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A busy season of seabird surveys

29 August 2011

Well! It’s been a while since I wrote on the Ranger's Diary but I hope to post a few things now that things are a bit calmer and I have time to catch my breath   Late May through July are busy months for seabird surveyors and this year was no exception.

I conducted a whole island plot count of fulmars, razorbills and guillemots…  

Razorbill and a fulmar

…recorded colour rings on great skuas…

Colour rings - Red over white/White over whitephoto: Stuart Murray

…counted all the oystercatcher territories....


…mapped the nest locations of great black-backed gulls….

Great black-backed gulls

…monitored fulmars nesting within the Village area…

Fulmar sitting on cleit roof in Village Bay

…helped a visiting researcher with his study on the foraging behaviour of fulmars…

Ewan takes various measurements from  each fulmar he catchesphoto: Erica Koning

…monitored the breeding success of arctic skuas…

Arctic skua chick

…visited Dun to weigh puffin chicks…

A downy puffin chick

…carried out feeding studies on a guillemot colony…

Population counts - Guillemot plot

…and surveyed storm petrels nesting within the Head Dyke of Village Bay..

Storm Petrel nesting here!(there is a storm petrel nesting in this group of rocks - you'll have to take my word for it!)


My most recent task has involved searching around the outside of all of the buildings at the base for newly fledged puffins. On leaving their burrows at night, some young puffins fly towards the base instead of flying out to sea and can be found hiding in corners and behind obstacles.

Young puffin

The young puffins are attracted by the lights at the base particularly on dark, misty nights when the birds are unable to see the sea.  Everyone living on Hirta makes a big effort to switch off as many lights as possible during the night to avoid unnecessary disturbance to the puffins. 

Only two young puffins were found and both were weighed before their  release from the jetty at dusk.  In previous years, the number of puffins found around the base has reflected breeding success on the island of Dun.  That is, we find more birds in years when productivity is high.   We can't be sure, but finding so few young birds is a strong indicator of a poor breeding season.  

Puffin under a rock

Gina, Seabird and Marine Ranger

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