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
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!