Friday, 31 July 2015

Storm Petrels - no time for sleep!


Yesterday (Thursday) was a full day on the island of Skokholm with the 16 strong members of the Northants Ringing Group (including helpers and friends) committing to a number of different strategies for catching and ringing wild birds on the island. The weather helped as we woke to a sunny day and with a breeze which later dwindled.

The night before we had roamed the island and managed to catch a small number of Manx Shearwaters which were a new species for some. However the almost full-moon conditions meant it wasn't conducive to catch large numbers of 'Manxies' so we enjoyed a relatively easy night and were bedded down by 2.30am in the morning. After the luxury of two hours kip, some of us were up at 5am and managed to catch a couple of roosting Jackdaws before moving on to smaller fare.

During the day we deployed spring-traps, mist nets and Heligoland cages and caught small numbers of passerines which were a mixture of migrants and island breeders. Willow Warbler was the most common bird caught but the supporting cast included Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear and Reed Bunting.

A passage day for waders provided us with views of Green Sandpiper, Redshank, Ruff and Whimbrel and quality island regulars came in the form of Chough, Raven, Peregrine and common sea-birds.

In the afternoon nine of us elected to take a RIB cruise to the island of Grassholm, with its renown Gannet colony dominating the island. Grassholm is usually visible from Skokholm but is some six miles further west. Here we enjoyed the spectacle of thousands of Gannets milling around us. the cliffs supported small numbers of common seabirds including auks and Kittiwakes and we spotted a gaggle of waders which included three Purple Sandpipers.

Thursday evening/early Friday morning was relatively calm and tranquil, normally ideal conditions for mist-netting Storm Petrels, However the almost full moon made the two nets look more obvious than normal so the catch was probably reduced. Nevertheless we worked solidly from 11pm to 4am, catching some 180 'Stormies' and all members of the team were able to partake in extraction, ringing and releasing techniques. These gorgeous little ocean wanderers are a joy to handle and everyone felt privileged to play a small part in their world.

With the danger of significant sleep deprivation already upon us, we retired from the field at about 5.30am to 6am, with a view to starting the diurnal activities by 9am. And with a further petrel ringing session planned for tonight, we will be very tired by dawn tomorrow!


Neil M

Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Most birds on
the island are adults or juveniles, but there are
a few of other ages too

No not a rare bunting, just a
juvenile Reed Bunting in moult!

Skokholm is reputed to be home
to the largest Slow Worms in the

Nick Wood, Mark Spinks and Helen
Franklin enjoying the sunshine!


Grey Seal

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