13 Jun 2016

Huffing and Puffing on Puffin.

The weather was kind to us on our latest visit to Puffin Island. We had a few short showers which made the terrain very slippery underfoot. Seabird colonies are smelly places at the best of times but add a bit of rain into the mix and they simply become the seabird researchers equivalent to Glastonbury but probably smells a lot worse.

Meeting up at Beaumaris the team consisted of a number of newcomers including visiting ringer Vivain from mid-Wales and Liverpool University researchers, Alice, Harriet & Fed. Amelia is a SCAN trainee but hadn't been out to Puffin much before and there was Ian and myself who, after a number of years, have got used to the routine.  The team were ably led by Steve.

The focus on this trip was to ring as many Shag and Razorbill pullus as we could find within the allotted timescale. After the introductions we headed towards the jetty and our transport. The trip out was uneventful with a couple of Black Guillemots showing near Beaumaris pier and, as we got closer to the island, swarms of auks & Shags.

After being transferred to the island we changed into our oldest clothes. Steve gave a safety briefing and explained what the aims were and got to work. The birds seem to be doing very well this year and there was a lot for us to do.

Some Shags were still on eggs whilst other nests had very small young but there were still plenty of good sized pulls for us to ring!

Reaching the boulder fields and ledges where the majority of the Razorbills breed we turned our attention to ringing this species - including some feisty adults.
 Alice ringing an adult Razorbill
 Amelia with a young Razorbill
Harriet ringing a young Razorbill a bit older than the bird above and probably soon to fledge.

Like other auks Razorbills fledge before they can fly and launch themselves of the breeding ledges within a few weeks to join the parents at sea. I can't really blame them - they'll probably do anything to get away from the smell! As well las plenty of youngsters there were also a number of birds still on eggs and we'll go back and ring these on the next trip.

Auk 'rings' aren't really rings at all but 'clips' with a special technique for closing them which is easiest done using engineering pliers rather than large ringing pliers. We also managed to ring a few Guillemot pulls but the main trip for these will be in a few weeks time. It was great seeing all the activity around the seabird colonies and I never get tired of it. The ledges were  full of breeding auks,  Shags and Kittiwakes whilst higher up on flatter ground gulls were either incubating or feeding young. We ran the gauntlet of the gulls on several occasions with one particular Great Black-backed Gull managing to hit me and almost knock my cap off.

Some of the the team taking a bit of a breather.

A great day and a good number of birds ringed ! A smelly, tired and generally happy team departed the island around 1630 for the boat rip back to Beaumaris where we saw a party of Manx Shearwaters shearing ahead of us.  A lifer for Federico who's more used to the Mediterranean species in his native Italy.
Ahead of me was the drive back to Cheshire where the first thing I did was stuff all my clothes, rucksack and boots int the washing machine on a hot wash! A shower followed and then a curry before I relaxed in front of the TV to catch up with the rugby. I woke up at 5.30 am Sunday morning still on the couch with half a bottle of beer in my hand! Deciding it wasn't worth going to bed I retired to the conservatory with a cup of tea (the beer was flat) and the previous days newspapers where I promptly fell asleep again before finally getting up around 08.00 stiff as a board and with a cricked neck.

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