Click and Play 26june2013

Read by David

I have mentioned Vicky on multiple occasions throughout my Daily Digests as her work on Gannet, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Shag tagging has been a big part of the work carried out within the Alderney Wildlife Trust this year. But now Vicky will tell you all about the different aspects of her PhD studies, and working amongst Seabirds herself.

- Tim Morley, Seabird Ecologist

Hi, I am Vicky and I am lucky enough to be doing the research for my PhD on the Seabirds here in Alderney. I am focussing my research on the foraging behaviours of three Seabird species; Gannets, Shags and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Gannets are known to fly long distances to feed and are away from the colony for up to 30 hours, whereas Shags stay very near to the coast and go on much shorter trips. The Gulls lie somewhere in between.

Gannet in flight

Gannet in flight

All of these birds are threatened by human impacts such as offshore developments like wind and tidal renewable energy technologies. My PhD will look into any effects that these developments may have on Alderney’s Seabirds.

Since April I have been observing the distribution of seabirds on the water from three vantage points on the island. Every morning I spend an hour at each site counting how many of each species are on the water and where they are.

Vicky observing birds out at sea - you can see Burhou in the distance

Vicky observing birds out at sea - you can see Burhou in the distance

I am also looking at the productivity of the breeding birds. Productivity is the number of chicks which fledge out of all of the adults which have nests and attempt to breed. Every week I visit 18 Shag nests on the Southern cliffs of Alderney and 20 Shag nests on Burhou and count the number of eggs or chicks in each nest.

A Shag chick ready to fledge

A Shag chick ready to fledge

Tim and I also monitor the Gannets weekly to work out their productivity. I will do these visual observations and productivity counts for the next three years during each breeding season and look for any changes between the years.

The other aspect of my work is using GPS tags to work out where the birds are feeding, and to see how long they are away for. GPS devices send signals to satellites in space which allow us to record their position. We have also been attaching accelerometers to some birds to see how fast they can go (especially when they are diving!). We have managed to get some data back from the Shags and Gulls, which is very exciting to see.

A Shag showing off its tag

A Shag showing off its tag

We have also just spent the last two days climbing the smelly rocks of Les Etacs, trying to catch the Gannets to retrieve the tags we put out. The birds are much more difficult to catch the second time around but we have had a fair amount of success. On day 1 we managed to retrieve 4 tags, and on day 2 we went on to Les Etacs twice, retrieving 6 and 3 tags on each trip respectively.

Vicky keeping a hold of a Gannet during tag retrieval

Vicky keeping a hold of a Gannet during tag retrieval

We will never re-catch all the birds but the tags will fall off on their own after a few weeks so they wont be stuck on the birds forever. We do hope to retrieve about 70 % of the tags though, so fingers crossed as we attempt to get more over the next week!

Vicky and Tim covered in Gannet poo, but very happy with the days work!

Vicky and Tim covered in Gannet poo, but very happy with the days work!

Weather Forecast:

weather-symbolThursday 27th June

Max 15 degrees / Min 12 degrees

Wind direction: North North Westerly 14mph

Description: Sunny Intervals

Today's Puffin Fact

Puffins can fly out as much as 100km from their burrow to forage for prey.