Saturday, 23 April 2011
Out on the town.
It's like a nightclub on a Saturday night just after the cheap drink offer has finished. The males are smart and stylish, cutting a dash, throwing some shapes, posing and calling out endearments while the females just busy themselves pretending nothing much is happening around them. Then suddenly a girl make her choice and the happy couple move off to the sidelines. It's the eiders I'm talking about and they have taken over the loch at the moment. A week ago there were just a scattering of eiders around the island and we were wondering where they had got to but suddenly they have returned to the island to pair up and not just the loch but every bit of sheltered water around the island is full of the these wonderful ducks, the males echoing call sounding a bit like Cybil Faulty saying "ooo I knooooooow". Over 50 dapper drakes on the loch were competing for just a handful of females but eventually over 1000 females will set up nests across the whole island.
These eiders have taken 3 years to reach the age to breed but an average life span is 18 years so they usually have a good span to reproduce. The eiders on the Isle of May have a relatively stable population and seem to be doing OK. We count the nest every other year at the same time as when we count the gull population so that we can keep an eye on how they are doing but in other parts of the country there has been a drop in non-breeding birds. The data that we collect on many of the seabirds on the Isle of May feeds into UK schemes so that an national picture can be formed for these birds and any changes can be quickly picked up. To help the Isle of May eiders breed as successfully as possible we need visitors to stay on the paths and give the sitting females some space.