Godin, The Humps, Herm

13 April 2012

After more than 30 years seabirding one would think there aren’t too many surprises left…but how wrong one can be! With our new Great Cormorant colour ringing programme ready for launch this breeding season, the Guernsey Seabird Team was keen to try to ensure that it did not get caught out (as last year during our visit on 11 May) by a very early breeding season. In fact Chris Mourant and I were taking the weather window and boat availability of today with the main purpose of checking on the state of the main colony on Godin, and possibly ringing a very early brood of chicks so that we could try out the new colour rings.

My brother Chris very kindly took us out to the Humps in his RIB, and as usual we had special permission from the States Environment Department to carry out the seabird monitoring on the islets (which are closed to access throughout the seabird nesting season). A very flat sea with no swell enabled a perfect landing…but Chris Mourant and I were soon to be shocked by the advanced state of the breeding season for Great Cormorant. There must have been around 20 very large (perhaps three quarters fledged) youngsters in a “herd” by the main rock outcrop…I think some of these youngsters even took to the wing! We really did not expect this for a visit in early April…in fact the earliest the Guernsey Seabird Team has ever visited The Humps to monitor the breeding seabirds!

Although the majority of these large youngsters disappeared across the islet, there were a few nests which had smaller young. We learnt that the perfect age for ringing both with metal rings and our new black colour rings (white double letter code) was chicks on which the primary feather pins were just emerging. The legs are large enough to hold the rings, but the birds are not able to flee the nests.

We worked fast and in 30 minutes we had initiated the Great Cormorant research project by colour and metal ringing 15 chicks. There are still nests with eggs and small chicks, so a further visit in 10-14 days time would appear to be viable – sea, tide, weather and boat depending!

Chris did a Great Cormorant nest count and reached 35 nests.  There was insufficient time and manpower to count Shag nests, but they appeared to be in the usual places around the coastline (perhaps 15-20 nests) and most had completed clutches of eggs. No auks were seen on shore.



13 April 2012