Friday, 9 September 2011

Isle of May bird counts

Everyone we speak to on the boats who come out to the island hears the same thing, 'My job is simple I meet all the visitors to the island and count the seabirds.'

The the first nine days in June this is what I did. I have to count all the crags, ledges, cliffs, gulleys and shelves. I count all the Kittiwakes, Shag, Fulmar, Razorbill and Guillemots. There is no complicated or clever scientific method. I sat down at what I considered the best vantage points and counted everything I see. As you can see from the pictures below this can be quite a daunting prospect. It is important to get good accurate counts of seabirds as they are struggling within parts of their range.

Kittiwakes nests are scattered all along the west cliffs

There were over 6000 birds on Greengates alone!

Razorbills love to hide in the crags

A peregrine sits on the cliffs. I spotted them a few times during the counts. One even landed next to me.

I made friends with fulmars......

And eiders.

Cliff safety is very important

I counted 15691 individual guillemots. using scientific data collected from the last 40 years and extrapolating out, this gives us a total of 14995 pairs. This figure is just a fraction down on last year.

Razorbill numbers were slightly up with 3012 individuals which equals about 2705 pairs.

I also counted 306 Fulmar, 505 shag and 2685 Kittiwakes.

This year the island was hit by a massive storm in May so a number of birds were relaying when I was counting. The scientists at CEH are currently looking at productivity for the season.

This picture drawn by one of the previous wardens shows perfectly what the Guillemots do when the counter is coming!

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