Friday, 25 July 2014

Black & White

It's been another busy week! Given how late in the season it is we concentrated on getting as many chicks ringed as we could. We have now ringed around 1,100 Roseate tern chicks, and a similarly large number of Common Tern chicks, that will help provide information in the future on the survival rate of chicks, their movement between Rockabill and other sites, and the lifespan of breeding birds. Just to serve as a reminder of the value of ringing we came across a Common Tern in the colony this week that had a ring from South Africa on its leg, rather than a BTO ring that would be used here and in the UK. We suspect the bird might have been ringed in Namibia, but we look forward to hearing the precise details of its travels in the near future!  A big thanks to the Birdwatch Ireland friends and colleagues - Dr. Steve Newton, Darren (of Kilcoole wardening fame), Susan, Paddy and Shane - that came out this week to lend a helping hand. We also had Paul Morrison, head warden on Coquet Island, the main/only Roseate Tern  colony in the UK and managed by the RSPB, who came out to take a look at how we do things on Rockabill and to lending a helping hand too! Take a look at some CoquetIsland's Puffins playing piano here (yes, you read that right).

Yours truly at work, sporting the latest in Rockabill fashion. (thanks to Karl Partridge for the picture)

So that was the Terns out of the way - we then moved on to our Kittiwakes and Black Guillemots because we want to know what they get up to too! Black Guillemots, as we've mentioned inprevious posts, nest in small caves/cavities/holes around the island, many of which are in walls and fairly accessible. Some, especially those on the Bill, are a bit trickier to find and get the chicks in...

It's in here somewhere.......

Black Guillemots take around 40 days to fledge, and when they reach that age they leave in the dark of night (to avoid predation). It looks like one or two of our Black Guillemot chicks have fledged already, but we still managed to ring the majority of chicks, of various ages and stages of fluffiness!

Black Guillemot chick - one of the more recently hatched ones we found (Picture taken under NPWS license)
Black Guillemot chick - another of the younger chicks we found (Picture taken under NPWS license)
Measuring the wing of a Black Guillemot chick - it doesnt yet have the 'clean' white wing patch of the adult. (Picture taken under NPWS license)

A Black Guillemot chick that isn't far off fledging (Picture taken under NPWS license)

Another Black Guillemot chick, not far off fledging (Picture taken under NPWS license)

Next were the Kittiwakes. Like the BG's they take a bit longer to fledge than the Terns do - they're bigger so have more growing to do! Given that they're in a nest on the side of a cliff, they stay pretty still until they're ready to fly so in that sense they were quite easy to deal with. Unfortunately, given that good grip is needed when standing on the side of a cliff, it means they have quite sharp claws! All part of the job though!

Adult Kittiwake and chick. (picture taken under NPWS license)

Part of the Kittiwake colony on the Bill - you can see why we didn't ring all of the chicks! (picture taken under NPWS license)
Kittiwake chick (picture taken under NPWS license)

Kittiwake chick (picture taken under NPWS license)

Kittiwake chick, have just gotten rid of some of its dinner..... (picture taken under NPWS license)

We got some of the more accessible Kittiwake chicks on both the Rock and Bill ringed, and we managed to trap some adults so that we could read their rings too. We got 5 adults in all, all of which were ringed on Rockabill as chicks: One 8-yr old, two 11-yr olds, a 14-yr old and a 17-yr old. We were also encouraged by the number of 2-chick Kittiwake clutches, and by the sighting of a couple of 3-chick clutches as well. And today we saw that the first few Kittiwake chicks have fledged and are exploring the waters around the island - so we ringed them just in time!

Reading the ring on an adult Kittiwake - he's not giving up the info without a fight! (Picture taken under NPWS license)

So - it makes for a short blog post but I can assure you it was a long and busy few days! The enjoyable kind of busy though - myself and Donnacha hadn't ringed either Black Guillemots or Kittiwakes before so it was great to get a chance to get the opportunity to work on that skill, as well as to get a close-up look of two fantastic species in the early stages of their development. We should also note that despite how cute and delicate they may look, both species have surprisingly strong bites,  and that the differences in diet between those species and the Terns was made very evident by the different smell left on our clothes at the end of the day!

So that's it for another week - more important breeding season work done that will pay dividends in terms of data and information in the years to come. A big thanks again to everyone who came out to help us during the week!

No comments:

Post a Comment