatest breeding success.

The larger gull species remain ever conspicuous on the island. Their constant haranguing of us researchers is all for the purpose of protecting their chicks, which are becoming increasingly noticeable as they approach fledging.  The chicks are generally very well hidden, especially when very young, however you do get the sense that some seem to think that they are better concealed than they really are, as illustrated in the two images below.

Gull chick hiding behind a remote camera tripod

Another highlight from a recent trip was the capture of an adult Puffin which was fitted with a ring by Lucy Ryan. No doubt this made her day! The puffins have increased in numbers in recent weeks, with many more now being seen around the cliffs. Whether or not these are breeding individuals is unclear, but the fact that they are using the island is definitely good news.

Puffin being ringed

 Aside from the birds, a number of seals frequent the island, with this particularly inquisitive adult female watching me as I carried out my work the other day. A healthy number of seals haul out on the North Eastern side of the island and can be seen foraging around the island. No doubt the number of sightings will increase later in the season when it comes to their turn to breed.  

Inquisitive seal