27 June 2011

On 27 June Michelle Hooper, Sophie Veron and I made our 2nd seabird monitoring trip of the season to Jethou. This trip was specifically targeted at ringing gull chicks. Ideally we would have gone a week to 10 days earlier, but unfortunately the tides would then have been high during the day, which makes the work much more difficult, and also would have prevented access to Crevichon islet. Arriving just before low tide we walked along “Burner Beach” first – finding eight large Herring Gull chicks to colour ring, along with a single almost full-sized juvenile Oystercatcher. We then crossed to Crevichon, where we managed to locate just three Great Black-backed Gull chicks (one of which we had metal ringed on our earlier visit on 02 June 20110. I was surprised to find a few Lesser Black-backed Gull nests on the grassy slopes of this islet, which still contained eggs. It struck me as very late for the birds to still be incubating eggs. We did not enter the quarry, but at least 14 Little Egrets took off as we climbed to the top of Crevichon. It looks like they have had a reasonably successful breeding season again in 2011.

The highlight of this trip to Jethou was working the beach in front of the house, all the way around the coast to the Summerhouse Beach. This short stretch of coast was the richest for Herring Gull chicks I’ve seen this year, and restored some optimism in me for most of the other colonies visited around Guernsey, Herm and Sark this year appeared to be quite thin with poor to modest breeding success. The three of us worked carefully along the coast finding most chicks tucked under the large boulders. We ringed 49 Herring Gull chicks on the beaches here (all but one large enough to take colour ring), along with another Great Black-backed Gull chick. Several very large chicks were already at the water’s edge, but in ideal calm conditions today these gulls were at ease on the water and easily made their way back to land once the beach was deserted again.

The other main gull colonies are on the beach opposite Grande Fauconniere…and after a quick bite to eat we eagerly set off for this stretch of coastline. However…it was virtually deserted with only two large Herring Gull chicks being found along the entire beach. There were several gulls’ nests, but they were empty and clean suggest that this area had suffered a breeding failure this year.  A Great Black-backed Gull chick was ringed on Little Fauconniere, where three Oystercatcher chicks had just hatched.

With the early breeding season for Shag this year, most of the young had already fledged, although there were still a very few large youngsters left in some of the breeding areas. Lots of juvenile birds could be seen on the rocks and offshore. We completed the gull ringing in the SE corner, where we found another three very large Great Black-backed Gull chicks. There was then time to take 15 colour ring readings on adult gulls on the beach in front of the house – 10 Herring Gulls and five Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

We then enjoyed a most welcome cup of tea with Dr Ogden, before returning to pack up the ringing equipment and catch the boat back to St peter Port at 4 p.m. Our thanks once again to Dr Ogden, and the staff of Jethou, for granting permission and facilitating the seabird work.

28 June 2011