Monday, 3 August 2015

Storm Petrel bonanza!


With some of the Northants Ringing Group having now left Skokholm, it remains for the remnant four individuals to enjoy 'The Island' until their anticipated return to the mainland on Thursday.

Our last nocturnal ringing escapade provided another catch of about 180 Storm Petrels plus about a dozen Manx Shearwaters. This was very much a team effort with several extracting petrels from the mist net using as little light as possible, placing each bird in to a soft cotton bag and then walking the short distance to the make-do ringing station.

Here the bird is checked over, and if it is already bearing a ring the details are recorded. Storm Petrels regularly have parts of their feet or legs missing or damaged, probably as a result of nibbling by fish when they are pattering over the water's surface. Unringed birds have a hard metal ring placed on an unaffected leg, the wing length is measured and the weight of the bird is ascertained. Because Storm Petrels regularly nest in walls, crevices and broken rocks, the metal is particularly hard to withstand wear against rock/stone. In Europe there are regular records of birds being caught in France, Norway plus regular sites on the coast in the UK and a significant cross-over of birds occurs.

They are a joy to handle as they are small and aren't capable of scratching or pecking, they have a pleasant aroma which everyone describes differently and they make a wonderful little squeaky call in the hand, something like the retro 'Sooty and Sweep' hand puppets for those old enough to remember!

After being processed they are given time to compose themselves and once again become accustomed to the dark. This normally takes less than a minute and they flutter of in to the night breeze like little feathery bats.

Other birds on the island included lingering waders in the shape of a couple of Ruff, a couple of Green Sandpipers, a Dunlin and three Whimbrel, all of which are attracted to the recently refurbished North Pond which is towards the centre of the island. Three Peregrines performed well in the strong breeze, hanging in the air and 'playing' with any other birds that dared come close enough!


Neil M
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