Alderney Garden Rocks Gannetry

20 June 2008

A much reduced team of seabirders (Paul Veron and Catherine Kinnersly) set off at 9:00 for Alderney on 20th June 2008 with Richard Keen.  The swell had reduced but was still a worrying factor and there was a possibility of rain showers forecasted for midday.  The two Jersey ringers (Ian Buxton and Tony Paintin) and Chris Mourant had cancelled earlier that morning and Jamie Hooper had cancelled the night before.  In addition, an Alderney Wildlife Trust student (Alex) would also be collected from Alderney in order to try and record adult ring numbers on live birds.

The team was keen to see the state of the Gannetry following another poor breeding season for Shags and local concerns over fish stocks due to the very poor visibility of the sea since December 2007(silt suspended in the water associated with planktonic blooms).

A slow journey up to Alderney spent comfortably in the deck chairs the team had brought with them accompanied with cups of tea and sightings of 2 European Storm Petrels and at least 2 Common Dolphins seen mid channel.  A detour to Alderney to pick up the Alderney Wildlife Trust student was then followed by an hour spent fishing (not even a bite) in sight of the Garden Rocks (due to the high swell).  By 12.30 Richard Keen decided to attempt a landing and under mutual agreement the adjacent stack to the main Garden Rock colony was decided upon. 

Paul landed first followed by Catherine who at once climbed to the summit to view the birds below.  An Oystercatcher nest was noted with 2 eggs just above the crag where the Guillemots usually nest, on the way up to the summit.  The Gannet colony looked healthy with only a few empty nests on the periphery.  Gannet chicks were a good size for ringing with none too large that they wandered around and the team was able to work slowly and carefully through the colony with minimal disturbance and most young remained in their nest with the adults remaining close by.  Netting was removed from 2 chicks and a total of 47 chicks were ringed.    The Alderney Wildlife Trust student was unable to note down any adult ring numbers with only two adults with rings being spotted.  No shags present in the colony. 

Richard rowed Catherine to the main Gannetry but the swell was still too strong and so she returned to the boat.  Paul was the last to leave the stack and again a landing on the main rock was attempted but after consideration, Paul decided to leave the main rock as virgin territory for the whole team to attempt next week.  The change in tide would have meant a maximum of an hour on the rock. 

The team returned home pleased to have seen the state of the Gannetry but disappointed with the failure both to land on the main colony, and the inadequate size of the ringing team given the very small tidal window possible resulting from the surprisingly large swell.