Sunday, 9 June 2013

Life in the auk city

The seabird city is on the island is heaving. The auks are well into their breeding season with territories of a few inches marked out, eggs laid and the first chicks starting to hatch. 
The guillemots have eggs that can be everything from speckled white to a gloriously vivid speckled blue. The idea is for each bird to have an uniquely marked and coloured egg so that in a nestless world birds can identify their own eggs.

The razorbills are generally a bit more antisocial and like to lay their egg on a ledge that is away from others and often in a notch or crevice.

Both guillemots and razorbills show what we might call affection by grooming each other when they are both on the ledges together. This must strengthen the bond between male and female. That bill, which can take chunks out of fingers is used extremely delicately.

When you live in such close proximity then there is always going to be arguments. These are usually resolved with a lot of squawking, pecking and wing flapping but occasionally both birds will end up off the ledge.

The researchers are spending long hours on the cliff tops and in the hides watching, counting, recording the life of the city going on outside the hide windows.

During incubation, when one partner is out at sea there is often not much to do other than have a snooze.

There are advantages of having a higher ledge on the cliff face. Those lower down tend to get a bit splattered with poo raining down from above.

The temperatures in the last week or so have been pretty brutal, especially on the west side where the cool east breezes don't reach. The birds have left just having to sit it out, panting until their partner comes back to changeover.  

Once a changeover happens the relieved bird almost literally drops of the cliff into the sea. I love to see them as they splash around washing the dirty off and cooling down. They then dive under the water darting around seemingly just for the hell of it after being released from the ordeal of incubating eggs on the ledges. If ever a bird looks happy then it is a guillemot on a hot day just off the ledges after a spell of sitting on an egg.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the great pictures! I never really thought about the poor birds lower down the cliff being pebble-dashed by their fellow species before. No wonder they like a swim when their mate returns!
    Kind regards, Brian.