Sunday, 15 July 2018

Top on the agenda today was a trip around the East Side to check up on the progress of the Kittiwake nests. The Guillemots that lined the cliffs only a week ago have all but vacated their ledges, leaving behind just a few adults that are still feeding late chicks. It's a similar situation with Razorbills, and the East Side feels unusually quiet because of it. These birds will now spend the rest of the year at sea, not returning again to the cliffs until next year's breeding season. Guillemot numbers appear to be down on last year, with 1112 pairs (or Apparently Occupied Ledges) counted this year compared to 1574 last year, but what they've lost in the number of birds appears to have been made up for in the number of chicks fledged. From an anecdotal point of view, ledges this year have been alive with the sound of juveniles begging for food, and specific counts in recent weeks have turned up impressive numbers of juveniles. As an example, a ledge on Pen Cristin that in 2016 was known to have fledged one juvenile and in 2017 fledged four juveniles, has in 2018 fledged at least 18 large juveniles. It's an encouraging sign. A whole East Side tally of 113 fledgling-size juveniles is more than were known to have fledged in both 2016 and 2017 combined, although this may be partially due to increased recorder effort this year.

Back to the Kittiwakes, and it's not looking quite as good. This year there are only 90 nests compared to 125 last year; a downward trend that appears to be mirrored throughout the UK breeding colonies. However, similarly to Guillemots, there are more chicks in nests at the moment than there were at this stage last year. The two colonies visible from land, 'Tornado Ledge' and 'Little Kit Colony' didn't fledge any juveniles last year, but currently have 10 chicks (5 chicks at this point in 2017) and 37 chicks (14 chicks in 2017), so we're still hopeful for at least a partially successful breeding season. The main colony with 41 nests is not visible from land, and will need to be surveyed from a boat in the coming week or so.

Asides from seabirds, birds logged today included 50 Manx Shearwaters, a Grey Heron, a Kestrel, a Lapwing, three Whimbrels, a Curlew, four Redshanks, a Common Sandpiper, a Black-headed Gull, a Common Gull, 16 Swallows, two House Martins, a Stonechat, two Wheatears, a Sedge Warbler, four Chiffchaffs (including three newly fledged juveniles in the Plantation), two Willow Warblers, two Chaffinches, a Goldfinch and 23 Linnets.

Looking down over the East Side from the top of the mountain. It feels weird looking down and not seeing thousands of Razorbills whirling around.

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