9 Aug 2019

Last Puffin Island trip of 2019

The last Puffin Island trip of the year is always one tinged with a bit of sadness. Sadness that the seabird seasons over and the cliffs & ledges will be soon be empty until next year. However, its also eagerly anticipated as its the trip we get to ring Kittiwake chicks and the initial trips to the island looked promising as the Kittiwakes appeared to be having a good breeding season.

Sadly it appeared that many nests failed, possibly due to an unseasonal storm the week before we arrived, with dead chicks lying on rocks below empty nests. A few, in more sheltered spots, had survived and we ringed them along with a number of adults caught and colour ringed as part of a long term RAS (re-trapping adults for survival) project.

Most of the nests held single chicks but there were a few with two.

The beauty of colour ringing these birds with individually lettered darvic rings can be seen from this post a couple of years ago from the West Cornwall ringing group who found one of our Welsh Kittiwakes in their colony. Without the darvic the bird may never have been recognised and valuable movement data lost.  See here

The disappointment with the Kittiwakes was tempered by the fact Puffins are doing really well and we managed to catch a number of adults and pufflings!

Adult Puffins can be aged by the number of grooves on the bill sheath and catching a good number gave Rachel the opportunity to give us a lesson in ageing. Puffins only have a maximum of 3 grooves on the bill sheath and don't obtain their 1st until their 2nd calendar year.

We caught birds of various ages:

 Puffin Euring age 10 - three grooves. This makes this bird at least 4 years old but it could be much older.
Puffin Euring age 7 - two full grooves.

Puffins are always nice to see and ring but star bird for me was one I'd been waiting to ring for along time. Not many are caught on Puffin Island but Steve managed it this trip and I got to ring my first ever Fulmar. A gorgeous bird with beautifully soft plumage. I was really surprised how big and chunky they are.

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