Les Etacs and Ortac – 24
A very gentle breeze boded very well for
trip up to the gannetries – something that the Team had not done
original visit on 11th June had shown the 2006 breeding
season to be
unusually late, with the result that the majority of nests contained
young too small to ring. The passage up with Richard Keen was largely
uneventful, although a couple of Manx Shearwaters were seen. The
on this occasion was down to four Jamie, Chris, Catherine and Paul.
by Vic as photographer.
Given the light breeze there was a
amount of swell around the base of Les Etacs when we arrived. However,
ferried us by wooden dinghy onto the rock one at a time. It was
obvious that this trip was perfectly timed. Some nests (mostly on the
of the colony) still contained eggs or tiny young, but most had small
fluffy chicks that were big enough to take the rings but small enough
not to be
able to wander from the nests. We soon worked out that the larger
present, which were more mobile, were the ones we had ringed on our
trip, so we could completely ignore them – thus cutting down
disturbance to the
We worked the entire rock, except the
lower edge of
the main face (which Phil usually does). Pleasantly surprised that
very few dead chicks on the rock, but a few adult Gannets had died
the nylon netting and rope. Of these three were ringed.
Various fish regurgitated or remains
found on rock
including long nose, red gurnard and large sand eels. We worked for
hours in two teams. Catherine and Paul ringed a total of 336 chicks.
Chris ringed…….. Total =
After completing the main stack, Richard
across to the adjacent stack. Jamie and Catherine had done this one
but it was the first time on this stack for Paul and Chris. Paul has
finally landed on every stack on which Gannets are nesting.
Several Shag nests also on this stack
with a few young
ringed (careful to note the numbers used…as it would be
embarrassing to have a
”Shag” recovered in Senegal!).
Catherine and Paul ringed 40 Gannet
chicks on the
Little Stack, with …….more ringed by Jamie and Chris. It
was noticeable that
the adult Gannets were more skittish and less bold in this small colony
the heart of the main colony.
With the swell we’d encountered on
Richard expressed some doubt as to whether we would be able to land on
Rather than continue with the other Little Stacks of Les Etacs we
made the decision to try Ortac before the tide turned. We saw a couple
Kittiwake from boat on the passage, but no sign of nesting anywhere
Alderney. The usual landing place on Ortac carried an unhealthy swell,
so we motored
around to the west side and anchored. Richard then rowed us in and set
ashore on the rocks. It was a great pleasure to work the rock with
young at the
perfect stage for ringing. This year Paul and Catherine went clockwise,
Jamie and Chris anti-clockwise (a change is as good as a rest!).
Catherine and Paul cut one adult free.
snared in rope by one of its claws. It was incredibly wound up and
have broken free. We ringed it and hoped it would soon be back to full
(having had several days without food).
Jamie and Chris also cut free an adult and ringed it before
Catherine and Paul ringed 179 chicks and
Jamie and Chris ….chicks. Catherine also ringed her first
Guillemot chick which
was showing feathers on the wing. In previous years, they had all been
small. At least two others seen on the
rock – guillemot corner!
Just before leaving we had a few minutes
the Gannets settling back. Many of the adults come back within a few
moving through the colony, and of course some never leave their young
ringing the nestlings an interesting experience.
We looked out across the two rocks to
the west of
Renonquet, upon which 15-20 adult Gannets have been settling. However,
Soanes (the Alderney Wildlife Trust naturalist) had been up to these
recently and confirmed that there were no nests. The rocks are, in any
too low to avoid swells washing over them in gales. So…although
establishing nests yet, there is evidence of adults settling on another
of rocks. This must bode well for the establishment of another Gannetry
Channel Islands at some point (hopefully soon!).
We encountered a single Manx Shearwater
couple of comic and sandwich terns on the motor back to Guernsey.
All photos © Vic Froome