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It's a hard life.

14 July 2009




The end of June is drawing near and bird monitoring is in full swing. Part of being Warden is to check up on the breeding productivity of Kittiwakes and Fulmars, which involves visiting several well-established colonies around the island. Visiting these colonies can involve getting to some very interesting places around the island that I might not necessarily go to normally. Truth be told, monitoring is probably the best part of the job; sometimes I have to remind myself I’m getting paid to do it (not that I get paid an excessive amount, mind). The process of monitoring is pretty straight forward really, it is as follows. Firstly, you need photographs of the colonies, which are used to reference each nest individually. It can be tricky sometimes to decide whether what you’re looking at constitutes a ‘nest’. With Kittiwakes, it’s usually quite straightforward; the nest is actually a visible structure. Fulmars on the other hand have the ability to lay an egg pretty much anywhere and they do very little preparation in terms of ‘nest-building’, and so trying to determine whether or not you’re looking at an adult on a nest-site involves relying on the methodology and a certain amount of educated guesswork. So once you’ve recognised and marked your nests, you then return periodically to check on progress. And hey presto, you’re monitoring. The whole idea of monitoring is to obtain a value for breeding productivity, to give an indication of how successful a species has been in producing offspring. Both species have chicks just now and so far so good but in recent years Kittiwakes have not been doing so well and Fulmars don’t seem to be doing splendidly either. It’s early days yet, and time will tell as to how well they fair this season.

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