Monday, 28 May 2012

Counting the gulls - another day at our office.

Today we have mostly been counting gulls. And they don't really appreciate it. This is a biennial operation which sweeps the island, every inch of it. So in scorching weather a team of us (island staff and recruits from the local SNH office that needed to see wildlife) have been slowly, systematically, intensely and with complete absorption sweeping over island sections counting the nests of the herring and lesser black back gulls.  There isn't much chance for your mind to wander as you clamber up and down rocks making sure that you don't miss any while being constantly dive bombed and given bad smelling "good luck" . If a few nests are missed out in each section then the overall population figure can quite a bit out so slowly does it to get as accurate figure as possible. So why do it ? Why is it important ? Strange as it may seem but herring gulls, those archetypal seaside birds are declining at such a rate that they have been declared a "bird of conservation concern." But on the Isle of May the population seems to be gradually increasing over a long period of time so for us to find out more about this we firstly need to know how the gulls are doing at the moment.
As you go along you see all sorts of interesting things - this clutch had eggs of different colours.
Some of the herring gulls are just starting to hatch - see the beak just starting to show through.

And some are out in the wide world.

This is a cute greater black back gull chick (on the right).

And the job this year is made more difficult by the lack of vegetation. The surface carpet of plants has been blasted by the weather and eaten by the rabbits and so there isn't the usual protective weave of roots and stems to support our weights when walking over the puffin burrow riddled surface. The result is that occasionally someone breaks through into the burrow itself. If left then this would be fatal for the chick inside so each holed burrow is re roofed with an old roofing slate. Never has it been more important to be a bit "light on ones feet " !
More gull counting tomorrow and the next day it is better than being on a computer all day and is another day at our office.
Lucie looked after the puffling while this burrow was mended.

Arms that reach down to the knees and have 2 elbows are needed to mend the burrows.

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