27 Jul 2020

Puffin island trip

With lockdown movements eased in Wales, earlier this month, a very small team of ringers managed to get across to Puffin Island  with a view to ringing Kittiwake chicks and whatever else was still unfledged.

All other field work had been cancelled due to the Covid19 outbreak and we were all interested to see how the islands wildlife had fared. First impressions were that most birds had a had a good breeding season. A combination of the population boom in the rabbits and the dry spell earlier in the year meant the vegetation wasn't as tall as usual and it certainly appeared that the gulls had had a good breeding season.

Most had fledged and were hanging around close to the cliff edges but a few remained and we managed to ring  a number of Herring, Lesser black-backed and Greater black-backed gull chicks. The Greater black-backed are impressive and from the size of their bills you can see why they can make short work of a Puffin or rabbit!

The best time to ring gull pulli is when the primaries are showing as you can then be certain whether you're ringing s Herring or Lesser black-backed!

The number of rabbit holes everywhere means you have to watch where you're walking even more than usual but bodes well for an increase in the Puffin breeding population and possibly even colonisation by Manx Shearwaters. Its always a pleasure to see a Puffin close up and we managed to ring one adult and a puffling.

A few auk chicks were still on the cliff ledges or under boulders but most had already departed. This young Razorbill will soon be leaving its ledge. The young leave before they can fly and make their way down to sea to join their parents.

Unfortunately, for another year, Kittiwakes have had an extremely poor year with only 8 pullus being ringed. Three adults were ringed and we had a worthwhile number of colour ring sightings.

Quite a few Shag chicks remained and a concerted effort resulted in 50 youngsters ringed.

Part of the purpose of the trip was to get as many colour rings and metal rings read in the field as possible to provide data for ongoing studies. In this respect we gained a useful number of field sightings so the trip was worthwhile.

With the weather forecast to deteriorate early evening we called the boatman to collect us around 5pm  - just in time as driving home the rain started!  It was good to get to Puffin Island again and hopefully next year we'll be able to undertake more ringing work on the island.

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