Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Feeding frenzy - sand eels for all

 We saw an amazing sight from the west cliffs yesterday evening, it was a feeding frenzy on sand eels and such a sight hasn't been seen around the island for many years.  A mass of young sand eels looking for some sandy sea bed to settle got trapped and bunched together against the cliffs of the island and the seabirds piled in to take advantage of this bounty.

 All through yesterday there were huge flocks of feeding kittiwakes and guillemots close in to the west side of the island but come the evening the young sand eels started to get chased by fish below them. This pushed them into tight bunches and up to the surface where more birds were waiting for them. The result was that in the still of the evening, the sea was covered with birds and every so often a frantic melee would break out as gulls poured onto a ball of sand eels when they broke the surface. Spearing into the mass of gulls came gannets, kittiwakes danced around the edges while underneath them guillemots zipped back and forwards chasing unseen prey.

Guillemot bombing under the surface.

A guillemot looks under the surface for fish prey to dive for.
 Altogether thousands of island birds covered the sea for up to 1km from the island. It means that hard pushed adult birds were well feed and it is encouraging that there are enough sand eels to trigger the frenzy but there is still a lot of the season to go for adults feeding young and we hope that the abundant food lasts to the end.

An Isle of May crowd gathered to watch the spectacle.

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