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Razorbill tracking and other progress

posted 8 Jun 2013, 06:39 by Philip Collins   [ updated 2 Oct 2013, 07:58 ]

The field season is progressing well now, with a few trips to the island having been made since the last update. The main focus of our most recent trips was to deploy and retrieve GPS devices on Razorbills. Steve Dodd (RSPB) is leading on this, with the data collected feeding into the RSPB’s FAME project. This is the third year in which Razorbills from Puffin Island have been fitted with GPS loggers. Such repeated sampling allows us to identify whether or not birds forage in the same locations and conditions every year.  The GPS devices offer us a unique glimpse in to the at sea movements of seabirds which we would otherwise be unwise to.

A retrieved GPS logger

Usually devices are deployed on adults with chicks, however due to the late season deployments have been made on incubating birds.  We also aim to deploy on adults when the chicks start hatching (soon hopefully); it should be interesting to see the comparison of foraging locations between incubating and chick rearing adults.  Later in the season we also hope to carry out similar work on kittiwakes.   

Elsewhere on the island, the kittiwakes seem to have increased in numbers from our initial visit, although still not as many are present as in previous years.   Hopefully a full island count of cliff nesting birds will take place in the coming weeks. Counts of the cliff nesting birds take place annually, providing data useful for identifying both short term and long term trends in the breeding populations.

The remote cameras focusing on the kittiwakes are continuing to collect data, with initial images having captured pre-breeding behaviour with nest building being very obvious. The majority of birds are still at the pre-incubation stage, however there are a number of birds now on eggs. With the incubation period lasting ~ 27 days, chicks should start hatching in late June/ early July.

Kittiwake with egg

The shags are progressing at a good rate as well, with the majority of nests in our sample area now having chicks. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, these are also delayed in comparison to previous years; normally chicks would be larger at this stage.

Shag chicks

So altogether, the work is progressing well and the birds seem to be settling in to their breeding routine. Despite the late start the birds seem to be continuing regardless. How the delayed start will affect the outcome of breeding won’t be completely apparent until the end of the season, but fingers crossed the birds are able to be successful in spite of it.