Today Filip will explain the rest of the process for tagging the 12 Gannets for the T.A.G. project this year.
Climbing into the colony we had to be very careful. The rocks are steep and slippery with guano, sea water and weed and there is a long fall into the water below. Younger birds who aren’t as experienced nest quite low down on the rocks, on the edge of the colony, so we had to be careful where we put our feet!
Once we reached a certain height there were birds all around us. Because older birds return to the colony in early spring, and the younger birds arrive later there were chicks at all stages of development, from the featherless newly hatched chicks, small enough to hold in one hand, to huge balls of white down.
To attach the tags to the birds we first needed to catch them. By covering their heads and stroking their necks we kept them calm while the tags were attached to the tail feathers. Choosing which feathers to mount the tag is very important. All birds lose all their feathers each year, and growing them back can take some time. It was important that the tags went on full grown feathers so they wouldn’t interrupt the growth process.
Once the feathers had been chosen the mount had to be formed. We wrapped three feathers together using sticky tape which made a small, firm base to stick the tag onto. The tags and the solar panels which power them had been shrink wrapped in waterproof plastic already, so all that was needed was for us to trim off the excess plastic and sticky tape them onto the tail.
The tags went right in the middle of the tail so they wouldn’t affect the bird’s balance at all, but really this is an extra precaution, as the tags are so light and so small that they don’t bother the gannets, which are the biggest seabird in Europe!
This tagging project is important because it tells us where our birds are going during the breeding season. We need to make sure their journeys are safe, that when they go to look for fish to bring home to their chicks they won’t have to battle with un necessary dangers. Things like wind farms, or large fisheries can harm seabirds if they get tangled in fishing nets or fly into turbines. If we have maps showing where our birds fly we can protect those areas.
It’s also important because now we know that if you are in Kent and you see a gannet it might very well be from Alderney, or if you are in the Netherlands, Scotland, Denmark or even Norway! If for example people find injured or dead gannets in these countries we need to know because that means that Alderney has a problem. You can see the map for Cosmo, our record-breaking Gannet who flew to Norway and back in under a week below:
Have a look at where the other birds have been and follow Cosmo's progress at www.teachingthroughnature.co.uk/t-a-g
That is why we work together across different countries, because really, these birds don’t belong to Alderney but to everyone where the birds fly. Some gannets migrate from South Africa to Scandinavia, so that’s a lot of different countries, and more than one continent who are concerned with them.
Without projects like this we cannot be sure where different species go, we can only guess. But with the data and the maps produced by track-a-gannet we have the power to protect the areas of the world that are important to the gannets of the world.