Summer storms

For the seabirds in the Firth of Forth, June 2017 has been a shocking month. Reported as being the wettest June on record in parts of Fife, the impact of all that rain was very evident when we made our first trip over to the Bass on the 19th June. The part of the colony within which we work appeared to have many failed nesting attempts with adult gannets standing around on empty territories instead of sitting tight incubating eggs or brooding young chicks.

New year, new team

The University of Leeds research team this year comprises myself, Ruth Jeavons who is embarking on her first summer of PhD field work and two MSc students Emily Thornton and Solange Ponce. Our first two visits, as last year, were made with the objective of spotting as many of the previously colour-ringed birds as possible and to establish their breeding stage – were they incubating eggs, brooding chicks or not breeding/failed.

Weather watching

Since those first visits the east coast has been battered by strong winds making trips out to the Bass almost impossible. A small window in the weather on Monday 26th allowed us to get on for a morning and attach loggers to the first birds this summer but since then the wind has howled and today has seen the coast inundated with heavy rain to accompany the winds.

This clip was shot on my phone from the Seabird Centre … can you make out the Bass in the distance?

A small positive

How the rest of the summer will turn out is anyone’s guess. What is certain though is that after today’s weather there will have been yet more chicks and eggs lost.

It will be interesting to see how the adult gannets respond to this bad weather when out foraging. As a far-ranging seabird their ability to adapt to environmental change has allowed them to be one of the few species of UK seabirds not to be suffering from long-term breeding failures. Being able to track their foraging behaviour during this unseasonable weather may give us some insights into how they adapt and how they might fare in our changing climate.

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