8 Jul 2024

Puffin Island seabird ringing trips - cormorants, gulls and auks

It was good to be back on Puffin island again this year following several years disruption due to covid and then, later, AI. The weather gods conspired against us though with poor weather delaying some of the breeding season and trips being rescheduled. Bad weather meant we also had  to reschedule some trips literally the evening before we were due to set off. 

Despite the delays ity appears that birds have had a good breeding season and, following a winter eradication programme, there weren't many signs of the plagues of rats that have caused problems for the last few years. Hopefully this winter will see the remaining few finished off.

As per our usual samples 250 Cormorants were ringed of which 50 were colour ringed. The colony seemed smaller this year with birds more spread out but we still managed to ring our sample size quite easily after which we searched for a few gull chicks before starting on ringing a few more Razorbills and Guillemots.

Greater Black-backed Gull chick
Greater Black-backed Gull chick

Searching for gull chicks in the long vegetation above the cliffs

Many of the Razorbills were ready to jump and join their parents on the sea and they were a perfect size to ring.
Razorbill 'jumpling'

Slightly younger Razorbill chick

Compared to Razorbills, which nest under boulders or rocky overhangs, Guillemots nest on communal ledges and are often covered in a horrid festering mix of regurgitated food and their own faeces. Even the adults become covered in the stuff and handling them isn't for those with a weak stomach. They really are the smelliest of birds.  Occasionally we get bridled guillemot and this form is generally quite rare so far south but becomes commoner the further north you go in their breeding range. To catch three on one breeding ledge in one session was a real surprise.

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