Godin and Longue Pierre, The Humps, Herm

23 May 2010

Thanks to local boatman Dave Perrio, three members of the Guernsey Seabird Team (Chris Mourant, Michelle Hooper and Paul Veron) were able to get to two islets of the Humps north of Herm on 23 May 2010. As we gathered at St Peter Port Harbour the prospects looked bleak with a thick sea mist giving very poor visibility. Clearly we could do nothing but wait to see if the sun burnt off the fog. Luckily, by the time that Dave had launched his rib, the fog had lifted completely. A somewhat lumpy ride out around the south of Jethou and Herm raised concerns that it might not be possible to land on the islets given the NE breeze and slight-moderate sea with confused swell.

 Dave managed to find a sheltered corner of Godin for our first landing. It was immediately apparent that the Great Cormorants had done well, with 15-20 very large young, some of which were already on the wing. We could not approach these birds, but as the egg laying of this species is asynchronous there were also mid-sized young still in the nests as well as a few nests with just eggs or tiny young.

 We worked quickly to ring 13 Great Cormorant pulli. It was also encouraging to see European Shag nesting successfully with a good number of nests (25+).  Most had eggs or small young, but there were others with middle-sized pulli which we were able to ring (eight).

 Great Black-backed Gulls were much in evidence with 40+ adults overhead during our 25 minutes ashore. Several nests with three eggs were seen, and four or five had tiny chicks or eggs that were only just hatching.

 Chris saw 6-8 Common Guillemots nesting in the large rocks on the north-eastern end of the islet.

 The following were population estimates:-

 Great Cormorant – c 20 active nests

European Shag – c 25 active bests (most with 3 eggs or chicks)

Great Black-backed Gull – c 20 nests

Common Guillemot c 10 pairs

Herring Gull – a few pairs present

 After less than half an hour ashore we moved on to adjacent Longue Pierre. This was necessary as in 2009 the Great Cormorants caught us out by the colony splitting with half the birds on Godin and half on Longue Pierre. This was the same situation this year, with c. 15-18 pairs of cormorants nesting on Longue Pierre. Again some of the young were already on the wing, but we did manage to ring another eight pulli.

European Shags were also much in evidence with 40 – 45 pairs with active nests. Most had small-mid-sized young and we were able to ring 39 more nestlings. This is quite unusual for a visit in May. Normally we would not ring more than a handful of shag chicks on The Humps until the first week of June.

 Common Guillemots looked to be flourishing with c 25 adults on the rock with eggs. We did not look too closely as some of the shag chicks were very close to adult guillemots which were standing on eggs.

 While not as numerous as on Godin there were also a few pairs of Great Black-backed Gulls, along with Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls – all on what looked like completed clutches of three eggs.

 Population estimates for Longue Pierre included:-

 Great Cormorants 15-18 pairs

European Shag    40-45 pairs (most with three eggs or chicks)

Common Guillemot 25+ breeding pairs

Razorbill 3+ breeding pairs

Great Black-backed Gull c 5-8 pairs

Lesser Black-backed & Herring gulls – a few pairs present

 All the while Dave held on to the boat, watching two Atlantic Grey Seals that took an interest in our presence.

 After 45 minutes we re-boarded the boat and left the seabirds to settle back. The ride back home around the north end of Herm was particularly exhilarating, as we surfed some of the confused swells.

 This was the first visit of 2010 to any of the outlying islets, and it was certainly promising to see most of the seabirds breeding in reasonable numbers, with good clutches and brood sizes.




24 May 2010