30 June 2014

Stormie weather

In Cornwall we're more used to stormy weather in the form of crashing waves and gales, but just occasionally we get Stormie weather in the form of a calm, moonless night. After catching just two Storm Petrels in May, we improved somewhat last night with 49 birds, which is still not too bad for June. As you can see below, July is normally our most productive month, so hopefully this catch total will only improve...

May June July August
2011 (Porthgwarra) 2 15 176 3
2012 (Lizard) 0 0 88 7
2013 (Lizard) 0 39 158 76
2014 (Lizard) 2 49

The highlight though was a control from a new country for us - Portugal. We've caught a fair few birds from France and one from the Channel Islands, but this was something a bit new. Interestingly, the Cornish page of the BTO's online ringing report shows that to the end of 2013, nine Portuguese-ringed Storm Petrels have been caught in the county (out of 234 nationally), compared to 28 from France (strangely only 58 nationally) and just four from the Channel Islands (two of which were ringed on the same day in June 2008).

Our Portuguese control before being rebagged to get its night vision back pre-release
Speaking of stormy weather, it looks like our seabirds are still suffering the after-effects of the winter storms, with birds seriously struggling now. A quick look at Rinsey this afternoon produced a few dead Shag chicks of various ages, including some very well-grown birds. At least three birds have already fledged and there are still a few more to go, with one late bird still on eggs!

The killer blow though was the complete absence of any Kittiwakes! The bustling breeding cliffs were eerily quiet. Last year, just six breeding attempts all failed at the egg stage, but this year has been even worse, with three failing at the egg stage and one pair did manage to hatch a chick but this sadly has now also gone.

One a slightly more pleasant surprise was this very pale Shag chick, complete with yellowy feet. We've seen one or two of these before, but it'll be interesting to see what this looks like as it feathers up (and hopefully fledges).

This 'zombie-Shag' looked a gonna, joining the other dead chicks,
but a late scan back across the ledge saw it awake and most certainly not dead!

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