Les Etacs, Alderney
28 June 2010
I suppose it had to happen, but in
2010 I finally met my nemesis and did not succeed in ringing a single
chick! This was, fortunately, not the whole story of the trip because
manage to land two ringers (Ian Buxton and Chris Mourant) on one of the
stacks, but despite taking a good look at close range the other four
present (Jamie and Mish Hooper and Paul and Catherine Veron) could only
from Richard Keen’s boat – the Margaret K.
Having said this, it is
great privilege to be in such close proximity to a gannetry –
surely one of the
most dramatic and charismatic sights of the avian world?
The day started
with the ringing team (including Ian Buxton who flew over from Jersey)
assembled at the St Peter Port Harbour Fish Quay at 0830. The weather
absolutely perfect with only the gentlest of breezes, a clear sky and
appeared to be a calm sea. Passing Jethou, Herm and The Humps in such
conditions resulted in high spirits for a very successful day out.
The only seabird of
interest on the
one and a half hour journey up was a single Manx Shearwater passing at
close range near Alderney. Just over half way we could not fail to
swell on the sea. It was pretty large and regular – but where it
had come from,
given our long run of calm weather, was a real mystery.
At this stage we were
confident of landing, even if we had to wait an extra hour before the
swell had dropped sufficiently. Upon arrival at Les Etacs the swell was
large (6-8 foot) and the base of the rocks was washed white with
water. After a quick look at the spectacle of thousands of Gannets, we
out to a nearby sand bank to try to catch some fish for supper.
Despite having seven
rods in the
water only two Turbot were caught – both by Catherine. The first
was small so
we returned it. However, the second was larger and it had swallowed the
so we kept that one. It provided a large meal for both Catherine and me
After an hour and a
took two of the team and landed them on one of the small stacks, where
ringed 150 gannet chicks. Ian and Chris confirmed that many of the
large but still in white fluffy plumage. No doubt the main colony would
had some even more advanced birds on the main plateau. On the little
there were also a few nests with eggs and small chicks. One imagines
older more experienced birds, which tend to be the earlier breeders,
on the main stack.
After another half hour
took Jamie and me to look at a landing on the main rock. We took our
assess the conditions at the landing spot, but reluctantly we decided
conditions were not suitable for a landing. We still hoped that at low
may be able to land four of the party to spend an hour ringing, but in
event even this proved impossible.
Watching and listening
gannets flying around the rock, and along the cliff coastline of
Alderney is a
truly marvellous experience, and so it was difficult to be too
with our very limited success in 2010. I also had to accept that after
years of success (one way or another) it was inevitable that one year
simply not be able to land – and so it proved in 2010 (at least
for the majority
of the team and on either of the main colonies – Les Etacs or
What it certain now
though is that
it will seem like a very long wait for 2011.
On the motor back to
several gulls kept us company – again demonstrating their
skills. While in the Little Russell a
Herring Gull landed on the boat and it came to the window to take a
from skipper Richard Keen’s hand. It then proceeded to eat the
fish on the bow
of the boat. It looked very much like this gull knows Richard’s
boat, and where
it can get a very nutritious handout!
28 June 2010