Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Skomer day 7

I've now been on the island a week and feel like I'm starting to get the hang of things. I've managed to colour ring resight 16 (26 resighted last year) herring gulls, 29 (60) kittiwakes including 2 French scheme birds, 60 (85) lesser black-backed gulls and 43 (210) puffins. Apart from the puffins, which I've only spent one night looking at, I'm pretty happy with these totals so far!

I've also had a few brilliant experiences already. Today I managed to touch the wing tip of a fulmar as it flew past me at the top of a cliff. I managed to get a couple of photos of these majestic birds, but this doesn't really show how close they were getting.

I've also met, and made friends with, some awesome people and so I'm confident it's going to be a good summer!

My day to day routine generally involves leaving the house just before dawn in time to be at either the razorbill or kittiwake colonies for dawn. I then stay at one of these until 10/11am trying to resight as many colour ringed birds as possible. I then head back to the house for some tea and food and then head over to the herring gull colony from about 1pm-4pm. After that it's either head to the lesser black-backed colony for the evening, or to the puffins to resight rings. I'll do this until dusk (until I can't read rings accurately in the low light) and the there's just time for food before heading to daily log at 9pm. For the last week this has mainly been to get some social interaction as I'm mainly on my own all day and was in my accommodation alone until today. 

Then, if I'm still awake (!) I go out again once it's dark (10:30-11pm) and catch as many Manx shearwater retraps as I can. Thankfully the study plot for these is right next to my accommodation so it's not too difficult to call it quits when I get too tired. So far I've caught ~45 retraps, but I'm not sure how this compares with last years total as only confirmed breeders are recorded on the data sheets I have. Some of the birds I'm retrapping haven't been recorded as breeding within my study plot. 

I then get some sleep and start the process all over again the next day. However, the last 2 days have been very quiet because all the auks and kittiwakes disappeared from the island. I'm not sure what the mechanism behind this mass exodus is, but apparently the same thing has happened at South Stack (thanks Ian Wright) and on Bardsey (thanks Ben Porter). Whatever the reason, it means that I've had no birds to look at in the mornings and so these have been used to trying and finish my remaining uni assignments. I now only have 1 left to do!! 

All in all I'm settling in very well and getting on with things. I'm looking forward to seeing how my final numbers for the season compare to last years (1) because of the winter storms (2) because the guy doing this job previously was here for 10 years!!

Hope you are all well and enjoying the spring. I know I am!

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