09 June 2010

 Poor weather conditions meant that the available members of the Guernsey Seabird Team (Jamie and Mish Hooper, Chris Mourant and me) had to pack in visits to two of the Bailiwick’s seabird island in a single day. Things tend to get hectic at this time of year – trying to ensure that the seabird monitoring and ringing activities are successfully done, while at the same time everyone has a busy day job!

 With the kind permission of the owner of Jethou (Dr Peter Ogden), and his very helpful staff, we were able to visit Jethou during the day. The primary purpose was to monitor the European Shag nesting activity, although we would also note other seabird breeding productivity. We caught the work boat across to the island at 0800. The skipper very kindly circumvented Jethou before landing us so that we could count the Atlantic Puffins on the water. We counted 23 birds, which is a good number for the island.

 After a welcome mug of coffee with Dr Ogden, the Team crossed to Crevichon as soon as the islet dried. I was particularly pleased to find several Great Black-backed Gull chicks on the rocky knoll opposite the house, as this enabled me to first the first of my new GBBG colour rings. Although quite snug on the legs of the chicks, I am sure that as soon as the birds’ legs lose their puppy fat (something which happens rapidly as the legs elongate) the rings will be a very good fit. By the time we left Crevichon we had ringed 16 Great Black-backed Gull chicks, along with 83 Shag chicks.

 In common with what we had seen in other Bailiwick colonies, the news this year for Shag nesting activity is good. Nesting numbers of Shag are high, and productivity is also good, with the majority of pairs having three advanced chicks. The early season was also confirmed with the young from more than 10 nests having already fledged. 65+ active Shag nests were recorded on Crevichon islet, and there were another 30+ on the main island of Jethou. Unfortunately we ran out of time before the tidal window closed, preventing access on to the other adjacent islet of Grande Fauconniere. We estimated that there were another 30+ active nests here.

  Jamie took the opportunity to colour ring another five Little Egret chicks from the protected colony – making a total of 16 young ringed this year (a record).

 On the small gravelly slopes opposite Grande Fauconniere Jamie caught an Atlantic Puffin in its burrow. This bird was quickly ringed and sent back down its burrow to continue incubating its single large white egg.

 After a brief rest, while watching the tide rush back over the narrow passage to Grande Fauconniere we dropped onto the stony beach opposite this small islet. Here we ringed another half a dozen Shags and noted that Herring Gull chicks were also much in evidence. However, we left the vast majority of these for ringing on another visit in c two weeks’ time.

 Great Black-backed Gulls seemed to have formed a small loose colony on the south-east promontory of Jethou this year, and we found another 11 youngsters in the vegetation here. No doubt there were others too that were too well hidden for us to find!

 At least seven Oystercatcher nests were seen around Jethou – all with eggs. After completing the seabird work, Jamie and Mish returned back up the central path to complete the BTO breeding birds atlas for the island.

 At 4 p.m. we caught the return work boat to Guernsey. It had been a very rewarding visit. After the desperately poor breeding seasons of 2007 and 2008, it was very pleasing to record a good season for the seabirds (and especially European Shag) in 2010.



 10 June 2010