Sunday, 24 April 2011

After the mud

The kittiwakes have gone mad the last couple of days. It started on Saturday morning when we had the first shower of rain for several weeks. This was a relief for us as we are totally reliant on rainfall for our water supply and no rain means no showers. For the kittiwakes they use the mud for nest building and the shower kicked off a frenzy of collecting nest materials. Suddenly the grassy braes were covered with birds collecting mouthfuls of mud and grass. As soon as they have a mouthful the head off back to their nest ledge wearing a grass and mud moustache like Groucho Marx. Kittiwakes make a huge range of different noises and they have a special call when they have a beak full of mud, but that might be just that it works like a trumpet mute. Once back at their nesting ledge they pack the mud down and then tread it in so that it forms a packed, hard layer. It is a great sight to see these graceful birds staring off in to space looking like they are listening to an iPod while paddling down the mud with their feet to the music.
This mass nest building is likely to mean much early laying of eggs than last year when the first egg was recorded on the 7 May and this is generally good news as it means that the birds have returned from the winter out at sea in good condition. The next challenge for the birds is to ensure that the hatching of the eggs coincides with plenty of small fish in the seas around the island. For that we will have to wait and see.

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