Thursday, 11 August 2011

Ringing mallees

A chick about to fire.
It doesn't know yet that we are above it !
Adult fulmars.

Trying to point heads away while holding the feet.

Fulmars or mallees as they are called locally don't get noticed much with the puffins and all the other birds around them but as they always take so long to get started with the breeding business they are always the last feeding chicks at the end of the season and so now they stand out. With the cliffs nearly bare of birds the great big fluff balls of chicks that look more like a muppet chicken than anything else can be spotted easily. Fulmars have a strategy of both parents going out to sea to find food for the chick at the same time. The downside of this means that some young chicks get eaten when unprotected but the upside is that chicks get fed with twice the amount of food and so grow twice as fast. And now they are the right size to put a ring on their leg to help gather scientific information about these birds. But it is easier said than done as they have a useful defence. They squirt a stinking liquid at you that can go 2-3 feet. As they nest on steep grass banks you often have to climb up to them and care has to be taken that you don't come face to face with one. So an approach from the side is good and you have to make a quick grab for the head and turn it away immediately else you will have a smelly arm for a week afterwards. Where you turn the head also matters otherwise your colleague who is handing you rings and ringing equipment won't talk to you again if they are on the receiving end.

So with some trepidation Mark, Emily and myself headed onto the cliffs last week to ring some chicks. Despite trying to distract them with various diversion it wasn't long before we were wearing this years fragrance of eau de mallee but after an hour 21 chicks had small new bracelets on. And Emily who was going back on the May Princess that morning and had been especially targeted was going to have no problem getting a seat!

1 comment:

  1. Who'ld know? Great big cute snowballs that fire smelly ink! Fab.