LIHOU ISLAND - COMMENT BASED ON VISIT ON 17 JUNE 2007

 

An estimate of breeding seabirds based mainly on numbers of active nests and also on birds holding territory, is as follows –

 
Herring Gull                                        60 – 70 pairs (an additional 10 – 20 pairs on Lissroy)
Lesser Black-backed Gull                30 – 40 pairs (an additional 10 pairs on Lissroy)
Great Black-backed Gull                  20 – 30 pairs (an additional 5 pairs on Lissroy) 
European Shag                                 2 active nests on Lissroy
Great Cormorant                               3 active nests on Lihoumel
Oystercatcher                                    15 pairs (an additional 2 – 5 pairs on Lissroy)
Ringed Plover                                    no evidence

These figures are much lower than the average figures for Lihou. For example, there are normally around 15 pairs of Shag nesting on Lihoumel but there are none this year. Gulls are still very much in evidence but active nests are thinly distributed. Most of the normal breeding population seems to be present on the island but significant proportions are ‘loafing’ and are not associated with active nests.

The 2007 breeding season for many local species, but especially seabirds, is the worst I have seen in 13 years of bird ringing. It is also the worst experienced by another ringer, Paul Veron, who has been ringing for 30 years. The reasons for this downturn are probably due to prolonged rough winter weather and record sea temperatures. Two storm episodes during spring, including Force 9 winds in mid-May, would have been particularly critical to nesting gulls.

It is hoped that since seabirds are long-lived species, the next few years will be more successful. Shags and Gulls can live for 10 years or more, which under normal circumstances allows populations to recover from poor seasons. However, in recent years, productive seasons have been outnumbered by satisfactory or poorer ones.



Jamie Hooper