Click and Play 20may2013

Read by Matthew

Last Friday I asked you to name the species that created the nests seen in the picture below and the video that can be found here.

Mystery nest

Mystery nest

As these were more difficult questions than usual I thought I would provide the answers for you all to start this week of the project.

The eggs in the nest in the picture belong to a Herring Gull - we can see it incubating them in this picture.

Herring Gull Incubating

Herring Gull incubating

However, the similar looking nest in the video from last Friday actually belongs to a Lesser Black-backed Gull. It is actually near impossible to tell the difference between the two unless an adult is seen incubating the eggs. But with around 1,200 pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls on Burhou and just 30 pairs of Herring Gulls, it is usually a safe guess to say a nest seen without an adult probably belongs to a Lesser Black-backed Gull.

The second nest seen in the video was that of a Shag, we have seen many of these on posts before - note the slightly less oval shaped, and more white appearance in comparison to those of Gull eggs.

Shag Nest

Shag nest

The numerous Gull nests appearing on Burhou are an excellent sign of the breeding season progressing rapidly. But it is not the only sign we have come across last week.

Most of the Gannets on Les Etacs are now on nests and eggs meaning that our monitoring of them is increasing. To monitor the Gannets we have set up 5 productivity plots. This means we have taken photos of 5 areas of the colony on Les Etacs, and using high powered telescopes we come back to the same area of the colony every 7-10 days and watch the same birds. To make sure we watch the same ones we number the photographs like the one below.

Gannet Productivity Plot

Gannet productivity plot

Using these numbered photographs we can watch the same 50 birds on each plot (so 250 birds in total) throughout the whole season and look for an egg in each nest, and then watch the chick grow up in each nest. By watching so many nests we can work out how successful the Gannets have been at breeding this year; but it will take until the end of September, or even in to October, before all the chicks fledge and we can work out the breeding success (known as productivity).

It takes a lot of patience to watch the same birds for so long. Vicky (our PhD student who is studying Shags and Gannets) and I watch each plot of 50 birds for at least 2 hours, every week or so, in order to try and see the eggs and chicks as they are very far away from our watch point on the cliffs of Alderney (even with a telescope!).

But in the above plot, nests 15, 17, 28, 34 and 40 already have eggs. With most of the others sitting comfortably still on the nest (an excellent sign of incubating an egg) we should see many more eggs over the coming weeks!

The Puffins are also showing signs of progression in the breeding season. They were very active Friday and Saturday on the cameras but in general they had a quiet week. This means that one adult is staying in the burrow to incubate the egg whilst the other is going out to feed. It will still be a couple of weeks before we get Pufflings hatching, but keep a close eye on the cameras for any adults coming in to land with fish in their bills as this is the first sign of Pufflings hatching and asking for food.

A Puffin carrying fish

A Puffin carrying fish

Because of these exciting signs of progress in the breeding season our monitoring work here at the Alderney Wildlife Trust is going to greatly increase as the following tasks will be carried out from now until the end of July:

  • Shag tagging
  • Gannet tagging
  • Gull ringing
  • Storm Petrel ringing
  • Puffin burrow activity watches
  • Seabird population counts
  • Shag productivity monitoring
  • Gannet productivity monitoring
  • Common Tern productivity monitoring
  • Fulmar productivity monitoring

So keep tuning in to the Daily Digests for full explanations and updates on all these (and many more) pieces of work over the remaining time of our project. I hope you will continue to enjoy it as much as we are, especially as this week we may be starting to stay some nights on Burhou!

Weather Forecast:

weather-symbolMonday 20th May

Max 13 degrees / Min 12 degrees

Wind direction: North Westerly 15mph

Description: White Cloud

Today's Puffin Fact

Puffins are a member of the Auk family.