Saturday, 16 June 2012

In the nick of time - counting done.

Today is the second day of a big easterly blow. There is a cold, howling north east wind, drenching showers of rain and a 2m swell crashing on the east side of the island. Typical then that this is the time when a number of birds decide to hatch. The first arctic tern chicks hatched the day before the storm broke on Thursday but more about them in later posts. Today the first oystercatcher chicks were found hatching and on the loch the first shelduck ducklings set sail, 8 of them to start with but their parents are so clueless that within 30 mins. they were down to 6.

View from the South Horn
Female shelduck with eight ducklings shortly before they started to disappear.

2 beautiful oystercatcher chicks (can you spot them) and a 3rd egg starting to hatch

And this bad weather held off just long enough for Jeremy and I to finish the seabird monitoring. In 3 weeks we have covered the island many times counting (with lots of help from others) roughly 5600 pairs of gulls, 1000 pairs of eiders, 300 pairs of terns, 2000 pairs of kittiwakes, 600 pairs of shags, 300 pairs of fulmers, and about 35000 guillemots and razorbills not to mention counting 100 cliff face plots containing about 200 auks each. As we start to do the adding up we will let you know actual figures but at the moment I am left with the memories of the sights, sounds and smells of being in the centre of a seabird metropolis for days on end. Some linger long in the mind: like a guillemot, poo covered and hot, dropping down off the cliffs for a cool bath and dive under the water, and coming face to face almost with a razorbill and receiving the full force of its malevolent gaze, and finding a razorbill tenement in crack wedged with stones and of course the impossibly dainty kittiwakes poised on their nests showing everything they have learnt from kittiwake finishing school until they open their mouths. 
Given the eye by a razorbill.

Dainty kittiwake on nest
A guillemot diving in clear blue seas.

A razorbill tenement with 3 floors of birds nesting in a crack.

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