Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Seabirds doing well on Skomer



Number of individual Puffins counted in spring between 1988 and 2015
Skomer's seabird counts have come to an end for 2015 and we're pleased to say it's good news. Most of our seabirds appear to be doing very well with record counts of Puffins and the highest counts of Guillemots and Razorbills since modern records began. The graphs show that there have been ups and downs but things haven't looked this good for a while.


Razorbill numbers since 1963

Guillemot numbers since 1963


There are some pretty big Guillemot colonies to work through
After a good year for gulls last year, it seems that things are back to a slow decline in breeding numbers. Our once 20,000 strong Lesser Black-backed Gull is now down to around 8,000 pairs and Herring Gulls are also clearly having a hard time of it. But it's not all bad news. Great Black-backed Gulls, however, are doing well with 123 pairs breeding around the island this year. Kittiwakes also, which are struggling in other areas of Britain, are doing well (or perhaps 'less badly' is a better term) with an increase of 4% from 1,488 nests in 2014 to 1,546 in 2015.

Fulmars are holding their own and this years count was only 28 different from last years with 584 occupied sites. Counting the Manx Shearwaters is a little more of a challenge but signs from this year's census show that the population remains healthy.

Getting last few feeds on the cliffs before life on the sea begins
Razorbill father with 'jumpling'
In terms of coming to see the wonderful assemblages of seabirds on Skomer, July remains a good month to visit. Guillemot and Razorbills chicks, known as 'jumplings', because of the fact that they jump off the cliffs before they can even fly properly, are most obvious as they grow and prepare to leave. The Puffins are furiously feeding young in burrows and soon the 'pufflings' will be popping out to stretch their wings before leaving under the cover of darkness. Other birds are more leisurely in their breeding cycle. Fulmars and Kittiwakes are either still sitting on eggs or have small chicks and gull chicks will be in evidence right through July and August.

Ed
(Skomer Warden)