For the second year in a row, our seabirds were the subjects of closer than usual study this year, with a small number of birds being fitted with electronic tagging devices. This year it was the RSPB undertaking the work as part of their Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment (FAME) Project. This involved attaching small a Global Positioning System (GPS) logger to the feathers of kittiwakes and guillemots, which they carried for just a few days. During that period, the logger recorded an accurate picture of the foraging destinations of the birds thanks to the high precision of GPS technology. These surveys will start to answer one of nature’s mysteries – where do seabirds go to feed when they leave the cliff. This will provide us with important information about what the birds need to thrive and will help us to conserve them in the future. Here's what a couple of our kittiwakes got up to over a couple of days:
The first was tagged on the 26th of May when it was incubating a clutch of two eggs. The map on the right shows the flight path this Kittiwake took during a two day period. The GPS tag attached to the feathers on the birds back logged a GPS point every 1 minute and 40 seconds. In areas where the dots are spread out the bird flew fast and in areas where the dots are clumped the bird slowed down to feed or rest.
The second Kittiwake was tagged on the 27th of May when it, too, was incubationg a clutch of two eggs. During the three day period this Kittiwake did three flights out to sea, one short trip south and two longer flights north (see map left). You can see quite clearly where this bird searched for food, flying tight circles. If you look closly you can see the side trip it did to visit the Isle of May.