I’m sad to say this is my last update as you’ll all be enjoying your summer holidays at the end of next week! The Puffins won’t be on Burhou for much longer either. During my last stay my Puffin watch site was extremely quiet and I only saw 3 Puffins taking fish into burrows over 2 hours. This means that the adults have large chicks in their burrows and don’t need feeding as often as they did when they were smaller and growing quickly! This is a picture from the Scottish Seabird Centre of an adult with its Puffling just about to come out of its burrow. We are all extremely jealous that they got to see their Pufflings!
Just before fledging baby Pufflings will come outside of their burrows during the night to stretch their wings and develop their flight muscles before they leave the nest forever which will be any day now on Burhou.
This weekend Paul Veron will stay over on Burhou with me and Holly as we ring the Gull chicks. The Gulls have been coloured ringed by Paul for over 20 years and by doing this he is able to record and find out where they go in winter (even Gulls migrate!) It will be a couple of long days but we hope to ring hundreds of gull chicks (focusing on Lesser Black-backed Gulls) whilst we are over there. Gull parents are the most protective of any seabird I have worked with and are even a little bit scary sometimes! I accidentally went a little bit too close to a gull nest last week during a Shag survey and one of the parents dive bombed my head!! Needless to say I moved away from the nest pretty quickly after that. Therefore, when we ring the chicks in the colony we make sure we are wearing hard hats just to be safe. Below is a picture of an adult Lesser black-backed gull. Can you see his colour ring?
Next weekend is one I have been looking forward to a very long time. The Guernsey Seabird team are joining us on Burhou to ring our Storm Petrels! Storm petrels (like Fulmars) are distant relatives of Albatrosses which live in the Southern Hemisphere but are much much smaller in size – only 15cm in length. Because they are so small the petrels are extremely susceptible to predation by gulls and birds of prey such as Peregrine Falcons so they are mainly active at night. Like Puffins, Storm Petrels nest in burrows underground and on Burhou we have found a Puffin, Storm Petrel and a rabbit all using the same burrow entrance!! To catch the petrels so we can ring them we use mist nests which are fine mesh nets attached to 2 very large poles which catch the birds as they fly in to land. Once caught we carefully remove the bird from the net and attached a metal ring to its leg and take the birds measurements and release it back onto Burhou. The oldest ever Storm Petrel was recorded on Burhou at 32 years old. We only knew how old it was because of when it was ringed which only confirms how important it is to ring birds!
Storm Petrels have an extremely good sense of smell and have a musty aroma which can help scientists discover new colonies. The musty smell is unique to each Storm Petrel and they can recognise their own body scent which they use to locate their nests in the dark!
I’ve very much enjoyed writing my weekly ecologist updates; I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them! I hope you all have a fun summer holidays and plan to spend as much time outdoors as possible, you are the future ecologists we are relying on.
A huge thank you to everyone who took part in LIVE this year, we hope you enjoyed learning about our wildlife!
Keep checking our vimeo (on the bottom of the homepage) for more puffin videos and have a fantastic summer!!