A very quick visit was made to Lihou over the lunch period on Wednesday 8th July specifically to check up on the Lesser Black-backed Gull colony on Lissroy. On the earlier visit on 24th June this colony appeared to be doing well with up to 20 pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls nesting. Some nests contained eggs, but there were also 10-12 small chicks visible in the short vegetation surrounding the pool. Six of these chicks were metal ringed on the first visit, but only one was large enough to also take a colour ring.
It was soon obvious that the early success of this colony had not continued. No gull chicks were seen in the vegetation. In fact all that was found were several predated corpses.
The beach held around eight well advanced Herring Gull chicks – but in fact all could fly. One well-grown chick that chose to hide in the boulders rather than take to the air was colour ringed –but this was the only gull to be ringed on this visit.
Several more Herring Gull chicks were seen on the wing as we walked around Lissroy – but again the only evidence of chicks on the ground were the predated remains of several Herring Gulls.
Two Oystercatcher nests were observed with eggs, but all in all this was a very disappointing visit.
We speculated that the high level of predation of gull chicks on Lihou this year results from a combination of predators including the Snowy Owl (which had arrived the previous winter and was still being seen on the island deep into June), Great Black-backed Gulls and rats.
Although valuable data was collected on this visit, it was not one of the memorable visits of the 2009 Seabird Season!
Paul K Veron
8th July 2009