4 August 2013

It's Fulmar time

Well it is that time of the year again when the Orkney Ringing Group goes across to the uninhabited island of Swona to ring the Fulmar chicks. This year's team was made up of Colin, Andy, Davey, Brian, Lorna, Stan, Gavin, Derren, Joan and myself.

Having missed last year's trip due to work commitments I was looking forward to going back out, however there was a slight nervousness about setting foot back on Swona as that was were I slipped and broke my leg back in 2012 preventing me from doing the Fulmar chick ringing session that year too.

The journey across was on a different boat to the one we usually use. It had a bit more speed to it, although it wasn't the smoothest of crossings and the trip was a bit like a fairground ride with all the rolling about.

There were plenty of Puffins out on the sea as we approached Swona but the cliffs were looking a bit devoid of Fulmars.

Once we were all on the island, we split into three teams: Colin, Gavin and Stan in the first team, Davey, Brian and Derren in the second and Andy, Lorna, Joan and myself in the third.

My team started at the landing point and we worked our way anti-clockwise around the North end of the island and down the West side to meet up with Colin's team who had gone down to the Southern end of the island and were going to work their way around to and up the West side.

Davey's team went down to the Southern end and worked their way around to the East side and back up to the landing point.

As well as ringing Fulmars, Colin's team also manged to ring 9 Black Guillemot chicks and Davey's team did a single Black Guillemot and 2 Puffins.

While heading back to the landing point Gavin found a Great Skua (Bonxie) chick which was ringed by Stan.

Great Skua chick

The lack of many visible Fulmars on our approach to the island did not turn into a low number of birds to ring as we managed to ring 262 Fulmars in total consisting of 260 chicks and 2 adults. There was also a breeding adult retrapped, which was originally ringed as a chick back in 2009. This was a very interesting retrap as a lot of the information on Fulmars indicates that the birds are usually 8 to 9 years old before they start breeding. So at only 4 years of age this bird appears to be an early starter.

This raises the question as to whether this is a one off  or more common than the documented evidence suggests. Perhaps this could be an interesting project for the ringing group in the future!!

Not all Fulmars nest on cliffs

Some nests are a bit harder to find than others

Lorna ringing one of the chicks
 Also of note, but not caught and ringed was a young Willow Warbler flitting about in one of the ruined buildings and a number of Snipe that were flushed from the ground but no nests were found.

Returning to the boat after a successful day

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