16th July 2007
the Jetstream, and its associated plethora of low pressure systems,
place across Britain for the majority of the months of May and June,
Seabird Season had proved to be the most difficult any of the current
enthusiasts could remember. Not only were there problems with strong
rough seas and plenty of rain on many days, but it was also difficult
boats during the relatively few calm windows of opportunity!
the vast majority of the Channel Island European Shags taking a year
breeding in 2007 (probably due to the very stormy weather in the early
which may have prevented the adults from finding enough food to reach
condition), and with breeding gulls and tern numbers looking low also,
unsure how the Northern Gannets may have fared in 2007.
view of the exceptional weather conditions and the unusual seabird
season, permission was obtained from the Channel Islands Ringing Scheme
extend the window to visit the gannetries until 16th July.
some 16 days beyond the usual cut-off date of 30th
put in place around 20 years ago. With the continued poor weather for
the first half of July, it was looking like even this extension would
enable a visit to be made. However, at the eleventh hour a small
of Catherine Kinnersly, Chris Mourant and Paul Veron managed to make
(on the very last day possible!).
slight sea and light winds on the northbound sea journey from Guernsey
hopes that we would be able to make a landing. Two European Storm
seen to the north of Guernsey. Richard Keen and other fishermen have
reporting larger than usual numbers of Storm Petrels around Guernsey
this summer. It will be interesting to see what the autumn pelagics
terms of Storm Petrel numbers when they start in mid-August.
set off from St Peter Port Harbour at 1030, we reached the base of Les
around noon. There was a small swell at the base of the rock. Looking
binoculars we could see that the landing slope and edges of the colony
contained mostly relatively small young with white down. However,
the rock and into the main plateau (at the heart of the colony) we
large young already in their very dark chocolate, white flecked
were as big as adults.
this, it became clear to us that the gannets had nested more or less on
2007. It was not a repeat of the late season evidenced in 2006. It was
abundantly clear that the gannets have been very successful in raising
Chris and Paul landed at the usual place and slowly worked the landing
and first gulley. We took our time and managed to ring 187 chicks.
were covered in white down. None of the brown-feathered chicks was
interestingly not one of them was seen to move even 30 cm from its
of the larger downy chicks were sprouting their brown wing and tail
and some of these were mobile, but only in walking within a few metres
took an hour and a half to work very slowly up the landing slope and
first gulley…leaving the upper and lower edges alone. When we
reached the edge
of the main plateau we stopped to take a good look. Here we could see
advanced young including many with their brown flight feathers well
unanimously agreed not to enter the main part of the colony for fear of
too much disturbance to these birds. We returned back the way we had
again causing minimal disturbance. Most birds were already back on
adult and several chicks were successfully cut free from nylon
Although 5 or 6 dead adults were seen no rings were recovered on the
Keen picked us up, and rowed us to the adjacent stack. Here we climbed
“chimney” to reach the main part of the colony. Another
hour was spent slowly
working our way through the birds. This area is not part of the main
and as expected the chicks were less advanced than in the main section.
relatively easy to ring this rock, again causing very little
chicks were ringed before we were picked up again.
the tide having turned, Richard explained that landing on Ortac would
possible. We decided however to go up to the rock to take a close look.
proved to be very worthwhile. As expected the nesting gannets on Ortac
to be a little behind Les Etacs with only a couple of fully-feathered
youngsters seen from the boat. Most of the chicks observed were still
in white down, although many were sprouting their brown wing and tail
conclusions were similar to Les Etacs with the gannets breeding season
time and very successful in 2007, despite the poor weather. The success
species probably lies in the fact that it feeds on different fish
not sand eel) and it can and does forage at considerable distances from
breeding colonies (unlike shags, gulls, terns and auks).
only 290 chicks and one adult were ringed on the trip, valuable data
an aside…for the second (third?) year running, we are convinced
are attempting to nest on one of the westernmost outlying rocks of
The top of the rock is very white and 30+ adult birds were seen
the rock. It is very difficult to get close to the rock, as it is
circled by a
dangerous reef. However, even if nesting is being attempted, it is most
unlikely to be successful as this rock is very low making any nests
susceptible to storm surge and spray.
the return boat journey we saw a first year gannet flying west very
and purposefully behind an adult. Whether this bird was one of the
to leave the Alderney gannetries or had its origins further north is a
of mere speculation. What was clear is that it looked mighty fine on
– On 29 July Paul passed close to Ortac and Renonquet returning
from the UK on
Condor Ferries. Although he did not have binoculars he saw 50+ gannets
on the two rocks to the west of Renonquet, and many looked like they
attempting nesting – even though the rocks are restricted in
height above the
sea. It really does look like gannets are now spilling over from Ortac
appears full) to try to establish a new colony off Alderney.
Let’s hope they
find a more suitable rock very soon!