Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The awakening of the isle

Love birds on the cliffs.

Lots of fuss as the kittiwakes reaffirm their pair bonds on the nesting ledges.

A bit of rest needed as well.

Gathering flocks of kittiwakes glittering on the sea off the island.
It is a late start to the season, it is cold and the birds are slow to return. But this does have its advantages for me at least. I can see the gradual awakening of the island. Since coming on to the island I have been able to watch the slow build up of the breeding season intensity from the winter torpor. Each morning there are small differences to see in the local inhabitants and what they are doing. Last Wednesday I hardly saw a kittiwake. By Friday  flocks of over 600 had congregated off the west side and yesterday morning I saw my first pair on a Greenface nesting ledge gently canoodling in the warm sun, getting to know each other after the winter apart and building that pair bond again. Later on the cliff face behind the South Horn was full of kittis filling the gully with their musical racket.
Today a handful of shags have started to come onto the island and hang around their nesting ledges at the Maidens where as yesterday it was hard to find one. As for puffins well the numbers hanging around off the island have been building to a few hundred and then this morning a puffin flew down Fluke Street and another was actually seen on the ground behind the Assistant Keepers cottage. Any day now we expect to wake up and find the cliffs full of them. Even the vegetation is showing signs of gradually awakening, on the warmer west side the sea campion is greening up, the fescues putting out shoots faster than the rabbits can trim them while on the east side, exposed to the cold winds, progress is much slower.
In a more normal year much of this all would have happened before I get onto the island, last year, an early year, the first shag egg was laid on 12 March, this year we will be lucky to see one by the 12 April. So though it is cold and quiet I can't wait to get out each morning to see what is happening next.
The fulmars are also back on the cliffs in numbers.

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