Wednesday, 14 March 2012

1, 39 and 10,000

The team processing guillemots.
Head and bill being measured.
Unique colour ring combination and a metal BTO ring.

About to be released.
They have big claws.
Razorbills pairing up in groups just off the island, more relate than dateline as they get to know their mates after a winter apart.

A magnificent sparrowhawk caught and ringed.

A seabird day today.
1 - The number of puffins seen on the boat trip over the the island the day before.
39 - The number of guillemots ringed - The researchers working on the Isle of May have managed to find out many of the secrets of the life histories of guillemots. Because the birds all look the same to humans, much of this has been done through putting unique colour ring combinations on birds legs so individuals can be tracked. Huge amounts of time are then spent looking down telescopes following these birds over the season and years. And every so often more birds needed to be colour-ringed to make up for the ones that have died. This morning at 0500 a small mist net was opened on on one of the guillemot ledges so that as the birds flew in from the sea at dawn they became caught up. At 0545 we headed down to the cliff to take the birds out of the nets and once all extracted we could then process then by putting coloured rings on their legs. quickly we had a system with 1 person putting on the colour combination, the next person put a metal BTO ring on and removing 1 or 2 feathers than in the lab can be used to sex the birds, then next glued and sealed the rings and measure the head and bill and the last person weight the birds and released them . All of the information gathered in noted down by a scribe. Even with this well oiled team it still took a couple of hours to process the world record catch of 39 birds that we caught. 1 bird caught already had colour rings on and from this we knew that it had been ringed back in the early 1990's. Amazing to think that it had been coming to the cliffs for at lover 20 years and was older than Brad, the sandwich student who was the scribe.
10,000 - this was the approx. number of puffins we saw on the sea around the island when we had finished ringing the guillemots. They had all arrived in the night and the early hours. How do they synchronise their movements and arrive at the same time? And how do they find the island again?  Magic.

Kittiwakes and razorbills are also returning, gathering in groups to find there partners, not so much Dateline but more Relate as they get to know their mate again after a winter apart.

And something very different, later on a sparrowhawk was caught and ringed in the top trap, What eyes !

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