Godin and Longue Pierre, the Humps and Le Plat Hommet, Herm

27 June 2010

Dave Perrio once again agreed to take the Guernsey Seabird Team out to The Humps for the last monitoring visit of the season. Due to a combination of circumstances only Paul Veron could make this trip. As a result a real focus was kept on the primary purpose of the trip which was to assess the gulls’ productivity.

 With only two people onboard Dave’s RIB we flew across the Little Russell and headed north around the back of Herm. Surprisingly there was quite a swell on Godin when we arrived, but Dave managed to land me on the islet while he held just offshore. I spent 25 minutes searching the dense, but short largely sea mallow vegetation, where in previous years Great Black-backed Gull chicks have been found. There were around 20 adult Great Black-backed Gulls overhead, making quite a din, so I thought they would have had young on the islet. However, despite a good search I could not find a single chick.

 At the eastern end of the islet, amongst the rocky outcrop I could see a couple of young Great Cormorants, which we had not ringed on our previous visits. There were also a number of European Shags which could have been ringed. However, without several ringers to corral the birds I left them undisturbed.

 It was only a short hop across to Longue Pierre.  Just offshore was a large raft of 100 cormorants and shags including many of this year’s fledged youngsters. It was very good to see them out on the sea in such a large flock. Other cormorants and shags on the islet also took off and flew into the water – a combination of adults and fledged young. Again there were 20+ shags left in nests which were ringable, but I left them to concentrate on the difficult job of finding gull chicks.

 The vegetation on Longue Pierre was not as dense as on Godin, and I was able to locate and colour ring eight Great Black-backed Gull chicks. As expected they were large and well-grown. I saw a couple of Herring Gull chicks around the periphery of the islet, but this species doesn’t appear to have done very well on The Humps this year.

 By contrast, Common Guillemot numbers looked very healthy indeed. I think there were more adult birds than I have ever seen before on Longue Pierre – 50+. Again, being single-handed on this visit it was not sensible to try to catch these birds or look for chicks under the boulders. It was just great to see them doing so well.

 With a little time left I asked Dave to land me, if possible, on Plat Hommet – the short turf-covered islet just off the north-west tip of Herm. I don’t recall ever landing on it before. It has not been surveyed for at least a decade.

 With the tide dropping fast a lot of shore gets exposed on this islet, and before we landed we could see a number of well-grown Herring Gull chicks standing quite far down the beach. On landing I did not cover the beach at all for fear of pushing these gulls into the water (not that it would have been too risky for them given the slack water and lack of wind).

 On the top of the islet I found three Great Black-backed Gull chicks nestled down in the low vegetation. These birds were colour ringed before I left. Three Common Terns were calling overhead while I was on the islet, but I saw no signs of nesting.

 On this trip we passed very close to the Saddle Rock off the eastern side of Herm, but there was no tern activity at all. We also passed Caquorobert rock, where again two pairs of Great Black-backed Gulls were nesting, but unlike in 2009 when c 25 pairs of Common Terns had shown some interest in breeding there (but were ultimately unsuccessful) there was no tern activity this year.

 The Guernsey Seabird Team is very grateful, to Dave Perrio, for without his help we would not have got to any of the Humps in 2010, and a very important part of the local seabird monitoring would have been missed out.



30 June 2010