13 Jul 2014

Kittiwakes and a Puffin.

The seasons last trip to Puffin Island took place last Saturday with the primary aim of catching and colour ringing adult Kittiwakes and ringing as many chicks as we could reach. Last year nearly all the nests failed - partly due to a Peregrine taking the chicks off the nests and partly because of poor weather. This year we hoped things had improved.

The team of 8 minus, Rachel & Steve who are away in Greenland, met at Beaumaris at 07.45 to take the StaRiDa Island Princess, skippered by Stan, across to Puffin Island where Jason met us in the tender in case we needed ferrying across. Luckily the high tide meant we could disembark the Princess directly on to the beach.

Stashing unwanted gear we set off across the island carrying ladders to enable us to reach some of the higher Kittiwake nests before starting work in the first area we could get access. All the adult Kittiwakes caught were colour ringed and several fitted with geolocators, data-loggers and /or  salinity measuring devices as part of Phil Collins' PhD research into Kittiwake behaviour. Adult Kittiwakes are one of the most beautiful gulls you'll see and in breeding plumage have red eye rings and bright yellow bills. 

Whilst one half of the team concentrated on catching adults the rest got on with ringing as many chicks as we could find. Sadly many nests have failed again this year and there was evidence of predation by the Peregrine Falcon again. Eventual totals were 16 adults ringed and 40 chicks - far better than last year but still not as productive as the colony was 3-4 years ago. Many nests were totally inaccessible and one ledge in particular seemed to be thriving with every nest containing 1-2 young. Hopefully all these will fledge.

 Kittiwakes eye view of the ringers in action.

No excuses for the number of photographs. Unlike other gull chicks Kittiwakes are impossibly cute and fluffy.

As well as the Kittiwakes our brief was to ring as many of the remaining Razorbill & Guillemot chicks as we could find as well as any remaining gulls and Shags. Ian excelled by catching one of the few Puffins we have caught.
 Guillemot chicks still on the breeding ledges.

For once I had time to use the DSLR  and spent some time during our lunch break getting some shots of the islands inhabitants.

 Business end of a Razorbill just daring me to try and catch it so it can take chunks out of my hands.

Just as we were due to leave the weather closed in and it started raining as we were ferried by Jason across to the StaRiDa  fishing boat for the journey home. This was the last visit the ringing team will make to Puffin Island this year although Phil Collins, Jon Green and the other researchers will continue until all the breeding birds have departed.

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