Over the past few weeks me and Holly have been busy helping Vicky put out all of her Gannet tags so that she can finish the last year of fieldwork for her PhD! Along with the Gannet work I have also been keeping an eye on the other birds and it looks like we are going to have an extremely successful breeding season. Holly helped me do the first of 3 checks on our Common Tern colony and they have increased from 25 nests last year to 30 this year which is really promising considering we didn’t have any at all about 6 years ago! Most of the Tern nests have eggs in them but some of them had tiny fluffy chicks in which even the most serious ecologist would have found extremely cute. The first two Shag chicks on Burhou have fledged and another 2 nests have really big chicks in that I also hope will leave their nests any day now. Once the chicks leave the nest they will still stay with their parents as they teach them where to find fish and occasionally may still regurgitate fish to the fledgling. This isn’t the same for all seabirds though, for example, Gannet parents will overfeed their chick and by the time the chick is ready to leave the nest it will weigh an entire 1kg (1000g or two whole adult Puffins) heavier than the adult! This means that the chick is unable to fly back to the nest and is forced to find fish by itself. Pufflings will leave their burrows in the middle of the night when they are ready to leave their parents, this means they are less likely to be seen by predators such as Greater Black-backed Gulls on Burhou and Arctic Skuas further north. These different methods of parenting have evolved over many thousands of years but seem to work for each individual species of bird. Why do you think Puffin chicks (pufflings) leave their burrows at night? What are the benefits of the Gannet parents overfeeding their chicks before they fledge?
About the Author: Filip
Having trained as a graphic designer and illustrator Filip began a career change in 2013. He gained skills in applied ecology and land management on the Great Fen Project in Cambridgeshire before moving to BirdLife Malta to work in wildlife crime mitigation, injured bird care and campaigning. As research assistant for the Malta Seabird Project Filip worked with gulls, shearwaters and storm-petrels while developing an understanding of seabird ecology. He is tasked with writing the next five-year management strategy for the Alderney West Coast and Burhou Islands Ramsar Site, and leading the seabird season for 2016.