Thursday, 8 June 2017

Although the seabird season spans from late March until August, June is the month where everything really kicks off. One of the main reasons why seabirds breed in colonies is safety in numbers - lots of eyes looking out for predators, voices to shout an alarm and beaks to fight them off. So the birds synchronise their timings with June being the main chick season. This means that it is also th...e busiest month for us Rangers monitoring the seabirds.

In june we count how many seabirds have settled down to breed in that year. This involves us painstakingly scouring the whole 5.5km of cliffs and recording all the breeding birds we see. We do this from vantage points on the clifftops and from a boat, and we do two rounds - one in early June for herring gulls and shags, and one in mid June for kittiwakes and fulmars. We don't do a full count of our auks (guillemots and razorbills) each year - with 35,000 of them, we just don't have the resources, so we only do this every 5 years. Instead we have a series of smaller plots which we count 10 times in the month, and take the average of the counts to give us an indication of the number of auks that are settling down to breed. On top of this we also monitor the breeding success of shags, guillemots and kittiwakes, which involves following the progress of a number of birds on a series of plots from setting up territory to the young fledging from the nest.

So, why do we do this? Becuase it gives us an indication of whether the seabirds are doing well or not so well, and if the latter, we know that we need to try and find out why. The data that we gather at St Abb's Head feeds into National Seabird Monitoring Programme (we're one of about 20 sites in Scotland) and so helps to inform National and International seabird conservation. So seabird monitoring is, arguably, THE most important work that we do.

In order to make sure that counts are comparable between years and between sites, we have to stick to a strict protocol which states that the counts can only be carried out between 8am and 4pm, when its not raining hard and when the wind is below 15 knots. And then, on ocassion, we have the haar to contend with too! So, with the weather that we have been experiencing so far in June, you can imagine, its been a tricky task! We will bring you the results of this year's monitoring once we have drawn together the data later in the season. Liza.

No comments:

Post a Comment