The adults laid a single egg back in late May and will have incubated it for a staggering 7 weeks! The chicks would have hatched back in early July but are closely brooded by the adults for the first week or so and we didn't see the first chick until July 8th. Now they are growing and easily visible sitting on their nest sites near the tops of the cliffs. Fulmar choose open ledges or hollows to nest on and a few on Skomer are nesting on top of old Crow or Buzzard nests. The chicks are a gorgeous soft grey and covered in fluffy down, the first few are just starting to loose their down and will fledge about 7 weeks after hatching, which will be mid to late August.
The adults revel in all the windy weather we have been having this week. They float up and down on the updrafts along the cliffs, demonstrating an awe inspiring control. They are beautiful, graceful birds but this elegant image is spoilt when they open their bills - they a have a coarse, cackling call. They are also infamous for spitting stinking, fishy oil at any one foolish enough to get too close to them.
The Fulmar story is a really interesting one. Back in the 1800's they were only found in the UK on the remote islands of St Kilda. But over the last 200 yrs they have spread south as far as northern France. The first breeding record for Skomer is from 1960 when four pairs were known to breed, now there are over 500 pairs. Thats a 125 fold increase in the last 50 years!
Gusty wind and torrential showers again this morning led to one casualty (apart from the sodden humans!), a young Kittiwake was found blown in-land. A bit of a rest and a helpful launch into the air was enough to get it going again and it soon flew off. Persistent bad weather, in particular on-shore winds, at this time of year often blow exhausted young birds ashore.
A lovely sunny day yesterday saw the next wave of Painted Ladies in flight (the off-spring of all those migrants a few weeks back) and the few bramble bushes on the island were alive with Peacocks, Red Admirals, Graylings and Small Tortoiseshells.