By Tessa Cole, RSPB Senior Research Assistant, FAME
Now we’re very nearly at the end of the seabird breeding season I’ve got a chance to breathe and write a blog! Every year it amazes me how quickly the work escalates as the auk chicks hatch and again how quickly the cliffs empty and turn in to ghost cities when the auks fledge. Seabird colonies are always noisy atmospheric places but when the auk chicks are ready to fledge this noise increases with the guillemot chicks making a “winnit” noise to their dads who are out at sea trying to entice them to jump off the cliff. Some chicks have it easy being able to jump straight in to the sea, whilst others bounce on to the rocks below before having to clamber over more rocks avoiding the swooping greater black back gulls and predatory bonxie (Great Skua). My heart is generally in my mouth as I watch this spectacle. There is a sense of relief when you see them reach the sea but really this is just the start of their journey in to the big wide world.
This year was more frantic than normal on Colonsay, thanks to ten days of bad weather just when we least wanted it…..when the auks chicks hatched. This meant we spent the rest of the time catching up. Whilst the other FAME teams were concentrating on fulmar chicks we were still madly running up and down the west coast of Colonsay looking for tagged razorbills, guillemots and kittiwakes! We still have a few tagged kittiwakes to catch back but their chicks are all large now so we have stopped deploying tags for the season. Fulmars are in inaccessible locations on Colonsay so it’s unlikely that we will be able to catch one, meaning that our season will end up finishing along with the other FAME colonies. Look out for an update from the Orkney team (Yvan and Juliet) on here soon.
Now we have the fun job of sitting opposite cliff tops looking for incredibly cute fluffy fulmar chicks to complete our productivity monitoring and the not so fun job of data entry. Thankfully the current weather has encouraged us to stay inside and get on with data entry instead of being distracted by the beautiful beaches of Colonsay!
The FAME project is funded by the European Commission through the European Regional Development Fund, Atlantic Area Transnational Programme to the sum of €2.2 million with an additional €1.2 million funded by the project partners. Investing in our common future