Lihou

 24 June 2009

Jamie Hooper, Chris Mourant and Paul Veron gathered at the Lihou Headland at 12.30 – just as the causeway was beginning to open. It was another fine calm blue sky day.

Once across, we worked the coastline in a clockwise direction starting just to the south of the house. Only a few Herring Gull chicks were found along the stretch reaching as far as the western most tip of the island (overlooking Lihoumel), along with two colour-ringable Great Black-backed Gulls which were seen walking down the beach, and a few tiny Lesser Black-backed Gull chicks which had only just hatched.

A diversion up into the grass in the middle of the island at the north end resulted in three more Great Black-backed Gulls being ringed, before we walked across the foreshore to reach Lihoumel. The Great Cormorants which Jamie had ringed in May had now fledged, but a few of the Shag that he had ringed then were still present, along with a couple of small gatherings of very well-grown un-ringed youngsters. We managed to corral the shag into the boulders and then ringed them ( 28 in total).

After the breeding failures for Shag in the last two breeding seasons, it was particularly enjoyable to see such success this year. Although several pairs of Great Black-backed Gulls were agitated by our presence on the rocky knoll, we managed to find only two well-grown chicks (from the same nest).

Back on Lihou, we continued around the western end of the island. This was a little disappointing, because when I’d visited three weeks earlier there were 20+ Herring Gulls and a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls nesting along this stretch. However, it appeared, from the absence of any chicks and very modest levels of interest by adult gulls in our presence on the beach, that most (if not all) nests along this stretch had failed this year. We speculated that perhaps the Snowy Owl, which had wintered on the island and was still present, had been feeding on gull chicks as part of its recent diet.

On the north-western tip of Lihou, we managed to find a couple of Great Black-backed Gull chicks, and then a few Herring Gulls chicks along the beach immediately north of the house. We also found an adult Herring Gull here lying upside down in the rocks paddling its legs. Its legs were covered in blood. However, upon examination this wound appeared superficial,. It was more likely that the gull was suffering from avian botulism. Jamie picked it up and carried it back to the car park on Lihou Headland, before I took it up to the GSPCA HQ.

We had left the shingle back and rocky knolls of Lissroy until last. The Lesser Black-backed Gull colony in the shingle bank was rather impressive – with at least 40 adults present and several small chicks seen running around the vegetation. We metal ringed five chicks, but as they were too small for colour rings (bar one) we decided to return in two weeks time to make a more thorough search of this area.

On the headland itself Jamie was surprised to see five active Shag nests (the most he had seen here). He speculated that perhaps the growing Cormorant colony on Lihoumel is beginning to displace Shag to other parts of Lihou. Whatever, we ringed eleven Shag here, together with five more Great Black-backed Gull chicks – before having to beat a hasty retreat back across the causeway, just as the sea began to cover it again.

Although perhaps disappointing in the general lack of gull chicks, this was another enjoyable visit, with the following totals of birds ringed: - Shag (39), Herring Gull (15), Lesser Black-backed Gull (5) and Great Black-backed Gull (17).

 Jamie’s general comments on the seabird populations this year on Lihou are as follows:-

“46 Shag ringed in total 2009 – equal with previous ‘good’ or ‘normal’ years.

17 Cormorants ringed – highest annual total to date, colony growing slowly.

Gulls present in normal numbers with unexpected low productivity this season after a promising start and settled weather throughout – similar to the situation at Pleinmont. The GBBG colony areas of Lissroy and on the northern headland seemed unestablished this year and very few young were present.

The exception was the main shingle area of Lissroy which appeared as busy as ever, with HG and LBBG. Perhaps this roped off area is proving beneficial.”

 

Paul Veron

 

1st July 2009