Last weekend I was on the Burhou, Alderney
, one of the
Channel Islands’ most valuable seabird breeding colonies. The primary purpose
was to work with Tim Morley and Vicky Warwick-Evans, of the Alderney Wildlife
Trust, to complete the first complete island gull nest count in three seasons.
This proved to be a hard day’s work, counting some 1,429 nests
, of which
the vast majority are Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
Only about 30 pairs of Herring
nest on Burhou, along with six pairs of Great Black-backed Gulls
leaves a grand total of approximately 1,400 pairs of nesting Lesser Black-backed
, although 236 nests were empty (thus made either by adult birds not
actually breeding this year, or gulls that have not yet reached maturity). 58%
of LBBG nests had complete clutches of three eggs, while another 18% had two
eggs, with just 8% containing a single egg.
One would think that this means that Burhou is a thriving
gull colony. However, we know that in many recent years, the colony has
virtually completely failed
at the late incubation/early fledging stages, and in
each of the years 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2013
only a handful of chicks fledged
successfully from all these pairs of gulls!
In addition to the nest count, I took the opportunity to
record c 140 gull colour ring readings,
which included 80+ LBBGs which had
been ringed as chicks on Burhou in the successful seasons of 2009 and 2010 (40 each),
which are now back on Burhou, some now nesting.
While colour ringing new adult LBBGs was not the priority for
this trip this year, we did manage to colour ring another 16 breeding adults,
and re-trapped two chicks ringed in 2010 which are now incubating
Finally, Tim and Vicky undertook several Atlantic Puffin
counts, and while their maximum raft count of 190 birds is very encouraging
(given the very high mortality of puffins in the February seabird wreck in the
region), they appear to have arrived very late this year, and at the moment only
a handful seem to be nesting this season. Further work is however required to
confirm what is happening with the Burhou puffins this year.
Landing in Alderney over Les Etacs Gannetry
Alderney and Les Etacs Gannetry from Burhou
Cute Great Black-backed Gull Chicks
Variations in Lesser Black-backed Gull eggs
Main LBBG Colony
LBBG Black 3CK7
Vicky and Tim with LBBG
Happy PKV with LBBG
The best bit - the moment of release
View from my bed!
Tim with LBBG
Job well done!
All Photos (c) PKV