26 Jun 2017

Puffin Island - Cormorants and Guillemots

The SCAN and SEGUL groups headed to Puffin Island again yesterday with the aim of ringing Guillemot chicks and Cormorants as well as whatever other Razorbill and Shag chicks we could find. We even managed a few gulls as well!

As the weather forecast was initially poor we did the colonies in reverse order to the normal routine, starting with the Guillemots and finishing the day with the Cormorants.

There were good numbers of Guillemots and we managed to catch / retrap a few adults as well. Guillemots and Razorbills take a specially shaped 'auk' ring. Because of these species flat tarsi the ring has a flattened base and has to be closed using a special technique compared to conventional rings. Its hard, noisy and smelly work ringing in auk colonies on cliff faces!

 Guillemot chick - this one was to small to ring
Older chick showing a perfectly fitted clip auk ring expertly fitted by Ros.

We managed to ring a few gulls as well  - mainly Herring Gulls but also three bruisers on the form of Greater Black Backed Gulls

We don't catch many Puffins on Puffin Island although the numbers are slowly increasing. Catching two was a bonus and a new species for a couple of the trainee ringers present. I'm always amazed at how small these auks are compared to the Razorbills and Guillemots.

Suffering from a damaged tendon in my left thumb and being left handed meant I wasn't confident in climbing the chimney to another part of the Guillemot colony. Getting down wasn't an issue but getting up again might have been! Consequently I took a small team to a site with easier access to find a few more Razorbills (and Puffins!) before the whole team met up again for the highlight of the day.......the cormorants! Think Jurassic Park meets ringing team and you'll get the picture. Cormorant chicks look like Pterodactyls and bite like Velociraptors. With a sample of 250 to ring of which 50 were to be colour ringed, after an already gruelling day, wasn't going to be fun. The large stainless steel L rings used on Cormorants  have to be overlapped slightly and aren't easy to close - especially with tired hands so it was with some relief that Steve announced we'd finished the lot!

By now the sun had come out and we were all pretty sunburnt, sweaty and filthy dirty. With the boat arriving to collect us at 18.30 we'd spent the best part of 10 hours on the island and ringed approximately 900 birds.

I arrived home sore and stiff around 20.45, threw my dirty clothes in the garage, grabbed s welcome hot shower and then a well deserved cold beer.

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