We are now four weeks in to our eight week gannet tracking season, so how have we been getting on?
It’s been an interesting summer so far, after such a promising May, June, as you may have seen in the last blog, brought wind, rain and stormy seas. The wild weather has been a bit of a disaster for many seabirds, this blog from Isle of May describes the conditions their seabirds have been experiencing.
The storm over the 29/30th June certainly caused gannet nests to fail on the Bass. Many of the nests on the flatter areas of the rock succumbed to the quagmire of mud and guano which is created during heavy rain, however those on the steeper ledges, the prime locations, have fared much better.
Tough year for gannets and researchers
So the gannets have been having a tough year and as a result so are we! You would think on a colony of 150,000 gannets it would be easy to catch and tag a few of them, but unfortunately for us it isn’t quite the case. The first limitation we face is that it is only possible to access a very small area within the breeding population (many of the gannets below the chapel are non-breeders), secondly we can then only catch birds we can reach with a 6 m pole, thirdly we need to know the sex of the birds we catch [see this blog on why sexing gannets is a tricky business] and fourthly they need to be feeding chicks. Because we work on one of the flatter areas of the colony, many of the nests have failed this year, making it much harder than usual to meet all the criteria.
It hasn’t all been stormy seas and rain though. The chicks that survived are now a good size with many now standing tall next to their parents tentatively flapping their newly discovered wings. The birds we have managed to track so far have given us some interesting foraging tracks, with lots of activity close in to the coastline, so we’re just keeping our fingers crossed that we get some more calm seas and light winds over the next few weeks to allow us to track a few more.