Friday, 8 June 2012

The All Island Count

Anyone who visits the island who stands before David and I will hear us say that our job is to meet the boats and count all the seabirds you can see. David and I had a team of volunteers to help us count all the seagulls on the island but when it comes to the All Island Count, 'I'm on my own*'!

I have to count all the cliff dwelling birds. It is quite a daunting task counting thousands of seabirds, Many of which are parts of large colonies. In some ares I can easily see 5000 birds on one cliff face.

I'm often asked how I count so many birds. Well, it's simple! I literally count every individual bird from a safe vantage point. I use a clicker and cover every shelf, ledge, crag and gully of every cliff face.I scan the cliffs with my binoculars. I also take lots of notes and drawings so I don't count the same bird more then once. The island is split up into 16 sections and the totals are added up when the count is complete. It's of the only chance I get to go to secret places around the reserve, creeping along gullies or leaping around the rocks at low tide.

 Kittiwakes, Razorbills and Guillemot are the three most numerous species

I get to creep around little secret Gullies around the island. A Razorbill nearly took my head off flying down this one!

The south horn colony is counted from The Maidens

Counting the high cliffs is quite exciting especially in the fog


A lot of Razorbills were just hatching as I was counting.

Playing on cliffs is dangerous kids. Rope up safe!

That's me looking down 40 metres to the sea!

 How many?


David has a clifftop snooze while waiting to come back from the Maidens

Now come thes report writing and adding up. I'll be reporting back on that soon.

*David kindly helped me with my rope work and The Centre of Ecology and Hydrology helped counting the more sensitive areas where there are the highest density of shags.

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